White Rock, British Columbia

Coordinates: 49°1′30″N 122°48′10″W / 49.02500°N 122.80278°W / 49.02500; -122.80278
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White Rock
The Corporation of the City of White Rock
Aerial view of White Rock's waterfront
Aerial view of White Rock's waterfront
Flag of White Rock
Coat of arms of White Rock
City by the Sea
Location of White Rock in Metro Vancouver
Location of White Rock in Metro Vancouver
Coordinates: 49°1′30″N 122°48′10″W / 49.02500°N 122.80278°W / 49.02500; -122.80278
ProvinceBritish Columbia
Regional districtMetro Vancouver
IncorporatedApril 15, 1957
SeatWhite Rock City Hall
 • TypeMayor–council government
 • BodyWhite Rock City Council
 • MayorMegan Knight
 • City Council
List of councillors
 • MPKerry-Lynne Findlay (Conservative)
 • MLATrevor Halford (BC Liberal)
 • Land5.17 km2 (2.00 sq mi)
 • Urban54.23 km2 (20.94 sq mi)
80 m (260 ft)
 • City21,939
 • Estimate 
 • Density4,240.6/km2 (10,983/sq mi)
 • Urban109,167
 • Urban density2,013.1/km2 (5,214/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC−08:00 (Pacific Standard Time)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−07:00 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Forward sortation area
Area codes604, 778, 236, 672
Websitewhiterockcity.ca Edit this at Wikidata

White Rock is a city in British Columbia, Canada, and a member municipality of the Metro Vancouver Regional District. It is bordered by Semiahmoo Bay to the south and is surrounded on three sides by Surrey. To the southeast across a footbridge lies the Semiahmoo First Nation, which is within the borders of Surrey. Semiahmoo Bay and the Southern Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia are also to the south.

White Rock is named for a large white boulder on its beach near the promenade, a glacial erratic that migrated south during the last glaciation. The 486-ton granite boulder was kept white by shellfish-eating seabirds whose guano covered the rock so much that 19th-century sailors used it as a beacon. It is now kept white through monthly applications of white paint by the city parks department and has been a graffiti target.[citation needed] The White Rock Pier is located nearby.


Early history[edit]

Uptown neighbourhood adjacent to White Rock Centre
The white rock

The Straits Salish people dominated the region from Boundary Bay in the north to Birch Bay in the south (in the U.S.). Semiahmoo First Nation permanent encampments were known to exist between 1791, the first European contact, and the 1850s, the beginnings of European settlement. These were located along the waterfront at the eastern and western limits of the present City of White Rock. The Semiahmoo people also constructed forts as lookouts for raiders from the northern first nations; one is located in the Ocean Park area.

The Oregon boundary dispute culminated in the Oregon Treaty of 1846, which settled the outstanding border issues between Great Britain and the United States. Previously, these issues had been put on hold through a shared occupancy agreement of the Oregon territory by the two nations in the Treaty of 1818. In turn, the International Boundary Survey Commission began in 1857 to set the boundary between the United States and British North America, roughly along the 49th parallel, which runs through Semiahmoo Bay and Boundary Bay to Point Roberts, Washington.

The Semiahmoo Trail still exists in White Rock and South Surrey, running from the site of the Boundary Commission Camp at the estuary of the Campbell River, overland to Mud Bay north of Crescent Beach. An 1865 survey map calls this route the 'Telegraph Trail'. During the real-estate boom of the 1980s and 90s, the City of Surrey preserved much of the trail, extending it from 20 Avenue to the Nicomekl River. On 148 Street, a specially constructed "Semiahmoo Trail" pedestrian overpass keeps the trail intact.

Modern history[edit]

The city from White Rock Pier

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. The rail is currently owned by BNSF Railway and runs alongside the promenade at the beach. This was originally the Great Northern line, and it opened up White Rock and Crescent Beach to tourists from Vancouver and New Westminster in the early 1900s.[5] The border crossing closest to White Rock (at Douglas, British Columbia, and Blaine, Washington) was officially opened in 1908, and the Peace Arch at the border crossing was constructed in the 1920s.

In 1913, the present railway station was opened, and the Fox and Hunter Shingle mill began operation. The Campbell River Mill also opened to the east, bringing a minor boom in the local economy. The now-famous pier was opened in 1914 to provide a deep-water mooring facility.

In the 1950s, White Rock residents began to feel isolated from the then–District of Surrey, where development was being concentrated elsewhere, particularly in North Surrey and Cloverdale. On April 15, 1957, a special warrant from the Government of British Columbia created the City of White Rock within its present boundary.

In the 1950s, Peace Arch Hospital opened and continues as a major employer in the city and health facility for the region.

Development was concentrated near the waterfront until the 1960s and 1970s. Many small cliffside dwellings were affordable to those unable to pay the cost of living closer to Vancouver. White Rock gained a reputation for being a retirement centre, as it features the lowest rainfall in the Metro Vancouver region, while benefitting from the influence of the ocean, keeping both summers highs and winter lows bearable.[6]

The development of Highway 99 and the opening of the Deas Island Tunnel (now the George Massey Tunnel) created a second boom for the White Rock area, providing a more convenient commuter route to Vancouver. No longer dependent upon the railway, development crept up the hillside. In the 1980s, the City of Surrey designated South Surrey as a town centre comparable to Guildford, Cloverdale, and Newton. The Semiahmoo Mall opened in Surrey on the north side of 16 Avenue (the south side of which is North Bluff Road within White Rock).

In 1979, chartered accountant Tom Kirstein and architect Chip Barrett organized an annual sandcastle competition,[7] which became internationally famous. The event took advantage of the long, sandy beach exposed at low tide, giving enough time for entrants to construct elaborate displays. Prizes of up to $10,000 were awarded, and crowds of 150,000 were estimated at the competition's height. In 1987, the contest was ended because of security costs and concerns. In 2008, a group of local high school students (Sara Woodward, Jorden Abernethy, Daniel Fowler, Michael Vanderpolder, and Tasha Svenson) and members of the community (Spenser Bolen, Michael Nolan, Trixie Nolan, and Lisa Nolan) launched a Sandcastle Competition revival. This competition drew 40,000 guests and over 70 teams.

The 1970s saw the White Rock/South Surrey area develop into a suburban bedroom community of the Lower Mainland. A real-estate boom in the area drew many young families to homes marketed to young professionals, a process that intensified in the mid-1990s. Today, many parts of the community resemble the type of suburban development seen across North America. Some cliffside cottages have given way to large homes, and multimillion-dollar properties have appeared in the area.

Uptown White Rock has been the site of significant new developments in recent years, with medium-rise condos becoming more prominent. The City of White Rock's fire department was located half a block north of its city limits until the early 1990s, when a new firehall was built across from City Hall. In 2007, the White Rock Little League team made it to the Little League World Series.

On December 20, 2018, during a severe windstorm, the White Rock Pier was severed when sailboats broke free from the attached marina and crashed into the pier destroying a 30-metre section.[8] At least 15 boats sank and several were wedged underneath the pier's pilings. Replacement plans call for a new pier that could be built by the end of August 2019, with an early cost estimate that is projected to be over $5 million.[9] As of May 2, 2019, the cost estimate for a rebuild to modern seismic standards is $16.2 million.[10] On August 28, 2019, the pier re-opened to the public although certain elements such as lighting have yet to be completed.[11] Darryl Walker has been mayor since 2018.[12]

Promenade and Semiahmoo Bay, from the pier


The boundaries between White Rock and Surrey are Bergstrom Road (136 Street) to the west, North Bluff Road (16th Avenue) to the north, Stayte Road (160 Street) to the east, and 8th Avenue to the south. The area south of 8 Avenue from Stayte Road westward to where 8 Avenue meets the water is the Semiahmoo Indian Reserve and lies within the bounds of the City of Surrey (though it is governed separately). The Surrey neighbourhoods of Ocean Park and Crescent Beach lie immediately to the northwest.


White Rock has a moderate climate, with average daily high temperatures of 23 degrees Celsius in summer and 6 degrees Celsius in winter.[13]

White Rock's climate is moderate year-round. Because the city is set away from the Coast Mountains, it sees less fog, fewer rainy days and shorter snowfalls. Meteorological statistics show that White Rock does, in fact, receive 20 percent more sunshine than does Vancouver. Temperatures average 21 °C (70 °F) in summer and 6 °C (43 °F) in winter. Annual rainfall averages 1,105 mm (43.5 in).[14]

Climate data for White Rock
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 16.5
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 7.3
Daily mean °C (°F) 4.6
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 1.9
Record low °C (°F) −12.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 146.8
Average rainfall mm (inches) 134.7
Average snowfall cm (inches) 12.1
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm) 17.6 14.3 15.7 14.3 12.3 11.4 7.1 6.0 7.9 15.1 18.8 17.0 157.4
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 16.6 13.3 15.6 14.3 12.3 11.4 7.1 6.0 7.9 15.0 18.4 15.9 153.7
Average snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm) 1.9 1.6 0.4 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.8 2.1 6.9
Source: [15][16]


In the 2021 Canadian census conducted by Statistics Canada, White Rock had a population of 21,939 living in 10,735 of its 11,541 total private dwellings, a change of 10% from its 2016 population of 19,952. With a land area of 5.17 km2 (2.00 sq mi), it had a population density of 4,243.5/km2 (10,990.7/sq mi) in 2021.[3]


Panethnic groups in White Rock (2001−2021)
Panethnic group 2021[17] 2016[18] 2011[19] 2006[20] 2001[21]
Pop. % Pop. % Pop. % Pop. % Pop. %
European[a] 15,185 73.27% 15,420 80.65% 16,020 86.41% 16,030 88.25% 16,035 92.55%
East Asian[b] 1,900 9.17% 1,450 7.58% 1,055 5.69% 970 5.34% 485 2.8%
South Asian 1,575 7.6% 965 5.05% 410 2.21% 330 1.82% 170 0.98%
Indigenous 635 3.06% 565 2.96% 465 2.51% 290 1.6% 165 0.95%
Southeast Asian[c] 580 2.8% 230 1.2% 330 1.78% 230 1.27% 215 1.24%
African 265 1.28% 130 0.68% 70 0.38% 125 0.69% 60 0.35%
Latin American 250 1.21% 100 0.52% 45 0.24% 145 0.8% 35 0.2%
Middle Eastern[d] 110 0.53% 110 0.58% 30 0.16% 30 0.17% 75 0.43%
Other/Multiracial[e] 230 1.11% 145 0.76% 70 0.38% 20 0.11% 85 0.49%
Total responses 20,725 94.47% 19,120 95.83% 18,540 95.87% 18,165 96.85% 17,325 94.93%
Total population 21,939 100% 19,952 100% 19,339 100% 18,755 100% 18,250 100%
Note: Totals greater than 100% due to multiple origin responses


According to the 2021 census, religious groups in White Rock included:[17]

Annual events[edit]

Every year in July, the city hosts the Tour de White Rock, a bicycle road race that attracts over 150 local and international riders. In 2005, the event was part of the Canadian Cycling Association's national Road Race Series.

Every year during the first weekend of August, the Spirit of the Sea Festival is held on White Rock beach. It usually includes a parade, fireworks, music stages, a sandcastle competition, and various other beach-related activities. The festival began in 1949.



A freight train runs along the beach as the sun sets in 2009

Transportation in White Rock largely revolves around the automobile. Highway 99 is a freeway that links the White Rock area with Vancouver to the north and U.S. Interstate 5, via the Peace Arch border crossing, to the south. King George Highway (Highway 99A) links the Peace Arch border with Surrey Central station and New Westminster via the soon-to-be-replaced Pattullo Bridge. Johnston Road (152 Street) links White Rock to Guildford and the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1).

Most of White Rock's bus routes run through the White Rock Centre transit exchange. From there, the 351 and 354 buses, which previously ran to downtown Vancouver, now terminate at Bridgeport station in Richmond; Vancouver-bound passengers have to transfer onto the Canada Line rapid transit line. Only one route serving the area, the 352 Ocean Park/Bridgeport Station express bus, does not run through White Rock Centre, instead terminating near the South Surrey Athletic Park. The 321, 345, and 394 buses provide service to North Surrey, notably to Surrey Central and King George Skytrain stations, and the 375 service runs through White Rock Centre from just north of the Peace Arch border crossing to Guildford Town Centre. The 531 bus runs from White Rock Centre to Willowbrook Mall in Langley. Community Shuttle routes, the 360, 361, 362, and 363, service local communities within White Rock and South Surrey.

BNSF Railway has a single-track main line through White Rock that runs the length of the White Rock beach promenade. The city itself has no train service; however, this rail line is a major corridor for goods transported between the ports of Vancouver and the continental U.S., as well as for the Amtrak Cascades passenger service between Seattle and Vancouver via Bellingham, Washington. The Canadian National Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) also have trackage rights along the line. Goods transported on the corridor include Canadian softwood lumber, coal, paper products, and general merchandise. The CPR runs regular potash trains along the line to the Canpotex export terminal in Oregon.[22]

Notable people[edit]

White Rock in television and film[edit]

Scenes from the boxing film Knockout were filmed in White Rock. Portions of the 1965 film The Railrodder starring Buster Keaton were filmed in White Rock. Much of the 1982 movie Big Meat Eater was filmed near and around the White Rock waterfront. The USA Network's detective comedy Psych was also filmed in White Rock, though the series is set in Santa Barbara, California. There is also a brief scene in Leaving Normal filmed at the White Rock waterfront. Scenes from The X-Files were also filmed here, as were scenes from the Steven Seagal movie Driven to Kill. An episode of the FX dramedy series Better Things from its second season titled "White Rock", that originally aired on November 9, 2017, had scenes that were filmed in White Rock. The Hallmark movie Like Cats & Dogs had many city scenes filmed here, as well as scenes on the public pier. K-pop girl group Twice features local White Rock gelato shop Ocean Rock Cafe on Marine Drive as well as the historic pier and railway in their 2018 music video Likey.


  1. ^ Statistic includes all persons that did not make up part of a visible minority or an indigenous identity.
  2. ^ Statistic includes total responses of "Chinese", "Korean", and "Japanese" under visible minority section on census.
  3. ^ Statistic includes total responses of "Filipino" and "Southeast Asian" under visible minority section on census.
  4. ^ Statistic includes total responses of "West Asian" and "Arab" under visible minority section on census.
  5. ^ Statistic includes total responses of "Visible minority, n.i.e." and "Multiple visible minorities" under visible minority section on census.


  1. ^ Mayor & Council | White Rock, BC
  2. ^ a b Government of Canada, Statistics Canada (February 9, 2022). "Profile table, Census Profile, 2021 Census of Population – White Rock [Population centre], British Columbia". www12.statcan.gc.ca. Retrieved August 12, 2022.
  3. ^ a b "Population and dwelling counts: Canada, provinces and territories, and census subdivisions (municipalities), British Columbia". Statistics Canada. February 9, 2022. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
  4. ^ Services, Ministry of Citizens'. "Population Estimates – Province of British Columbia". www2.gov.bc.ca. Retrieved March 19, 2023.
  5. ^ "Digital Museums Canada Decommissions the Virtual Museum of Canada Website". Digital Museums Canada. Retrieved August 12, 2022.
  6. ^ "Seven Best Places to Retire in Canada". www.comfortlife.ca. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  7. ^ "Patrons gorging at Expo's culture banquet". Toronto Star – Toronto, Ont. Masters, John May 24, 1986, Page: F.3
  8. ^ Crawford, Tiffany; Brown, Scott; Ruttle, Joseph (December 21, 2018). "B.C. windstorm: White Rock pier split in two, ferries cancelled, hundreds of thousands lose power". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  9. ^ Chan, Kenneth (January 7, 2019). "White Rock Pier rebuild expected to cost over $5 million". Daily Hive. Retrieved January 8, 2019.
  10. ^ Brown, Scott (May 2, 2019). "Buy a beer to rebuild the White Rock pier | Vancouver Sun". Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  11. ^ Ip, Stephanie (August 28, 2019). "White Rock Pier reopens Tuesday after $4M repairs completed | Vancouver Sun". Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  12. ^ "Mayor and Council".
  13. ^ City Of White Rock Website
  14. ^ "Geography – White Rock". www.hellobc.com. Destination BC. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  15. ^ "Canadian Climate Normals 1981–2010 Station Data". Environment Canada. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  16. ^ Daily Data Report for November 2016 – Climate – Environment Canada
  17. ^ a b Government of Canada, Statistics Canada (October 26, 2022). "Census Profile, 2021 Census of Population". www12.statcan.gc.ca. Retrieved November 9, 2022.
  18. ^ Government of Canada, Statistics Canada (October 27, 2021). "Census Profile, 2016 Census". www12.statcan.gc.ca. Retrieved March 2, 2023.
  19. ^ Government of Canada, Statistics Canada (November 27, 2015). "NHS Profile". www12.statcan.gc.ca. Retrieved March 2, 2023.
  20. ^ Government of Canada, Statistics Canada (August 20, 2019). "2006 Community Profiles". www12.statcan.gc.ca. Retrieved March 2, 2023.
  21. ^ Government of Canada, Statistics Canada (July 2, 2019). "2001 Community Profiles". www12.statcan.gc.ca. Retrieved March 2, 2023.
  22. ^ "Canpotex website". Archived from the original on August 23, 2010. Retrieved September 9, 2009.
  23. ^ "Liberals win B.C. byelection easily". Waterloo Region Record. September 16, 1997. p. 4. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
  24. ^ "Jewel Staite – Biography". TV.com. Retrieved February 29, 2012.

External links[edit]