If you have a love for the outdoors and have been searching for those hard to find places - The Island is the spot for you. Vancouver Island is one of the most popular camping destinations in all of North America. With over 150 provincial parks, two national parks and hundreds of recreations sizes, including dozens of private campgrounds to choose from you can see why the island is the place to be. We’ve set out to identify some of our favourite places to go on the Island for that true experience of camping.
Goldstream Provincial Park:
Despite being so close to Victoria, Goldstream feels like a world away. There are massive old growth trees to admire, summits to climb, waterfalls to hike to and spawning salmon to watch (in season). This park boasts big trees, waterfalls, and a river, and it’s only a 20-minute drive from downtown Victoria, making it a great home base for exploring the city further. Goldstream has 173 vehicle accessible campsites, with 152 available for advance reservations.
China Beach Campground (Juan de Fuca Provincial Park):
If you’re looking for a base from which to explore the Juan de Fuca coast (south west Vancouver Island), China Beach campground is a great option. Spanning more 30 miles on this coast, this is a spectacular destination to visit. Here you’ll keep your eyes out for China Beach Campground about 20 miles west of Sooke. Once you’ve chosen a spot, it’s just a short hike to Second Beach - where you’ll likely be the only ones enjoying this beautiful beach, surrounded by trees and with views of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. China Beach has 78 vehicle accessible campsites, with 66 available for advance reservations.
Gordon Bay Provincial Park:
A little off the tourist path, Gordon Bay campground is only a short walk away from pretty Cowichan Lake. The lake itself (one of the largest on Vancouver Island) is bordered by a large sandy beach, making Gordon Bay an awesome location for swimming, sunbathing and paddling. Gordon Bay has 126 vehicle accessible campsites with 123 available for advance reservations.
Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park:
This IS hands down one of the most popular places to go camping on Vancouver Island. It boasts the most spacious campsites are less than five minutes walk from a gorgeous, wide sandy beach. All of the 250 vehicle accessible campsites at Rathtrevor Beach are reservable.
Englishman River Falls Provincial Park:
Set close to two powerful dramatic waterfalls, this campground is an ideal overnight camping spot for travellers heading further north or across to the west coast of Vancouver Island. Heading from Nanaimo, you’re about 45 minutes from Englishman River Falls Provincial Park, where you’ll set up camp for the night. This park has not one but two stunning waterfalls. Enjoy an easy hike through old-growth forest - hit the lower falls first and then climb back up to the upper falls. The lower falls make a great swimming hole if you’re feeling brave (the water is cold!), and the upper falls are epic - you might want to sit for a spell and watch the water wash by. Englishman River Falls has 104 vehicle accessible campsites with 72 available for advance reservations.
Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park:
An ideal stopover point when travelling between Victoria and Tofino, Little Qualicum Falls campground is shady and usually quiet. Little Qualicum Falls has 96 vehicle accessible campsites with 81 available for advance reservations.
Kitty Coleman Provincial Park:
One of the best kept Vancouver Island camping secrets, volunteer-run Kitty Coleman offers incredible oceanfront camp spots with an unbelievably low price tag. You’ll park your van within old-growth forest, and from there you can explore the half mile shoreline, now that you’re back on the east-side of Vancouver Island. Kitty Coleman has 65 vehicle accessible campsites.
Ralph River, Strathcona Provincial Park:
A peaceful spot to be based, towards the southern end of Buttle Lake in Strathcona Provincial Park. The campground itself is set by the lake and sites lie under the canopy of an impressive old growth Douglas Fir forest. Ralph River has 75 vehicle accessible campsites, with 41 available for advance reservation.
Quinsam, Elk Falls Provincial Park:
This park is just a short drive from Campbell River, making it the ideal base for exploring the ‘gateway’ of North Vancouver Island. Most of the campsites are set into the sun-dappled second growth forest, but some sit right next to the relaxing Quinsam River. Quinsam campground has 122 vehicle accessible campsites, with 70 available for advance reservations.
Loveland Bay Provincial Park:
Accessed via a gravel road, Loveland Bay offers a taste of the beautiful Sayward Forest. All of these campsites are located along the Lake. Swimming is a very popular activity at this campground, with the lake warming up fairly quickly in summer. Loveland Bay has 31 vehicle accessible campsites, with 28 available for advance reservation.
National Park - Green Point Park:
The one and only vehicle accessible campground in Pacific Rim National Park, Green Point is located on a forested bluff above magnificent Long Beach. Another place to check is the Green Point campground within the National Park. Green Point Campground has 94 vehicle accessible campsites and 20 walk-in tent sites
Salish Seaside RV Heaven:
Another wonderful camping option - a bit less than a park but walkable to the city is Salish Seaside RV Heaven. Many renters have raved about the location and cleanliness of the showers.
Situated on a magnificent 2km long sandy beach, the campground is split into two main sections, with sites on the southern side being more rustic and less standardized. Some campsites are waterfront, with others set into forest or with views of the San Juan river estuary. Pacheedaht Campground has over 65 campsites of varying sizes.
Pachena Bay Campground:
Just a stone’s throw from the start of the West Coast Trail, Pachena Bay has a real end of the world feel about it. There are 8 campsites with absolute oceanfront views, though all of the shady sites are within easy access of the sand. Pachena Bay Campground has over 65 campsites, with the majority being tent sites.
Surf Junction Campground:
Character and relaxation sum up this site. While not on the ocean (it’s a 2.5km hike away), this campground has plenty else to offer in terms of atmosphere, facilities (there’s a sauna!) and privacy. Surf Junction Campground has 75 campsites, ranging from $35-55/night in peak season.
Bella Pacifica Park:
Touted as “the best private campground” in the Tofino area, you’ll definitely need a reservation to camp here in the summer, so plan ahead. If you’re able to book far in advance, claim a beachfront campsite. If you can’t get a beachfront spot, don’t despair. Tofino is super close and everything is within arms reach. Bella Pacifica has almost 200 campsites, ranging in price from $49-60/night in peak season.
Alder Bay RV Park & Marina:
More RV-centric than the other recommendations, this is a very civilized place from which to take it all in – just don’t forget to watch for orca whales as you relax! Alder Bay RV Park has over 80 campsites, ranging in price from $28-46/night in peak season.
Jordan River Regional Park Campground:
This understated campground has absolutely stellar oceanfront camping on the Juan de Fuca strait, with views across to the Olympic Peninsula (Washington, USA). Topping that is its location - just over an hour from Victoria, making it a great base from which to explore. Jordan River Regional Park Campground has 15 vehicle accessible campsites.
Spring Salmon Place Campground, Sooke Potholes:
Formed millions of years ago after the last ice age, the Potholes are a unique geological formation of deep rock pools, waterfalls and canyons. This campground is located in a quiet and secluded sport at the north end of the potholes with swimming, hiking and biking opportunities. Spring Salmon Place has 67 campsites, all offered on a first come, first serve system.