It’s one of those grey days when hanging out at a Metro Vancouver beach seems like a foolish idea. But you don't have to wait around forever for the clouds to clear up. Instead, head to British Columbia’s only indoor beach and you’ll soon be forgetting all about the rain.

Located on Richmond’s Mitchell Island, 6Pack Indoor Beach is an 18,000-square-foot indoor facility with a highly inviting sand-covered interior (there’s 700 metric tonnes of it). But it’s not about flopping on a lounge chair for a lazy snooze here. Instead, this heated, high-ceilinged complex is a bright and bustling attraction where unique activities await.

What’s it all about?

Tucked among a some hulking industrial warehouses, 6Pack Indoor Beach launched in 2011 as an all-weather, year-round magnet for beach volleyball fans tired of waiting for summer to arrive. But while volleyball leagues, clinics, and tournaments are a cornerstone here, a second main activity has also hit the bullseye in recent years.

The entrance to 6Pack Indoor Beach
There's a huge indoor beach ​behind the unassuming entrance. | Photo: John Lee

Archery tag—a fun-filled fusion of paintball, dodgeball, and archery—is arguably even more popular at 6Pack. And while both activities are loved by special event groups (they host lots of private parties, corporate events, and team-building activities here), there are also drop-in times when friends, families, and individuals can slip on their shorts and T-shirts and hit the sand for some fun.

Drop-in volleyball

Depending on available space, 6Pack's drop-in volleyball sessions run between 10:00am and 4:00pm Monday to Friday. If you want to give it a try, you can call ahead to reserve court space for your group on the day you want to play—all ability levels are welcome. If you arrive as an individual, they’ll usually find a team for you to join, but gathering your own crew is typically the best way to go.

Two teams play beach volleyball at 6Pack Indoor Beach
Participate in beach volleyball year-round in Richmond. | Photo: 6Pack Indoor Beach

The charge is $18 per adult ($13 for seniors or those aged 18 and under), and your booking covers a minimum of two hours playtime. Saturday and Sunday drop-in slots may also be available, but you need to call the day before to check.

First-timers often start by attending Thursday’s fun-filled Ladies Night, which runs from 9:30pm to 1:00am. It costs just $6 each for participating women—and that includes a free drink. Men are also welcome on Ladies Night at the standard $18 rate. If you don’t have a team, this highly sociable weekly happening is your best bet for arriving on your own and being placed in a group. And, of course, it’s an ideal way to combine a workout with a great evening out.

Drop-in archery tag

If you’re looking for a truly unique local activity, though, 6Pack has cornered the market on archery tag. Drop-in groups or individuals are welcome on Friday evenings (from 8:30pm to 10:00pm) and on Saturday nights (when times depend on availability). The cost is $23.81 per person if you book online. You must be aged 15 or above to play, and individuals will be placed in groups.

People playing archery tag at 6Pack Indoor Beach
Archery tag is a mix of paintball, dodgeball, and archery. | Photo: 6Pack Indoor Beach

Keep in mind that Friday sessions—billed as “a competitive evening of archery tag”—are aimed at participants who have played at least once before. In contrast, Saturdays are ideal for everyone, including those with no prior experience. Full gear is provided, including facemasks, and the arrows you’ll be firing are all safety-tipped. On our visit, excited participants had been divided into teams and were engaged in a rambunctious running shootout with each other.

Activities for kids

Most of the activities at 6Pack are for older teens and adults. But since children also love hanging out at the beach, a special program called Lil’ Diggers has also been developed for junior play fans to dive into BC’s biggest indoor sandbox.

Depending on space—call ahead if you’re thinking of heading over—­­this program is for children aged up to seven years old. It costs $8 per kid (babies under 18 months old are free) and accompanying parents do not have to pay. The reward? 6Pack lays down tons of colourful toys for the kids to play with in the sand—which means your biggest challenge will be telling them when it’s time to leave.

Facilities and tips

There are changing rooms at 6Pack Indoor Beach, so you don't have to wear your beach clothes until your arrive. There’s also a great onsite café here serving everything from pasta to pizza (go for the prosciutto and arugula option). The café is also licensed, so you can enjoy a beer from Stanley Park Brewing with your party-like drop-in session.

The cafe counter at 6Pack Indoor Beach
Visitors can fuel up at the onsite cafe. | Photo: 6Pack Indoor Beach

Not surprisingly, food and drinks are not allowed on the sand. And participants are required to be barefoot during activities. Clothing-wise, you’re encouraged to bring gear you’ll feel comfortable rolling around in. But don’t wear any jewelry: occasionally, items disappear into the sand and are never seen again. And before you ask, the facility’s metal flooring makes metal detectors useless here!

If you go:

6Pack Indoor Beach is located at #115 - 13180 Mitchell Road on Mitchell Island—right in between Richmond and Vancouver. Accessible by car from either end of the Knight Street Bridge (it’s slightly shorter from the Richmond side), there’s plenty of onsite parking. You can also reach the site by transit plus a short walk across the bridge to the island—plan your trip via the Translink website