South of Surrey on the Semiahmoo Peninsula is the beautiful oceanside residential community of White Rock, clinging to the slopes above Semiahmoo Bay’s expansive beach. Just five kilometres north of the Douglas Border Crossing, White Rock shares the bay with the nearby border town of Blaine, Washington. Renowned for kilometers of wide sandy beaches, quaint restaurants, art galleries and spectacular sunsets, White Rock has been a holiday destination for decades. The epicentre of this community is Marine Drive, a lively strip running along the oceanfront bordered by railway tracks and a popular stretch of grass along the beach.
The city of White Rock was named after the most noticeable landmark in the area, a massive white 486-ton boulder that lies on the beach just east of the pier. Deposited by glacial action and frequently painted white to keep it looking pristine, the rock’s arrival on the shore is the source of many colourful First Nations’ legends. Native legend has it that the rock marks the spot where the Transformers, emissaries of the Sagalie Tyee, the Creator, once passed. Another legend holds that the white rock marks the landing spot of a stone that was hurled across the Strait of Georgia by a young Indian chief. It was said that he and his bride moved there from Vancouver Island to make a home together.
If this was the case, they started a migratory trend that continues to this day, albeit among retirees moving to the west coast from cooler parts of the country. White Rock is also called Wrinkle Rock by some of its residents, a reference to the fact that the majority of its citizens are of retirement age.
Location: White Rock is located just off Highway 99, immediately north of the Canada/United States border at Peace Arch/Douglas, 32 miles (45 km) south of Vancouver. Neighbouring communities are Ladner and Tsawwassen, location of the ferry terminal for the ferry service to Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
Discover White Rock’s history at the White Rock Museum and Archives, located in a designated heritage Train station on the Promenade at West Beach.
City Pier: Near the train station, one of the city’s major features, the City Pier, marches out into Semiahmoo Bay. Stretching some 1,500 feet into the water, the pier was first constructed in 1914 as a landing dock for steamships, and has survived fires and a major overhaul to become a favourite haunt of sightseeing families and sunset-seeking couples. From here you can look back to shore and identify the famous white boulder from which the town takes its name.
Meet the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in their official red serge uniforms. The officers meet and greet visitors on the Promenade during the summer, providing great photos for the folks back home!
As you walk the beach east of Semiahmoo Park you soon reach White Rock Beach. A boardwalk runs almost the entire length of the beach in front of Marine Drive. White Rock has a reputation as one of the sunniest locales in the Lower Mainland, a fact borne out by meteorological statistics that show it receives 20 percent more sunshine than does Vancouver. Small wonder that the beach here is so popular with swimmers, windsurfers, anglers, and joggers. Visitors in search of picnic tables should head to the west end of the beach, where there are a number of them grouped together on a grassy hillside overlooking the bay, each with its own small barbeque.
There’s more to do at Crescent Beach in South Surrey than simply get sand between your toes. Although swimming is the big attraction in summer, you can launch a car-top boat and explore the coastline of Boundary and Mud Bays, as well as the Nicomekl River, which channels into Boundary Bay east of Crescent Beach year-round. For larger boats, there’s a ramp just east of the Burlington Northern railway tracks in Crescent Beach. There’s also a drive-in boat launch nearby on the Nicomekl at Surrey’s Elgin Heritage Park on Crescent Drive near 35th Avenue.
Between dips in the ocean at Crescent Beach search out viewpoints south of the sandy beach area. Pick your way along the rocky shoreline and head south towards distant Kwomais Point, around which the railway tracks curve east past Semiahmoo Bay and White Rock Beach. Gravel and riprap make walking more difficult at water’s edge than beside the tracks. A warning notice posted near the parking area informs track walkers that they do so at their own risk. Kayakers pass by offshore, balanced on the waters of the bay with much greater ease than those poised above on the steel rails. The tracks hug the hillside, curving gracefully along the embankment. Looking south from one of the curves, you can just make out the sandstone bluffs that rise above Birch Bay in Washington State. Along the way, various rough trails lead down the steep embankment, none of which are very inviting to explore. The charm here lies in the quiet isolation of the beach as the less adventuresome throngs are left behind.
Semiahmoo Park is located in White Rock, a namesake of the small Semiahmoo Park on the Washington side of the bay – you’ll have to drive or cycle 20 miles (32 km) around Blaine’s Drayton Harbour to reach it. The well-marked entrance to Semiahmoo Park is located on the south side of Marine Drive. A raised railway bed shields the bay’s wide expanse of beach from view. Walk up the embankment with your barbeque, your beach toys, and even your dog – they’re welcome here. There is room for everyone on this broad beach, even on the hottest summer days, and the reason they all come down is to wade a long way out into the warm water of the shallow, sandy-bottomed bay.
Watch for the 1,001 Stairs that lead from the beach to the neighbourhood situated above that is all but unseen from below. The clue to finding them is the appearance of a very small trestle bridge. A trail runs from the beach beneath the bridge and then leads south along the embankment behind a mesh metal fence. In minutes you’ll come upon a wooden staircase that climbs the hillside. Numerous landings interrupt the flow of stairs, places where you can pause to catch your breath while taking in the views of Tsawwassen and Point Roberts on the peninsula to the west across Boundary Bay. As hard as we’ve tried, we’ve only ever counted 233 steps!
Horseback Riding: The Horseback Riding paths in Campbell Valley Regional Park to the east of White Rock are located east of 200th Street in Langley. Before this was parkland, Langley riders maintained the bridle trails that run east towards Aldergrove. Since September 1979, when the GVRD took control of the 2-square-mile (535-hectare) valley, these trails have come into greater public use. Today, Campbell Valley Regional Park is one of the easiest places for visitors to satisfy a desire to ride a horse. The Shaggy Mane Trail, which rings the park, runs 6.8 miles (11 km), an easy two-hour ride. Since riders often encounter park visitors who are exploring the trails on foot, they must be escorted for the first several visits. Once riders qualify, however, they can set out on their own.
At sunny times of the year, the Peace Arch Provincial Park in nearby South Surrey attracts almost as many photographers as it does motorists who must wait patiently for their turn to cross the border. The main attraction here is the imposing white monument called the Peace Arch, a unique symbol of peace and friendship between Canada and the United States built in 1920. The floral landscaping in the park is another reason that visitors come here with cameras in hand. On sunny days, particularly when the long afternoon sun begins to drop towards Vancouver Island, Semiahmoo Bay dazzles with its powerful reflection of light. This is a good location for big sky shots of the fiery variety. To find your way to the park, take Hwy 99 south almost to the Canada Customs and Immigration Building, then turn west onto Beach Road, next to the duty-free store.
Located immediately north of the Blaine Canada/US border, the Peace Arch Provincial Park Visitor Centre offers visitors a wide range of travel services. Courteous knowledgable staff provide professional visitor councelling and itinerary planning, accommodation reservations, and helpful travel information including transportation and community information on all areas of British Columbia. A currency exchange is also on site.
Golf: With 15 golf courses all within a 15-minute drive of the city centre, White Rock has declared itself the Golfing Capital of Canada. Whether you’re a thrill-seeking novice or a professional golfer looking for a challenge, White Rock will have something to offer you. Langley offers Newlands Golf & Racquet Club, Tall Timbers Golf Course, Redwoods Golf Course, and Belmont Golf Course. Surrey offers many options for the golfer, including Peace Portal Golf Club, Surrey Golf Club (the Main Course at Surrey Golf Course and the Executive Willows Nine Course), Northview Golf & Country Club (the Ridge Course and the Canal Course), Guildford Golf & Country Club, Morgan Creek Golf Club, and Nico Wynd Golf Club. Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Canoeing & Kayaking: There are incredible exploration opportunities to be found in Semiahmoo Bay, with its beautiful scenery, abundance of birds and marine wildlife. One of the best ways to discover these shores is by kayak.
This vibrant community offers many special events through the year, like the Sea Festival, Mayfair, Christmas by the Sea, and the Festival of Lights.
Circle Tours: See the best of the area on a driving Circle Tour. Head north out of Vancouver for the scenic Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island Circle Tour, or stay on the intensely scenic Sea to Sky Highway, passing through the magical winter resort town of Whistler and Coast Mountains Circle Tour. To explore the rural farmlands and forests of the fertile Fraser Valley, take the Fraser Valley Circle Tour, travelling outbound on the scenic route north of the historic Fraser River, returning westwards along the Trans Canada Highway 1 to Vancouver. Circle Tours in British Columbia.