Province wide campfire bans in place - learn more.  Campers know before you go camping.

Wasa Lake Provincial Park in BC’s Kootenay Region

Last summer we spent ten days motorcycle touring through southeastern British Columbia. One of our favourite destinations between Golden and Nelson was Wasa Lake Provincial Park in the Kootenay region.

Wasa Lake Provincial Park is unlike any provincial park I have visited previously – and I have visited a lot! Located approximately 200 kilometres south of Golden and just 40 kilometres north of Cranbrook, the Wasa Lake Provincial Park campground actually caused me a bit of concern when we were arriving. Despite the fact that I had made a reservation at a campground with around 100 sites, the arrival route to the campsite made me feel like there must somehow be two Wasa Lake Provincial Parks in BC (spoiler: there’s not).

Wasa Lake Provincial Park | Kim Walker

After driving through numerous small communities along the Columbia River, enjoying beautiful views while driving along Columbia Lake, relaxing with a late afternoon dip at Fairmont Hot Springs, then heading for Wasa Lake late in the day, we followed Google’s directions and turned off the highway at Wasa Lake Gas and Food. We saw the main beach area, lovely grassy areas with tell-tale BC Parks picnic tables, a nice looking bike path, and a sani station – so far so good. Then we turned left and were suddenly in the middle of what appeared to be a residential area. Houses and summer cabins flanked both sides of the road and I was left wondering where exactly 100 campsites were going to fit! Fortunately for us, before long it all became clear: Wasa Lake Provincial Park is actually made up of several smaller, disconnected sections. There is a campground set back from the lake, a large day use area with a playground and boat launch, and two smaller protected areas on the opposite side of the lake with no facilities.

Playground at Wasa Lake | Kim Walker

With that sorted, we set about preparing our campsite. Our site was similar to most in the loop: a standard BC Parks gravel pad surrounded by grassland and light tree cover. The site offers both pit and flush toilets throughout the campground and has a shower building near the entrance. A walk around the campsite to orient ourselves uncovered a children’s bike park, an amphitheatre, and a self guided interpretive trail called the Forest of the Rainshadow.

The Forest of the Rainshadow is a 3 or so kilometre, hour-long loop hiking trail departing from near the campground amphitheatre. The sign at the trailhead invites hikers to “wander through a Ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir forest as you make your way gradually uphill to open grasslands… Along the way investigate how the forces of nature and the influence of humans have shaped the Forest of the Rainshadow.” As we did our hike, we saw numerous markers with numbers, which leads me to believe that at one time there was a brochure with information about each marker similar to the Otter Marsh Interpretive Trail we did at Big Bar Lake Provincial Park (see blog). Unfortunately, I was not able to find any information to accompany The Forest of the Rainshadow. Despite this, I would recommend The Forest of the Rainshadow as it is a lovely walk with great views of Wasa Lake.

Wasa Lions Way Trail, Wasa Lake Provincial Park | Kim Walker

The next morning we set out to explore the other sections of Wasa Lake Provincial Park. A great way to do this is by cycling or walking the Wasa Lions Way – an 8 kilometre paved loop around Wasa Lake that connects all the parts of Wasa Lake Provincial Park. Our trip around the lake took us to two sections of Wasa Lake Provincial Park on the west side of the lake without any developed facilities. These areas have undergone significant grassland restoration and it was really interesting to learn about fire maintained temperate grasslands and how fire suppression since the 1940s has negatively impacted these ecosystems.

Our Campsite at Wasa Lake Provincial Park | Kim Walker

As we rounded the north end of Wasa Lake we entered back into the largest area of the park. Wasa Lake Provincial Park has four day-use areas with buoyed swimming areas, which provide safe access to the warmest swimming lake in the Kootenays and over 2,000 metres of beaches. There are 45 picnic sites, a change house, a boat launch, and an adventure playground.

Wasa Lake Loop Trail | Kim Walker

Wasa Lake Provincial Park is an absolute gem for family camping. We observed that most campers seemed to have their bicycles, and between the many trails to explore, the great beaches, and the laid back vibe, I can see how Wasa Lake Provincial Park would be a great place to unwind.

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For other places to camp in this area or elsewhere in British Columbia go to the Camping Map.

Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtags #campinbc #explorebc.

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, British Columbia

On a recent trip through the Kootenays we spent a few nights at one of my favourite campsites in the area: Kokanee Creek Provincial Park.

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park is a large and popular campground 20 minutes east of Nelson. The park has four separate campgrounds, accepts reservations for 132 of its 189 vehicle-accessible sites, and has many things to see and do during your stay.

On our last stay, we camped at the Sandspit Campground, which is by far the largest campsite area. Other campground areas include the Redfish Campground, the Osprey Point Campground, and the Friends Campground, which offers 13 sites with electrical hook ups. Kokanee Creek Provincial Park has all the facilities you would expect in such a large and popular provincial park: water taps, a large adventure playground, a sani-station, both pit and flush toilets, and shower buildings at both the Sandspit and Friends campgrounds.

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park Campsite | Kim Walker

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park has quite an interesting history. Archaeological evidence indicates that areas within the park were used as seasonal campsites by Indigenous peoples. In the late 1800s, a wealthy Englishman named Charles W. Busk moved to the Nelson area and established the “Busk Estate” – which included a large mansion where he entertained guests. By 1913 Busk was disenchanted with his new lifestyle and he died only a few years later. Today, all that remains of the original Busk Estate are some stone walls and an oval concrete swimming pool – but these are generally well hidden! One hiking trail in the park is called the Historic Busk Estate Trail and that is where you might start if you wanted to try to find the ruins.

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park Nature Centre | Kim Walker

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park has an excellent nature centre open daily from 8am to 8pm.  There are many programs for all ages run out of the nature centre and it is highly advisable to see what programs are being offered while you are there.

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park Boat Launch & Wharf | Kim Walker

One of the reasons Kokanee Creek Provincial Park is so popular is that it provides access to more than a kilometre of sandy beaches. There is a boat launch and wharf and watersports including swimming, paddling, waterskiing, and windsurfing are popular.

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park Canyon Trail | Kim Walker

When we visited, we spent most of our time at the park exploring some of the 9.5 kilometres of hiking and walking trails. We started our hike at the nature centre and set out to explore the spawning channel. Lots of interesting interpretive signage teaches about Kokanee – landlocked Sockeye Salmon. It is interesting to read about how human impacts such as mining in nearby Kimberley and the construction of the Duncan Dam have impacted Kokanee over the years and lead to hatcheries and spawning channels being built. After leaving the spawning channel area we headed uphill along the Canyon Trail to the Canyon Lookout. This is a beautiful trail following the creek with a viewing platform at the end. From there, we took the previously mentioned Historic Busk Estate Trail (no luck finding the swimming pool for us!) all the way back down to Kootenay Lake near the edge of the park. We found the dog beach, then followed a trail along the lakeshore past the Friends Campground, past the Sandspit Campground, and then connected with the Grassland Trail where we found a beautiful and much less busy sandy beach, before completing our loop and re-emerging back at the nature centre for an ice cold drink at their coffee shop. This loop was about 5.5 kilometres long and took us approximately an hour and a half to hike.

Kokanee Creek Provincial Park is a West Kootenay favourite – and for good reason. With lovely campsites, great services, and lots to explore, this certainly won’t be our last trip to Kokanee Creek.

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

Share your BC travel and camping photos at hashtag #CampinBC, #exploreBC

It’s always a great day to #CampinBC

Take a Trip through the Canadian Rockies, British Columbia’s Cowboy Country & into the Coast Mountains

Are you ready to take a British Columbia trip across this amazing province from the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean? This is a road trip of a lifetime with breathtaking scenery infused with rich Canadian history as you drive from Calgary, Alberta to Vancouver, British Columbia. Wind your way through breathtaking snow-capped alpine peaks and around iridescent aquamarine lakes. Witness the highest mountain peak in Canada (Mount Robson 3,954 m / 12,972 ft.) and discover limestone formations.

Hiking in Mount Robson Provincial Park | Destination BC/Megan McLellan

The main driving route from Calgary to Vancouver is via the Trans Canada Hwy 1 across BC through Banff, Golden, Revelstoke and Kamloops. Alternatively, you can travel south and west along the Crowsnest Hwy 3 through Cranbrook, Castlegar and Osoyoos. This Calgary to Vancouver trip will travel north through Banff and Jasper National Parks then south and west to Clearwater, along the Fishing Hwy 24 and to the ski resort of Whistler. Each route is uniquely different. Whichever one you take, be ready to discover the hidden gems along the way! This is just one of those routes for you to explore.

Calgary to Banff & Jasper

To start this trip get yourself to Calgary, Alberta, whether doing a fly/drive or hopping in your own RV. Head west to Banff National Park for a night or two. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore but also check out Banff Park Museum which is Western Canada’s oldest natural history museum with interpretive programs and exhibits. Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada is a commemoration site that marks the birthplace of Canada’s National Park System. Since 1883, visitors have been coming to enjoy the warm mineral pools. Today, the site still engages visitors of all ages with many interactive displays and exhibits focusing on the history of the mineral pools.

Leaving Banff follow signs to Jasper National Park. The Jasper Skytram  is a 7 minute alpine ride that takes you to an altitude of over 2,277 m (7,472 ft) all the time with an awe-inspiring view. Take a boat tour or go for a paddle on Maligne Lake, the Canadian Rockies largest glacial lake. Sip your afternoon tea at the beautiful chalet while savouring the world famous views. There is also a UNESCO heritage site here which includes: Mystery Rock, the Two Brothers Totem Pole, and the 6015 Rail Engine.

Mount Robson | Mary Putnam, Tourism Valemount

Jasper to Mt. Robson Provincial Park & Valemount

Heading into British Columbia, follow Yellowhead Hwy 16W and look for signs to Valemount/Kamloops. A short drive from Valemount is Mount Robson Provincial Park where you can experience the expansive natural outdoors by hiking a variety of networking trails. For a gentler activity, paddle or fish Kinbasket Lake or try Whitewater Rafting on the Fraser River.

Valemount to Clearwater

On the road to Clearwater stop in Blue River for a River Safari and experience gliding down the river through Grizzly Mountain Valley. This is one of the world’s only inland temperate rainforests with an abundance of wildlife. There are also some great hiking trails in Wells Gray Provincial Park.

Kayaking on Clearwater Lake | Kim Walker

Clearwater to Bridge Lake Provincial Park

Continuing south on Hwy 5 to Little Fort, turn off onto Interlakes Hwy/Little Fort Hwy 24W. Also known as the Fishing Highway fly fishing is very popular in this region due to the abundance of beautiful lakes offering a variety of species. There are several tour companies in the area that assist with equipment, guides and fly-fishing lessons.

Fly Fishing
Fly Fishing

Also renowned for its Cowboy landscape with endless rolling hills, vast hay fields and resident cattle on dude ranches you can get up close and personal with this landscape by taking a guided horseback ride.

Check out the blog Coast Along BC’s Famed Fishing Highway 24 in the Cariboo

Bridge Lake to Lillooet

Continue heading west and turn south onto Cariboo Hwy 97, then onto Hwy 99S to Lillooet.

Explore Marble Canyon Provincial Park which offers lots of opportunities to see wildlife. Try rock climbing, scuba diving and more. View the sheer limestone rock formations carved out of the Pavilion Mountain range and brilliant colours of the sparkling Turquoise, Crown and Pavilion Lakes. The groundwater spring that feeds Pavilion Lake is slightly alkaline, producing an intense crystal-clear turquoise coloured water and Stromatolites (a rare prehistoric life organism).

Horses are a Frequent Sight in Lillooet | Trish C.

Whilst in this area go back in time at Hat Creek Ranch and learn about the Gold Rush days via local interpreters. Explore original buildings and a Native village of the Shuswap Nation.

Lillooet to Whistler

Continue south on Hwy 99, also known as the Duffey Lake Road, towards Pemberton and follow signs to Whistler. A year-round resort, Whistler is as much fun in the summer as the winter. There are plenty of trails for hiking and biking. The Peak to Peak Gondola is open to experience amazing views, or go ziplining, bungee jumping or take a helicopter/float plane sightseeing tour.

Peak to Peak Gondola, Whistler. Photo: Destination BC/Blake Jorgenson
Peak to Peak Gondola, Whistler | Destination BC/Blake Jorgenson

Whistler to Vancouver

In Squamish, the Sea to Sky Gondola whisks you up 885 m (2,800 ft) to viewing platforms with stunning views over Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains. There are interpretive walks and a restaurant that serves local food at the top. Close by is Britannia Mine Museum, a National Historic Site depicting mining life from the Gold Rush days. You can take a train ride in an underground mine and experience the life of a miner in the early 1900s. A must for kids and adults alike.

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With your British Columbia trip nearing an end, head to Vancouver. Nestled on the shore of Georgia Strait and the Salish Sea, Vancouver offers all the sights and sounds of a cosmopolitan city. Beyond is Vancouver Island and the stunning Pacific Ocean.

To read this recommended tour go to Canadian Rockies, Cowboy Country to Coast Mountains.

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

Share your BC travel and camping photos at hashtag #CampinBC

It’s always a great day to #CampinBC

Where to Go Camping and RVing in British Columbia

British Columbia offers breathtaking natural scenery, diverse wildlife, and numerous outdoor activities and cultural events including hiking, fishing, cycling, and attending farmers markets or museums.

Cabana Beach Campground, Osoyoos

For a first-time camper, it’s a chance to immerse yourself in nature, disconnect from technology, and experience the serenity of the wilderness but also enjoy some culture.

There are four types of camping experiences to choose from and they offer a mix of frontcountry and backcountry access. Frontcountry means an area within 1 km of a park road or a highway. Frontcountry campgrounds are accessible by vehicle, and they offer a range of amenities not available in more remote locations.  Backcountry campgrounds are still mainly vehicle accessible (some are hike in only) but usually on gravel or forestry roads and are more remote with limited facilities.

Choosing the right campsite and doing the research, you must consider factors such as location, amenities, scenery, and activities available. The map located on campingrvbc.com allows users to search and locate over 1,700 campgrounds offering unique camping experiences. Here is an overview of the opportunities.

Private RV Parks

In British Columbia, you can enjoy a variety of amenities at more than 400 of BC’s private sector RV parks/campgrounds that are well-maintained, accessible, and enjoyable for all levels of campers. 

British Columbia’s independently owned and operated campgrounds provide services and facilities to suit every lifestyle and budget. Whether you prefer a full-service site with electrical, water and sewer hook-up, a limited-service site with just electrical and/or water, or perhaps a basic site for your tent or tent-trailer, you will find lots to choose from throughout all regions of BC and within all the terrains that this stunning province has to offer. Camp by a lake, on a river, at the foot of a mountain, or under a canopy of tall trees in the forest, it’s all here in BC.

Williamson Lake Campground, Revelstoke

Glamping

Don’t have your own home away from home?  That is not a problem, as quite a few campgrounds offer “Glamping” – the opportunity to drive up in your own vehicle and rent an RV, Yurt or Cabin, or as some call it, “Ready to Camp units.”  Reservations are always recommended as this type of vacation is popular. Most private sector businesses offer online reservation capability and many allow bookings up to 12 months in advance.

Parks Canada (National Campgrounds)

Parks Canada is responsible for protecting nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage. They operate seven national parks in British Columbia that offer camping, of which four have glamping oTENTiks.

oTENTik Parks Canada

A great option for beginners, frontcountry campgrounds may include:

  • washrooms with showers
  • kitchen shelters
  • electrical
  • water hookups
  • Wi-Fi access zones

Check first.

Parks Canada operates a reservation service that opens early in the new year but also has a selection of first-come-first-served campsites. Reservations are recommended as the demand is high in peak periods. National parks include: Kootenay National Park, Pacific Rim National Park and Mount Revelstoke National Park.

Camping at Emerald Bay in Green Lake Provincial Park | Kim Walker

BC Parks (Provincial Campgrounds)

If it’s more wilderness that you seek, then BC Parks, which has over 640 Provincial Parks with more than 10,000 Frontcountry campsites and approximately 2,000 walk-in or backcountry campsites, as well as 39 group campgrounds. (If you’re venturing into BC’s backcountry, ensure you camp safely and responsibly and refer to a backcountry guide for more information).

Rustic Recreational Sites

For a more rustic feel, then you will want to visit Recreational Sites & Trails BC (RSTBC) who provide public recreation opportunities through the development, maintenance and management of a network of recreation sites and trails throughout British Columbia. The BC Ministry of Tourism Culture and the Arts maintains more than 1,200 recreation campsites under this program.

Campertunity

Other Camping Opportunities

Campertunity is an online marketplace that showcases campsites for you to rent on private land throughout BC. There are also  opportunities to rent trailers, domes, yurts, and cabins.

Know the Camper’s Code

All campground operators have rules and a behaviour etiquette, but the industry has endorsed the Camper’s Code as an approach to develop a friendly camping culture.

The camper’s code has 9 rules that are really easy to follow.  When all campers follow them, camping is enjoyable for all, nature stays pristine, fellow campers become friends and animals stay wild and free. www.camperscode.com

Whatever you have for a first-time experience, take the time to sit and see the wildlife and listen to the sounds of camping, because “It’s always a great day to #CampinBC”.

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To find camping accommodations throughout British Columbia go to https://www.campingrvbc.com/

Share your BC camping and travel photos at hashtag #campinbc

It’s always a great day to #campinbc

Haida Gwaii Adventures, British Columbia

Although I have travelled BC, especially between Vancouver and Prince George, more times than I can count, when my husband and I bought an RV we slowed down; really began to see this amazing province we call home.  In this blog I am sharing one of our many BC explorations.

Route from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and up to Masset

We had heard much about Haida Gwaii, the mystical secluded archipelago made up of a cluster of islands off the northern coast of BC.  We were eager to discover it for ourselves.  It’s sparsely populated and not easy to get to.  Most of the inhabitants are indigenous and live in villages located almost exclusively on Graham Island.

There is an expression about remote communities that there are only three ways to access them, by water, by air or by birth.  We chose water taking the ferry that is part of BC’s provincial ferry system from Prince Rupert to Skidegate on Haida Gwaii.  Reserve early as it fills up fast particularly during the busy season.  We encountered others who had not been so attentive in their planning.  They were stuck on the island until they could secure another sailing.  Not always easy with an RV. 

Sailing from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii, BC | M. Moulton

A curious fact about the ferry to Haida Gwaii, not only does it take eight hours, but oversized vehicles need to be backed onboard. “Excuse me, as in backing up all the way down the ramp and onto the ferry?”  Of course, if you need assistance the ferry workers have you covered.  They have professional drivers that will do it for you if you prefer.  As I do all the driving, I looked at my husband, “you got this,” he said.  And I did, but it’s a long ramp and a technical drive not for the faint of heart. 

Port Clements Pier on Haida Gwaii, BC | M. Moulton

Once on the island our first campsite was on the ocean surrounded by serene ancient forest just outside Daajing Giids (a more appropriate culturally representative name than the former Queen Charlotte City).  It was quintessential west coast.  A light rain fell, the kind that doesn’t really get you wet, but causes mist to form drifting across the beach and through the trees draped with moss. 

Sea Asparagus on Haida Gwaii

We walked the rugged beach, and to our delight came across wild sea asparagus which we harvested for our dinner.  In fact, wild harvest is a common practice.  You won’t find any fancy high-priced touristy seafood restaurants here.  The locals acquire and trade amongst themselves the abundance from the land and sea rather than marketing to visitors. 

First Nations Building and Art in Old Masset on Haida Gwaii | M. Moulton

Next, we drove to Masset on the northern end of Graham Island.  Along the way were many deer grazing beside the roadway, a local phenomenon.  We rode our bicycles around Old Masset enjoying the authentic aboriginal village, oceanfront, and a quick bite at one of several food trucks that serve as “eating out” Masset style.  You may also wish to trek just a bit further to Tow Hill to take in the vast Pacific Ocean vistas. 

Our RV parked at Halibut Bite on Haida Gwaii, BC | M. Moulton

Heading back south to catch our ferry off island we explored Port Clements mingling with the locals as they fished off the pier in the heart of town.  We also stopped for photos at area attractions Halibut Bite and Balance Rock.

Balance Rock on Haida Gwaii, BC | M. Moulton

The ferry between Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert runs during the day, or you can take it overnight.  Staterooms are available so you can get some rest as Transport Canada doesn’t allow you to stay in your vehicle below deck for safety reasons.  Hecate Strait is renowned for its turbulent seas.  We chose a daytime crossing on our way over to Haida Gwaii to take in the sights and an overnight on the way back to Prince Rupert (with a stateroom).  The overnight ferry from Haida Gwaii aligned perfectly with our intent to board yet another ferry, this time from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy on the northern tip of Vancouver Island.  This route might be known to those who have traversed the inside passage on an Alaskan cruise.  The scenery and the wildlife are spectacular! 

BC Ferry Stateroom

We recommend Haida Gwaii to the more adventurous.  Its natural beauty is stunning but it’s short on amenities so prepare accordingly.  The towns on Haida Gwaii are small.  Ideally take your own accommodation (we had our RV), your own food (groceries are limited) and fuel can be very expensive as it must be barged in so fill up before you come.  The number of eateries, coffee shops, stores and accommodations are sparse compared to mainland standards and the residents aren’t particularly fussed about catering to off-island interests so don’t expect much other than to supplement what you brought. 

In short, this is no tourist mecca.  You don’t come to Haida Gwaii for the modern-day amenities or atmosphere.  You come to appreciate the simplicity, the unspoiled First Nations culture and wild natural wonder of the west coast.

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For RVing and camping accommodations in British Columbia go the camping map.

Share your BC travel and camping pictures using hashtag #campinbc #exploreBC

It’s always a great day to #campinbc

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.

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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

Vancouver Island, British Columbia Off-Season Adventures

‘Canada’s Mediterranean’, is how I like to refer to Central Vancouver Island. It offers more year-round outdoor recreational opportunities in mind-blowing scenery, than I’ll ever have time to enjoy in one lifetime. But I’m trying– and the best part is that so many activities are absolutely free!

Stocking Creek Falls, Ladysmith | Photo: Scott Littlejohn, Living Forest Oceanside Campground & RV Resort, Nanaimo

To get you started let me give you just a couple of very different ‘cool season’ activities on different parts of the Island, along with two fantastic year-round RV parks located close to each mini adventure.

Life’s too short not to visit the best places, right? So let’s start this Island winter season sampler with…

…a Waterfall!

Stocking Creek Regional Park

Nothing screams “Vancouver Island” like a waterfall– we’ve got the tallest one in Canada here, but the one I’ll show you today is near the popular year-round Country Maples RV Resort.  Stocking Creek Falls is just south of the neat little town of Ladysmith—and you HAVE to see their downtown Christmas light up if you’re here during the festive season!!

Ladysmith Festival of Lights

The Stocking Creek Regional Park is the start of a tranquil 2km loop trail in a lush rainforest alongside the clear babbling creek that leads to the stunning viewing platform above the picture-perfect waterfall.

And if you’re nimble and sure of foot (although it’s not recommended for safety reasons), it is possible to get behind the waterfall and look out through the water curtain—it’s so loud back there!!!

Check out the video of the recent winter hike I took there with our RV Snowbirds. Love this park!

Groomed Trail Snowshoeing at Mt. Washington Alpine Resort

And my second ‘quiet season’ Island adventure, is to head up Island to the Comox Valley, and get your rig set up in another great RV park near the ocean – Seal Bay RV Park in Courtenay.

After setting up camp, it’s a short drive inland and up to Mt. Washington Alpine Resort, which borders world famous Strathcona Provincial Park, BC’s oldest park, and home to Canada’s tallest waterfall with a drop of 440 meters!

Mt. Washington with Ocean Views | Photo: Scott Littlejohn, Living Forest Oceanside Campground & RV Resort, Nanaimo

It’s also one of the few places anywhere that you can ski AND have a view of the ocean!

One of the things they brag about in the Comox Valley is that you can golf in the morning and ski in the afternoon!

Although there are exceptions to all rules, on the East Coast of Vancouver Island, the expectation is that white stuff stays on the mountains, while at sea level, anything that comes down from the sky is rain. I love snow, but I don’t want home delivery– except Christmas Eve.

These days, I head to Mt. Washington to relax. I leave the downhill skiing aside, and instead, pack a lunch and head to the beautiful Raven Lodge just below the ski hill overlooking the valley and Paradise Meadows (and it is!). There you can rent some snowshoes and get out for a couple hours exploring the groomed trails in this stunning location.

Snowshoeing, Mt. Washington, Scott Littlejohn, Living Forest Oceanside Campground & RV Resort, Nanaimo

Of course, the crisp mountain air and ‘shoeing works up an appetite, so the perfect ending is to drop off the snowshoes and sit under the massive wood beams of the lodge, and park beside the fireplace in a big comfy chair and enjoy lunch. They make fabulous, well priced lunches, or you bring your own, and just purchase a glass of wine or a hot chocolate while telling stories or dozing by the fire and enjoying the view over the valley.

Check out the video – you want to do this – and if you haven’t tried the modern snowshoes, it’s as easy as walking!

45 minutes later, you’re back down in Courtenay, and just outside of town, the tranquility of Seal Bay RV Park welcomes you home. It even has a stocked fishing pond onsite!

Seal Bay RV Park Fishing Pond

Visit Vancouver Island this Winter and Stay Awhile!

As I said, winter and summer sports are possible on the same day in Canada’s Mediterranean! While the rest of Canada deals with real winter, if you have an RV, you can still stay in Canada where your dollar goes farther, enjoy the lower off-season monthly RV park rates at award winning parks, and have an active lifestyle with endless adventures.

Happy Retirees at Living Forest Oceanside Campground & RV Resort, Nanaimo

Special Places Google Map Makes it Easy

Visit my ‘Vancouver Island Special Places’ Google Map, and use your favourite digital device to find other amazing places to see and things to do on Vancouver Island. The map currently has over 60 different placemarks of ‘must see places’ and is growing.

The placemarks on the map for each location are colour-coded to indicate the activity level or fitness level needed to explore. Green ones are easy, Yellow a bit more challenging, then Blue, then Red. Clicking on a placemark will open a window of information about the spot, with a short write-up, and links to photos and videos showing you why each place is a jewel.

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This winter, don’t hibernate—activate!

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

For other places to camp in the winter, plus more winter blogs and how-to information go to Winter Camping in British Columbia.

Share your BC travel and winter camping photos using hashtag #CampinBC

It’s always a great day to #campinbc

Osoyoos & Oliver, in the Okanagan, British Columbia – Offers Plenty To Do in the Summer

Osoyoos Oxbows

Osoyoos Oxbows

For a unique British Columbia experience, head to Canada’s only true desert destination: Osoyoos. Located at the southern end of the Okanagan Valley, Osoyoos averages over 2,039 hours of sunshine every year and temperatures regularly hit the upper 30s in July and August. Fruit and wine abound, making Osoyoos an ideal summertime vacation destination.

To maximize your time in Osoyoos, it is important to take the temperatures into consideration. Start your day early at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre to learn about the unique ecosystem that makes up the traditional territory of the Osoyoos Indian Band. After taking in the indoor exhibits, head outside (bring water and sunscreen!) and wander through over two kilometres of maintained trails complete with interpretive displays featuring everything from local flora and fauna to a reconstruction of a traditional village. Take the time to complete the upper portion of the loop through the hillside of wild sage and antelope brush – the views are spectacular.

If the heat during your walk at the Cultural Centre gets too much for you to bear, head to Osoyoos Lake which is known for being the warmest freshwater lake in Canada. Sẁiẁs (Haynes Point) Provincial Park is the perfect place to unroll your beach towel for a swim or simply to nap in the sunshine. If walking is more your speed, the park is also home to a lush wetland habitat and an interpretive trail through the marsh will delight birdwatchers of all ages.

Haynes Point Wetland

Haynes Point Wetland

Once you have soaked up the sunshine at the beach, head for town and stop for some of the Okanagan’s best gelato at Roberto’s Gelato. Recommended flavours include Okanagan Apricot, Kulfi (Pistachio & Cardamom), Mango, and Chocolate Hazelnut.

In the afternoon, visit the Rattlesnake Canyon, a mining town themed amusement park complete with mini golf, go-karts, a rock-climbing wall, bumper boat, and the Tornado swing chair, which provides a great elevated view of Osoyoos.

If you are still seeking activity as the day goes on, consider heading to the Osoyoos Oxbows – a unique wetland ecosystem formed in the 1950s when the Okanagan River was straightened. Read about the Oxbows at the outdoor kiosk, and then meander along the trail listening for sounds of diverse migratory and resident birds. If you are really ambitious, bring your bicycle and cycle the 18-kilometre International Bike and Hike Trail heading north which runs parallel to the Okanagan River channel.

Oliver Winery

Oliver Winery

A 20 minute drive north is the town of Oliver. Described as the “Wine Capital of Canada” thanks to the more than 35 wineries that surround the town, Oliver is known for it’s abundant orchards, spectacular vineyards, and arid climate.

It is hard to speak about Oliver without speaking about wine. I am always particularly taken with wineries with unique attributes, and a few of my favourites are definitely in Oliver. Platinum Bench Estate Winery & Artisan Bread Co. forever has a place in my heart thanks to their pairing of great wine with amazing artisan bread baked on site. For me it is a toss up between their Gorgonzola & Fig and Double Cream Brie & Pear varieties. Delicious.

Kismet Winery, Oliver

Kismet Winery, Oliver

If a laid back lunch is what you are after, without a doubt you need to visit the Masala Bistro at the Kismet Estate Winery. The location is convenient and the patio, from which you can sample very, very good Indian food, offers gorgeous views over the vineyards. I have to admit, when I was at Kismet there was a long line at the tasting bar so I skipped that part entirely and headed straight for the most perfect samosas I have ever tasted. The wine will have to wait for my next visit, I suppose!

If you have some time to spend in Oliver and you love the outdoors, a hike up McIntyre Bluff does not go amiss. Leaving from Covert Farms – a 650-acre organic farm and vineyard on a plateau north of Oliver – the McIntyre Bluff trail departs right from the wine shop. Parking is well marked and there is a trail log you can sign before you leave. The route heads through the Covert Farms property before starting uphill. The trail has a mostly gradual elevation gain over the next 2.5 kilometres, at which point you arrive at Rattlesnake Lake.

After Rattlesnake Lake, the trail first descends and then ascends more rapidly over the next few kilometres. Eventually the trail levels out and there is a short ridge walk before the view opens up and you are left breathless not from the climb but from the scenery. From the summit, views stretch south over Covert Farms, Oliver, and beyond. To the east, the cliff edge plummets over 850 feet to the valley bottom below. To the north, Vaseux Lake gleams. The entire trip took us about 3.5 hours and is perfectly rounded out with a stop at Covert Farms for wine tasting, a charcuterie board featuring farm-fresh products, and a wander around the property. With a little planning, and plenty of water and sunscreen as the trail is mostly exposed, McIntyre Bluff makes the perfect adventurous addition to any Oliver vacation.

Osoyoos and Oliver are the perfect places to kick back and relax in the sunshine for a couple of days while still offering a variety of activities that will be sure to keep the whole family entertained.

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For places to camp in the South Okanagan and elsewhere in British Columbia go to Camping & RVing BC Camping Map.

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

Exploring North Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Port McNeill & Port Hardy to Coal Harbour & Cape Scott

After a busy first-four days we moved campsites from Alder Bay RV Park and Marina to Cluxewe Resort, located just 15 minutes north of Port McNeill. Cluxewe Resort is centred on the ancestral land of the Kwakiutl First Nation and is indigenous owned and operated by the friendliest helpful staff. This resort is open year-round with lots of camping options (ocean front, full service, no service etc.) and cottages available for rent. We walked for hours on the rocky beach in each direction of the resort, enjoyed beautiful sunsets and watched campers fishing for salmon off the shore.

Cluxewe Resort north of Port McNeill | C. Stathers

From our new homebase, we headed over to Coal Harbour (no, not the one in Vancouver). It was a short 30-minute drive from the campsite on paved roads. Coal Harbour is located on Quatsino Sound which provides boat access to communities such as Holberg and Port Alice. It is a busy harbour with float plane and boat traffic.

Coal Harbour Mail Run | C. Stathers

We took the mail boat over to Quatsino from the dock in Coal Harbour, a small boat-access-only community with a population of only 43. The “mail boat run” delivers mail on Mondays and Thursdays, costs $25pp, and is about a one-hour trip.

After our boat ride to Quatsino, we visited the museum in the Float Plane Hanger by the dock. We learned all about its whaling history; the industry closed in 1967 due to declining stock. It also has a history of being an air force base during World War 2, a mining town (it had a 350 metre deep open-pit copper mine which closed in 1996) and now focusing on logging, tourism and fishing. The museum has a huge 6 metre jawbone of a blue whale, apparently the largest in the world! We also checked out the chain saw display, old engines and a 1917 Ford Model T and a 1928 Ford Model A.

Coal Harbour Museum | C. Stathers

The next morning, at about 10:00 am, we headed off on our day-long trip to Cape Scott Park on the northern tip of the Island.  Be prepared for 65km each way on a dusty, bumpy logging road. We have a 4-wheel drive truck which handled the roads well, but also passed a number of low-clearance cars which also seemed to be safely navigating the road. The road was in fairly good condition as much of it had been recently graded; but from what I had read, conditions are constantly changing. There are also lots of warning signs as this is an active logging road, and the logging trucks have the right-of-way. We were incredibly impressed by the accurate signage all the way to the parking lot at Cape Scott Park.

Store in Holberg | C. Stathers

First stop on our trip was the small village of Holberg (population of 35), about 50km along the road. At one time Holberg was a floating logging camp; now, just the remnants of the old wood pilings can be seen on the inlet. A must-stop is the Holberg Pitstop; it is a general store and features lodging. You can stock up on everything from sunscreen to beer and stay overnight in one of the newly-renovated rooms. Next trip we will definitely stay overnight, so we can explore more of the west coast area.

Cape Scott Provincial Park, San Josef Bay | C. Stathers

After the “pitstop” we continued on our way to Cape Scott Provincial Park; we were impressed with the road improvement after Holberg (or maybe we were just getting used to the bumps). We arrived at the parking lot around noon with a few spots left and headed off on the trail to San Josef Bay, a 45-minute one-way hike along a well maintained crushed-gravel trail. There are pit toilets at the trail head, as well as, at San Josef Bay. There are also bear caches at the bay and a number of beach-side campsites. We planned ahead so we arrived at low tide, so we could walk from San Josef Bay to Second Beach. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and we loved walking in the shallow surf on the beautiful, soft, sand. Beach features included caves, sea stacks, and wildlife.  Other hikers continued along the full 26km Cape Scott Trail.

After our visit to San Josef Bay, we returned to Holberg and the Scarlet Ibis Pub for nachos and a nice, cold drink on the patio overlooking Holberg Inlet. Known for being Vancouver Island’s Most Remote Pub, we found the staff incredibly friendly and the food, good. It was great to sit on the patio with the locals and learn more about the area. 

Scarlet Ibis Pub, Holberg | C. Stathers

Last stop before heading back to our campsite was the car wash just south of Port McNeill to get our dusty truck cleaned up and ready for our last adventure day before heading home.

The next morning, we went to Storey’s Beach on Beaver Harbour Road just south of Port Hardy.  The tide was out, and we felt like we could walk for miles on the blackish sandy beach. This is a beautiful stretch of sand that I would highly recommend. It is good for kayaking too.

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We spent the rest of the day enjoying the beach and sunset back at Cluxewe Resort and some barbequed salmon from Scarlet Point Seafoods in Port Hardy. A great way to finish off our North Vancouver Island trip!

To read about the first half our trip go to Sayward to Port McNeill.

For camping accommodations in this area and elsewhere in British Columbia check out the Camping Map.

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

It’s always a great day to #campinbc

Exploring North Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Sayward to Port McNeill

After years of camping on Vancouver Island, we decided this summer we would head to the north end of the island. The furthest north we had travelled was Campbell River and we really wanted to explore more remote locations.

In 8 days, we travelled north from Campbell River to Port Hardy and west from Port Hardy to Cape Scott Park. We explored communities such as Sayward, Telegraph Cove, Port McNeil, Port Alice and Port Hardy and many smaller communities in between. If you are looking for a camping trip filled with beaches, cooler temperatures, small remote communities and abundant wildlife then keep reading, we found it all.

Logging in Sayward | Carol Stathers

Our first stop was the Village of Sayward, located about an hour north of Campbell River. Sayward is home to about 350 people with logging being a very prominent industry. Locals describe Sayward as a remote hidden gem that stays green most of the year due to the high amounts of rain. Plan to spend some time at Kelsey Harbour watching the sea lions, kayakers launching their boats and the logging operations in the bay. Western Forest Products operates a dry land log sort; this was something new for me to see the logs being dumped into the bay and the tugboats moving them around. I was surprised to see how the tugboats lean way over in the water without tipping over.

Cable Cafe in Sayward | Carol Stathers

Before leaving Sayward, we made a quick stop at the unique Cable Café which was unfortunately closed at that time, but it is worth having a look at as its outside walls are covered with logging cable.

If you are interested in seeing the Dry Land Log Sort in action check out this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqkI-C82I1A 

Keta Lake Rest Stop | Carol Stathers

Moving north from Sayward, we stopped at the Keta Lake rest stop for a picnic lunch. It was a great shady place to stop with 4-5 picnic tables, outhouses and a couple of trails down to the lake.

Woss | Carol Stathers

Next stop was the community of Woss in the Nimpkish Valley (75km north of Sayward), home to the longest working railway in North America. We visited the Woss 113 Heritage Park celebrating 100 years of railway with interpretive signs describing the history of the town, the link to the logging industry and the railway. Locomotive 113 is on display, which is a steam engine that was built in 1920 in Portland and restored in 1988. The town has cell service, as well as two different types of electric-charging stations.

Alder Bay RV Park, Port McNeill | Carol Stathers

Next stop and our home for the next four nights was Alder Bay RV Park and Marina. Alder Bay is located just south of Port McNeill, open year-round with over 80 sites which are suitable for big RVs, as well as campervans and tents. Positives about this RV park include the super clean bathrooms, 8-minute showers for only $1 and the beautiful sunsets. 

Telegraph Cove General Store | Carol Stathers

We had four jam-packed days while we stayed at Alder Bay; we spent an evening walking the boardwalk at Telegraph Cove and enjoying the setting sun. It was the perfect time for us to avoid the daytime crowds of tourists and those arriving for whale-watching trips. The General Store (established in 1942) is a welcoming business by the boat launch with all kinds of amenities including local products and wine/beer. Along the boardwalk are many of the original cabins which have been restored and available for vacationers to rent through Telegraph Cove Resort. It was fun to walk along the boardwalk and read the historic stories in front of each of the cabins. The Whale Interpretive Centre is located at the end of the boardwalk, just past the pub and restaurant, a must see for our next visit as it had closed at 6:00 pm.

Devil’s Bath Cenote | Carol Stathers

The next day we headed over to Port Alice, about an hour’s drive (paved road) from our campsite. Port Alice was named after Alice Whalen, mother of the four Whalen Brothers who founded the Whalen Pulp and Paper Company which built a pulp mill in Port Alice in 1917. After exploring the town and the 3km Sea Walk along the water we headed inland on the Alice Lake Loop to the Devil’s Bath Cenote, Canada’s largest cenote (unfortunately, no swimming access) and the Eternal Fountain, a stream with a beautiful waterfall that disappears into an underground cave. Both were accessible by logging roads and have short walks through the forest (pick up a map at the Port Alice Visitor Centre or use Backroad Maps).

Sointula | Carol Stathers

After a rest day, we took the ferry from Port McNeill to Alert Bay (Cormorant Island) and Sointula (Malcolm Island). Check out the blogs written about Alert Bay – Island Hopping on Northern Vancouver Island, BC: Port McNeill to Alert Bay and Island Hopping on Northern Vancouver Island, BC: Port McNeill to Sointula.

U’Mista Cultural Centre, Alert Bay | Carol Stathers

Highlights at Alert Bay were the indigenous masks and beautiful drums at the U’mista Cultural Centre and at Sointula, the old buildings and the Beautiful Bay Trail at Bere Point Park. A little tip – you can visit both islands on the same day if you let the terminal attendant know, without double the fares!

Overall, an excellent first four days into our North Vancouver Island camping adventure!

For the second half of our trip see Port McNeill & Port Hardy to Coal Harbour & Cape Scott.

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

For camping accommodations in this area and elsewhere in British Columbia check out the Camping Map.

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

Published: August 3rd, 2023

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