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All holidays need some downtime, right? Though generally considered a laid-back city, Vancouver offers plenty of scenic spots where you can escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy some R&R. One of the most popular places to unwind is English Bay, where the city meets the Pacific Ocean. This sweeping shoreline has been Vancouver’s main beach for more than 100 years and is where the city’s first ever lifeguard, the legendary Joe Fortes, taught hundreds of children how to swim. Today, the bay is a hotspot for sunbathing, swimming and sunset-watching. There’s a buzzing atmosphere during the summer months when flocks of locals and visitors come to soak up some sun, cool off in the sea and play volleyball in the sand.
Along the eastside of English Bay is the famous Vancouver Seawall, which runs from Point Grey in the south to Stanley Park in the north. If you need to re-energise, you’ll find a great selection of restaurants and cafés just across from the beach where you can pick up a picnic, treat yourself to a gourmet meal or sip a refreshing drink in the sun.
English Bay also hosts some of the city’s most popular annual events. During the summer, the Celebration of Light festival has three nights of spectacular fireworks and on New Year’s Day, hundreds of locals brave the ice-cold sea for the Polar Bear Swim. But even when these big crowd-drawing events aren’t taking place, the beach remains busy throughout the year and has plenty going on.
English Bay lures locals and visitors with its picturesque views and relaxing atmosphere. If you’ve come to unwind, you can rent chairs, sunbeds and brollies for a small fee and spend the day chilling out and catching some rays. During the summer, the water is warm enough for swimming and there’s sometimes a giant slide if you fancy releasing your inner child. You can also rent a kayak or paddleboard and head out to explore the sea, or stay on shore and challenge the locals to game of volleyball.
Just across from the main beach is Denman Street, home to a fantastic selection of restaurants, ice cream parlours and bakeries where you can grab some refreshments.
If you want to explore further along the city’s shoreline, follow the Seawalk trail. This winding path attracts walkers, runners, cyclists and rollerbladers and boasts some of the most picturesque views of the city, mountains and sea. If you walk north along the Seawall you’ll come across the lush oasis that is Stanley Park. Here, you can explore the walking trails through the forest and discover more scenic beaches.
In terms of other attractions, English Bay has some great photo-taking spots. Grab a snap of the Laughing Men statues, the towering inukshuk (Inuit statue) or the palm trees against the sunset. During the day you can see the mountains of West Vancouver and adjacent beaches, including Kitsilano Beach. In other words, you won’t struggle to find an envy-inducing Instagram shot here.
English Bay is located along Beach Avenue between Guildford Street and Bidwell Street in Downtown Vancouver.
The beach is open all day throughout the year.
English Bay is located near to major metro and bus stations and it’s also just a 15-20 minute walk from downtown Vancouver.
Casual dress is the norm in Vancouver, and you can even get away with going for dinner in your beachwear in some restaurants. Don’t forget your swimwear if you plan on taking a dip in the sea.
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