Beach towels and volleyballs are the order of the day in Kitsilano, a beachside neighbourhood on the northern edge of Vancouver’s west side. Kitsilano is where one of Vancouver’s best beaches is found, a sociable strip of sand that’s lapped by the waters of English Bay. Green parks wind away from the beach, and it always feels like nature is in control here, a real contrast to the high-rise streets in Downtown. Back in the 1960s, this was where the cool kids came to hang out. Although there’s been a certain gentrification, Kitsilano remains one of Canada’s most vibrant neighbourhoods.
Much of the visitor experience revolves around exploring the low-rise streets and soaking up the coastal atmosphere. Kitsilano is where art deco galleries juxtapose with Italian coffee shops, indie record stores stand beside Japanese bistros, and a semblance of counterculture has remained strong since the sixties. The beach is the iconic place to start in summer, while in winter, the trio of museums in Vanier Park is great for a rainy day. The excellent Museum of Vancouver packs over a million items into the exhibit halls, while the Maritime Museum and H. R. Macmillan Space Centre and Planetarium are well suited for families.
Kitsilano is not on Vancouver’s SkyTrain network, but many buses run here from Downtown or different SkyTrain stations. An enchanting way to arrive is on the ferry from Yaletown, across the water. This neighbourhood is small enough to discover on foot, especially the area in and around the beach.
The views when sunbathing on Kitsilano’s beach are very different today than they were in the 1960s. Mountains still provide the backdrop, but the foreground is dominated by the high-rise condos and towers of Vancouver’s Downtown, just across the bay.