When you think of sun, sea and sand the first country to spring to mind may not be Canada. But with the world’s longest coastline, Canada offers thousands of coves, bays and beautiful sandy stretches. And you don’t have to travel the whole country to find them!
Here are seven of the best beaches in British Columbia, on Canada’s west coast. Some are off the beaten track gems, while others are some of the most popular in the province.
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Nels Bight, Vancouver Island
The whole northwestern Vancouver Island area offers fantastic windswept and wild sandy beaches on the edge of the Pacific. I consider Nels Bight to be one of the best beaches in British Columbia as it is only reachable by boat or a 30km return hike.
A stunning sight and relief for hikers with sore (and most probably, wet) feet, Nels Bight makes for an excellent base camp location for exploring the Cape Scott Lighthouse and other surrounding beaches.
Not up for a multi-day hike? No problem. Similar beaches can be reached by following the short San Josef Bay trail. Bonus, you can camp right on the beach at San Josef too.
Goose Spit, Vancouver Island
A favourite with Comox Valley locals, the sandy Goose Spit stretches a little over two kilometres long into Comox Bay. The views are nothing short of epic, with panoramas across the Strait to the Coastal Mountains and also back towards Vancouver Island. It’s a popular place for birds too, with Bald Eagles, loons and gulls often resident.
There are a number of firepits on Goose Spit beach and fires are allowed from the start of May to September, offering the opportunity for the perhaps the most scenic (legal!) campfire you’ve ever had.
Jericho Beach, Vancouver
Vancouver is home to a somewhat surprising amount of amazing beaches for such a large city so it was hard to choose just one. Jericho Beach has the benefit of mountain, ocean AND city views plus a bunch of great take-out places and grocery stores in nearby Kitsilano to pick up a beach picnic or barbeque supplies from.
Long, wide and with plenty of driftwood to sit and rest on, there is space on Jericho Beach for everyone to watch the sunset or just hang out.
Looking to book a stay in Vancouver?
St Regis Hotel – Awesome downtown location
Moda Hotel – Good value
L’Hermitage Hotel – Top rated on Booking.com
Botanical Beach, Vancouver Island
Part of Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, Botanical Beach is a beach for geological and wildlife discovery rather than sunbathing. Black basalt rocks and tide pools replace sand here, providing an insight into intertidal life at the edge of the Pacific.
Visit at low tide to see the shoreline and tide pool wildlife at their best while high tide offers a chance to experience the true power of the ocean (though be sure to keep back from the surf!). Orcas and Grey whales migrate often travel past these shores so keep an eye out.
Looking for somewhere to stay near Botanical Beach?
Wild Renfrew Seaside Cottages – Amazing waterfront location
Trailhead Resort – Great value
Wild Coast Chalets – Highly rated on Booking.com
Sandy Island, Denman Island
Perched on the end of Denman Island, Sandy Island (also known as Tree Island) is only accessible by foot at low tide or by boat. We paddled over in our canoe for an overnight adventure but it also makes for a great day trip from the Comox Valley or Denman.
This little golden oasis offers sandy beaches as far as the eye can see and a whole lot of solitude, impressive for being so close to Vancouver Island. No fires are allowed but camping is completely free.
Long Beach, Vancouver Island
I couldn’t possibly make a list of beaches without mentioning Vancouver Island’s probably most visited. Long Beach is aptly named being 16km in length and is part of the Pacific Rim National Park
That does mean that there is a fee to visit, but be assured that is well worth every cent. Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and temperate rainforest, Long Beach has that unique ‘end of the world’ feeling. The sand is pristine, the views remarkable and the surf consistently good.
Looking for somewhere to stay near Long Beach?
Pacific Sands Beach Resort – Short drive from Long Beach
The Outside Inn – Good value
Middle Beach Lodge – Highly rated on Booking.com (and by me too)
Tribune Bay, Hornby Island
Fine white sand, warm aquamarine waters…is this really British Columbia? The 1km long beach rolls out to meet shallow water and provides the warmest saltwater swimming potentially in the whole of Canada.
A five-minute walk from the beach leads to the Ringside Market, an eclectic mix of cafes and shops selling islander and artisan made goods. Two short ferries are necessary to get to Hornby Island.
Honourable mention – Okanagan Lake
It’s not on the ocean but I couldn’t finish this list without putting in a good word for all of the beautiful lake beaches around BC. And for all intents and purposes, Okanagan Lake can feel honestly like the ocean (though it certainly doesn’t smell like it), what with those metre high swells that can kick up sometimes.
This 135km long lake is lined by both sandy and rocky beaches, but my favourite is the one approximately 500 metres from my front door in Penticton. There is also a winery and brewery 500 metres in each other direction, a clear win-win in my opinion.
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada
Wednesday 29th of June 2016
Having been to only a couple of beaches you have mentioned, I have realised that I must try harder! Thanks for the list and your enthusiastic comments.