When friends of mine mention "nude beaches," I generously point out that they are "clothing-optional beaches." The distinction is that you don't have to go nude if you don't want to do so.
Canada has several places where you can be nude on a beach, but without question, 2 of the best places are Wreck's Beach in Vancouver and Hanlan's Point in Toronto. Besides being wonderful spaces with amazing people, there is a joy to spending an afternoon in this setting and then indulging in one of the world's best cities at night.
Unfortunately, we've seen a wave of pressure on visitors to both spots to succumb to nudity. That is an absolute shame.
I have visited both places quite a few times. And yes, for the record, I actively participate in the process: your humble narrator is naked in these places. Whether you are nude, partially nude, or clothed, the idea is that you respect what is going on.
I've spoken to many people over the years who don't understand why people would do this. I explain to them to check it out and they can see how cool an atmosphere is in these settings.
There are people who are curious about indulging, especially women. But they are shy based on a number of fears. Being too of something or not enough of something makes them shy about being in that setting.
I can tell you from personal experience that there are all kinds of bodies on these beaches. The idea that you will stand out is literally ridiculous, but unknown fears are entirely relevant to that person. Every nudist on those beaches was at one point that uncertain person. We need to remember that people need to ease into this new world for them.
For example, a woman might show up to a clothing-optional beach. This is her first time. She may strip down to a 2-piece bathing suit as she would do on any other beach. Once she sees that people aren't staring at other people, she might loosen her top. At a later point, she might go totally nude.
Pressure, especially undue pressure, sends the wrong message. Clothing-optional beaches should be inclusive, but understand that people are shy. Give them a chance to learn.
That being said, if you showed up clothed on a clothing-optional beach, come with the intention of trying out nudity. After all, if you lose your top or trunks or bikini bottoms, you won't get in trouble. No laughter, no cheers. Not even a nod.
If you are freaking out for having a part of you exposed that is usually private, put those clothes back on. Chances are you will enjoy the sunshine where the sun doesn't normally shine.
Hanlan's Point is a ferry destination from the ferries to the islands in Toronto. If you get on the Centre Island ferry, you will have a longer walk. The ferry is $7.50 for adults; the return trip is included in that price.
Once you dock at Hanlan's Point, follow the signs. The beach is about a kilometre down. The northern half of the beach is a standard beach with bathing suits. The southern half is clothing optional.
Keep a note of return ferry times. They are usually on the half-hour but are often an hour apart. Factor in the walk back to the ferry terminal on the island.
Wreck's Beach is located at the far west end of the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus. There are a number of buses that go to UBC. The #99-B is your best shot as this is an express bus. From downtown, you can take SkyTrain to Commercial Drive and board the 99-B bus.
If you are at Granville Island, you can take the #4 bus down 4th Street. The #9 bus covers the path of the #99-B but with a lot more stops. The 17, 25, 33, 41, 43, 44, 49, 84, 258, 480, N17 also serve UBC.
Once you get to the UBC bus loop, walk about 5 minutes across campus down University Boulevard to UBC Gate 6. Turn right on NW Marine Drive and the trail is immediately to the left about 100 metres.
You shall be warned that the path down is long and extensive. Take your time going down and especially going up. This is not a race.
Even if you stay down there until sunset, when the beach closes, the #99-B bus will still be running and will take you back into the city.
Bring all the supplies you need as there aren't options once you are there. Bring plenty of sunscreen since those sheltered areas need more protection once they are out in the open.
Feel free to bring food and (non-alcoholic) drinks, but clean up after yourself. Canada is a clean and tidy country. I can tell you first-hand that cops patrol Wreck's Beach for open alcohol containers. You have been warned.
Above all, have fun. This is a life-altering experience. Enjoy.
photo credit: wreckbeach.org; Google maps