A Favourite Camping Spot
This is a campground that could have gotten onto this list solely on the basis of surprise - but there's so much more. I rode south down a rough road along the eastern shores of Tlupana Inlet, off Head Bay Road from Gold River to Tahsis, past a log sort with a fair piece of truck traffic. I was heading to this rec camp I saw on my map, expecting a small, rough lonely place, perhaps no longer maintained like so many other rec camps (it was the start of May, so still pretty nasty weather).
Not so - there was a friendly host and hostess at the camp busily getting things ready for the formal opening in several weeks. There were 65 excellent sites, along a drop dead gorgeous seaside with extensive docks. Hah - a real treat.
It's under a hundred kms from Campbell River west to Gold River along paved highway 28 (see Gold River Tahsis Fav Ride). From Gold River, one continues west on the dirt and (sometimes) paved Head Bay Road (aka Tree to Sea Drive) for ~27kms to the turnoff south onto the rougher Tlupana Main (also called Galiano Main on some maps), down the eastern shores of majestic Tlupana Inlet (see map further down page). There's an oceanside log sort 10kms along the way, so expect truck traffic, which makes the road a little muddy in places (and no doubt dusty in the hot dry season, so bring a dust mask). Trucks were keeping an eye out for the public. It's 5kms further of hilly, tightly winding road to Cougar Creek Rec Camp. There's lots of signs so you won't miss it. The road continues a further 11kms south to Tuta Marina and campground (haven't yet been there).
I saw a surprisingly sleek (for spring time) black bear on my way out, though he wouldn't hang around for a photo.
There were friendly folks around. I learned that in summer this place is incredibly popular with people from around the world - so popular that the locals mostly stop trying to visit. And the heart of the place is fishing and boating. In peak season (July / August) boats are tied 5 abreast along the entire dock network. The host told me they will usually (but no guarantees!) be able to fit one more cycle tourist in the back area.
Apparently, this is a site run by Recreation Sites & Trails BC, a provincial agency (here's a link to the Cougar Creek page). I see this as a reason it is so nicely maintained, while also being very reasonable: $15/night, or $10 for seniors. Reservations are not accepted. The oceanfront sites have a 2 week limit for stays. There's pay parking in behind.