Fav Campsites - Honourable Mention

Cycle Touring Vancouver Island

I just couldn't fit all my favourite campsites into Favs section - so I'm cheating and adding a list here with some (short!) comments on more spots I really like, and keep going back to. These are worth checking out. Many are parts of fine rides - so check out the Fav Rides and Blog sections as well.

Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park, Nanaimo Harbour, bike tours

Seaside shores of Newcastle Island from the Provincial campground. See the views across the the mountains of the mainland

Below is a summary map, with buttons for all 'honourable mention campgrounds'  covered here. Under the map, the camps are listed alphabetically, with links to the (short!) summary write-ups below for each. This gives you a geographic overview of these 'honourable mention' camping options. 

 

Links for buttons in above map - click to jump to Honourable Mention comments below:

 
  • Strathcona Dam Rec Campsite (Area: Campbell River)  - a free site run by BC Hydro, just below the Dam at the north end of Upper Campbell Lake. Gorgeous spot (see photo below). However, only a small number of great spots, so often full in season (though there's a basic overflow area). UPDATE: back in Oct 2018 and there's a sign saying campsite will be moved ~5kms south in 2020 so they can do work on the dam (alas - it will be real hard to find such a gorgeous new site, but we'll see).

  • Stoltz Pool Provincial Park (Area: Cowichan Lake) - off road up to Cowichan Lake, along the Cowichan River. Trails about. Typical spacious provincial park camp sites. Just feels a little more like being out in the woods than many other options.

  • Rathtrevor Provincial Park (Area - Central Island) - just south of Parksville. Big popular site, lots of old trees, along a gorgeous seaside, with trails all about. Showers, and a town nearby, so this is comfort camping. Get a regular campsite, or try the cheaper, grassy walk-in area, which works very well for cyclist tourists.  I always enjoy this place, and keep coming back to it for some comfort camping. Fills up in season. (see pic below)

  • Gosling Lake Rec Camp (Area: Campbell River) - NW of Campbell River. Small site snuggled in trees at south end of lake, part of Sayward Forest Canoe Route. Track comes in from east or portage path (more fun!) from south. Fine views up lake. I have real fond memories of socializing with some canoeists on one visit.

  • Khartoum Lake Rec Camp (Area: Sunshine Coast north) - NE of Powell River, east from Lois Lake. Nice ride out.  Beach, and decent sites. The hills around this lake are just a little higher and more impressive than nearby sites. Feels a little like the end of the road (see photo below). Check out Fav ride into Powell River NE Lakes. 

  • Giavanno Lake Trail Camps - Giavanno Lake is between upper Powell Lake & the north end of Haslam Lake, part of the grand hinterland of lakes north of Powell River (see Fav backroads ride). There's actually 2 camps, part of the Haslam Powell Trails network. The NW corner camp is by far the nicest, with the 2nd, along the east shores, becoming overgrown. Both camps reached from Giavanno Main by rough tracks (easy to miss). Both camps have covered kitchen shelters with table (see pic below from NW camp), docks, tent areas (2 tent pads at east shore camp), and, for the NW camp, nice trail access. A fine surprise in this out of the way corner.

 
 
 
 
 

Strathcona Dam Rec Campsite, just below the dam. A free campsite run by BC Hydro. Popular in season, so could be full

Strathcona Dam Rec Campground | west of Campbell River | cycle touring Vancouver Island
 
  • Stamp River Falls Provincial Park (Area: Port Alberni) - ~15 kms NW of Port Alberni, far enough that you feel like you're out in the woods. A fine wilderness vibe. The real attraction here is to go during the long (for different species) salmon spawning season, and see them struggle awesomely to get up the falls (few succeed unless they take the man-made fish ladder / tunnel).

  • Smelt Bay Provincial Park (Areas - Gulf Islands & Campbell River) - get some island time by taking a short ferry from Campbell River to Quadra island, then Cortez Island. Smelt Bay is a great beach stretch along the SW coast, with 24 newly upgraded camping spots (excellent tent pads) set back a little up on the hill. Feels far from all the bustle. See Quadra Cortes fav ride.

  • Fillongley Provincial Park (Areas: Gulf Islands & Central Island) - Uninspiring main camping area of 10 smaller sites around access track just back form the seaside. But gorgeous shoreline facing east, with a fine shoreline walk north, as well as trails through the giant forests up from the seaside. I like to come here in the off seasons (open through the winter) as the small camping area is almost always full in summer. In the past, they have allowed tenters to informally set up a little down the shore, though it seems that is no longer allowed. The kicker here is the wonderful seaside.

  • Regan Lake Rec Camp (Areas: Courtenay & Campbell River) - Not much of a campsite, the more SE of 2 tiny (2-3 tent) spots along east shores of Regan Lake. A good tough ride to get in (beware floods), and a site to yourself overlooking the scenic lake. Part of my Courtenay backyard. WIlderness camping with no services. See Courtenay NW Lakes fav backroads ride.

  • Pye Lake West Rec Camp (Areas: Campbell River) - There's 5 rec camps on Pye lake, but this is the only one on the west shores. It's a wonderful ride to get in along Pye West FSR. Tiny place - but 2-3 very fine sites (several more not so nice) on a beautiful lake.  See Robert Lake NE fav backroads ride

  • Arden Creek Rec Camp (Area: Port Alberni) - Down the remote west shores of long majestic Alberni Inlet is Arden Creek Rec Camp, a rare forestry campsite along the ocean shores (near log booms kept near shore).  Half a dozen fine campsites, plus 2 more accessible along a 150m trail (have to push bikes in). Well maintained, with grand views of the Inlet and passing marine traffic. My first time camping here I was having breakfast when a big sleek black bear ambled past along the shores not 40m away, took a long look at me, then continued on his way. Got my heart beating! See Alberni Inlet Nahmint Lake Fav ride for route info. 

 
 
 
 
 

Camping at Khartoum Lake Rec

Khartoum Lake Rec Campground | cycle touring north Sunshine Coast | NE of Powell River
 
  • Shingle Beach Rec Camp (Areas: Gulf Islands & Sunshine Coast north) - along SW shores of Texada Island, which has a culture all it's own. Big site (30 campsites), reached via final 12 km dirt road access, with a remote feel to it. Long, pebbled beach. $5/night, on the honour system. Music festival here in July. I keep heading back here, partly as Texada turns out to have so many charms. See Texada Island fav ride.

  • Nitinat River BR2 Pullout Camps (Areas: Cowichan Lake & Port Alberni) - a few kms along BR2 (along the way to Museum Main), off Upper Nitinat River FSR. Basically a pebbled riverside stretch (2 stretches, actually) where you can camp, swim, and watch the river go by. May meet gate on BR2 off Upper Nitinat River FSR. You won't find this on a map, so: N48° 58.355' W124° 32.650'.  (see pic below) See Labour Day Lake Museum Main fav backroads ride

  • Cape Palmerston Rec Camp (Area: North Island) - If you like wild, remote west coast bays with storms, crashing surf and gorgeous scenery, check out Cape Palmerston. It's ~20kms south from the Cape Scott Provincial Park trailhead. A bridge just before the site has been washed away, so you need to hike in the last 1/2km along a rough trail (lock your bike to a tree). There's 4 tent pads plus some spots set back from the shoreline. See Top of the Island fav backroads ride.

  • Okeover Arm Provincial Park (Area: Sunshine Coast north) - this campsite on the east shores of the Malaspina Peninsula doesn't look all that special, but has a couple of special attractions: this is a jump-off point for boaters/kayakers heading up the coast to places like Desolation Sound, and, strangely enough, there's a top end restaurant, the Laughing Oyster, just 200m away, overlooking the docks. See Malaspina Peninsula fav ride.

  • Schoen Lake Provincial Park (Area: North Island) - Off the beaten path, with a good little access road to ride in. Trails, boating, swimming, great scenery (surrounding mountains!) and the sense of wilderness. A rustic, smaller provincial campground, but worth the visit. Can be popular and the few lakeside sites are often taken. 

  • Newcastle Island Provincial Marine Campground (Area: Central Island) - Minutes on a funky little ferry (takes loaded bicycles) from downtown Nanaimo's waterfront gets you to Newcastle Island. No roads or residents (this is a park!) but lots of fine trails. And a sweet campground with big, private sites. Water and showers. Nautical neighbours will be moored off the shoreline docks. Views to die for. See fav ride.

 
 
 
 
 
Vernon Lake Rec Camp | bikepacking backroads north Vancouver Island | south of Woss

Getting ready to head off from Vernon Lake Rec Camp. Wonderfull views from the lakeside.

 
  • Snow Creek Rec & West Sproat Lake Camping Cluster (Area: Port Alberni) - This 'cluster' extends west to the Taylor River as it reaches Sproat Lake. By my count there's 2 Rec Camps, Snow Creek on SW Sproat Lake, accessed via South Taylor Main, and an old, though still very nice camp on the NW shores (off Hwy4), as well as 8 smaller 'pullout camps', all alongside the north or south shores of the lake or river. My favourite is larger, 2 part (both sides of creek) Snow Creek Rec Camp.  Check out Fav Ride - Alberni Inlet Nahmint Lake Loop for more access directions.

  • Vernon Lake Rec Camp (Area: North Island) - a remote rec site ~20kms south of Woss via several dirt track options. Twenty plus sites strung along lakeside, plus boat launch and day use area. Campground host, in season. Some nice sites and gorgeous views. Can be reached just east off Nimpkish Main backroads route from Gold River to North Island Highway (see Fav ride that passes by).

  • Ida Lake Rec Camp (Area: North Island) - A fine north Island camping option ~11kms south of Telegraph Cove along Kokish Main. Some excellent sites alongside the scenic lake (some sites seem no longer maintained, and most sites no longer have picnic tables). Wilderness vibe. Visit as part of longer ride south to the highway past long, narrow Bonanza Lake, which has more camping options in the SW corner.

  • Resolution Park Rec Camp (aka Rhodes Creek) - a few kms SW of remote Zeballos along the backroad to Fair Harbour, this snug, little (4-5 sites) rec site is special because of the stunning views up and down mighty, steep shored Zeballos Inlet. Dock to sun on in summer. No formal water, but there's lots of little waterfalls cascading down close by. 

  • Sooke Potholes Regional Park (Area: South Island) - This is an attractive campground (a little tight in places), with 2 major attractions. You can reach it from Victoria or Sooke via the Galloping Goose Trail, and although the camp is inland form the coast, it's not too steep. Further, mostly for summer visits, there's great swimming in the Sooke River in the vicinity, including right below the campground.  See fav ride that passes by.

  • Texada's Hidden NE Bays - Along NE Texada Island, SE from Van Anda, overlooking Malaspina Strait & the Sunshine Coast beyond, there's a wild stretch of old logging tracks (and one hydro track) heading down to some gorgeous old camping clearings. I visited 4 of these.

    • Raven Bay - Close to Van Anda, with a rough but short (1km) access track off Central High Road. Fine grassy clearing in a small bay beside Rumbottle Creek, with fire pits, looking over to the north Sunshine Coast. I wonder if the proximity to Van Anda could make this a local gathering spot in summer. 

    • Shehtekwahn Bay (aka Pocahantas Bay) - the biggest, nicest & best protected bay, with expansive grassy area up from main beach area, and another smaller grassy area overlooking the bay to the south (where I camped). Whisky Still Creek is at hand for water. Reached via 4+km track descending 200m to shores. Vehicle tracks around beach suggest this may be a gathering spot in summer. 

    • NE Bay - rough, remote access track, with a few fallen trees to be clambered over, descending several hundred metres to shores. Nature has almost reclaimed the camping area. There's a few small clearings (including one across Russ Creek), overgrown with a carpet of moss. Really atmospheric spot.

    • Hydro Sub-Station - the furthest south, and a beach more than a bay. This is where the power cable from the mainland Sunshine Coast comes ashore for the Island power line. You'll descend over 450m along a good dirt road to reach the hydro plant, with high fences and fearsome signs. But the track skirts the seaside fence, then you'll see a track down to an extended grassy area just up from the rocky beach. There's a fire pit and some bush furniture, so it appears they are comfortable with campers (pic down the page). Great spot. 

 
 
 
 
 

Tent clearing, kitchen and fire pit (with benches) at NW Trail camp along Giavanno Lake, an out-of-the-way destination in the grand hinterland of lakes north of Powell River. This site comes complete with a dock, swimming and hiking trails.

Giavanno Lake Trail camps | bikepacking Giavanno Lake
Upper Nitinat River pullout camp | Cowichan Lake to Port Alberni | bikepacking Vancouver Island

My campsite along Upper Nitinat River (BR2) informal pullout camp.

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