Hidden Gems: These Are the Best Parks, Beaches and Trails Outside Vancouver City Limits
People flock to Vancouver from around the globe for its world-class parks, outdoor spaces, and beautiful scenery – but if you live and work here already, you don’t need to tackle the congestion of city streets to enjoy amazing adventures with your family. From North Vancouver to Mission, the greater Vancouver region is bursting with parks, trails, and beaches to keep you busy this spring and summer.
Here’s just a few of the best choices to check out this year.
Barnet Marine Park
8181 Barnet Road, Burnaby | burnaby.ca
This idyllic spot feels miles from the hustle and bustle, but it’s in North Burnaby – just a short drive from the mountaintop campus of Simon Fraser University – making it an accessible escape from Vancouver and an easy drive from surrounding communities.
With a stretch of sandy beach along the Burrard Inlet, picnic tables, and walking paths, it’s an ideal destination for a morning of building sandcastles or a family picnic on a sunny day. Just getting into the park feels like an adventure: a footbridge leads from an upper parking lot over train tracks, then corkscrews down to ground level. From the beach, kids and adults alike can watch tugboats, sailboats and kayakers passing by. And bonus points for public washrooms and outdoor showers to rinse off the sand.
17900 20 Avenue, Surrey | surrey.ca
There’s something a little bit magical about Redwood Park in South Surrey. It might be the miniature elf and fairy homes that have a habit of popping up in the forest, created and donated by anonymous park-goers. Or it might be the trees that you won’t see anywhere else in the region – like the grove of mature Sierra Redwoods. Or it might be the park’s unique history: a pair of brothers decided not to log or farm the land when it was passed on to them by their father, instead opting to plant trees from around the globe and then live in a treehouse in the middle of the forest they’d created. The park includes a replica version of their home. The covered picnic tables and playground make it a great spot for families any time of year.
541 Centennial Parkway, Delta | metrovancouver.org
Sand, sun and one of the best playgrounds in the entire Greater Vancouver region. It doesn’t get better than Centennial Beach – in the Tsawwassen area of the municipality of Delta – for a day of family fun. Plenty of parking, a huge playground (with enough variety to keep kids entertained from toddler up to pre-teen), public washrooms – and did we mention a coffee shop that serves sandwiches, muffins, and more? When the tide is out, there’s endless exploration, and when the tide is in, there’s swimming, boogie boarding and windsurfing. Come early on a summer morning to stake out space and then spend a full day enjoying the sights – when the conditions are right, you can see for miles in every direction, from city skyscrapers to mountain vistas.
Rice Lake Loop
North dead-end of Lillooet Road, North Vancouver | metrovancouver.org
Not every trail is ideal for little ones – but the loop trail at Rice Lake is a great choice for all ages. It twists, turns and winds its way through a calm and quiet forest that feels like a scene out of The Hobbit. Located in the Lower Seymour Conservation Area, the trail is rated as “easy” and runs about three kilometres. An extensive network of paths and trails, both paved and gravel, span the entire area and connect to Lynn Canyon Park, providing endless opportunities for new and more challenging walks as the kids get older.
Rolley Lake Beach and Trail
Bell Street, Mission | env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks
This is a popular spot for camping but it’s also a perfect destination for a day at the beach, a picnic, or a walk through the forest. The day-use area has plenty of parking, with picnic tables and outhouse washrooms, and easy access to the trail that loops around the lake. Take a stroll through the campground to find the small path that leads to a footbridge over a small waterfall or just enjoy the sun and sand on the small beach. Located north of Mission, this spot makes a great day trip for kids of all ages.
Terra Nova Adventure Play Environment
2340 River Road, Richmond | richmond.ca/parks
Covering several acres in Richmond, this nature-focused playground and park is popular with locals but still a well-kept secret that’s well worth the drive from other communities. Situated along an arm of the Fraser River, Terra Nova is intended to be a dynamic play environment that takes advantage of the natural surroundings, with a variety of custom designed play areas. There are climbing towers, swings, a meadow maze, and more. (The 10-metre tall treehouse is undergoing renovations in 2019 and may be closed.) Built on the site of a former homestead, the park is a quiet getaway for all-ages fun.
Bear Creek Park
13750 88 Ave, Surrey | surrey.ca
You could spend a whole day at Bear Creek Park and be entertained the entire time. There are two distinct playground areas, each designed for different age groups. In the summer months, an extensive splash pad area helps cool off kids (and adults), while a nearby mini train offers a fun diversion through the woods. Landscaped garden areas with winding trails offer a peaceful alternative to the noise and fun in the play areas, with unique plants, flowers and trees – many of them with identifying signage for the budding botanist in your family. There’s also a full-size track for runners, fields for soccer or football, and an outdoor pool, along with plenty of picnic tables. The Surrey Arts Centre and the Surrey Art Gallery are on the same site.