Before the first settlers arrived, the Straits Salish people dominated the region from Boundary Bay in the north to Birch Bay in the south (in the US). The 1850s saw the beginnings of white settlement on lands that are the present site of the City of White Rock.
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. 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, BC and Blaine, Washington) was officially opened in 1908, and the Peace Arch at the Douglas/Blaine border crossing was constructed in the 1920s.
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.
Development continued to be concentrated by the waterfront until the 1960s and 1970s. Many small cliffside dwellings became affordable housing to those who could not pay the cost of living closer to Vancouver. The 1970s 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. Now many of the cliff-side cottages have given way to large homes, and million dollar real estate has become a reality for the formerly small seaside community.
White Rock is located in the southwest corner of British Columbia, 45 km (30 mi) south of Vancouver, and is flanked on the south by the Canada/US border and Blaine, Washington. The City of Surrey lies on the other three sides. It is a seaside community clustered around a sandy beach and the warm shallow waters of Semiahmoo Bay. It is well-known for its 457 m (1,500 ft) long pier, its 2.2km (1.4 mi) long beach promenade, and of course, the large white rock that sits on the beach and is a glacial deposit from thousands of years ago.
For those who would rather enjoy White Rock's spectacular views from the waterfront, Marine Drive offers plenty of scenic seating areas along the red brick waterfront promenade. From here you will see views of Mount Baker and the San Juan Islands plus the most glorious sunsets. Don't miss the opportunity to stroll along the famous pier which stretches out 457 metres (1,500 feet) into the shallow waters of Semiahmoo Bay. The promenade also plays centre stage to many festivals and events.
White Rock's heritage is proudly displayed in the White Rock Museum and Archives, which is housed in the Rail Street House built in 1912.
White Rock boasts an eclectic collection of boutiques and shops as well as award-winning restaurants, cafes and bistros.
The protected waters of Semiahmoo Bay make White Rock safe for swimming, kayaking and exploring tidal pools. The long, sandy beach and grassy verges are popoular with visitors and locals alike. Seating along the promenade is plentiful.
White Rock has some 15 golf courses that range from very challenging to very easy, and 5 driving ranges, all within a 20 minute drive from the center of the city.
This international cycling race attracts over 150 high calibre cyclists and professional racing teams from across Canada, the United States, and Europe. A 3-day event held in mid-July, the main event is a gruelling 130 km test of endurance and attrition. $65,000 is offered in cash prizes. There are also activities for the whole family including a popular bike parade. Over 5,000 spectators attend this annual event.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia