With a population of 19,735, White Rock is located in the southwest corner of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada, forty-five kilometers from Vancouver and is flanked on the south by the Canada/US border and Blaine, Washington . It is a seaside community clustered around an eight kilometer sandy beach and the warm shallow waters of Leslie Bay . It is famous for its 1,500 ft. long pier, its 2.5km long beach promenade, being the home of the Walrus, and of course the large white rock.

The city of Surrey, British Columbia surrounds White Rock on four sides, with the dividing lines between the two municipalities set at 136th Street ( Bergstrom Street) to the West, 16th Avenue ( North Bluff Road) to the North, 160th Street ( Stayte Road) to the East, and 8th Avenue to the south. Even though the area to the south from 160th Street westward to where 8th meets the water is Semiahmoo First Nations Reserve land, it lies within the bounds of the City of Surrey . From the point where 8th Avenue meets tidewater, the boundary between the two then heads south to the US border within Semiahmoo Bay , and the remainder of the southern border is (technically) the US border.

Because of its moderate, almost Mediterranean climate, White Rock is a preferred place to live. The average summer temperature is twenty-three degrees Celsius while the average winter temperature is six degrees Celsius. White Rock is often referred to as either 'the gem' or 'one of the gems' of the Lower Mainland, in local real estate advertising. Pilots accustomed to flying around the area often refer to it as 'the hole in the sky’; referring to the fact that White Rock is often bright and sunny, while the rest of the Lower Mainland peers through rain and cloud.

White Rock is named for a distinctive large white boulder found on its beach near the promenade. A glacial erratic that migrated from Hudson Bay in past ice ages due to continental glaciation. How it got over the Rocky Mountains remains a mystery. The 486-ton granite boulder was kept white by shellfish-eating seabirds, whose guano covered the rock, so much that sailors in the 19th century used it as a beacon. However, it now remains white through frequent applications of white paint by the city parks department, as it has been a popular graffiti target for over thirty years.


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



The Straits Salish people dominated the region from Boundary Bay in the north to Birch Bay in the south (in the U.S. ). Semiahmoo first nation permanent encampments were known to exist between 1791, the first white contact, and the 1850’s, the beginnings of white settlement. These were at the extreme east and extreme west on the water of the present site of the City of White Rock . The Semiahmoos also constructed "forts" as lookouts for raiders from the northern first nations; one is located in the Ocean Park area.

The Oregon boundary dispute culminated in the Oregon Treaty of 1846, which settled the outstanding border issues between Great Britain and the United States . Previously, these issues had been put on hold through a shared occupancy agreement of the Oregon territory by the two nations in the Treaty of 1818. The International Boundary Survey Commission in turn began in 1857 to set the boundary between the United States and British North America, roughly along the 49th parallel which runs straight through Semiahmoo Bay and Boundary Bay to Point Roberts, Washington .

The Semiahmoo Trail still exists in White Rock and South Surrey, which runs from the site of the Boundary Commission Camp at the estuary of the Campbell River, overland to Mud Bay north of Crescent Beach . A survey map of 1865 calls this the 'Telegraph Trail'. During the real estate boom of the 1980s and 90s, the City of Surrey kept the trail as open as possible, extending it from the White Rock beach all the way to the Mud Bay crossing only two major avenues. On 148th Street, there is a specially constructed "Semiahmoo Trail" pedestrian overpass keeping the trail intact.

The original town site was homesteaded in 1886 by a family named Smith, who promptly subdivided their property and sold the lots. By 1887, the British Columbia Directory was promoting Semiahmoo Bay as the " Naples of B.C.," predicting that it would one day become "a popular resort".

The modern history of White Rock is directly tied to the railway, linking British Columbia to Washington State , which runs along the shore of Semiahmoo Bay to the border. The rail is currently owned by Burlington Northern and runs alongside the promenade at the beach. This was originally the Great Northern line, and it opened up both White Rock and Crescent Beach to tourists coming from Vancouver and New Westminster in the early 1900s. The White Rock border crossing (at Douglas, B.C., and Blaine, Washington ) was officially opened in 1908, and the Peace Arch at the Douglas/Blaine border crossing constructed in the 1920s.

The white rock as seen from the pier, with Washington's Mount Baker in the background; White Rock's proximity to the United States has played a big role in its history.

In 1913, the present railway station was opened, and the Fox and Hunter Shingle mill began operation. The Campbell River Mill also opened somewhat to the east, bringing a minor boom in the local economy. The now famous pier was opened in 1914 to provide a deep water mooring facility.

In the 1950s, White Rock began to feel isolated from the rest of the (then) District of Surrey, where development was being concentrated elsewhere ( North Surrey , Cloverdale). On April 15, 1957, a special warrant from the Government of British Columbia created the City of White Rock within its present boundary. In the 1960s, Peace Arch Hospital opened and continues as a major employer in the city and health facility for the region.

Development continued to be concentrated by the waterfront until the 1960s and 1970s. Many small cliff side dwellings became affordable housing to those who could not pay the cost of living closer to Vancouver . White Rock gained a reputation for being a 'retirement centre'.

The development of Highway #99 and the opening of the Deas Island Tunnel (now the Massey Tunnel) created a second boom for the White Rock area, providing relatively easy commuter traffic into Vancouver . No longer so dependent upon the railway, development crept up the hillside. In the 1980s, the City of Surrey began developing its "South Surrey" area as a 'town centre' comparable to Guildford, Cloverdale, and Newton . The Semiahmoo Mall opened in Surrey on the north side of 16th Avenue (which is North Bluff Road on the White Rock side). In 1979, friends Tom Kirstein, a chartered accountant, and Chip Barrett, an architect, organized an annual sandcastle competition, which became internationally famous. It took advantage of the long, sandy beach exposed at low tide, giving enough time for enterprising souls to construct elaborate displays. Prizes of up to $10,000 were awarded, and crowds of 150,000 were estimated at the competition's height. In 1987, the contest ceased because of security costs, and the inevitable party-spoilers.

The 1980s were the beginning of the White Rock-South Surrey area as a suburban, bedroom community within the Lower Mainland. The real estate market heated up and many younger families moved into the area attracted to homes aimed at the young professional market. By the middle 1990s, the race for real estate and upscale housing was on.

Activities & Attractions

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 .

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.

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!

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

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.

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 an around Vancouver .

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

*Source for this information was Answers.com & British Columbia.com

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