When the concrete jungle of Metro Vancouver becomes too much to bear, I have my trusty escape plan – the local parks. And right at the top of my list is none other than Iona Beach Regional Park, where the winds are as fierce as the views are breathtaking.
If you’re also planning to go on a similar trip down to Richmond, let our ultimate guide give you all the deets you’ll need for a wonderful time at Iona Beach.
What is the Iona Beach Regional Park best known for?
The Iona Beach Regional Park is best known as a wonderful destination for group gatherings focused on star gazing. It is also known for its long sandy beach that offers scenic views as it stretches along the Strait of Georgia.
Within the park, you’ll find two jetties: the North Arm Jetty and the Iona Jetty. These narrow structures extend into the water and serve as versatile and popular attractions for both nature enthusiasts and recreational fishermen.
The park also features the Pipeline Walk, a four-kilometre gravel path for walking alongside a separate paved path for biking.
The Pipeline Walk is situated along the Iona Jetty, where visitors can have excellent sightlines towards the airport’s runways and stunning views of Mount Baker, the Coast Mountains, and Vancouver Island.
Along this walking trail, you’ll discover viewing and wind shelters for your comfort.
The North Arm Jetty, on the other hand, is better known for its sand dune ecosystem and driftwood log graveyard, which makes it a different kind of attraction within the park.
Where is Iona Beach Regional Park?
Located on Iona Island in Richmond, BC, the Iona Beach Regional Park is quite secluded, but is bordered by the Vancouver Internal Airport to the south, a 14-minute drive away, and the UBC up north.
The beach is also just 6 minutes from the Sea Island Conservation Area.
Iona Beach is situated at the mouth of the Fraser River, one of British Columbia’s major rivers. The beach stretches along the Strait of Georgia, a part of the Pacific Ocean that separates Vancouver Island from the mainland of British Columbia.
Things to Know
Fees: There are no fees to enter Iona Beach Regional Park. The park is free to access for visitors, and there are no admission ticket fees or parking fees.
Parking situation: Parking at Iona Beach Regional Park is free. There are plenty of street and gravel parking lots near the park entrance and a couple of small paved lots near the bird sanctuary up a small hill.
Parking is generally easy, but because the parking lot fills up quickly, especially during summer months and holidays, arriving early in the morning is advisable to avoid peak-hour crowds.
Restrooms: The main beach area has a washroom building where flush toilets are available. There’s also a pit toilet at the end of the Iona Jetty.
Dog-friendliness: Iona Beach is dog-friendly, but dogs must be kept on a leash in most areas. There are two exceptions: dogs are not allowed in the ponds on the park’s east side and the foreshore between Iota and North Arm Jetty.
On the lower roadway on the Iona Jetty, dogs may be off-leash, as long as they are under control.
Best Time to Go
The best time to visit Iona Beach Regional Park is during sunny days to fully enjoy outdoor activities.
But unlike other parks that may not be ideal during wet seasons, Iona Beach Park has good drainage and a gravel base, which make it accessible even during rainy or winter months.
Another optimal time to visit the park is during low tide because you can explore the vast mudflat without much effort. Visitors may want to check the tide schedule before their visit to ensure the best experience.
Keep in mind that the park tends to be quite busy in the summer and during holidays. To avoid the intense sun and heat, it’s recommended to visit before sunset, around 7 PM is an ideal time – around 7 PM is an ideal time.
How to Get to Iona Beach Regional Park
Car: Visitors traveling from Vancouver can access Iona Beach Regional Park by taking the Arthur Laing Bridge into Richmond and following the road to the end of Iona Island Causeway.
To reach the park, turn right at the first traffic light onto Templeton Street, and continue along Templeton as it transitions into Ferguson Road. The travel time typically takes approximately 30 minutes.
Public transit: Visitors can take the SkyTrain or bus to get to Iona Beach Regional Park. From downtown Vancouver, take the Canada Line SkyTrain to Bridgeport Station in Richmond.
From there, take the 412 bus to the Grauer Road stop, which is the closest stop to the park. Visitors can then walk or bike to the park’s entrance.
Is Iona Beach good for swimming?
Now, is Iona Beach good for swimming? Unfortunately, the waters at Iona Beach are not safe for swimming.
The water quality passes 95% of the time according to Swim Guide. However, the tides and currents are intense and unpredictable because the beach is located in an area where the freshwater from the Fraser River meets the saltwater from the ocean.
What to Do in Iona Beach Regional Park
Soak up the Sun
Although you can’t go swimming at Iona Beach, it has a particular section where visitors are welcome to relax, sunbathe, and engage in non-water activities without needing to wear clothing.
Visitors who choose to use the clothing-optional area usually do so for the freedom to enjoy the sun and beach without the constraints of traditional clothing.
Just note that this practice is allowed in designated clothing-optional areas of the park and may be subject to specific rules and regulations set by local authorities or park management.
Hike up the Trails
If you’re looking for a hike that offers a 360-degree view of the ocean, then the Pipeline Walk along Iona Jetty is the trail to choose. You can also see downtown from here, along with the mountains of North Vancouver and the Pacific Spirit Regional Park.
The terrain here is flat but can be challenging due to its length, taking around 2.5 hours to complete, and the presence of strong winds.
The North Arm Jetty provides another option, with a trail that’s approximately six kilometers out and back. However, this trail is located on the sandy beach, and walking is only allowed below the high tide line.
Like the Pipeline Walk, it typically takes around 2.5 hours to finish. For those seeking a shorter alternative, the Bridle Path is a 2-kilometer trail that takes only about 20 minutes to complete. Keep in mind that this path can be rough, and walkers share it with horses.
Engage in Birdwatching
Birdwatching at Iona Beach Regional Park is a rewarding and popular activity for several compelling reasons. The park’s diverse ecosystem, which includes estuaries, mudflats, and coastal habitats, provides a rich and dynamic environment for birdlife.
Bird enthusiasts can spot a wide variety of bird species, including Swallows, Cedar Waxwings, and Red-winged Blackbirds.
The park’s strategic location along the Pacific Flyway, a major migratory route for birds, makes it a prime spot for observing seasonal bird migrations. It’s a nesting ground for Western Sandpipers flying from Alaska to South America.
Watch Planes in Action
Visitors can watch planes taking off and landing, providing an up-close view of various aircraft, from commercial jets to smaller planes.
If you’re planning to watch planes at Iona Beach, bring binoculars or a spotting scope for a closer look at aircraft details. There are designated viewing shelters along the Iona Jetty trails that offer protection from the wind and a comfortable spot for plane-watching.
Marvel at the Sunset
Iona Beach Park offers one of the finest opportunities to capture a West Coast Canada sunset. The sun’s reflection on the Strait of Georgia is truly mesmerizing, which explains why many visitors bring their cameras to the beach.
With its westward-facing position along the Strait of Georgia, the park grants an unobstructed view of the setting sun. Its broad, sandy beach provides an ideal vantage point to witness the sun’s descent into the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by a serene landscape.
The interplay of vibrant colors, from warm oranges and reds to soft purples and pinks, creates a stunning display. Whether you’re an avid photographer or simply a sunset admirer, Iona Beach Park promises a memorable experience.
Gaze at Stars
And after watching the sunset, you can stay longer to see the stars over the Strait of Georgia. While the park has a designated closing time, it’s common for stargazers to leave their vehicles near the gate and continue on foot after the park officially closes at dusk.
The park’s location on Iona Island in Richmond provides some isolation from urban light pollution, which results in relatively dark skies, particularly when compared to more urbanized areas.
The park’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the Strait of Georgia also means that on clear nights, visitors can revel in unobstructed views of the vast night sky stretching over the ocean.
Things to Remember when Visiting Iona Beach Regional Park
- Intense Heat: As there is no natural shade in the park, it’s important to bring sun protection such as sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses when visiting on hot and sunny days.
- Winds: On windy days, layering clothing and checking the weather forecast before your visit is necessary to prepare accordingly. There are wind shelters along the Iona Jetty, which can provide relief from strong winds.
- Safety and First Aid: Carry essential safety and first-aid gear with you, especially if you plan to explore the beach and trails. Safety should always be a priority.
- Respect for Nature: Do not remove any vegetation or driftwood from the park. It’s important to leave the natural environment undisturbed.
- Prohibited Activities: Smoking, vaping, cannabis use, flying drones, consuming alcohol, and starting campfires, are not allowed within the park. Be aware of and adhere to these regulations.
- Wave Overruns: Exercise caution during high winds, particularly when with children. Be mindful of wave overruns from the water, which can occur during windy conditions.
Where to Stay near Iona Beach Regional Park
AMTD Versante Hotel
Address: 8499 Bridgeport Rd, Richmond, BC V6X 1R7, Canada
Phone: +1 604-242-7777
Just a 10-minute drive from Iona Beach Park, the Versante Hotel is a fantastic accommodation option to consider, particularly for its stylish vibe. As you arrive at the hotel, you’ll be struck by its unique personality and energy-rich aesthetic.
Club Versante and the Vogue Lounge make this hotel an even more compelling choice for your home base. After a day of exploring scenic hikes and indulging in meditative moments at the beach, you can elevate your social experience at these on-site venues.
The Westin Wall Centre, Vancouver Airport
Address: 3099 Corvette Way, Richmond, BC V6X 4K3, Canada
Phone: +1 604-303-6565
The hotel is perfectly situated near some exciting attractions, like the CF Richmond Centre Mall and the Richmond Olympic Oval. Plus, nature lovers will appreciate the quick 12-minute ride to beautiful Iona Beach Regional Park.
Guests at this hotel can take advantage of a variety of excellent amenities, such as a well-equipped fitness center and a refreshing pool. The hotel’s breakfast offerings are particularly delightful.
While the views from the hotel may not always be a highlight, the overall experience of staying here is sure to be a positive one.
Grand Park Vancouver Airport Hotel
Address: 8368 Alexandra Rd, Richmond, BC V6X 4A6, Canada
Phone: +1 604-214-0888
For travelers arriving from the airport, it might be a bit of a hassle to contact the hotel directly to arrange airport pickup. However, the hotel’s advantageous location near attractions and excellent dining options more than makes up for it.
You can stay here for a night and not encounter any problem at all.
But if you’re planning a longer stay and your top priority is indulgence and pampering, it could be worth exploring alternative accommodations that cater more extensively to those preferences.
La Quinta Inn by Wyndham Vancouver Airport
Address: 8640 Alexandra Rd, Richmond, BC V6X 1C4, Canada
Phone: +1 604-276-2711
When it comes to visiting Richmond, the La Quinta Inn Vancouver Airport is like the friendly neighbor who knows all the best spots in town. It’s known for its family-friendly vibes and the fact that it’s right in the heart of fantastic restaurants and attractions.
Whether you’re checking out the Richmond Art Gallery or getting your adrenaline fix at SPEEDERS Electric ProKarts, this hotel’s location is a plus.
From Iona Beach Regional Park, you’ll only need 15 minutes to drive out to this hotel.
Where to Eat near Iona Beach Regional Park
Italian Tomato Restaurant
Address: 8380 Bridgeport Rd, Richmond, BC V6X 3C7, Canada
Phone: +1 604-247-0040
Italian Tomato Restaurant is the real deal when it comes to authentic Italian dining. This charming spot has been serving up Italian classics like Spaghetti Bolognese, Chicken Parmesan, and Fettuccine Alfredo to delighted diners for years.
One thing you won’t have to worry about here is portion size – they’re known for their generous servings. With their lovely sauces ladled over perfectly cooked pasta, you’ll find it hard to resist.
While prices might be on par with downtown Vancouver restaurants, what you get on your plate is certainly worth every penny.
The Story Cafe – Eatery & Bar
Address: 2800 Sexsmith Rd, Richmond, BC V6X 1V5, Canada
Phone: +1 604-697-8679
The concept behind this cafe is interesting – everything has a story. Because the food, music, and antique pieces inside the restaurant are all suggestive of memories, guests are led to immerse in layers of experiences when they dine at The Story Cafe.
The dishes aren’t just beautifully presented; they’re also a symphony of flavors. If you opt for their duck breast entree or indulge in their beef Wellington, you’ll quickly appreciate the culinary artistry that makes this cafe a must-visit.
Milltown Bar & Grill
Address: 9191 Bentley St #101, Richmond, BC V6P 6G2, Canada
Phone: +1 604-269-2348
Milltown Bar & Grill exudes a warm and cozy atmosphere that can instantly put visitors at ease.
The food here is a real treat. You’re indulging in the mouthwatering fish tacos, the delectable smoked salmon, or if you’re looking for something truly special, get their yorkshire pudding or cheesecakes after your meal.
While you can savor a range of beverages here, from great coffee and lemonade to refreshing iced tea, it’s the delicious draft beer, wine, or bourbon that often steal the show at this bar.
Address: 3111 Grant McConachie Way, Richmond, BC V7B 0A6, Canada
Phone: +1 604-248-3281
If you’re arriving at the airport and plan to visit Iona Beach during your trip, starting with a meal at Globe@YVR can be a great way to kick off your journey.
The restaurant’s familiarity, especially if you’ve been to the Jetside Lounge in the International Terminal, offers a comfortable start. Globe@YVR opens early at 6 AM for breakfast and stays open until 10 PM for dinner, catering to the convenience of travelers.
While the food quality can vary, it’s generally a satisfying choice. Plus, you get the added bonus of dining by the windows, where you can enjoy the captivating view of planes arriving and departing.
Address: 3099 Corvette Way, Richmond, BC V6X 3A3, Canada
Phone: +1 604-238-2105
If you’re a guest at The Westin Wall Centre, Vancouver Airport, you’ll find convenient access to this restaurant. It’s a great spot for indulging in tasty pancakes and, if you’re interested, a selection of delicious wine or quality beer.
The restaurant boasts a modern decor and a pleasant atmosphere, making it an ideal place to unwind and relax. Families with children will also appreciate the diverse kids’ menu, ensuring everyone has a satisfying dining experience.