WHITE ROCK, B.C. — Some towns make you wonder how they got their names.
A 486-ton white boulder on the beach is a dead giveaway here.
It is part of the lore, for sure, but tourists would flock to the city by the sea even without the big glacier hunk.
Guano from shellfish-eating seabirds covered the rock back when it was a beacon for sailors. Now it’s a target of graffiti, kept white by monthly coats of white paint by the city parks department.
Only five miles from the border on Semiahmoo Bay, White Rock is a popular coastal weekend getaway for Canadians and Americans.
The tidal pools are a great place to see marine life up close and dip your cooped-up toes in the water.
You can walk over and under the 1,500-foot pier, crab, picnic, kayak, build sand castles, shop, and eat fish &chips for three meals a day.
Walking along the promenade are couples holding hands who probably never hold hands. There’s something about the sea air and seeing others hold hands that causes those fingers to snuggle together.
Adding to the romance is, of all things, a train that blows by the tracks that run alongside the promenade. Who knew a freight train could be so fascinating? Maybe because it’s so close and set against the backdrop of a shining sea and snow-capped mountains.
The promenade is also a popular strip for joggers amped by the ocean air. Bikes and skateboards are not permitted.
The seaside stretch connects White Rock’s two main areas, West Beach and East Beach. West Beach has the rock, pier, visitor center and museum. The ordinary tourist might not make any distinction and see it more as one very long beach.
In the busy season, arrive early to snag a parking space by the sea. Public parking is free until 10 a.m. They don’t start ticketing at 10:01, but you still might not want to chance it.
Across from the beaches is a continuous strip that goes something like this: Fish &chips. Ice cream. Fish &chips. Fish &chips. Sushi. Pizza. Ice cream. Wings. Fish &chips. Oysters. Gelato. Souvenirs. Sushi. Ice cream. Fish &chips.
Outdoor cafes and roof-top tables are a way to drink in the sights. Finer dining spots include the Boat House, which is open year-round.
There are free trolley rides around the beaches, nearby galleries and the city center, which is about eight blocks from the water. The downtown has stores, restaurants and a Sunday farmers market that’s a mecca of food and entertainment.
Staying overnight in White Rock is a breeze. Choose from B&Bs, hotels, inns, vacation rentals and RV parks.
Leave the dog at home. Or in the room.
Dogs are not allowed on the pier, promenade or beach.
Canadians love dogs. Many places in Canada are dog-friendly to the point of ultra-dog-friendly. This is not one of those places — at least in the beach areas.
Signs are posted everywhere, and if you check out the reviews online you will see numerous complaints from people who visited White Rock with their dogs only to be sent home with their tails between their legs.
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org.
White Rock Farmers Market, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays until Oct. 13, Miramar Plaza in the city center.
The Spirit of the Sea Festival is from 9 a.m. until after dark Aug. 4 and 5. The festival has a torchlight parade, street hockey, paddle boarding, waiter’s race, car show, drum circle, mural painting for kids, salmon bake, waterfront market and fire dancing. For more information, go to http://spiritofthesea.ca.
After the Blaine border crossing continue on BC 99 N. Take Exit 2 and follow the signs west to White Rock.
Four things to remember
- Dogs are not allowed on the beach, pier and promenade.
- Public parking is free until 10 a.m.
- You’re in Canada, think metric: Gas is in liters and road signs are in kilometers.
- Check your cellphone carrier about data roaming fees before you go. Otherwise your smartphone bill could cost you more than your vacation tab.