Fav Camping Spots

Cycle Touring Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island & the Sunshine Coast have countless incredible camping options. Sometimes, the highlight of riding trips is getting a few days out camping at a favourite lake, river, seaside stretch or hiking trail.

I've tried to pick a mix of campsite types and areas here, from full service, to nothing more than a clearing and a lake. I'm not that swayed by the most comfortable facilities - though a good shower and a picnic table are always welcome - more by sites in beautiful, often remote settings. Inspiring rides to reach places can be an influence (this is a riding website!). 

It's been a challenge to choose the campgrounds here from so many options. I ended up adding another page of  Honourable Mention Fav campgrounds. And beyond these, you'll find countless other great campgrounds out there, all through the region. 

Here's how to navigate this camping section, and jump to fav campgrounds (and more): 

  • For a regional overview, there's a map showing all Fav campgrounds. Under the map, the Favs are listed alphabetically, with links to detailed pages for each.

  • Following the map are thumbnails with links. These mostly go to different Fav campgrounds, with a few added info pages:

    • the first thumbnail (Camping & cycle touring) is an intro discussion on camping & the different types of options you can find on Van Isle & the Sunshine Coast.

    • After the last Fav campground, there's a thumbnail linking to a list (with short descriptions) of yet more - Honourable Mention - campgrounds.

    • There's a page about avoiding camping alongside partiers - Party time ...

    • Finally, the bottom thumbnail is a link to a page of Map thumbnails, in case you'd like to toggle through different maps.

I've included lots of photos to give you a first hand view of what to expect.

If you are interested in some thoughts and preferences on tents, camping stoves, water purification, or staying dry & warm, check out the 'My bikes & gear' section.

 

Check out the favourite campsites in this section

Below are thumbnail links to favourite campsites.

 

And there's a couple of info pages snuck into the mix below: the top thumbnail links to a page of general camping thoughts and advice; and at the bottom is a link to a page of  'Honourable Mention Campgrounds' (more Favs!), a link to info on avoiding noisy partiers, and finally, a link to a page of map thumbnails, in case you'd like to toggle through all the Fav campground route maps.

This is a 'camping intro page' rather than a favourite campsite (the Fav sites start below with Bere Point Regional Campground). Check this page out for some thoughts on the world class camping available on Vancouver Island & the Sunshine Coast. It includes a discussion on the different categories of camping options you can find to suppport different types of rides.

Bere Point Regional Park Campground

Areas: North Island & Gulf Islands

24 campsites nestled in the trees, the beach a stone’s throw away, with views of the Queen Charlotte Strait and distant snow-capped coastal mountains. Along the lazy north coast of picturesque Malcolm Island, accessible via a 6km ferry hop from Port McNeill, NE Vancouver Island.  Bere Point Regional Camp is famous for the killer whales that occasionally show up to give themselves a belly rub on the smooth pebbles close to shore.

Area: Campbell River

Brewster Lake Rec Camp is one of the bigger, more formal Rec Campsites, part of the great cluster of lakes & camps NW of Campbell River. The big attraction is the swimming beach (& boat launch / fishing / etc.). There's a campground host in season. It's on the Sayward Forest Canoe Route, so you might meet interesting neighbours.  

Area: Campbell River (west)

A surprising Rec Campsite, run by the provincial government. 65 very nicely maintained sites along a remote stretch of backroad down the east shores of majestic Tlupana Inlet, west of Gold River. Incredibly popular in season (so perhaps not the best time). Key attractions are the fishing and boating and gorgeous scenery.

Area: North Island

Georgie Lake Rec Camp stands out from my riding time on the far north of Vancouver Island as a great little camping option. It was my only dry spot amid miserable February rains. The campsite was good, the ride in good though basic (no frills), and the view up the lake at dusk (see pic below) wonderful. The campsite is also the starting point for a trail into Songhees Lake to the north.  

Area: North Island

Grant Bay is way up in the NW near Winter Harbour, west of Port Hardy. It's a tough ride in, with the final 1/2km along a trail. The bay is gorgeous - sandy and relatively sheltered from the fierce winds and storms. There's no formal campsites: rather, you find a place you like up near the tree line. I was there in late May and had the whole place to myself. If you like grand views, remote bays and beach walking, Grant Bay is a total treat.

Area: Port Alberni (west)

Vancouver Island's wild west coast - endless sandy beaches, storm walking, travellers from around the world, Canada's largest surfing colony & the tourist friendly towns of Tofino & Ucluelet. A good, remote bike ride (all paved!) from Port Alberni. Within Pacific Rim National Park, Green Point Camp is set back from Long Beach, a big campground with 100 vehicle sites, but also 20 walk-in sites, great for cyclists.  

Area: South Island

Jordan River Regional Campground has long been a favourite stop along the West Coast Road. It's a seaside campground, though you can pitch tent in the trees so you have cover in ornery weather. There's a coffee house down the road, and (the kicker!) is that there's almost always a small hard core group of surfers there to catch waves. Even in winter, you'll have interesting (slightly insane) company.  

Area: Port Alberni

Labour Day Lake, 1,000m up, got onto this list because of the great ride, 6km hiking trail around the lake, remote location and the fact it continues to be a holdout in an area where all the old Rec campsites are slowly being closed off to campers. There are 4 small, basic Rec sites around the lake (several with only enough space for a single 2 person tent). Great high altitude, remote wilderness camping destination. 

Area: North Island

Link River Regional Campground is up on the north Island, east of Port Alice, along the Alice Lake Loop. It's my favourite amongst a surprising hub of scenic lakes and campsites, big and small, near Port Alice. There's campsites along the mouth of the Marble River where it flows into the SW of Alice Lake, as well as along the fine shores of the lake, looking north. Well worth the visit.

Area: Gulf Islands - South Isles

A south island gem along the sheltered SW shores of wonderful Galiano Island, reachable by ferry (sometimes with a few other island stops) from Swartz Bay or Tsawwassen. Fabulous walk-in area for cyclists and hikers, with many sites overlooking the scenic harbour, full of moored boats. Good hiking nearby at Gray Peninsula, and some fine riding on long (~30kms) narrow Galiano Island.

Area: Campbell River (west) - Gold River

Muchalat Lake Rec Camp is a larger (40 site), well maintained forestry (Recreation) campground. There's a host in season. The campground is open year round. There's a nice beach with wharf and raft, and boat launch. Great views NW down the lake. A number of the sites are along the lakeside. There's no power and water is from the lake. The relative remoteness adds to the charm and friendly vibe.

Area: North Island

Naka Creek Rec Camp was another surprise - an 'end-of-the-road' (very tough riding road) treat to reach. Excellent, comfortable camping, fabulous riding and drop dead gorgeous views along the shores of Johnstone Strait. If you like beach walking, wildlife viewing or just soaking in the vibe, this is a great destination in an uncommonly travelled corner.

Areas: Cowichan Lake & Port Alberni

Nitinat Lake Rec Camp, a short side trip off the backroad from Cowichan Lake to Port Alberni, gave me a real surprise the 1st time I visited in summer. I thought I was getting out to a wilderness location, but there was a small, vibrant alternate community, attracted by the wind surfing, kite boarding, huge trees and excellent lakeside. And it's the jump-off point to incredible Carmanah Walbran.

Area: BC mainland, north of Powell River

A real treat to discover a fine, sandy beach camp (fabulous swimming!) at the end of the road along north Powell Lake, in little known Theodosia region (part of wider Desolation Sound area) north of Powell River. This is a destination for backroads riders. You can reach there in a day, but be prepared for some rough stretches. This fine shoreline site is likely best suited for better weather, although there are nearby options with a little more cover. 

Area: Campbell River (west)

There's a brilliant ride south along the east shores of Upper Campbell then Buttle Lakes, on a paved, lightly trafficked road. This is all in spectacular Strathcona Provincial Park, so there's no logging or hunting. Ralph River, down near the SE of Buttle Lake, is a big (75 site) provincial campground, with the usual spacious, well treed layout, and a sense of wilderness.  

Areas: South Island & Gulf Islands

Great park - an absolute favourite I keep returning to at the SE of Saltspring Island. Spread out along a rugged, rocky coast. Campsites are walk-in, with stunning views - sea lions, otters and even the occasional killer whale passing by, along with a stream of BC ferries. Excellent hiking trails. The most popular campground for cycle tourists, so you meet interesting company in season. 

Region: North Island - Port Alice

West from Port Alice is a huge hinterland without a single small community. Reached by logging roads, including over Teeta Hill, a notable Vancouver Island climb. Side Bay is truly the end of the road, a series of incredibly scenic small bays. One of Vancouver Island's best wilderness destinations. No facilities or infrastructure, so you have to take care of yourself.

Area: Sunshine Coast South

Smuggler Cove is a small, almost hidden, picturesque spot along the Sunshine Coast north of Halfmoon Bay. The campsite is nothing special - 5 basic clearings, set into a treed area, with 2 outhouses. In season, there are sailboats in the coves, or kayaks on the beach; sometimes folks come ashore to camp. The cove is a gorgeous stretch of pocketed coastline, with nice trail exploring at hand.  

Toy Lake

Areas: Port Alberni

Toy Lake is a small lake nestled in the SE corner of Strathcona Provincial Park, along the remote, largely abandoned track from Oshinow Lake to NE Elsie Lake. The campsite is a small clearing at the lakeside. We're up about 500m, so it can get cold and be blocked by snow in the winter. Some busy beavers have their home at the east end. If you like a scenic, remote little lake, this is as good as it gets.  

Area: Courtenay

Tsable Lake is 1,000mup, snuggled in the Beaufort Range, with steep crater-like slopes. It's a special place where sound & air behave just a little different. It is not a traditional campsite, as tenting options are anywhere you like around the shoreline. I had the lake to myself when last I visited, & it was something. It's also in my Courtenay backyard.

Area: Campbell River

Great site along shores of Upper Quinsam Lake, looking west to the mountains of Strathcona Park. Site developed & maintained by Timberwest Logging Company. Gated in winter & requires reservations in season. A dozen big, private sites with tables and fire pits and (mostly) lakeside access. Boat launch and swimming rafts.  

Area: Sunshine Coast North

This was a tough choice. There's so many fine rec campsites, big & small, among the lakes NE of Powell River. This tiny (~2-3 tents) site on N Windsor Lake, part of the Powell Forest Canoe Route, is accessible via a 1km portage trail (partly rideable), and has a fine view south down the lake. And there's one of the greatest examples anywhere of backwoods architecture (see pic).  

I just couldn't fit all my favourite campsites into this section - so I'm cheating and adding a list here with more - just a little info on each. These 'honourable mentions' are well worth checking out. Many are parts of fine rides - so check out the Excellent Rides section as well. Photo here from Strathcona Dam Rec Campsite

Most backroads campers seek a little peace and tranquility for camping. But, particularly on summer weekends (holiday weekends in particular!) near towns, there is a tradition for younger folks to head out into some backroads camping areas to let off steam. If you'd rather avoid such neighbours as you try to get a good sleep after a hard day's ride, check out this page for some advice.

This page pulls together linked thumbnails for all the maps from each favourite camping spot, as well as an overall map with all the sites, including the honourable mentions.  Check this page out if you want some easy navigation, toggling through the route maps.  

Please reload

 
 
 
 
Rathtrevor Provincial Park Campground, Central Vancouver Island, bike tour

Seaside pic from one of the many walking trails at Rathtrevor Provincial park, an Honourable Mention Fav campground along Vancouver Island's Central east coast, and a place I keep going back to

Caution - Safety First:

This website does not encourage anyone to undertake activities in the backwoods without considering fully issues of safety, access and readiness. There are no guarantees with any information provided in this website.  Please read  the FAQs, research further as appropriate, and use your judgement at all times