Canada

The Best Camping Spots on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is absolutely loaded with beauty, between towering waterfalls, hidden lakes, lush green mountains and old-growth forests. One of the best ways to explore this island and truly see what only the locals discover is to camp your way through it. Whether you are traveling as a family, couple or with friends; there is an abundance of awesome campgrounds to choose from. Discover 12 of our favorite places to camp on this incredible island.

12. Englishman River Falls Provincial Park, Parksville

This picturesque camping destination fills up fast and is only open from May until September. What makes this park such a superb camping spot is a variety of things. First up the scenery and surroundings can’t be beaten. The park features two stunning waterfalls that descend deep into a canyon, an old-growth and second-growth forest, a deep crystal-clear swimming hole and picture-perfect bridges to walk along.

There are plenty of hiking trails throughout the park for all visitors to use. The campground includes 103 sites, each with their own picnic table and campfire ring and the sites are well spread out with large concrete pads on each. Expect great privacy, quiet nights and some spectacular scenery here at Englishman River Falls in Parksville.

11. Elk Falls Provincial Park, Campbell River

Elk Falls is one of the most popular provincial parks on Vancouver Island and with year-round salmon fishing and incredible scenery; it’s easy to see why. Located west of the Campbell River, this quiet riverside campground fills up quickly and is open all year round. Campers from November to March will have steelhead run right by the campsites while spring campers can look forward to Chinook and Coho salmon.

Located just 3km from the campground is the day use area which is loaded with trails and the awesome 35-meter waterfall. In recent years the park has added new walkways, railings and a suspension bridge which make viewing the falls even better. If you do want a river site make sure you book well in advance as they fill up quickly.

10. Alder Bay Resort, Port McNeill

It is one of the nicest campgrounds in Northern Vancouver Island, along with one of the friendliest. This RV Park and Campground offer incredible scenery, friendly staff, and great rates. Visitors here will enjoy watching eagles soar overhead and Orca’s play in the waters that are literally at your doorstep. Nearby are many hiking trails that lead you to Telegraph Cove where you can walk the boardwalk or hike the nature trails in historic Alert Bay.

Salmon and Bottom fishing are popular sports right from the resort and they offer an excellent fish cleaning station on-site. Expect friendly neighbors, quiet nights, a clean campground and no shortage of activities. Both the campsites and the RV sites offer ocean views and make sure you book early if you want to stay at this incredible camping spot on Vancouver Island.

9. Pachena Bay Campground, Bamfield

Nestled among a virgin rainforest of the west coast of the Island, this camping spot provides the idyllic setting for a beautiful experience. The campground is located directly next to a huge sandy beach, and at the head of the West Coast Trail, offering visitors many opportunities for hiking, beachcombing and more. The campground is open from April until September and with great rates and stunning scenery, visitors planning on camping here need to book early. The campground has recently been upgraded to provide water throughout and recently built a new wash-house with hot showers, flush toilets and is fully wheelchair-accessible.

The ocean sites are the favorite and throughout the year grey whales can be seen coming into the bay and rolling in the waters. Getting out here is the fun part of the gravel road that leads to the campsite can only be described as treacherous and make sure things are tied on tight to the car. What is a little island camping though without roughing it?

8. Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, Parksville

This relaxed family campground caters to just about anyone with its large sandy beach, majestic old-growth trees, and incredible ocean sunsets. This campground is open all year round and generally fills up fast during the summer months, offering 174 drive-in sites and 25 walk-in sites. Guests here love the 5km sandy beach, forested trails: including a spectacular circular ocean trail and a nature center that is host to an awesome kids program.

There is no bad campsite at this park as all are just over a 5-minute walk to the beach and at low tide the water recedes almost a kilometer, making it the perfect place to build sandcastles, kick the soccer ball or throw a Frisbee around. With three playgrounds, excellent swimming, hiking, windsurfing and interpretive programs; there will be no shortage of fun activities to keep the whole family engaged.

7. Cape Scott Provincial Park, Cape Scott

If you are looking for rugged wilderness camping, Cape Scott Provincial Park, located on the northwestern tip of the island, is the perfect place to do so. Cape Scott was just recently established in 1973 and offers over 115 km of ocean frontage with 30km of stunning remote beaches. Most people come here to hike the North Coast Trail, a 46-kilometer wilderness adventure that takes hikers through incredible parks and scenery.

There are many places to set up camp here including 11 designated camp pads located at Eric Lake, available on a first-come, first-served basis. Random wilderness camping is also allowed in this park, though no facilities other than food and pit toilets are provided, and campers are asked to camp on the beach whenever possible. The hike here is not for beginners and visitors must prepare for muddy trails, cold weather and lots of rain.

6. Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, Parksville

This popular family camping site is loaded with waterfalls, swimming holes, hiking trails and an abundance of people to share them with. Opened from May until September there are 93 campsites available, with 63 of them being reserve able and visitors will want to book early in the season to secure a spot. The trails and boardwalks give visitors access to the upper and lower parts of the waterfall and swimming is permitted in marked areas.

Just a short drive away is Cameron Lake, a perfect place for swimming and relaxing in the stunning scenery. Activities at this site range from canoeing to cycling to hiking to scuba diving to fishing and more. This park is often used as a home base for campers that are exploring Cathedral Grove and the Mt. Arrowsmith CPR regional trail. Steep cliffs and thundering falls, along with great weather make this the perfect camping spot on the island.

5. Loveland Bay Provincial Park, Campbell River

This small rustic provincial park is perfect for those campers looking for a quieter more intimate setting. Every site here except two are lakefront, right on Campbell Lake and it doesn’t get much more picturesque than this. The campsite is open from May until September and only features 31 sites so if you planning on staying here, book early. The sites are perfect for the kayak or canoe enthusiast as it is possible to set out right from the campsite or from a boat launch nearby.

There is no designated day use area at this park, nor designated swimming area which means each camper has their own personal beach in front of their site. Visitors here should be warned that this is rustic camping and only one water pump and a handful of pit toilets are located throughout the park. If you are looking to escape reality for just a few days, this is the place to do just so.

4. Tribune Bay Campsite, Hornby Island

It is not technically on Vancouver Island but located close enough to group it into this amazing collection of camping spots. Tribune Bay Campsite is actually located on the neighboring Hornby Island and adjacent to Tribune Bay Provincial Park. Only open from June until September, this campground features over 100 sites all with fire pits and picnic tables.

There are a ton of trees throughout the campground giving each site privacy and there is no need to move the car once it’s parked as everything is in walking distance including an unusual playground and long stretch of white sand beach. Hiking and cycling trails await visitors in the provincial park and the waters are calm and perfect for swimming, kayaking or paddle boarding. This private campsite is perfect for families, couples and small groups of friends. For those of you looking to party, this one is to be avoided as quiet time starts at 10pm and is heavily enforced.

3. Green Point Campground, Tofino

If you are looking to hike in the middle of the Pacific Rim Park, Green Point Campground is where you will want to head. Make sure to book early to avoid any disappointment as this campground that features 94 drive-in sites and 20 walk-in sites fill up fast in the summer. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is known for its temperate rainforests and long sandy beaches and this campground just happens to sit right in a forested terrace above Long Beach, the only campground in the area.

It is a short trail walk to the beach below, a beach that is known for having the best Canadian surf waters. In the summer months, there is a great interpretive program that runs out of the theatre as well. Amenities include flush toilets, fire pits, and potable water but do not include any showers or cooking facilities.

2. China Beach Campground, Juan de Fuca Provincial Park

Juan de Fuca Provincial Park offers scenic beauty, spectacular hiking, marine and wildlife viewing and roaring surf along the Pacific coastline of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The China Beach campground is the best place to lay down camp if you are traveling in a vehicle as it has 78 reserve able campsites as well as 47 first-come, first-serve sites.

The campground is located in a forested area just about 1 km away from the China Beach Trailhead and several trails connect the campground to both China Beach and Second Beach. Amenities at this campground include pit toilets, cold water taps, and campfire rings. What visitors really come here for though is access to the incredible beaches, tidal pools, and wildlife. Be on the lookout for whales, marine birds, shells and fascinating creatures that gather in the tidal pools on the west side of the park.

1. Strathcona Provincial Park

This rugged mountain wilderness dominates central Vancouver Island and has been called the most beautiful provincial park in the country. With towering mountain peaks; some covered with snow, lakes, creeks, rivers, valleys and old-growth forests; there is no contest on the level of beauty. There are two campgrounds here, both equally amazing and Buttle Lake features 86 sites while Ralph River has 75. If you stay in the Buttle Lake campground make sure to grab one of the lakefront sites and enjoy the sandy beach at your fingertip.

The Ralph River campground is perfect for those interested in doing some serious hiking along the corridor and sites are located inside a towering old-growth Douglas fir forest. If you are looking for something really special, head over to Delta Falls in the southern part of the park where you can witness Canada’s highest waterfall, eight times higher than Niagara Falls!

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