With so many campsites to choose from on Vancouver Island its hard to narrow it down, so we have diligently visited as many as possible, these are our Top 5 lakeside campgrounds on Vancouver Island.

  1. Brewster Lake – We like this site because of its gorgeous beach, like most of the best hidden rec sites, you can’t reserve them so get there early, but on a warm summers day this beach and lake make for the perfect spot to hang out. It has a combination of shaded woodland campsites and waterfront sites. This is a large site with around 30+ pitches, compost toilets and no showers.
  2. Cedar lake – I think this has come up on a number of my lists and I still love it. Its really small with only a few sites available, but it has a great combination of forest and lakefront and because its small its never over crowded – but you also run the risk of not getting a site. However another great benefit is that there are loads of back up options within a short drive so you are never completely left high and dry.
  3. Pye Lake – Located off the Hwy 19 roughly under 2 hours north of Campbell River this beautiful lake has 4x options for camping so you should be able to snag yourself a spot and it is great for Kayaking. (1) Pye Lake Rec Site (2) Pye Bay Rec Site (3) Pye Pt Rec Site and (4) Pye Beach Rec Site.
  4. Schoen Lake – Roughly a 30-45 Minute drive off the Hwy 19 just south of Woss it is a gorgeous small site with a large protected provincial park around it – there are only a handful of water front site but the forest sites are just as relaxing and it has a large beach to enjoy to water from.
  5. Sproat Lake – Just 15 minutes from Port Alberni and you can reach one of the campgrounds this is a favoured lake for swimming, fishing and water skiing.

Don’t forget to follow the ‘Leave no trace’ camping rules. 

Leave only footprints – Take only memories

Take only memories – leave only footprints. 

Fancy pushing the boundaries a bit and finding some remote locations?

Here are 9 of our favourite wilderness spots that you can get to with your vehicle. There are still many more amazing locations that can only be accessed by boat, kayak or foot.

 

1. Carmanah Walbrahn Provincial Park – An easy(ish) access from either side, although we prefer the west side, this protected area is home to some giant trees, wilderness trails and abundant wildlife. Check out our visit there (Insert) for pictures. There is space to camp either at the park entrance or backcountry camping is allowed in the summer months.

2. Cape Scott – The northern most protected area on Vancouver Island this is a rugged coastal wilderness famous for wolfs and other wildlife the rocky coast is punctuated by fine textured white sand beaches.

Note there are some road closures in this area at the moment.

June 3rd – June 7th 2019

June 10th – June 14th 2019

San Josef Main FSR

3. Telegraph Cove – You might have guessed it, named after the old telegraph system this was the northern terminus for the telegraph line. A 1 room telegraph shack that loggers, fisherman etc could use to stay in touch with the outside world. This is a great launch pad for excursions into the great bear rainforest or whale watching. Many of the old buildings still exist – built on struts in the water and connected with boardwalks although it has now modernised over the years.

4. West coast Trail – Technically the ends of this trail are vehicle accessible, but the vast majority of this 75km backpacking trail is not. Developed in 1907 to help facilitate the rescue of shipwreck survivors it is rated as one of the best hikes in the world. Only open from 1st may to 30 Sept and requires booking – if you have short time or not planned a trip, also consider doing the Juan De Fuca trail a bit further south on the Island

 

Main cave entrance – Upana Caves

 

5. Tahsis (For the Caver) – Tahsis was first settled by the first nations and remained largely unchanged until the 1900s when logging was first introduced. The first logging community was developed as a floating settlement to begin with – this area is still well known for its abundant wildlife. For the avid caver there are a number of great spots – from Coral caves to Weymer caves in Weymer Creek Provincial Park. If you are not an avid caver but want to check out and easy accessible site – we would recommend the Upana Caves located roughly 15 kms down the Gold river-Tahsis road, these caves are easy to get to and easy to explore around.

6. Coal Harbour – A marine hub this is worth a stop to look at the 6m Blue whale jawbone (the largest ever found)

Strathcona Park

7. Strathcona Park – The oldest park in BC, and by far the largest on Vancouver island, you have plenty of options to choose from here. Hiking, biking, relaxing are all on the menu. This park is famous for its numerous mountains, lakes, waterfalls and glaciers. You can do this the easy way or you can make it very difficult for yourself by hiking through it.

8. Hot Springs cove – technically shouldn’t be in this list as you need to take a boat from tofino but regardless, needs to be on here. You can do this as a day trip from tofino, but be warned that it gets busy in the peak seasons.

View of Woss Lake

9. Woss Provincial Park – You can drive to either the end nearest to the Hwy 19 and camp at Woss Lake Campground, but this won’t get you into the park, if you want to go inside the park, the best option is to drive to Tahsis and walk into the park from there – but you must note that this really is wilderness camping so make sure you do this safely.

Now heading back towards Nitnat Lake, the original plan was to go to tofino, but a reported heavy storm coming in succepered that plan and I had noticed a potential road leading down to the west coast trail so I thought I would do some more exploring back in that area.

Cathedral Grove (in the rain)

On the return journey, the dogs and I stopped off at Cathedral grove, located along the Hwy 4 between port alberni and the Hwy 19 Junction. This is another old growth protected area set in the Macmillan Provincial Park. The area has large amounts of sitka spruce, cedar and other beautiful trees and easily accessible for all abilities.

In Port Alberni again we refilled on gas and headed through port alberni and back to Nitnat, now remember it’s been raining pretty hard all day. Now, to make the drive harder it starts the hail, and it covered all those water filled potholes with a nice layer of hail slush.

The result? You cant see the potholes anymore – great fun 🙂

We eventually got to Nitnat and decided that we needed something dryer for the night and forked out for a night at Nitnat Motel. It was a wise choice as the thunder and lightning arrived soon after that. I think the dogs were most happy about this decision.

 

The next day is where the fun really begins as we try and find some new roads.

Again the importance of us doing these routes is so that we dont send you down some roads like these.

First stop – I wanted to try and connect the Rossandar Main road down to the west coast trail – I had to options and set off back towards Carmanah Park, but turned off right before. The road started out really good, but then started to narrow as there was a large amount of mature vegetation grown in on either side of the path, at a fork – I took the right road and the road narrowed to the point I decided to stop at a turning point to walk and see if it opened out again. (Obviously it was raining still), I’m glad I didn’t try and squeeze the car down here and damage the paint work, because this road leads to a dead end completely.

Mission number 1: FAILED.

Next mission Nitnat lake camp – located further down the lake than the other camp. But due to the storms of the past few days there were 3 or 4 large trees blown down blocking access.

Boardwalk at Carmanah Walbran Park

Mission 2: FAILED

Next was to try and go into the other side of Carmanah walbran to the former hummingbird research camp, the start of this road was great – but it soon became apparent that this too had not been used in a loong time, and it became slow going, I had to get out and move several types of debris from the road. Over a number of drainage ditches and around some very tight corners, eventually the road narrowed too much to get through without again significantly scratching the sides of the car, and I was forced to reverse 1km back to find a turning point. On the positive, it was a stunning view of the valley and a really pretty road. You could also camp at the section down this road as well where they have cut into the side of the mountain for turning large vehicles. 

Mission 3: FAILED

Next go into the other side of the Carmanah Walbran Park – again there was quite a bit of debris to move on the way, but we did manage to find it and get there.

Carmanah ‘The other entrance’

There is a small campsite located here and the area is maintain by the ‘Friends of carmanah walbran’ group. There is not car camping spots available really unless you camp on the side of the road. This is great to access a different part of this stunning area. There are a number of great little trails around here as well. Both sides offer very different perspectives of this beautiful Valley. 

 

Mission 4: ACCOMPLISHED

After our visit to Carmanah it was time to head back to home.

We now headed from here to port renfrew, along the way – keep a look out for Big Lonely Doug located once you reach the gordan road and running parralel to edinburgh main. Once reach Port refrew its paved road again and finally – THE SUN CAME OUT.

This is a fun, winding coast road that has stunning view of the ocean and just a great end to this little trip.

 

2019 FAROUT PRE-SEASON TRIP NUMBER ONE  – COMPLETED

 

Part 2: Next it was time to head off again and drive towards Port Alberni, we took the Bamfield road and then continued on towards port Alberni instead of taking the turn to Bamfield. I decided at this point to go on a wild goose chase, and the details of which could probably fill a blog on its own. But I will simply give you the flash briefing, on the drive there is a reported B-24 Liberator crash site that came down in 1944, backroads map book gives a very brief directions on how to get there and I didnt have the GPS coordinates of the site, so bearing in mind these important facts.

  • There has been no phone signal since I left Youbou
  • Its pouring with rain (not a light drizzle)
  • I am following some vague directions I read in a book

With that I turn off the main road towards flora lake and I think I take the correct road that leads up the mountain, unfortunately the road has not been maintained for years and has washed away in part so I was forced to park the car and continue on foot. The dogs were not impressed, the rain was falling so heavy at this point I couldn’t even look up properly and the wind had picked up, I left all my electronics in the car and started up the mountain. I probably should have turned back much sooner, but I am very stubborn.

Eventually when I was literally dragging my 2x dogs up the mountain so much so that my arm was permanently held behind me as the trudged behind on the lead that I decided to call it a day and return to the car. I did not find the site, but after further research it definitely DOES exist and I do have the coordinates now (I was on the right mountain) and will be making the trip again, very very soon. On the positive side, I did see an elk 🙂

After my wild goose chase detour we continued on to our camp for the night, just south of Port alberni, China Creek Campground. The road gets pretty bad here, there are a lot of potholes and it’s a very busy logging road so many trucks, and traffic flying up and down. If you do drive down here especially during the week, take care and remember to give way to industrial traffic.

We pulled into the campground and the rain stopped for an hour or 2, all 3 of us were so wet and so was most of the gear at this point. I got the tent up quickly before it rained again and found some matches to start a fire and get the stove going. I had packed 2x steaks, ideally for 2x different meals but the first one was so good it didn’t hit the sides, so I cooked the second one which went down just as quickly.

A nice hot shower as well and we had hit the reset button, it started raining again as I was going to bed and didnt stop all night, or while I packed camp down in the morning, or I as we set off for the day. The dogs are starting to no longer see the funny side to all this.

So today’s mission is a little different, I want to check a route out between port alberni and Lake comox, through the back roads. But I am also meeting up with my rugby club that I recently joined as they weirdly have a fixture in Cumberland. So the plan is check the route, don’t get lost, don’t breakdown and make it to the game on time.

Filled up on gas and we were out of port alberni by 8am and on the road towards the first potential route, 16kms out of town and I turn off of the tarmac and onto gravel roads again but it was short lived, I hadn’t even gone a kilometer before I came to a locked gate across and no access allowed. Backroads mapbooks do a great job of updating where the gates are but new ones are installed all the time, which is the exact reason we do these recon trips.

I turned around and off we went to option number 2, and 45 minutes lost, but option number 2 proved a dead end as well, 12 kms in and we hit another gate, also not on the map. With the time pressure now on I made the decision to turn around and head back the way we came and to take the paved option along the Hwy4 to the 19 and up the east coast. Luckily I made it in time, the rest of the team were already there – again this is probably a blog post all on its own and not related to our business so I will again just give the flash briefing.

  • It had rained all the way up the highway
  • The temperature dropped to around 4 degree C
  • It started raining even harder as we left the changing rooms
  • My legs, hand and arms we so cold they were numb
  • Around half time, it managed to rain even harder, the wind picked up and it started to hail as well 🙂
  • Plus we lost

I had a fantastic time!

Part 3 …..coming soon.

I recently went on a short excursion to test out some of the routes we will be offering this season and to check road conditions to the various camps – we don’t recommend any unpaved roads to clients that we haven’t personally driven and you will see why this is so important.

 

Myself (sam), Roxy and Maverick all piled into Roxanne, with all our gear, beer and food and headed out of Victoria, I was hoping to miss the rush hour traffic out of Victoria but unfortunately this was not to be, nothing more frustrating than sitting in stand still traffic. Finally once out past the sooke turning it was smooth sailing all the way to duncan whereby we turned off HWY 1 onto the 18.

A short drive down here and we were at Cowichan Lake, as we had left in the afternoon, we didn’t hang around too long but we do strongly suggest taking the time to have a wander around. A quick re-fill on gas to make sure we were 100% full before heading off into the backcountry.

After Cowichan lake we passed through Youbou and here you will see a sign ‘’End of guided roads’’ and the last of the paved roads for a few days. It was dirt and gravel logging/industrial roads from here.

Just before dusk we pulled into Nitnat lake campground. Parked the car and let the dogs out, cracked a beer and took a nice walk along the beach as the sun settled behind the mountains. Once back at the car, I set up the camp and went to start dinner, I packed in a rush as I was looking after our 8 month old daughter during the day and she wasn’t in a helping daddy pack the car mood, seems I made a serious schoolboy error and forgot the matches/lighter – which I would love to say is the first and only time I have done it, but it isn’t. No hot dinner for me tonight :(. During the night it started raining, and it wouldn’t stop raining until I was an hours drive from home……in a few days time 🙁