Totems in Stanley Park, Vancouver

Travel Spotlight

White Rock

White Rock 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 the large white rock that sits on the beach which is a glacial deposit from thousands of years ago.  A laid-back community it is especially popular in the summer when visitors and locals come to relax, take a swim, go kayaking, explore the tidal pools and do a little fishing from the pier, as well as enjoy some delectable food in one of the many eateries and cafes along the roadside promenade.

Location

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. Getting to White Rock use Hwy 15 south from the main east-west Hwy 1. Hwy 99 south takes you from Vancouver and the North Shore.

A Step Back in Time

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.

Contact Information

Explore White Rock

Camping Lodging

The Super Camping / Select Lodging Guide

First Published in 1989