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If you’re looking for your next summer destination in British Columbia, head to White Rock! This popular beach town is just an hour’s drive from Vancouver. It makes a great day trip from Vancouver or weekend escape from the city and has that cute, small-town feel we love.
Plus, it has some top attractions you can’t find anywhere else. The famous White Rock Pier is a must-see and is the longest pier in all of Canada. Walking the pier, enjoying the beach, and spending time outdoors are the most popular activities. But if you need a break from the sun, you’ll find plenty to do inside as well.
Both locals and tourists love visiting this town, but if it’s your first time here, it can be difficult to plan your trip. As local Vancouverites, we’ve made several trips to White Rock and know the area well – which is why we’ve created this guide!
So keep reading to learn everything you need to know before visiting White Rock (plus the best things to do!).
About White Rock, BC
It’s surrounded by the city of Surrey. When we visit, our friends from Surrey usually join us since it’s just a few minutes away.
White Rock is an easy destination for U.S. tourists as well. It’s just 5 minutes north of the U.S./Canada border, so many Washington state residents come here for a weekend getaway or summer vacation.
The beachside community is named after a large white boulder on its shore. Early sailors used it for navigation, and the area became known for this white rock. However, the rock initially got its name because it was covered in bird droppings (beautiful, we know!).
But not to worry! Now, the rock keeps its white shade thanks to monthly coats of paint the parks department reapplies.
Aside from walking the pier and seeing the famous white rock, there’s plenty more to do here! Give yourself time to explore nature, but don’t miss out on other local gems like farmers’ markets, festivals, and museums. So keep reading to learn all about the best things to do in White Rock!
Things to do in White Rock, BC
1. Walk the White Rock Pier
If there’s one great way to kick off your visit, it’s to walk on the White Rock Pier. After all, it’s kind of a big deal! The largest pier in Canada, it’s a whopping 470 meters long (1,542 feet).
We first walked here at sunset, and the views of the water and the sky were beautiful. I think there’s something extra special about coming here at sunset. However, you can come here anytime because the pier stays open 24 hours a day!
Since the pier is surrounded by everything from bars to family-friendly restaurants, it may be tricky to find parking nearby. This isn’t a huge deal, but we suggest parking a few blocks away and walking over.
The pier is a great place to walk after a nice dinner, or to sit and enjoy a quiet moment on the water. You can visit during peak times and be surrounded by people, but you’ll find that there are some periods of time when you can have more space to yourself (like early in the morning).
When we were there, we enjoyed watching the fishermen catch dinner. Some of them were doing pretty well!
Related Read: What’s wonderful about walking the White Rock Pier is absolutely free! If you’re looking for more free activities nearby, check out this list of the best free things to do in Vancouver.
2. Check out The White Rock
The town wouldn’t have its name without The White Rock.
Back in the day, a glacier brought this rock to the shores of Canada from who-knows-where, and it became a quick fixture in Semiahmoo Bay. While the rock may not signal ships anymore, it’s still a sight that brings plenty of individuals to the city. So, in a way, it’s still a beacon to those who come across it.
While this boulder is a tourist attraction with a rich history, it can also just be a fun photo op. It weighs a whopping 486 tons, and you can see its enormous size from our picture above. So instead of finding a sign with the city’s name (like many popular vacation spots), you can snap a pic with the White Rock itself and let everyone know that you’ve made it to your destination.
The spot really is quite cool and was even featured in Atlas Obscura. This site highlights unique, lesser-known gems around the world, so it’s great to see one of our local favorites made the cut!
3. Drink craft beer
Although Vancouver is known for its breweries, White Rock has also been making a name for itself. The craft beer scene in White Rock seems to be ever-expanding, with a few spots we absolutely love.
We’ll save you some time by giving you some of our top recommendations, though I don’t think you can go wrong with popping into any of the local craft breweries in town.
3 Dogs Brewing is a great spot to start and is located just outside downtown White Rock. They host many fun events like trivia, live music, and comedy shows. It’s a family (and friends) owned brewery and is relatively new, built back in 2017.
Their beer list changes by the day, but ordering a flight is the best way to try whatever is currently on tap. When I went, I wasn’t in the mood for beer (a rare occurrence, trust me!) so I went for a ginger lemon beer instead. It was super crisp and tasty – I’d highly recommend it if it’s available!
3 Dogs Brewing is open Wednesday to Saturday from 12 pm – 11 pm, Sunday 12 pm – 6 pm, and Monday/Tuesday from 12 pm – 9 pm. So if you’re craving a fresh pint in the afternoon or evening, stop by!
The White Rock Beach Beer has a super central location right next to Semiahmoo Shopping Centre. This is quite a popular brewery thanks to their new tasting room and wide variety of brews on tap. If there’s one that you must try though, it should be the White Rock West Beach Fruit. It’s an American Pale Ale that is both refreshing and hoppy.
They also host live music some nights – so check their Facebook page for updates. They’re open most days from 12 pm – 8pm, but close at 5 pm on Sundays and 9 pm on Fridays.
4. White Rock Museum & Archives
When you’ve had enough sunshine, head inside to the White Rock Museum and Archives. This museum has a beautiful location right by the waterfront, and is inside an old train station.
This is the perfect place to dive into the history of the community. You can enjoy both temporary and permanent exhibitions, events, or check out their artifact collections.
Admission is by donation (any amount you are comfortable paying) and the space is very accessible for both strollers and wheelchairs.
The museum is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm, and the archives are available from Tuesday – Thursday, from 10 am to 5 pm. So, if you hope to visit both, I’d recommend going Wednesday or Thursday since they’re not as crowded.
5. Check out Totem Park
One of my favorite ways to take a break from the beach is to head over to Totem Park.
This cultural landmark is open 24/7 and is very centrally located, which makes it an easy stop in between activities. We walked here directly after a visit to the White Rock Pier. It was less than a 15-minute walk along the waterfront AND we passed The White Rock – so we really hit up all the top sights in one leisurely go!
Totem Park is a tribute to the Semiahmoo First Nation, the original people that lived in this area. There are some informational plaques among the two large totem poles that stand in front of the Pacific Ocean.
With the park’s high vantage point, you can look down over the railroad tracks and the beach beyond them. This ended up being my top sunset spot of our whole trip, and it tends to be less busy than the other waterfront areas.
Related Read: There are so many places to catch a good sunset along the coast of British Columbia! However, my favorite just might be from this amazing sunset dinner cruise in Vancouver.
6. Relax at White Rock Beach (East Beach)
East Beach has some nice walking paths and great visibility. It’s just past Totem Park and is located near the train tracks. When we visited, we enjoyed strolling along the beach while watching the trains go by.
It isn’t the nicest beach around, and the large tides make it so that you might have a longer walk to the water, but it is a good place to play and get some sun.
Also, it’s less touristy, so you can expect to have more space to yourself than you would around the pier area.
7. Enjoy an oceanfront drink
There is no shortage of places to grab an oceanfront drink in White Rock – and we’ve certainly tested out our fair share!
Two of our top picks are just a few blocks apart, and their locations make them the perfect places to enjoy drinks (and possibly dinner!) with a view.
West Beach Bar & Grill is a casual spot with occasional live music only an 11-minute walk from the end of the pier. What we love about this place is all the specials – they have a great ‘Wine Down Wednesday’ and a daily happy hour from 3-6 pm. They also have daily food specials that we recommend taking advantage of as you enjoy a pint, highball, or any of their refreshing drinks! They are typically open from 11 am to midnight daily (but close at 10 pm on Tuesdays).
The Ocean Beach Crafts, Drafts & Eats pairs more elegant bar food with craft cocktails, making this spot feel a bit higher end, with very similar views of the ocean. It’s only a 7-minute walk from the pier and can be slightly busier. All the drinks we tried here were good, but the Honey Bear cocktail is a must! This spot is typically open Wednesday through Monday between 11:30 am – 11 pm and stays open a bit later Thursday through Saturday nights.
We can’t say no to a sundowner with a view, so we visited both around sunset. It made for an even better experience, which we would recommend!
8. White Rock Farmers Market
The entire Vancouver area seems to have great farmers’ markets and White Rock is no exception. We stumbled upon this one while doing some exploring, and knew that it would be on our list for the next time we came to town!
The White Rock Farmers Market hosts a wide variety of vendors including nearly 90 artisan, food, and craft vendors, along with live music. It’s open Sundays 10 am – 2 pm from late-April to mid-October, and there is even free parking nearby at the White Rock Community Centre.
This is the perfect activity to do after breakfast or even if you’re waiting on a table for brunch. It’s located close to 3 Dogs Brewing, so you can grab a pint after as well!
We love strolling through the market and experiencing the local vibe. It’s such a fun way to get a taste (sometimes literally) of what makes White Rock special.
9. Take a walk through Centennial and Ruth Johnson Park
White Rock has some beautiful green spaces, like the Centennial and Ruth Johnson Park, which is filled with sports fields, a flower garden, and quick access to the beach.
The name is a bit confusing because it almost makes it sound like two separate parks, but it’s really just one big green space. Centennial Park is more of a recreational area with sports options and a kid’s play area, while the Ruth Johnson portion is better for exploring the trails and getting a bit more tranquility.
We liked that there were so many ferns because the space feels very natural. At some points, we truly felt immersed in nature and forgot we were inside a town park.
So, if you’re looking to enjoy some greenery while in White Rock, add this to your list!
10. Attend the White Rock Sea Festival
If you’re in White Rock over the long BC Day weekend, we recommend checking out the Sea Festival & Semiahmoo Days! This lovely outdoor festival, locally known as Sea Fest, is fun for couples, friends, or families.
During this time, the whole waterfront area is packed with events, live performances, and lots of fun kids’ activities. The festival itself is totally free, and you’ll get to enjoy all the different shows, spaces, and fireworks without a cost. Food, of course, will cost extra but is worth it for the sunny, outdoor vibes!
This annual festival has been running for over 70 years and always happens over the BC Day long weekend, the first Monday in August. We’d recommend taking public transportation so that you don’t have to worry about parking because it gets pretty crowded in the entire area. It takes place along Marine Drive, right next to the pier, so you can’t miss it!
Related Read: Onlyl 30 minutes from White Rock is the fantastic Richmond Night Market if you’re looking for another event to do in the summer!
11. TD Concerts at the Pier
Not only does White Rock have a great festival, but there is also a weekly concert series in the summertime. This is the perfect way to spend a summer evening in White Rock.
Oh, and the best part? These concerts are FREE at different weekly locations around town.
When we came, we got here around 6:30 pm – and we would recommend arriving no later than this if you want a good view. It’s also a good idea to bring chairs or blankets to claim your spot and get comfy.
Concerts themselves usually run from 7 to 10 pm, with the headliner coming on around 8:30 pm. Check out the White Rock BIA Facebook for updates on TD Concert dates and artists!
12. Enjoy the Bright Walk in White Rock
Contrary to popular belief, beach towns aren’t only for summertime! In fact, we loved our winter trip to White Rock just as much as when we went to soak up the sun in summer.
In the colder months, a Bright Walk transforms the waterfront area into a winter wonderland. Light displays set a magical mood, including an illuminated tunnel and lights that decorate the famous White Rock itself. But my favorite was definitely the shining, 20-foot Christmas tree.
This event is also totally free and runs for nearly a month over the holidays (from early December to early January). Since it gets dark early in winter, we recommend walking around the seaside area to check out the lights before dinner.
You can grab a hot chocolate to-go at one of the nearby coffee shops. Stroll along the water with a hot beverage in hand – you’ll need it for those cold Canadian winters! But don’t worry – when you see the lights, you’ll fully embrace that winter spirit!
Where to Eat in White Rock, BC
Wooden Spoon is a rustic, bistro-style restaurant. This is a great spot to hit for brunch or lunch. You can’t go wrong with any of their unique benedicts, breakfast sandwiches, or hashes, but they have some well-done plant-based options, too.
They recently extended their hours, and are open from 9 am – 7 pm. So you can grab an early dinner or enjoy their all-day breakfast options.
I would go back just to have the Spoon Huevos dish again, which has succotash, potatoes, eggs, and yummy sauces. Everything here is dynamic in the best way, with lots of flavor and the ability to make substitutions when you want to- even their kids menu sounded good!
It’s located at the edge of the Semiahmoo Shopping Centre. So, you can walk through downtown or do some shopping after your meal!
Zapoteca Mexican Grill & Seafood
Zapoteca is the perfect place to enjoy an oceanfront meal – potentially even catching a sunset as well! It’s located just inland from East Beach, so you can see that long, sandy beach overlooking the water. The views are great, but the food is even better, with various Mexican dishes, local seafood, and some tasty tequila cocktails.
For anyone who doesn’t drink, their brunch mocktail list is one of the most extensive ones we’ve seen, and everything looked amazing. And if you do want to grab a few drinks, try their happy hour on weekdays from 2-5 pm.
When we ate here, we tried the Del Mar Molcajete. It’s a great dish for two people to share and combines the best aspects of their menu. It was loaded with seafood, sauces, and flavor!
Zapoteca is open Sunday to Thursday 11 am – 9:30 pm, and Friday/Saturday 11 am – 10 pm. They serve brunch till 4 pm, and dinner from 4 pm till closing.
Uli’s Restaurant is right behind the White Rock Pier, so if you get hungry on your stroll – we highly recommend stopping here! They offer European-inspired eats and use fresh, local ingredients. The quality of food here really speaks for itself.
It’s another prime location to see the ocean, people watch, and enjoy the golden hour or sunset over the water. If you can’t tell, we love watching the sunset in White Rock!
With brunch, happy hour, and dinner-specific menus, you can enjoy food (and drinks) all day long. We came here for lunch and loved the oysters Rockefeller and schnitzels. We loved it so much that we returned for happy hour – and truthfully – I still think about that baked brie we had!
Since this one is so central, it can get busy. We recommend making reservations if you want to try their delicious food! It’s open weekdays 11 am – 9:30 pm and weekends 10 am – 9:30 pm.
Sushi Iwa has the best Japanese food options, from classic rolls and tempura, to nigiri and lots of noodle-based dishes. We didn’t order the bento boxes, but they looked so good that it only feels right to mention them too.
The donburi dishes were our top picks, with rice that was cooked well and wonderful fish. They also offer meat options that looked (and smelled) super yummy.
The restaurant is by the water but feels more relaxed than other places near the pier. It has a warm, cozy vibe, perfect for those cooler days. Sushi Iwa is open Sunday to Thursday from noon to 8:30 pm and Friday/Saturday from noon to 9 pm.
Maya’s Ice Cream
If you’re craving ice cream after visiting the White Rock Pier, head to Maya’s Ice Cream. The Stracciatella gelato was to die for, and the ‘All Canadian Moose’ ice cream was a close second. They also have yummy soft serve, gelato, floats, an espresso bar, and even paninis if you prefer something savory.
The shop itself is super cute and was a nice place to rest after walking around all day. It also makes the perfect dessert spot after a lovely waterfront dinner.
They’re located on Marine Drive and are open from 11 am to 8 pm daily.
Related Read: If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Vancouver city life, we also recommend visiting Deep Cove! You can learn everything you need to know about Deep Cove here, including the best things to do during your stay.
Where to Stay in White Rock, BC
If you’re staying in Vancouver, you can easily visit White Rock on a day trip. However, if you truly want to soak up those seaside vibes, we recommend booking a place in town and relaxing for a few days.
Since it’s such a small area, options are limited. There’s only one real hotel in White Rock, but there are a few other B&Bs and holiday homes. It’s best to book well in advance so you can secure the top accommodations. And if you aren’t sure what those are, keep reading for our favorite places to stay in White Rock!
Ocean Promenade Hotel – $$$
If you want the comfort of a traditional hotel, the Ocean Promenade Hotel is the best choice. This is the only proper hotel in White Rock and is on the waterfront next to East Beach. The hotel is less than a 20-minute walk to the White Rock Pier, and there are several restaurants nearby and a cafe on-site.
It has the amenities you’d expect from a standard hotel, including a gym, mini-fridge, and private parking. Rooms are simple yet spacious, and options include kings, studios, family rooms, and even a suite with a spa bath. Rooms start at $125 CAD, so book ahead to snag one with an ocean view!
Heavens Getaway – $$
Heavens Getaway is the best mid-range choice in White Rock. What we love about this place is you get the comfort and privacy of having your own apartment, plus a lovely balcony overlooking the water. The full kitchen can help you cut costs or enjoy a home-cooked meal during your stay.
It’s only 3 minutes to Totem Park and 17 minutes to the pier. These fully-equipped one-bedroom apartments accommodate 2-3 guests. Prices start at $179 CAD, but there are only two available, so book online here if you want one!
Semi Centre House – $
Semi Centre House is a budget guesthouse located right in the middle of White Rock. It’s less than a 15-minute walk to 3 Dogs Brewing and the Farmers Market so is an excellent choice if you want the downtown area. It’s easy to feel at home here since the hosts are super kind (yet respect your privacy) and the guesthouse is in a safe, quiet neighborhood.
Rooms are comfortable and there are options for singles, couples, and families (it’s also pet-friendly!). Prices start at $130 CAD so pick a date and book your stay online here!
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Thanks for reading!
White Rock is such a fun place to visit, and we love escaping the city to chill in this beautiful seaside town. Whether you come in summer or winter, there’s much more to do than simply see the rock (although you should definitely check it out!). We hope this list has helped you discover the best restaurants, activities, and attractions for an amazing time here!
If you enjoyed this guide, check out my other blogs about Canada here. As a local, I love sharing useful travel tips with everyone that comes this way. And if you’re sticking to Canada’s West Coast, check out the articles below. Thanks for reading!