Whytecliff Park – Temperate scuba diving and family picnics

There’s a special place in my heart for Whytecliff park, a place where bikini clad sun bathers share the beach with scuba divers that are layered in fleece under their drysuits and ready for some temperate water diving.

Looking over the bay from the top of the right wall
Looking over the bay from the top of the right wall
My gear drying during our surface interval / BBQ picnic
My gear drying during our surface interval / BBQ picnic

Whytecliff Park is a marine protected area in West Vancouver, near the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. The park has two main areas; there is a large grassy picnic area lined with tall trees and a great concession stand. The second area of Whytecliff consists of a sandy beach, large rocks to climb, and an island that is accessible only at low tide.

Scuba  divers checking their gear before heading into the water
Scuba divers checking their gear before heading into the water
The concession stand sells foods and drinks, but is only open during the warmer months of the year
The concession stand sells foods and drinks, but is only open during the warmer months of the year
Between the grass and the beach is an area shaded by a canopy of tall trees
Between the grass and the beach is an area shaded by a canopy of tall trees

The park is very popular during the warmer months, and is usually packed with families and tourists if the sun is shining. The combination of rocky ocean landscape, sandy beach, and grassy fields means that the park can provide a variety of different experiences.

The beach is in a small bay and is usually protected from large choppy waves. Harbour seals can often be spotted popping their heads up curiously during the summer months, and sea stars and sea weeds can be seen during low tide. On the left of the bay is an island that becomes accessible during low-tide, and to the right is a very large and climbable rock.

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Part of the short trail that leads to ‘the cut,’ a small bay to the right that can be used for deeper dives
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Standing on top of the the right wall, over-looking the island that is accessible at low tide

While I do love to enjoy a BBQ or climb the rocks at Whytecliff, I have only ever been there with the intention to scuba dive. Whytecliff is where I took my drysuit specialty course, and is very popular for diving courses and new divers. The bottom of the bay has a slow sloping decline, making it an easy site to navigate and a shallow site to teach in.

Divers getting dressed for a dive, even in the summer the water is cold enough to need a drysuit
Divers getting dressed for a dive because even in the summer the water is cold enough to need a drysuit
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Posing with a huge sunflower sea star
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Layers and layers of sea stars
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A lingcod hangs out on a rock. During the first few months of each year you can see them protecting their egg masses
Fresh from the water, these divers are wearing either a drysuit or a very thick wetsuit

The marine life in B.C. is great because new divers are thrilled by the sight of a stunned looking rock fish and piles of sea stars, while divers who have dove Whytecliff park many times can enjoy the thrill of slowly recognizing new creatures like the hard-to-spot grunt sculpin. Around the right wall of the bay the depth drops suddenly and there is a wonderful deep wall dive for advanced divers. Decorator crabs peek out from clusters of cloud sponges at about 90 feet deep.

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A cloud sponge at around 90 feet deep, around the far right corner of the bay
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A kind of hairy-looking crab leg pokes out of the sponge
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Another crab lounges on a cloud sponge during a deep night dive

Divers often tire of the scenery at Whytecliff and are eager to explore one of the many other sites around the B.C coast. However, even after dozens and dozens of dives at Whytecliff, I will always enjoy going back because I am familiar with navigation and the marine life is always changing.

My friend and dive mentor Ab made this video. It is short and a great example of some of the marine life you can see at Whytecliff park.

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