Know Before You Go Camping in British Columbia.  Looking to find winter camping?

Sooke to Port Renfrew: A Day Tour to Experience the Rugged Pacific Coast on Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Whenever friends or family visit Victoria and want to experience the rugged west coast but only have a day while on Vancouver Island, a drive to Port Renfrew is the place I take them! Along the route are sandy beaches, panoramic mountains and ocean views, sea lion caves, tidal pools, surfing, hiking trails and a variety of places to dine.

Beach along route to Port Renfrew
Beach along route to Port Renfrew

The route from Victoria downtown follows Highway 1 to Exit 10 (View Royal /Colwood) onto 1A that becomes Highway 14 to Port Renfrew. Highway 14 is paved to Port Renfrew and if you don’t stop it’s a four-hour return trip. Traffic is light on this highway so enjoy the drive.

Along the Highway 14 route to Port Renfrew are many places to explore – it would take days to see them all. I’ll suggest a few must stops along the way and other places you may want to consider!!

First stop for me is Serious Coffee located just past the traffic circle on the left in Sooke. My favorite is the granola bar and lunch sandwiches which are available to go. There are a number of other options for food/beverages in Sooke.

Before you depart from Serious Coffee in Sooke set the trip odometer!!

At Muir Creek , just 13 kilometers  from Sooke, there is easy access to the ocean. Turn left at the bridge into the parking lot. A flat easy access trail leads to Muir Beach.

Shirley Delicious via Facebook
Shirley Delicious via Facebook

Sheringham Point Lighthouse, a Canadian Heritage Lighthouse, is 18 kilometres from Sooke. The access road is between the Fire Hall and Shirley Delicious. Turn left on Sheringham Point Road and proceed 1 km to the parking lot on the right side where there is a short trail to the lighthouse. The site is open to the public daily from 9 am to 8 pm. Caution is recommended as the shore is exposed to high winds and rogue waves.

For lunch or dinner we often take firewood for a favorite meal of hot dogs roasted over the open fire at French Beach Provincial Park – just 3 kilometers past the Sheringham Point Road. Ocean access to French Beach is an easy walk just a couple of minutes from the parking lot. Enjoy the beach walk and keep an eye to the ocean for whales and sea otters, and bald eagles perched tree top.

At Kilometer 28 from Sooke is Sand Cut beach. The parking lot is on the left adjacent to the highway. The hike down is about 15 minutes through forest with boardwalks and stairs to the beach.

Past Sand Cut beach parking lot, the highway dips down to the ocean through Jordan River. Cold Shoulder Cafe is a few hundred metres from Jordan River Regional Park just past the bridge. It’s on the corner where the highway makes a sharp right turn.

Ocean View from Trail along Botanical Beach Port Renfrew
Ocean View from Trail along Botanical Beach Port Renfrew

Continuing on Highway 14 to Port Renfrew, the next stop is Juan de Fuca Provincial Park. The park has four main areas: China Beach day use, China Beach Campground, the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail and Botanical Beach.  Originally the trail was a lifesaving link from the graveyard of the Pacific that saw many shipwrecks along this coastal area.

China Beach day use is at Kilometer 35 from Sooke. The trail to China Beach starts at the end of the parking lot to the left of the entrance road. Although a bit of steep walk down it’s about 15 minutes along  a wide and well maintained path to the beach.  Enjoy the Sitka spruce, Douglas fir and cedar trees along the trail and when walking the beach watch for seals, sea lions and whales. This park is also a trail head for the Juan De Fuca Marine Trail that extends 47 kilometres to Port Renfrew.

For a stunning panoramic view of the Olympic Mountains in Washington State and Juan de Fuca Strait, take the North Main logging road right across from the entrance to China Beach day use. Proceed carefully up this active logging road for 2.2 kilometers and turn off the main road for about 100 meters. Although narrow there is sufficient space to turn around and return to Highway 14. Enjoy the views high above the water! Return down the logging road and turn right to Port Renfrew.

Continuing along Highway 14 to Port Renfrew at Kilometer 59 from Sooke is the turnoff to Sombrio Beach. This cobbled beach is popular for winter surfing and wilderness camping adjacent to the beach. If visiting during the winter a 4-wheel-drive vehicle might be required but most of the time the access road to the parking lot is accessible by car.

Snow & Surf at Sombrio Beach
Snow & Surf at Sombrio Beach

Proceed back to Highway 14, turn left and enjoy the short drive to Port Renfrew. If it’s summertime, and the flowers are blooming under the Welcome to Port Renfrew sign, stop as the humming birds may be feeding!!

Continue driving on Highway 14 as it takes you through Port Renfrew to Botanical Beach parking lot.

There is a coastal hiking trail along Botanical Beach that is the terminus of the Juan de Fuca Trail. The trail provides access to rugged beaches with geological rock features, and at low tide there are many rich tidal pools and kelp beds to view marine life. Explore the tidal area and see pools filled with brilliantly colored marine life. But remember to just view the marine life and avoid touching the water in these sensitive ecosystem pools. Sea urchins, barnacles, mussels, anemones and sea cucumbers are just some of the thriving intertidal life. I suggest “Seashore of British Columbia Guide” to identify mammals, fish, anemones, cucumbers, crabs and many other species.

Welcome to Port Renfrew
Welcome to Port Renfrew

If you want to experience viewing at its best visit Botanical Beach during low tide. I suggest checking the tide table for Port Renfrew. It’s best to arrive at the Park at least 1 hour before low tide. The time of the low tide will obviously determine when you have to depart. Please keep in mind when exploring the beaches and pools to be aware of wave activity and increasing water levels should the tide start coming in while you are exploring!!

So take your lunch with you and find a spot on the beach. If you didn’t bring a lunch then enjoy some of the food offerings in Renfrew. I like Bridgeman’s West Coast Eatery located on the dock at Pacific Gateway Marina. Other activities include kayaking and salt water fishing.

Enjoy the rugged west coast drive.

TIP: If you find this blog interesting why not subscribe to the enewsletter and never miss another story!

Also, check out the Pacific Marine Circle Tour.

For places to camp on Vancouver Island and elsewhere in British Columbia go to Camping & RVing BC Camping Map.

Share your BC travel and camping pictures using hashtag #campinbc, #explorebc

It’s always a great day to #campinbc

Travel the Stunning Stewart-Cassiar/Highway 37 in Northern BC

The Stewart-Cassiar Highway is 724 km of stunning scenery in British Columbia’s north. My husband and I took our time exploring this amazing area from the Yukon border in the north, to Kitwanga in the south and over to Stewart and Hyder, Alaska.

Boya Lake, Stewart-Cassiar Hwy, Northern British Columbia
Paddling on Boya Lake, Northern British Columbia | Photo: B. Rees

Our favourite provincial park on the entire trip was Boya Lake, 87 km from the Yukon border. It’s far away from traffic noise, WIFI, and when it’s full it’s still quiet. Boya Lake itself is clear aquamarine with a white glacial silt bottom and 24 of the 44 sites are snugged up to its shore. Even so we didn’t expect to find a lakefront site so I could hardly contain my excitement before jumping out with the dogs and yelling, “Honey, I’m home.” A loon added its mournful call. Aah, four days of being lost in nature.

Boya Lake, Northern BC sunset
Sunset at Boya Lake, Northern BC | Photo: B. Rees

A stay at Boya wouldn’t be complete without canoeing. No motors are allowed on the lake but canoes are available. With the first dip of the paddle, all my cares disappeared. For me, this is a spiritual place. My days began with tea in a china teacup, watching the squirrels and listening to the loons. They ended with the Master painter sweeping peach and mauve sunsets over the lake. If you want a true getaway, this is the place to go and the only thing wrong with Boya Lake …the stay is never long enough.

pieces of jade at Jade City
Pieces of Jade at Jade City | Photo: B. Rees

Jade City is a fascinating place to stop. They offer travellers free overnight camping, WIFI, and coffee. The family that runs it has been mining jade since the 70s and it’s part of the reality show, “Jade Fever.” Watch them cutting jade outside for sale. I bought a small slab for an RV cutting board. The store has a dizzying selection of jade, rocks and gems.

The main hub for travellers fueling up and getting supplies is Dease Lake. It’s also the jumping-off point for paddlers on the Dease River or adventurers going to Telegraph Creek.

Tatogga Lake Resort, Stewart-Cassiar Hwy, Northern BC
Tatogga Lake Resort, Stewart-Cassiar Hwy, Northern BC | Photo: B. Rees

We were welcomed by a stuffed moose in the dining room of the Tatogga Lake Resort, an interesting log building that resembles a museum inside. There’s a one-ton jade boulder by the fuel pumps although they aren’t always open. It’s mainly a seaplane base for tours into the mountains.

South of Tatogga is Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park with 50 sites in a well-looked-after park beside the lake.

We followed the glacial blue waters of the Nigunsaw River before crossing the Bell Irving River bridge to stop at Bell 2 Lodge. Though they principally cater to heliskiers in the winter, during the summer travellers can stay in chalets, the lodge or at the campground. It has 10 full-service sites plus 3 dry camps. There is a restaurant and fuel.

Fall at Meziadin Lake
Fall at Meziadin Lake, Northern BC | Photo: B. Rees

A gorgeous green lake welcomed us to Meziadin Lake Provincial Park where we camped overnight. They have 66 sites, some with power but no sani-dump and we were lucky to get a spot.

Waterfalls veil near Stewart
Waterfall Veils on Road to Stewart | Photo: B. Rees

No trip would be complete without taking the road from the Meziadian junction to Stewart and Hyder, Alaska. It’s a photographer’s dream. Prepare to be wowed as glaciers drape the towering mountains, and waterfalls plunge from the tops. We pulled in where a waterfall broke up into a myriad of veils. Bear Glacier flows blue from the mountain to a lake beside the road.

Stewart stores and cars
Stewart, Northern BC | Photo: B. Rees

Stewart is nestled at the foot of glacier-topped Stewart Mountain, on Portland Canal. We stayed in full-service Bear River RV Park.  There is a beautiful boardwalk over the estuary. Heritage buildings and funky storefronts make up the main street. Stay a few days and take a trip to Hyder, Alaska.

Bear at Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site, Northern BC
Bear at Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site, Northern BC | Photo: B. Rees

Crossing an unguarded border we drove into Hyder that looks like the old west. Remember, just because you crossed into the USA without being questioned, you still deal with the border guards coming back into Canada. Get Hyderized at the old Glacier Inn. Visit Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site for safe bear watching from the boardwalk. We went along 25 km of rough gravel road, sometimes one-lane, up the mountains to see Salmon Glacier. What a breathtaking sight but it cost us a tire. A tire guy drives around Stewart in his truck fixing tires!

Salmon Glacier, Northern BC
Salmon Glacier, Northern BC | Photo: B. Rees

After we left Meziadin we stopped at Gitanyow – the Land of the Totems. At one time they had more original totems than anywhere else. Kitwanga village was our home for the night. We visited Gitwangak Battle Hill Historic Site where from the top of the hill tribes fought rivals.

Summing up the Stewart-Cassiar trip my advice would be to prepare for driving through the wilderness, allow plenty of time to explore and learn the history.

Fuel stops from Kitwanga are at the junction of Highways 16 and 37: Gitanyow 19 km; Meziadin Junction 149 km; Stewart 220 km; Bell 2 249 km, Tatogga Lake(not always open) 392 km; Iskut 406 km; Dease Lake 499 km, Junction 37 at Yukon border 724 km.

TIP: If you find this blog interesting why not subscribe to the enewsletter and never miss another story!

Other information to help you plan your camping trip include:
Wilderness Adventure Along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway
Kitwanga Junction
Exploring Northern British Columbia – A Circle Tour Adventure: Stewart-Cassiar Highway
Discover British Columbia’s Travel the Great Northern Circle Tour

For camping accommodations in British Columbia check out the Camping Map.

Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc #explorebc

Plan a Memorable Vacation in BC’s Stunning Telegraph Cove and the Broughton Archipelago

Wildlife lovers rejoice! Telegraph Cove and the Broughton Archipelago are an ideal destination if your perfect holiday includes a chance of spotting whales, bears, eagles, and more.

Swimming in the Burdwood Group Islands | Kim Campbell-Walker
Swimming in the Burdwood Group Islands | Kim Campbell-Walker

Broughton Archipelago Provincial Park, sandwiched between Northern Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, is certainly in contention for one of the most beautiful parts of the province. With towering cliffs, midden beaches, rocky islets, and protected passageways through lushly forested islands, the Broughton Archipelago makes up the largest marine park in British Columbia. The park, established in 1992, is a mecca for boaters, and it is known worldwide as a premier kayaking destination. When we were in the Broughtons, we spoke with an experienced kayaker who had flown from South Africa, purchased a kayak off Craigslist in Vancouver, rented fishing equipment, and planned to spend five nights (longer if he could stretch his food by catching dinner!) in what he considered one of the world’s best kayaking areas.

The marine park makes up only part of the area considered the Broughton Archipelago. To start our trip, we took an hour-long water taxi from Telegraph Cove to the Burdwood Group – a collection of small islands at the meeting point of Fife Sound, Tribune Channel, and Penphrase Passage. When we landed on the main group site in the Burdwoods, it was like we had been transported to a tropical island. The area was established as a BC Conservancy in 2009 in order to protect both aquatic and forest habitats as well as sites of cultural significance in the traditional territories of the Mamalilikulla-Qwe’Qwa’Sot’Em First Nations, including the shell midden beach on which we landed.

Echo Bay Marine Park | Kim Campbell-Walker
Echo Bay Marine Park | Kim Campbell-Walker

An afternoon paddle had us marvelling at Deep Sea Bluff – a towering cliff on mainland British Columbia near where Captain George Vancouver reportedly anchored during his exploration of the BC coast in 1793. When we arrived at the bluffs, the tide was low and the barnacle-covered intertidal zone (in this case, entirely vertical) was taller than me. After the mandatory photo “touching the mainland” we headed back to camp. Our two days in the Burdwood Group consisted of circumnavigating small islands, exploring the rather desolate feeling Echo Bay Marine Park – complete with a collapsing community recreation centre and a picturesque but condemned wharf – and visiting the fascinating personal museum collection of Billy Proctor, a lifelong resident of the Broughton Archipelago and passionate beachcomber, fisherman, and logger. Bring your wallet and pick up a copy of one of Billy’s books for a fascinating read about the Broughtons.

Billy Proctor's Museum | Kim Campbell-Walker
Billy Proctor’s Museum | Kim Campbell-Walker

After two days in what can only be described as beachfront paradise, we packed up and headed for the ominously named Insect Island – hoping all the while that the name had nothing to do with mosquitos! After a mostly mosquito-free night in a lovely campground (despite the decidedly uphill hike to the tenting area), we continued our travels by paddling down Misty Passage, past Monday Anchorage, through the Coach Islets, to Sedge Island. At this point, so inspired by the wide-open vistas we had seen for most of the day and not wanting to camp on the rather boxed in Sedge Island campsite, we carried on to the spectacular White Cliff Islets – one of my favourite locations from the entire trip. These tiny rock islets on the edge of Queen Charlotte Strait are nothing short of spectacular. When we visited, the few trees on the islets were filled with keen-eyed eagles and fish darted through the kelp beds below us as we paddled along.

Flower Island | Kim Campbell-Walker
Flower Island | Kim Campbell-Walker

After exploring the islets, we headed for the campsite on nearby Owl Island. Perfectly placed on the island, the campground offers a protected bay with morning sun for launching and a short trail through the trees to a gorgeous sunset viewing beach. A sunset paddle around the aptly named Fire Island was spectacular as the sun sank below the horizon. One of the best parts of kayaking is the connection immediately forged with nature and your campground compatriots.  At the recommendation of some fellow kayakers, the next day we headed for Flower Island where, we were told, we “wouldn’t be able to sleep because of the whales.”

Owl Island Sunset | Kim Campbell-Walker
Owl Island Sunset | Kim Campbell-Walker

The paddle from Owl to Flower was another gorgeous day on the water. Once we passed Bold Head on Swanson Island it became apparent that Blackfish Sound was indeed where the whales congregate. The four-or-so kilometre paddle along Swanson Island was a non-stop show of whale blows, with our heads constantly swivelling to try and catch sight of the whales. Just after arriving at Flower Island we were treated to one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen – a nearly five-minute performance of a humpback whale blowing and slapping its tail (known as tail lobbing) just offshore. The marine activity carried on throughout the evening with appearances from dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, humpback whales, and orcas. It was truly one of the best wildlife experiences of my life.

In the morning we paddled back to Telegraph Cove, completing our journey from the mainland back to Vancouver Island. Telegraph Cove is the perfect launching point for a kayak trip to the Broughtons, and there are numerous tour operators on the North Island who provide guided trips. If kayaking is not your speed, consider a trip with Prince of Whales Whale Watching and Wildlife Adventures or spend a full day observing grizzly bears in Knight Inlet with Tide Rip Grizzly Adventures.

Whale Interpretive Centre | Kim Campbell-Walker
Whale Interpretive Centre | Kim Campbell-Walker

Telegraph Cove is also a great destination in its own right. The community balloons in population during the summer months and as such, it is one of the most tourist-focused destinations on the North Island. Several coffee shops provide drinks and snacks, a pub on the pier offers plenty of choices including BBQ salmon dinners, and the excellent Whale Interpretive Centre is a must-visit for those wanting to know more about the creatures that call the Johnstone Strait home. Telegraph Cove Marina & RV Park offers camping and moorage. Camping is also available at Telegraph Cove Resort Forest Campground part of the Telegraph Cove Resort.

Telegraph Cove | Kim Campbell-Walker
Telegraph Cove | Kim Campbell-Walker

Telegraph Cove is a first-class destination for those wishing to get in touch with nature. From self-guided trips for experienced kayakers to afternoon whale watching excursions, the Broughton Archipelago is sure to delight your whole family.

TIP: If you find this blog interesting why not subscribe to the enewsletter and never miss another story!

For places to camp in British Columbia go to Camping & RVing BC Camping Map.

Share your BC travel and camping photos using the hashtag #CampinBC, #explorebc

It’s always a great day to #campinbc

5 Fun Family Adventures Near Wasa Lake in the East Kootenays, BC

Wasa Lake is the warmest lake in the Kootenays and is a popular summer camping destination.  This Provincial campground has 104 sites (66 of them are reservable), an amphitheatre for parks talks, nature trail, kids (or adventurous adults) bike park, as well as washrooms with flush toilets and showers. Wasa Lake itself is a short walk or bike ride through the campground and has sandy beaches, a playground, boat launch and grassy picnic areas.

BC Parks Scavenger Hunt Prize Jerry the Moose Pin
BC Parks Scavenger Hunt Prize Jerry the Moose Pin

Although the weather was warm when we visited it wasn’t hot, sunny beach weather, so we opted to explore the local area and discovered some amazing places to visit just a short drive away.

Here are five fun things to do in the area.

Explore Wasa Lake Provincial Park

We spent the better part of a day just exploring our surroundings, especially enjoying the small bike park located within the campground. It’s perfect for younger riders with small jumps, obstacles like planks, bridges, rocks, and small ravines to challenge their skills.  Also, be sure to check BC Parks website for contests and things to do. You can also download a pamphlet for Jerry’s Nature Quest which includes some fun games to do in the park.

Gold Panning at Fort Steele
Gold Panning at Fort Steele

Visit Fort Steele

Fort Steele is a heritage town located about 20 minutes drive from Wasa. The town has heritage houses and businesses to explore, gold panning, a bakery, an ice cream parlour and a few restaurants as well.  We spent several hours exploring the town and had a great time.  Be sure to take a ride on the steam train if you go – it’s a fun way to step back in time.

Visit Cranbrook

Cranbrook is home of the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel. At one time this town was the major train hub for the area and is now home to a unique rail museum with restored train cars to wander through and explore. Cranbrook is the closest city to Wasa to restock your supplies and is one of the Kootenays major centres so you’ll find several large grocery and hardware stores, shopping in the mall as well as in the downtown core. It’s a great place to explore on days when the weather just isn’t on your side!

Canadian Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook by Destination BC/Kari Medig
Canadian Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook by Destination BC/Kari Medig

Hit a Hot Springs (or two)

Fairmont Hot Springs, Radium Hot Springs and Lussier Hot Springs are all close by. Fairmont and Radium are developed hot springs with several pools, change rooms, places to eat and lots of parking. They are both great options for the whole family with Fairmont being the closer of the two at just a short 45-minute drive away.  Lussier Hot Springs is a natural hot springs, so you’ll have to park and hike in – no services, change rooms are available, it’s definitely for the more adventurous campers!

Fairmont Hot Springs Resort hot pools by Destination BC/Kari Medig
Fairmont Hot Springs Resort hot pools by Destination BC/Kari Medig

Bike One of the Loop Trails

Take one of the Loop bike trails and explore a bit more of the Wasa area. There are two bike loops to get you out of the campsite and exploring the area. The first: Wasa Lake Lions way, is a shorter loop that is a good walking trail as well, although at 8 km you’ll need to be sure you have good walking shoes on and water for the walk.  It’s a paved flat trail, great for the whole family as even very young riders can manage this one.  The second loop is the Lazy Loop bike path, and don’t get confused by the name…the path isn’t lazy – that’s the name of the lake the path takes you to.  This route is 33 km round-trip and takes you up into the mountains to get there!

We had a great time at Wasa Lake Provincial Park and exploring the East Kootenays.  We’re looking forward to a return visit next year.

To locate other campgrounds in this area or elsewhere in British Columbia go to the Camping Map.

Share your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc

Save

Save

Save

Paul Lake Provincial Park, a Picturesque Camping Spot Near Kamloops, BC

During the summer, Kamloops can feel like living inside an oven. The four years I resided there while attending university made me appreciate all the things I hadn’t even realized about growing up on the coast. Lucky for Kamloops residents, and all those searching for a completely classic BC Parks camping experience, just 30 minutes from the city is a haven of shady campsites, clear blue water, and a picture-perfect day use area.

Paul Lake Provincial Park is nestled in a forested valley just a short drive north of Kamloops. The park offers 90 campsites (47 of which are reservable) that are the very picture of what camping in a BC Park is all about. The treed sites are arranged in a well-spaced grid layout, with an outer paved road. My first experience with this style of park was on a family reunion camping trip somewhere in the Shuswap when I was a child (I seem to recall all the roads being named after types of fish?) and since then I have seen the same layout in many parks around the province, including Paul Lake Provincial Park. The campsite at Paul Lake is particularly well arranged, with frequent outhouses and water taps, lots of space between the sites, plenty of trees, and a pretty impressive adventure playground.

Campsite at Paul Lake | Photo: Kimberly Walker

We chose Paul Lake for its variety of recreational opportunities. I had heard the day use area was excellent, and a quick look on the BC Parks website confirmed that the park offered both canoeing and hiking. With that in mind, we loaded up our tent trailer and canoe and headed for the interior. Thanks to some morning delays, we arrive mid-afternoon on Saturday and pulled into what I am quite sure was the last available space in the park amid mild panic that we were going to be completely out of luck. If you are planning a trip to Paul Lake, I suggest arriving in the morning for the 43 First Come First Served sites or even checking the park out on the BC Parks reservation system if you want to guarantee yourself a spot (at my last check, there were spaces available throughout the summer – including some weekends). Paul Lake is a popular campground and is definitely set up for family camping, so a little planning ahead goes a long way.

Paul Lake Day Use Area | Photo: Kimberly Walker

Whether you are staying overnight or not, Paul Lake is worth a visit for the recreation opportunities alone. The day use area is huge and offers a ton of lake front space in which to relax – including great spaces for large groups. There are lots of treed areas to provide relief from the sun and the roped off swimming area is perfect for getting in the water. The lake has great canoeing and kayaking opportunities, including the ability to paddle right alongside the soaring 900-metre cliff face of Gibraltar Rock.

Gibraltar Rock | Photo: Kimberly Walker

If you want a break from the water, the park offers over 7 kilometres of hiking trails. Stroll along the lakefront on a little path leaving from just past the boat launch or summit the park by climbing right to the top of Gibraltar Rock. For those looking for a longer hike, the Gibraltar Rock trail continues on to the end of the lake and we saw a few people trail running the route while we were out canoeing.

Paddling on Paul Lake | Photo: Kimberly Walker

From peaceful camping to busy day use, Paul Lake Provincial Park offers something for everyone. While the main beach area can be extremely busy on a hot summer day, it doesn’t take much to find your own little piece of the park, making it a worthwhile stop on any summer trip.

Paul Lake Dock | Photo: Kimberly Walker

For other camping opportunities in Kamloops and elsewhere in British Columbia check out the Camping Map.

Share your BC camping photos using hashtag #campinbc.

“Unglamping” in BC: Camping Unplugged

I must admit, three years ago, camping without hookups scared me. Our camping companions suggested that we try Herald Provincial Park in the Shuswap in British Columbia’s Okanagan region – a campsite without power, water or sewer. I panicked, no microwave, rice cooker or outlets to charge my cell phone. But more importantly, how would I make my coffee in the morning without my coffee maker?

At first, we told our friends that we were unable to make it as camping without hookups or dry camping was just not for us.  Finally, they persuaded us to go and are we ever glad we did!

In order to have an enjoyable and memorable dry camping trip, I have learned a few tricks.

Cooking shortcuts

To make cooking easier, I plan ahead by making meals that are easy to prepare.  I usually bring the first two meals, frozen dinners that I have prepared such as chili or spaghetti sauce. Not only are they quick to heat up but they use few pots which in turn cuts down on cleaning too many dishes. If I know we are going to have many dishes, I use paper plates, which we use as fire starters in the evening. To solve the coffee dilemma, we boil water and use the single serve instant coffee packs or a coffee press.

Coleman Solar Panel

Coleman Solar Panel

Light

When we camp with hookups, we have unlimited use of inside and outside lights. The first time we were dry camping, we learned pretty fast that we couldn’t leave the lights on too long. Although we have two deep cycle batteries, they only last for a limited amount of time. We figured a way around this problem by installing LED lightbulbs which have a longer life and draw much less power than regular lightbulbs. In addition, a recent gift from friends, a 90W Coleman solar panel, works well to provide auxiliary power. We have also stocked up on flashlights and hang glowsticks in the trailer to provide a small amount of light overnight, plus the colours look nice!

Relaxation and serenity

Initially, I thought dry camping would be more work. I was wrong. There is no need to plug in or connect the water and sewer hose.  Just put down the jacks, pull out a few camping chairs,, put up a hammock and it’s time to relax.  The sites we have experienced are large, quiet and quite private.

More choice and great value

Since we have been venturing to new campgrounds, I realize how many beautiful sites we have been missing out on that we consciously avoided in the past. There are many more campgrounds to choose from when we are not restricted to serviced sites. In addition, the price of an unserviced site can be half the price of a serviced site.

Unglamping has given us a whole new outlook on camping. By unplugging and opening ourselves up to a new experience, it has offered us more opportunities to try out different regions of BC, reconnect with nature and get closer to the true camping experience.

For places to camp in British Columbia check out the Camping Map or search Campgrounds.

Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc

A Slice of the Mediterranean in the Heart of Vancouver Island, BC

Special Visitors at Duncan Farmer's Market

Special Visitors at Duncan Farmer’s Market

Did you know the Cowichan Valley has one of the warmest annual temperature averages in all of Canada? It’s comparable to the Mediterranean, but right in our own backyard! You’ll find lush scenery, beautiful views and a plethora of activities for a family friendly camping trip. We visited the Cowichan Valley late in August and camped 3 nights in Lake Cowichan at Lakeview Park Campground. The campground had private beach access but as new visitors to the valley, we were ready to explore!

Chemainus Murals

Chemainus Murals

Chemainus

After travelling across from the BC mainland on BC Ferries through Nanaimo, we ventured south towards the Cowichan Valley. A must stop along the way is Chemainus. Follow the signs for easy RV parking and get your walking shoes ready. The downtown is easily set up for mural enthusiasts with foot prints leading a tour through over 40 murals (and sculptures too!). As a bonus, be sure to check out the Chemainus Candle Company down on Maple Lane for amazing beeswax products as well as the Christmas store downtown. We didn’t plan on buying Christmas ornaments in August – but we did, twice!

World's Largest Hockey Stick & Puck

World’s Largest Hockey Stick & Puck

Duncan

The Farmer’s Market is listed on all the Top Things To Do in Duncan lists, so we had to check it out for ourselves. It did not disappoint! After hitting a local coffee shop, we strolled the numerous vendors through the market, took in the performances and even bumped into Batman and Spiderman. The market truly has something for everyone. We picked up the most amazing farm bread, fresh veggies for dinner that night and the kids picked out a heaping serving of frozen yogurt – a win for everyone! As a hockey family, we also had to see the largest hockey stick and puck in the world. They even mark the perfect place to stand to capture the best “raising the stick” photo.

Trans Canada Trail in Lake Cowichan

Trans Canada Trail in Lake Cowichan

Lake Cowichan

The Lakeview Park Campground was just a few minutes from the shops and amenities of Lake Cowichan. After dinner one evening we parked at the visitor’s centre and made the short walk to the Trans Canada Trail. Even just a simple walk surrounded by huge maples and crossing the Cowichan River was captivating. The lake itself is stunning and perfect for swimming and boating.

Exploring Tide Pools at Botanical Beach, Port Renfrew

Exploring Tide Pools at Botanical Beach, Port Renfrew

Port Renfrew

On a whim we opted for the 1-hour road trip to Port Renfrew to visit Botanical Beach. While the drive is pretty curvy, the scenery is beautiful and the destination is more than worth the wait. After a 1km walk or so down to the beach, you are greeted with an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean. Witnessing the waves crashing on the rocks is an experience like none other. The beach itself is pebbly, but the rocky shelves are home to so many tide pools. We saw anemones, urchins, crabs and starfish, just to name a few.

Our visit to the Cowichan Valley was better than we could have expected. We only scratched the surface of activities available and could have easily extended our visit. Not only would we recommend this destination, but we will be sure to visit again.

TIP: If you find this blog interesting why not subscribe to the enewsletter and never miss another story!

If this area interest you, check out our drives:
From Coast to Coast on Vancouver Island: Vancouver to Tofino
Salish Sea Route

To locate campgrounds in the Cowichan Valley, on Vancouver Island or elsewhere in British Columbia check out the Camping Map.

Share your BC travel and camping photos using #campinbc

It’s always a great day to #campinbc

Tips to Prepare Your RV for Winter Camping in BC

Imagine waking up surrounded by glistening snow, where the outdoors beckons you to do some cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, maybe ice-fishing, or just a walk in a stunning winter wonderland. Kids can build snowmen, make snow angels and toboggan. And where a cup of hot chocolate never tasted so good.

RV's in a campground during winter
Nk’Mip Campground, Osyoos in Winter

Just because winter is approaching doesn’t mean that you have to take a hiatus from camping in British Columbia. For instance, did you know that there are some 150 campgrounds including a few BC Parks sites and select private campgrounds/RV parks open year-round? You just have to prepare for your camping trips so you keep warm and cozy and that your RV is prepared for winter conditions.

A friend and newbie to winter camping told me last year, If only we had known how amazing RVing in the winter is, we would have taken this trip a long time ago! The first morning we woke up to the soft sound of snow tinkling on the roof of the RV. Our bed was toasty as we sank deeper into the flannel sheets, and stared out the window to a winter wonderland. It was breathtaking.”

Does that make it sound like fun?

Canadream RV camping at Sunshine Valley Resort in the snow
Sunshine Valley Resort near Hope

So here are some tips to help keep you safe and sound.

You do need to ensure that your pipes and holding tanks will not freeze. This is what Canadream RV Rentals had to say about winterizing the RV.

There are two types of RV you can use in the winter – winterized (no water with all pipes and holding tanks drained) and a winter unit (allows for water usage). If you are going to a destination with electricity hook-up, you can use a winter unit, where an arctic pack will heat exterior tanks so you can have running water. Units also come with a furnace which runs on propane and you will need an electrical heater as well. The temperature inside needs to be kept at a certain level to prevent freezing.

If you are renting an RV in the winter for the first time read our blog First Time RVing In Winter – What To Know About Renting An RV.

Photo Courtesy of Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC
Photo Courtesy of Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC

Go RVing also provides some tips for camping in winter including:

  • Always have enough bed quilting and winter clothing around so that everyone can easily live through a furnace failure even if stranded by weather for several days.
  • Park your RV in the sun whenever possible. You’ll be amazed at how much a good winter sun can heat up your RV.
  • Park your RV on support boards. These boards will prevent your RV tires from “sinking” when the ground thaws.
  • If electricity is not a problem, use electric blankets at night to save on propane. Also, using a small space heater will also save on propane and wear and tear of the furnace.
Trail Along Cambie Creek, Manning Park BC
Trail Along Cambie Creek, Manning Park BC
  • Make sure you insulate your hose and use heat tape that can be crossed over itself, as this will provide the most efficient seal. (Note: you can also buy a heated hose.)
  • If you have a motorized RV, check your batteries for water level and periodically start your engine to keep everything in good running order.
  • To keep your RV battery charged, consider getting a solar panel system or an inverter

Now that you’re all set to experience winter camping this year, here are some blogs and ideas for keeping you camping throughout the fall and winter.

5 Spots to Ice Fish and Camp this Winter in British Columbia

First Time RVing in Winter – What to Know about Renting an RV

Winter RV Adventure for Camping Newbies at Sunshine Valley & Manning Park, BC

Vancouver Island, BC Off-Season Adventures

5 Ways to Enjoy Winter in Wine Country, Okanagan, British Columbia

Go to our Winter Camping Map to find out where you can camp in the winter.

TIP: If you find this blog interesting why not subscribe to the enewsletter and never miss another story!

Post your BC travel and camping photos using the hashtag #CampinBC

It’s always a great day to #CampinBC

Golden Ears Provincial Park has Lots of Camping Options

Golden Ears Park Entrance Sign | Steve Young

Golden Ears Park Entrance Sign | Steve Young

Out for one last trip with my camping buddies and every year we choose Golden Ears Provincial Park as our end of “summer” camping trip not just because it’s close to home for the group, but it’s also quiet and serene.  If you just sit with your eyes closed you will hear the birds – chickadees, robins and the occasional raven as well as see some sweet little Chipmunks.

We have stayed in Alouette and Gold Creek campgrounds numerous times over the years. Golden Ears is one of the busiest Provincial Parks run by BC Parks and it is less than a two hour drive from downtown Vancouver (approximately 48 kms).  Golden Ears is located 18 kilometres north of Maple Ridge and covers 55,000 hectares.  The park was named after the twin peaks which are referred to as “Golden Ears”.

Trail at Golden Ears Park | Darlene Oswald

Trail at Golden Ears Park | Darlene Oswald

There are three main campgrounds as well as a walk-in Campground at Alder Flats on the West Canyon Trail. There is a sanidump for the RVers and don’t worry if you don’t have the coins – you can pay at the ticket booth.  There is a boat launch, a highly popular day use area that has canoe rentals. The lake has a roped off area for swimming and water fun and is large enough for water skiing.

Beach at Alouette Lake at Golden Ears Park | Darlene Oswald

Beach at Alouette Lake at Golden Ears Park | Darlene Oswald

Alouette Campground – the largest campground has 205 back in well treed campsites, a great playground for the children and also has lighted flush washrooms with showers as well as pit toilets strategically placed throughout the campsite.  Its main camping season runs from the middle of June to the beginning of September.

Golden Ears Park Trail to Beach | Darlene Oswald

Golden Ears Park Trail to Beach | Darlene Oswald

To go to North Beach Campground you will need to check in at the ticket booth and they will give you directions to get to this little unknown part of paradise that has 54 campsites including some great pull-through campsites that are great for RVs, but be forewarned, there is no running water and pit toilets are the only washrooms available, so this could mean a short drive down to one of the other two campgrounds that have water taps.  It does operate from the middle of June to the beginning of September.  Gold Creek Campground which has 149 sites that can accommodate tents, tent trailers, travel trailers and I’ve seen a few big rigs and it operates from March to the beginning of October and also has winter camping starting the first week of October which runs until the end of March.  There are also two group sites available year-round that can accommodate 15-30 people.

Moss Covered Trees Golden Ears Park | Joss Penny

Moss Covered Trees Golden Ears Park | Joss Penny

Are you wanting to get in touch with nature?  There are quite a few trails around with different levels from beginner to novice.  You have to check the posted signs because not all trails allow bicycles and are meant for foot traffic only.  Some of the trails are Menzies Trail, East Canyon and West Canyon as well as a switchback trail and the Eric Dunning Trail. The ticket booth has a great Trail map for purchase.  There’s also a lower and upper falls trail. And if you get really adventurous, there’s even horse trails. Now that’s not all, there’s a store on site that carries the basics, so if you forget something it’s right there for you. But remember it is only open during the summer months.

For more info on the park visit Golden Ears Park.

For places to camp in British Columbia go to Camping & RVing BC Camping Map.

Post your BC travel and camping photos using the hashtag #CampinBC

5 Unique Locations to Explore in Nanaimo, BC

Morden Colliery, Nanaimo

Morden Colliery, Nanaimo | Kim Parcher

Many people pass through Nanaimo while on route to various other Vancouver Island destinations. In doing so, some of the most fascinating and unique locations are missed.

Here are five great reasons to make Nanaimo one of the top places to explore.

Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park

This small Provincial Park offers a glimpse into the early mining history of Nanaimo. In 1912 there was a working coal mine at this very location. What’s left is the last remaining coal tipple on Vancouver Island.

Secured behind a chain link fence, the large structure is visible right from the parking area. There is also a short trail that circumvents the artifact.

This Provincial Park is located just south of the Duke Point ferry terminal. Heading south on Highway #1 (towards Ladysmith), turn right onto Morden Road, and follow to the end.

Morden Colliery, Nanaimo

Morden Colliery, Nanaimo | Kim Parcher

The Arboretum

The H.R. MacMillan Grant Ainscough Arboretum is an unofficial park owned by the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN). The site used to attract university groups from across the province, who studied the behaviour and growth of exotic trees. What’s left is 150 species of trees that are now maintained and monitored by volunteers, as well as the RDN. Visitors to the area will be delighted with the plaques and interpretive signs giving details of each trees origin.

The Arboretum is also located near the Duke Point ferry terminal. From the Duke Point Highway, follow the signs as if you are heading to Jack Point & Biggs Park (off Maughan Road). Turn right onto Phoenix Way, and immediately turn right again. You will see a yellow gate and the sign for the park.

Roberts Memorial Park, Nanaimo

Roberts Memorial Park, Nanaimo | Kim Parcher

Roberts Memorial Provincial Park

A short 1 km hike through a grove of Douglas Fir trees takes you to a rocky shoreline of sandstone ledges and tidal pools. This area is part of the geological heritage of Vancouver Island and represents ancient sea beds.

The rocky beach offers great opportunities for wildlife viewing. Seals and otters are often found basking on the warm rocks, while Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagles and a variety of seabirds soar overhead.

The park is in Yellow Point, just south of Nanaimo. Take the Cedar Road exit from Hwy 1, and then turn onto Yellow Point Road. Follow signs to the park.

The Abyss, Nanaimo

The Abyss, Nanaimo | Kim Parcher

Extension Ridge

The 16-inch-wide earthquake fissure, located on the Extension Ridge trail, is known locally as ‘The Abyss’. Although not much is known about this large crack in the earth, there is speculation that it could be a result of a collapsed mine tunnel that was triggered by an earthquake years ago. To date there is no information about how deep the crack really is.

The trailhead is found off Harewood Mines Road in South Nanaimo. There is a small parking area under the power lines, and a large sign to let you know you have arrived at Extension Ridge. Head up the trail (under the power lines) for approximately 100 meters and climb the stairs. Keeping right, continue to follow the trail for approximately 15 minutes to reach the earthquake fissure.

Petroglyph Park, Nanaimo

Petroglyph Park, Nanaimo | Kim Parcher

Petroglyph Provincial Park

This small South Nanaimo Provincial Park has the most concentrated collection of ancient rock carvings on Vancouver Island.

A clearly marked paved trail will lead you through the park to view the petroglyphs. Information boards and replicas near the beginning of the trail provide details about the history of the area and help decipher the carvings.

The real petroglyphs are scattered around the park, and although hard to see due to being moss covered, finding them is half the fun!

Access this park right off Hwy #1. Watch for signs as you are heading north towards downtown Nanaimo. The park comes up quickly on your righthand side just after Haliburton Street. There is a large parking area at the trailhead.

If this area interests you, check out our drive:
From Coast to Coast on Vancouver Island: Vancouver to Tofino

TIP: If you find this blog interesting why not subscribe to the enewsletter and never miss another story!

For places to camp on Vancouver island and elsewhere in British Columbia go to Camping & RVing BC Camping Map.

Post your BC travel and camping photos using the hashtag #CampinBC

Published: August 16th, 2018

Connect With Us