I don’t think Ambleside beach is worth flying to or driving for hours, but if you’re in Vancouver or West Vancouver, it’s worth checking out in the Summer or Fall.
In fact, we go there on sunny fall days and it’s great because while busy, it’s not crazy busy like it is in the summer.
Convenient location: It’s in West Vancouver only a few Km off Highway 1. However, traffic on the North Shore can be horrendous so don’t let a few Km fool you. You may get stuck in gridlock taking hours to get there or get home or back to your hotel.
Playgrounds: If you have young kids, there are two outstanding playgrounds, one on each side of the beach.
Walking: It’s a long beach, along which most of the way is a boardwalk which attracts many walkers.
The view: You get a gorgeous view of Stanley Park, English Bay and the North Shore mountains.
Piers: There are two piers to walk along.
Dundarave Village: Dundarave Village is a quaint village very close which offers dining and shops.
Traffic: The beach is situated on Marine Drive in West Vancouver, which is incredibly busy. It’s also close to the entrance/exit of Lion’s Gate Bridge which is a main commuter bridge to downtown Vancouver. Finally, Highway 1 on the North Shore is notoriously bad for traffic jams every day of the week during morning and afternoon rush hours.
Sand: The sand is okay, but it’s not lush and rich like Spanish Banks or Third Beach.
Busy: It’s in a busy area so there are lots of buildings nearby. It’s not a nature-lovers beach. It’s more of an urban beach.
Parking: Forget about finding parking on the weekend during the Summer if sunny. There simply isn’t enough parking. You’ll have to find a spot somewhere nearby and hoof it in.
Here’s a map of Ambleside. You can zoom in and out to get your bearings.
Here’s a photo gallery I took (on a sunny Fall day):
It’s not the prettiest beach, but it’s good and many local love it.
You can definitely swim at Ambleside Beach in the Summer. It’s not tropical warm, but usually warm enough to go swimming. We swim there often.
There aren’t any terrible currents or big waves, so it’s a good swimming beach for kids.
One thing I’ll say for Ambleside is it offers two amazing playgrounds. The one on the west side, which is technically John Lawson Park, is amazing. The other, on the east end, is also very good with some unique playground features. Our two boys love, love, love both playgrounds. They’re always crawling with kids.
Here’s a photo of the playground on the east side of the beach (not the John Lawson Park playground):
The beach is split into the east and west sides. The east side is the main beach area. The west side is called John Lawson Park. You can walk to each, but part of the walkway veers a bit off the beach.
John Lawson park has an amazing playground, large grass area, picnic tables and plenty of shade. It’s more park than beach, but the beach is right there.
The east side is Ambleside Beach proper and it’s the main beach area. If you’re looking for the beach, go to the east side.
FYI, there’s a good playground on the east side as well; it’s just not as spectacular as the John Lawson Park playground.
There’s a very good concession on the east side of the beach offering the usual beach fare. It’s very good food and worth trying.
There are also a handful of nearby restaurants being located on Marine Drive.
There are public bathrooms along the beach which are clean and decent.
Parking is free, but there isn’t enough of it on weekends. During the week and off-season it’s okay.
Tennis courts: There’s a great set of tennis courts at Ambleside Beach.
Walking: Nice walk along the beach either on the sand or the promenade.
Shopping: Park Royal Mall is about 1 Km away or you can get to Dundarave Village.
Sports fields: There are several large sports fields just off the beach making it an expansive, multi-purpose recreational area.
You can’t really have a bad day at Ambleside. There’s something for everyone. We enjoy it regularly, but I can’t say it’s my favorite Vancouver beach.