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Rejection and Relaxation in BC, Canada

by Nicole Kobie

Sometimes, rejection can be a good thing.

Consider this: a small seaside town, its main street—populated, of course, with intimate shops and tiny diners—running parallel a long, sandy beach.  At low tide, the shallow waters pull back, leaving ribbons of blue and silver drifting around dunes of wet, pliable sand—perfect for a shoeless, pant-cuff-rolled-up hike, as well as for constructing sand castles.  The eight kilometers of shoreline offers enough malleable material for thousands of miniature architectural marvels.

So, for a few years a few decades back, the tiny town on the province of BC’s south coast hosts the Great Canadian Open Sandcastle Competition, an annual event so popular it eventually draws unruly crowds over a hundred thousand. The community, then home to only a few thousand residents, cancels the competition, snubbing the yearly economic boom to preserve their laid-back lifestyle.

Such is life in White Rock, Canada—tourists are welcome, so long as they don’t interrupt the sublime, relaxed existence the residents so enjoy. Much in the same way backpackers reject mainstream travel methods in favour of cheaper, more laid-back and more adventurous wanderings, the Rock has rebuffed the advances of the overwhelming mess of traffic, noise and people that marks Vancouver (only 45 minutes away) and Seattle (three hours south).

The short distance from larger centers paired with the awesome natural setting, ensures a steady stream of day trippers to the resort town, located on Semiahmoo Bay (Coast Salish for “half moon”) on the coast of Canada’s western province. While swimming the warm water, strolling the pier or shopping the local artisan stores, all pull tourists in different directions, the call to simply look and feel cannot be refused. With the glinting Pacific rippling in the foreground, snow-coated Mount Baker domineering in the background, thick greenery fresh at hand and soft sand underfoot, the senses will be sublimely overwhelmed.

The beachfront is the center of tourist life for the town, home to the giant pier, the shop-filled Marine Drive and the town’s namesake, a 490 ton mountain chunk, dropped in the sand (ice) ages ago, rejected by the slow-moving glaciers of the era. Blanched white, the rock gets its unique colouring from a millennia in the sun, centuries of bird droppings, and decades of white paint to cover the inevitable graffiti.

The other focal point of the beach is a 1500-foot long pier that offers not only a gorgeous perspective of the ocean action, but a great view of the town’s art-filled shops and window-filled homes.  A ten or fifteen minute meander to the end of the pier offers ocean vistas, boating action, crab trapping and fishing, as well as swimming in the warmest ocean water in mainland BC—but close your mouth when jumping in, this is salt water, after all. Keep an eye open for starfish, which cover the rocks above and below water, and are often gathered up in low tide, dried out, and sold as souvenirs by the more entrepreneurial resident kids.

Don’t make the mistake of heading back to Vancouver for dinner; the best fish and chips can be found right on Marine Drive. Battered, deep-fried and wrapped in newspaper, nothing will taste better after a day walking the pier, sand and streets of this seaside town.  A warning, though: if you dine outside, keep your food close—the gulls have developed taste for fries.

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