by Steve Lorton | Photo © White Rock Tourism
Why would anyone head up to big, beautiful British Columbia and stop five minutes north of the border? Short answer: White Rock.
This town of just over 18,000 inhabitants sits on Semiahmoo Bay, looking southwest, across the Salish Sea to the Gulf and San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island beyond. So scenic, it’s almost a misfortune that it is so close to the border. Were it 75 miles north along the coast, tourists would flock there. But therein may lie the secret. White Rock is, for the most part, a real British Columbian town, unsullied by swarms of outsiders.
But back to the question. Why go there? Spent a tedious spell waiting to cross into Canada and now you’re ready to enjoy a good meal and stretch your legs? Turn into White Rock. Catching a morning flight out of Vancouver or getting on the BC ferry and want to be close to the airport or pier the night before? Overnight in White Rock. Vancouver too bustling and expensive and you want to be there in the morning but not at night? Headquarter in White Rock. You like good little restaurants and an easy-going beachy atmosphere? Or looking for one of the best, most accessible and beautiful waterfront hikes in all of Western Canada? OK, you get the idea. White Rock.
Once through Canadian customs, exit the freeway, curve right, curve left, and you’re there. Head down to the Waterfront Promenade which stretches about a mile and a half along the bay.
Walk out on the pier, jutting 500 meters into the water, for a look at the 480-ton white rock, a 19th century beacon to sailors. Pushed down to the beach by the last Ice Age, the boulder was roost to shellfish-eating seafowl that whitened it regularly with deposits of… white stuff.
Nowadays city officials keep the rock white with a monthly application of paint. The street front across from the promenade is cheek-byjowl shops and good little restaurants, most owner operated. A good pick is Moby Dick’s with delicious fish and chips in portions hearty enough for Captain Ahab. Beyond the downtown waterfront, White Rock has over 80 acres of public parkland. The park trails are excellent places to take the air and enjoy the dense native flora beneath towering cedars and firs.
A bit northwest of White Rock in the Ocean Park neighborhood of Surrey, Crescent Beach is a Provincial treasure adjoining the nature preserve of Blackie Spit Regional Park. The little commercial and residential area is something of a Northwest Sausalito. The beach and wetlands, which stretch acres beyond, offer wonderful walking year-around. The scenery, the abundance of bird life from great blue herons to bald eagles, the rhythm of the beach grasses and the scent of the wind all make for an invigorating and truly super and natural BC experience.
To learn more about a visit to White Rock, B.C., go to inwhiterock.com.