Welcome to South Surrey and White Rock.
South Surrey is a distinct community within the wider City of Surrey, located on the Semiahmoo Peninsula. To complicate matters, White Rock is its own separate and distinct city, even though it shares the same peninsula. So while exciting things like parking regulations and recycling schedules may differ, the two population centres are similar enough in location and lifestyle that it makes sense to explore them together.
With farmland to the north (and greater Surrey past that) and the waters of Boundary Bay to the west and south, South Surrey and White Rock feel set apart from the rest of the Lower Mainland. There’s no Skytrain here so the area hasn’t seen the exponential rise of condo towers that are common in other, better connected, suburbs. Many people in Greater Vancouver only experience South Surrey when they’re driving Highway 99 to the Peace Arch border crossing on their way to the US.
That proximity to the US border creates a holiday destination-vibe, especially along the promenade in White Rock. In the summer months, it’s common to see American tourists rubbing shoulders with locals and day trippers from other Vancouver suburbs.
The rest of South Surrey caters well to those looking for family-friendly neighbourhoods, detached homes and outdoor activities. In the master-planned community of Morgan Creek, homes are built around a top-rated golf course, which results in a lot fewer broken windows than you might think.
$245000 - $7338000
$1600 - $7900
New homes planned
You don’t get much more picturesque than White Rock, a beachside community home to a bustling promenade and one of Canada’s longest piers. (Don’t let the sign claiming it’s Canada’s longest pier trick you - apparently this is disputed by the Quai de Portneuf in Quebec.) You’ll find the city’s namesake, a large white boulder once deposited here by a glacier, on the beach just east of the pier. Once turned white by visiting seabirds doing what seabirds do, these days a regular lick of paint keeps the rock looking presentable.
White Rock is a tale of two cities. In the summer, it’s a tourist destination with people flocking to the sandy beach, great local restaurants and dozens of ice cream parlours. In the winter, things get a lot quieter, leaving space for patient locals who have waited months to have the promenade to themselves again.
The patient locals in question are mainly retirees and empty nesters who fled the big city in search of a quieter, quainter life. Condo life exists above and behind the commercial buildings on the main strip, providing an opportunity for investors looking for waterfront property. Head a couple of blocks from the beach and single-family homes fill the steep streets, offering amazing views of the islands to the south.
"Because we have such a limited amount of land here, the properties continue to increase in value,” Dolecki explains. “However in this neighbourhood, you will only see single-family homes. Any new developments are based on old homes being knocked over and developers building on those and selling those off."
Follow the coast northwest from White Rock and you’ll discover the almost-secret community of Crescent Beach. Locals here want to keep that ambiguity because with views of downtown Vancouver, the North Shore Mountains and Washington State islands, it’s an Instagram hotspot waiting to happen.
For years, Crescent Beach was a cottage community for people from Vancouver looking for a summer vacation spot. These days, many of the cottages remain and have been restored to their former glory. Others were demolished and replaced with more modern architecture.
“This is very much a quaint, small community,” says Dolecki. “It's locals who live here, whereas in White Rock, it's much more commercial - more restaurants, more tourism."
These locals appear to be staying put. Properties don’t come to the market often, so you have to be quick if you want to call the community home.
Our final stop takes us inland to the master-planned community of Morgan Creek. Originally built to surround the Morgan Creek Golf Course, the neighbourhood has continued to grow and welcome new residents.
On the east side of the course, you’ll find larger homes that were part of the original design. On the west, close to the elementary school, slightly smaller, family-friendly properties are on offer. Several of the original homes have been or will be renovated in order to bring in modern designs and more light.
"It's such a clean, quiet subdivision,” says Dolecki. “It's sort of what your dream would be on a TV show, where everyone has their little house, everyone has their space, all the gardens are maintained, everything is well kept."
Peter Dolecki has real estate in his blood. His mother was a successful realtor in Richmond for over 25 years. You’d think with that kind of family example, he’d start his career in this industry. But Dolecki is an entrepreneur at heart and he’s tried his hand at a wide range of career options, including chemical distribution and automobile exports. It wasn’t until 2007 that he followed in his mother’s footsteps and took up real estate.
Since then, he’s built up a loyal client base with his top-notch negotiating skills and his no-nonsense approach.
"Don't hold back,” he says. “If we walk into a house and my clients love what they see but I see fault with it, I take my clients to one side and I say there's something wrong with this house."
Outside of work, Dolecki is a man with a passion for cars - muscle cars and hotrods to be exact. If you’re looking for a home in the South Surrey area, try your luck and see if he’ll show you his collection.
It's the art of the deal for me. If you can make your buyer happy and your seller happy in a transaction, that's the best deal in the world.
Agent’s Pick: Home on 36A Ave in Morgan Creek
Morgan Creek homes for sale
We stop at a stunning home in Morgan Creek. It was originally built 15 years ago in a chateau-style. Recent buyers had a vision to modernize it, brightening it up and changing flooring, cabinets and the kitchen. However, they left the epic pool and jacuzzi as they were originally designed, situated within a makeshift grotto.
Dolecki says that homes in Morgan Creek were mainly built by different developers, giving them an individual look and feel. So if you’re looking for your own grotto, you might have to wait for this beauty to come back on the market.
South Surrey Listings
Ok, let me get this out of the way before anyone else points it out: yes, I know there was no need for waders when I’m fishing from a pier but our production coordinator was so proud of themselves for finding a pair that I wasn’t going to be the one to tell them! As for White Rock, although gorgeous, it's amazing how seaside communities always seem oddly familiar in layout, no matter where you are in the world.
I will say, though, I had never heard the phrase ‘South Surrey’ until we started researching this episode and it was fascinating. From the subclimates that the coastal waters provide to the masterplan communities built around golf courses, it all seemed to be catering to a very specific type of homeseeker. And while I’m not there yet, I feel like in a few years I could really see myself settling down in a place like Morgan Creek or Crescent Beach. If nothing else, hopefully, it would make for a shorter trip across the border to Trader Joe’s when the mood takes me, right?