Vancouver Island is a sparsely populated nature haven. With plentiful wildlife, surrounding ocean, mountains peaks, rivers, lakes and old-growth rainforests, the diverse environment creates an ideal playground for us to enjoy, especially in the summertime.
While there are many places to visit on the Island, the southern region has it all. We headed out for an all-encompassing southern Vancouver Island adventure and camped at a waterfront site at Nitinat Lake, hiked through Carmanah Walbran National Park, visited the beaches along the Juan de Fuca Marine trail, paid a visit to an 800 year-old tree and scoped out some hidden camping spots.
Rated as one of the world's ten best windsurfing destinations, Nitinat lake is a 23 kilometre long saltwater fjord that is becoming an adventure mecca. It’s close proximity to Pacific Rim National Park, the West Coast Trail and Carmanah Valley make it a great starting point to explore the surrounding areas of Southern Vancouver Island. Tip: if the wind is down, there will be less windsurfers, meaning many available waterfront camping spots at the Nitinat Lake Recreation Site, an ideal camping spot nestled amidst old Spruce trees.
Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park:
Home to some of the biggest trees on the island, including Douglas Firs, Sitka Spruces and Red Cedars, the Carmanah Walbran National Park is a protected park with some of the most ancient forests in BC. With plenty of hiking trails, it’s a great day trip from Nitinat Lake. You may get lucky and see some of the abundant wildlife in the area, including black bears, deer, martens and many indigenous bird species.
Juan de Fuca Marine Trail day hikes:
The Juan de Fuca trail is a rugged, coastal route that stretches 47 kilometres along the west coast of southern Vancouver Island, along the Straight of Juan de Fuca. The trail offers incredible scenic beauty and wildlife watching opportunities (sightings of whales are a common occurrence). While many people use the trail for multi-day hiking and camping trips, you can reach a number of the beaches from a few trailheads and visit the locations as a day hiker.
Botanical Beach, Parkinson’s Creek, China Beach, Mystic Beach and Sombrio Beach are all reachable as a day hiker.
Big Lonely Doug:
Affectionately referred to as ‘Big Lonely Doug,’ he stands tall and proud in the middle of a clearcut and happens to be the second oldest Douglas Fir in Canada. Located near Port Renfrew, Big Lonely Doug is nearly 70 metres high, 1,000 years old and was left standing by loggers to provide cones to reseed the rest of the forest. The surrounding trees look absolutely minuscule and pale in comparison to Big Lonely Doug’s grandeur. Visit him and experience the feeling of awe and insignificance in his presence.
Secret camping spots:
While there are many recreation sites nestled in the forest in this region that don’t require reservations, there are also great opportunities to find off-the-beaten track camping spots. We ditched our map and took a few unknown backroads, twists and turns and ended up finding some wicked spots to spend the night. Best part? We had an ocean view and clear night sky all to ourselves, without a soul in sight. Get a list of our hidden camping spots upon booking.