White Rock, nestled along Boundary Bay along the US border (and about 50 km south of downtown Vancouver) is named for the 40 tonne rock on the beach. The rock has been limed white by the accumulation of guano (bird poop) from generations of seabirds. This community is just five km north of the border on Highway 99 and is home to the famous Peace Arch border crossing (officially, the Douglas border crossing), one of the busiest in North America.
White Rock is blessed with long, sandy beaches and a dry climate, compared to the rest of the Vancouver area. This makes it a hot spot in summer, when it holds an annual sea festival. Stroll along the 2.5 kilometre red brick waterfront promenade, with its galleries, boutiques, and sidewalk cafes. Walk out over the water on White Rock’s pier, which extends 469 metres over the water.
The main commercial area is located along Johnston Road (152nd St.) and along North Bluff. Here, several shopping malls and plazas within walking distance of one another offer a wide variety of specialty shops, sidewalk cafes. The Marine Drive strip, has a California beach feel and caters to the summer visitors with its gift shops, pubs and a myriad of specialty retail stores.
White Rock History
Henry Thrift cleared land for the first cottage here in 1892. Early European settlers, in the 1900s, were attracted by the area’s natural beauty and its proximity to the U.S. border. Logging and processing by the Campbell River Lumber Company were early industries, and the area grew quickly when the Great Northern Railway line was finished in 1909. White Rock’s historic railway station was completed in 1913.
The wooden pier was built after local saw mills were offered East Coast business once the Panama Canal was opened. In 1914, the finished pier was 628 feet in length, and the following year another 985 feet was added. In 1953, a breakwater was built to protect the pier.
The area grew during the Second World War, as women and their children moved here awaiting the return of their soldier husbands. White Rock incorporated as a municipality in 1957 when it had 6,000 residents, and has since grown to 18,000. By 1976 the pier had deteriorated to an unsafe condition, and the community formed a Save-the-Pier committee. In April 1982, the pier and White Rock were both declared heritage sites.
White Rock Festivals & Events
May Fair (May), Tour de White Rock Cycle Race (late June), Crescent Beach Triathlon (Aug), Sea Festival (1st weekend Aug).
White Rock Attractions
A red brick promenade lines three miles of waterfront. The promenade has a great view of the sea on one side and is lined with lots of shops and restaurants on the other. This is rthe reason White Rock has become known as the “City by the Sea.”
Take Crescent Road to Beecher Street and continue to the water. Since after the turn of the last century, this was a vacation area at the west end of the Semiahmoo Peninsula, was centred around a pier at the foot of Beecher Street. The sandy beach, warm, protected waters, in the swimming areas, and tidal pools are wonderful for playing and building sand castles. The community features a variety of unique shops and restaurants make it a nice excursion.
White Rock Pier
The city’s pier stretches 1,540 feet into the ocean. It was built in 1914 as a dock for coastal steamships. The pier was saved from destruction in 1976, and has since become a major visitor attraction.
Great White Rock
This is the great white boulder for which the city is named. Legends claim the son of a sea god tossed this 486.63 ton magical rock across the seas to prove his strength. It landed on the shores of Semiahmoo Bay and became known as the Great White Rock.
Peace Arch Park
At the Douglas Border Crossing, Highway 99.
The Peace Arch stands as a symbol of enduring friendship between Canada and the U.S.A. Completed in 1921 as the world’s first peace arch. It is surrounded by grass and the well kept flower gardens of Peace Arch Park.
The 21 metre long whale mural was painted by Wyland, then a 28 year old California artist. The three life-size grey whales leaping through the blue sea is the fourth of 15 whale murals Wyland has planned to paint on buildings around the world, in order to help protect the whale.