10 Things to Do in Sunny White Rock

Day trip it to the land of sea air, sandy beaches and sunshiny boardwalks

Credit: Flickr / Tyler Ingram

Boasting more sunshine hours than Vancouver, White Rock is the ideal place to relax on the waterfront and explore the ocean-side attractions for a day

White Rock’s quaint beachfront town on the shores of Semiahmoo Bay was popular in the early 1900s as a cottage community for Vancouverites looking to get out of the city during the summer.

Fast forward a hundred years and visitors still flock to White Rock to enjoy the fresh sea air, go for a walk, have a picnic on the beach, fly a kite, build sandcastles, wade in the water, or catch crabs off the pier. And of course, gawk at the big, white rock.

Credit: Cheryl Rhodes

Check out the White Rock

The legend of the white rock is that the son of a sea god fell in love with an Indian Princess from the Cowichan Tribe. Rejected by both families, the young sea god picked up a giant rock and said “wherever it lands, we will live” and hurled it 60 miles from Vancouver Island to where it now sits on the beach in White Rock. The couple followed the rock and formed the Semiahmoo Tribe. The town surrounding the rock became known as White Rock.

The City of White Rock waits until high school graduation ceremonies are done and then whitewashes the big granite rock in July. Don’t miss this unusual landmark, located a short walk east of the pier.

Credit: Cheryl Rhodes

Walk on the Pier

White Rock is well-known for its pier, built in 1914 with a breakwater at the end to keep the moored boats safe from large crashing waves during storms. A restaurant and canoe/kayak rental company a short walk down the pier burned down in the late 1960s, but the old posts – a favourite roost for sea gulls – are still there.

Enjoy a walk along the pier and see if you can spot starfishes nestling on the breakwater or catch a glimpse of the Peace Arch at the Canadian/U.S. border. If you’re really lucky you might even see a whale breaching in the distance.

Credit: Cheryl Rhodes

Watch the Trains

There’s something mesmerizing about a passing train, and White Rock’s tracks provide good fodder for trainspotting. There used to be passenger rail service between White Rock and Vancouver but it was discontinued in the 1970s.

Don’t be tempted to walk along the tracks or duck underneath a train stopped on the waterfront, though. It’s private property owned by Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway and tragically has claimed a few lives over the years. There are about 10 to 15 trains travelling through White Rock daily, and if you spend an hour or two in the beach area, chances are good you’ll see one.

Credit: Cheryl Rhodes

Admire the Whaling Wall

A marine wildlife artist known as Wyland set out to paint 100 murals of whales on walls across the world, known today as the Whaling Walls. In 1984 Wyland came to White Rock to paint #4 in his mission.

The mural is painted on the side of a building on the corner of Johnston Road and Russell Avenue and is known as The Grey Whale Family. It shows the passage of a mother and calf with a male escort as they swim through White Rock on their annual migration from Baja California to the Bering Sea.

Credit: Cheryl Rhodes

Go to the Farmer’s Market

The White Rock farmer’s market is open Sundays from 9am to 1pm from late May until mid-October in the Miramar Plaza off Russell Avenue, near 152nd Street (look for the Whaling Wall).

There are over 50 vendors set up to sell fresh fruit and vegetables, chocolates, breads, cakes, pies, kettle corn, cookies, preserves, soap, flowers, and crafts. Many of the vendors offer free samples of their tasty wares.

Credit: Cheryl Rhodes

Walk Along the Promenade

Enjoy a stroll along the beachfront promenade. It’s 7,200 feet long (2,195 metres) and built with interlocking paver bricks. The path is lined with benches and trees and has been creatively landscaped with flowers and shrubs. There is a safety railing between the promenade and the train tracks and there are gaps in the railing at designated footpaths to access the beach and the pier.

The promenade is flat and is wheelchair accessible. But you’ll have to leave your dog at home (not in your hot car) as dogs aren’t permitted on the promenade, the pier, or the beach.

Credit: Cheryl Rhodes

Eat Fish and Chips on the Beach

There’s nothing like getting an order of vinegar doused fish and chips, sitting on a log, and enjoying the hot battered cod and hand cut fries while watching the waves lap against the shore and listening to the squawks of sea gulls soaring overhead. Keep an eye on those gulls, though. If you leave your meal unattended to check out a nearby seashell, they’ll swoop in for the steal.

The best take-out fish & chip shops are on the East Beach, and most of them also have small indoor seating areas. White Rock’s East Beach and West Beach are divided by the large hill on Marine Drive.

Credit: Cheryl Rhodes

Have Dinner on a Sidewalk Patio and Watch the Sun Set

You can still find fish and chips on White Rock’s West Beach, but most of the establishments at this end of town are for dine-in customers. There’s a wide range of restaurant choices on the West Beach from Canadian to Greek to Indian cuisine.

Many of these restaurants have sidewalk tables for patrons who want to dine al fresco. If you can catch a sidewalk table or a window seat inside the restaurant, it’s a perfect place to enjoy dinner and watch the sun slip into the ocean.

Credit: Cheryl Rhodes

Visit the White Rock Museum and Archives

White Rock’s former train station, built in 1913, still stands near the beach, a short walk west of the pier. Today it operates as the White Rock Museum and Archives. Admission is $5 and children under 12 are free. On sunny days there are often buskers and vendors set up in this area.

Credit: Cheryl Rhodes

Catch a Play

The White Rock Player’s Club has been putting on plays and Christmas pantomimes for over 60 years at its playhouse on Johnston Road. The talented White Rock Players have entertained audiences with performances of Arsenic and Old Lace, Death of a Salesman, Cinderella, The Emperor’s New Clothes, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, On Golden Pond, and original plays written by club members.

Take note: White Rock may also be home to the fastest moving parking enforcement officers around! Pay parking is in effect year-round on Marine Drive and the beach area between 10am and midnight. From May 1 to October 31 the cost is $3/an hour and the rest of the year it’s $1.50/hour.