Vicki and I recently drove the 40 minutes from Maple Ridge to White Rock for a Saturday outing. White Rock’s Marine Drive is the closest thing in Western Canada to a British-style seafront resort, complete with an overabundance of fish and chips. It’s a full-blown tourist strip, but I would say most of the tourists were from the region, like us; people of all colours and backgrounds, with lots of kids. We ran into Maple Ridge realtor Anil Bharwani and his wife; after years of driving to Stanley Park for their weekend walks, they’ve switched to White Rock, which they find more pleasant.
The City of White Rock, with a population of 20,000, is a bit like the B.C.communities of Comox or Oak Bay, a genteel, land-bound townlet where local government has no space to sprawl. White Rock has densified, and developed a nice urban village a few blocks above the ocean; I’ll write about that some other time. Marine Drive has its own scene, which obviously goes back as a kind of bohemian retreat to something like the 1920s. It’s cool, but short on services other than bars, restaurants and touristy clothing outlets; if you want groceries, you hike, or more likely drive, up the hill.
As a young adult, Vicki lived for a few months in a funky apartment overlooking Marine Drive. We checked out old her place, had lunch at Moby Dick’s (famous since 1975), and went down to walk along the seaside promenade. Coming back up to the high street, we were delayed briefly by a train. The White Rock waterfront is a heavily-used route for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, connecting Vancouver with the U.S. The trains run within a few feet of the paved walkway; the high school girls who were sunning in their bikinis on the grass verge appeared unperturbed, altough some local residents have complained that traffic on the rail line has increased in recent years.
They’re building more condo apartments on Marine Drive, and on an adjacent street. This is one of the driest places in B.C.’s Lower Mainland region, with maybe half the rainfall of our home on the Fraser River. And despite the trains, the seafront promenade offers a strong motivation to walk, appreciate nature and really earn that beer.
We stayed at the hotel in White Rock one night several years ago, as a frivolous way to break a drive to Seattle. It was a typical West Coast evening, cool and rainy; we enjoyed our walk from the hotel to a restaurant up the street, where we had a cozy meal. On our recent sunny Saturday visit, I was struck by the California touches on the hotel’s facade, and on some of the other architecture along the Drive. Earlier in this post I also suggested that the place is the “closest thing” in our area to a British-style resort. I suppose that makes it a hybrid.