The City of White Rock is located in the southwest corner of the Lower Mainland, 45 kilometres from Vancouver and adjacent to the Canada/US border.
White Rock is bounded by Surrey to the west (Bergstrom Road), north (North Bluff Road) and east (Stayte Road), and by Semiahmoo Bay and the Semiahmoo First Nation to the south. It shares a peninsula with South Surrey, with that neighbourhood’s Ocean Park and Crescent Beach
immediately to the northwest.
One of Canada’s warmest climates can be found here; temperatures average from 6°C in the winter to 23°C in the summer. White Rock’s pier and promenade are popular destinations, especially during the summer months, when locals and visitors line-up for gelato or fish and chips.
European settlement in the area began in the 1850s. Originally, the Semiahmoo and other Coast Salish peoples dominated the region. By the 1910s, ease of train access and the availability of various services ended its pioneer days. In 1957, White Rock was officially incorporated. Until then, it was still a part of the District of Surrey.
White Rock is named for a distinctive 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—it was so white 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 popular graffiti target for over 30 years.
Celebrities from White Rock include wood sculptor Arnold Mikelson, musician Daniel Wesley and Olympic weightlifter Christine Girard.
The opening of the Deas Island Tunnel (now George Massey) in 1959 and the Alex Fraser Bridge in 1986 were followed by increases in home prices north of the Fraser River. With the increasing popularity of automobile-oriented communities, White Rock continued to grow. Today, many parts of the community resemble the type of suburban development seen across North America. 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. In July 2020, the median price for a home was $719k. Out of 19 areas in Greater Vancouver, White Rock is the 13th most expensive and 18th fastest growing. Its housing stock has grown by 24.1 per cent over the past twenty years, totaling 10,856 private dwellings as of 2016. 67.9 per cent of all dwellings in White Rock are owned, while the remaining 32.1 per cent are rental properties.
White Rock’s land area is 5.13 square kms, less than one per cent of the total land area in Metro Vancouver, with a population (as of 2016) of 19,952. The median age is 56.6. White Rock’s working-age population (15-64) represents approximately 57.2 per cent of total population. Senior citizens account for 34 per cent of the City’s population. The median family income is $62,344, approximately 16 per cent lower than the Metro Vancouver median. As a commuter community, the majority of White Rock workers (82.2 percent) commute to work using a personal vehicle, mostly to points outside of White Rock and elsewhere in Metro Vancouver.
There are 16 public elementary schools in White Rock and neighbouring South Surrey, and three public secondary schools, as well as Southridge a top-rated elementary and secondary school. White Rock Christian Academy services pre-K-through-12.
White Rock’s eight kilometres of beach, the promenade and the pier are some of the location’s main selling points, particularly during the warmer months. Every August, the Spirit of the Sea Festival includes a parade, fireworks, music stages, a sandcastle competition, and various other beach-related activities. Fifteen public parks are scattered throughout the community, including Centennial/Ruth Johnson Park, which is home to the Horst & Werner Centre for Active Living, the Centennial Community Garden, the Centennial Arena, and an extensive trail system. Other public park facilities include tennis courts, a roller hockey rink, a soccer field, a lawn bowling field, and a baseball field. Every year in July, the city hosts the Tour de White Rock, a bicycle road race.
Blue Frog Studios is a live broadcast and recording theatre that regularly hosts local talent. Artists who have played there include Valdy, Jim Byrnes, Tom Wilson, and Monkeyjunk. Area galleries include Art Couture, which features local artists, and Golden Cactus Studio Gallery, a studio and gallery featuring the work of Chris MacClure and Marilyn Hurst. The White Rock Players Club, which was instituted in 1944, produces five shows per year, including crowd-pleasers like Spamalot, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, and Aladdin and the Magic Lamp. White Rock Museum and Archives is home to more than 7,000 artifacts relating to early settler history, a small natural history collection, and fine art.
Breweries include 3 Dogs Brewing and White Rock Beach Beer. The upscale Islands Café has an Hawaiian ambiance and serves fresh baked goods as well as lunch items. Uli’s Restaurant offers locally sourced eats with an ocean view. Established in 1975, the kitschy beachfront eatery Moby Dick’s Fish and Chips has become a local institution.
White Rock’s shopping skews towards the smaller boutique end of the spectrum; for big-box stores and shopping malls, South Surrey is the place to go. In White Rock, you’ll find stores like Bella’s Miracle Shop, which features an eclectic array of unique gifts, including rocks and gems. The Mason Jar Home Decor sells candles, skincare, jewelry and clothing. On Sundays from May to October, locals flock to the White Rock Farmers’ Market and its dozens of vendors.