Friday 26 March 2021

Northern Vancouver Island Parks

Many people will continue to explore on Vancouver Island this summer as they stick within their region, and the northern end of the island has an abundance of space to investigate.

Provincial parks are plentiful on the northern end of Vancouver Island, and a travel itinerary could easily be compiled to do a road trip visiting a select number of them (or spend the whole time just visiting one of the bigger parks).

 1. At the top of the island is the famous Cape Scott. While people think of this as a serious hiker's park (for the well-known Cape Scott Trail) it has some easily accessible day-use areas, including the beautiful sandy San Josef Bay. Wilderness camping is allowed in this park, but there are no services. Just outside the San Josef entrance there is a private campground with cleared sites and picnic tables.

San Josef Trail

San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Park

2. Raft Cove is not far from Cape Scott, on the open west side of the top of the island. It is easier to access by boat however there is a short but sometimes challenging walking trail. Some people also choose to walk in from Cape Palmerston at low tide. The sweeping sand beach at Raft Cove is well worth the adventure to get there. This is a popular spot with intrepid surfers, who somehow manage to carry boards down the trail!

Raft Cove

3. There are a number of lake parks scattered around the north island - Woss LakeSchoen Lake and Nimpkish Lake are all provincial parks. Schoen Lake Park is the largest and actually comprises several lakes. At Schoen Lake there is a small campground accessible by forest service roads. Woss and Nimpkish Parks are mainly boat access and have no established amenities. Wilderness camping is permitted. All three parks offer visitors a glimpse into the rugged and remote beauty that makes up the interior of northern Vancouver Island.

4. Marble River, at the edge of Quatsino Sound, is an easy river park to access (via logging roads) and there is a forestry campsite just outside the park boundary. Marble River offers hiking and biking trails as well as good angling.

the Marble River Park surrounds most of Varney Bay 

A number of the parks on the north island are much more difficult to access and in fact some are almost inaccessible. Much of the access into the northern portion of the island is dependent on logging roads, and once a road is deactivated it is no longer serviced and can quickly become impassible. This has happened with the Artlish Caves Provincial Park, where there is now a hike in to the park as the logging road access was deactivated several years ago. These parks have been established to protect sensitive habitats and ecosystems, so creating access is not a priority for the parks program.

You can discover all the provincial parks (and ecological preserve areas) through the BC Parks website. A good place to start is the geographical locator page, which lets you zoom into the region you want to explore.

Vancouver Island north of Campbell River is a massive space that may seem empty as the communities are small and spread out, but for the intrepid explorer there are some beautiful areas to discover. Doing a circuit of Provincial Parks is just one way to get out there.

It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Live It!

Thursday 11 March 2021

East Side vs West Side Vancouver Island

 Most people don't think of islands as being very different from one side to the other. But Vancouver Island is a bigger island than many people realize and it differs greatly from one coast to the other.

Vancouver Island is approximately 460km long, 80km across at its widest, and has an area of just over 32,000km. It is the biggest island on the coast of North America. The defining feature of the island is the Vancouver Island Mountain Range which runs up the centre of the island. These mountains are home to Comox Glacier, Della Falls (Canada's largest waterfall) and the Golden Hinde, the highest peak on the island at 2,195 metres. These mountains effectively divide Vancouver Island into the east side and west side.

 Vancouver Island Mountains

The west coast of Vancouver Island is open to the Pacific Ocean. The constant wave action and storms of the open ocean have shaped this coast, which is famous for its deep bays with sandy beaches and windswept rocky coastline in between. There are fewer people living on the rugged west coast, and road access is limited to a few points of access from the east side of the island. The west coast constantly attracts outdoor enthusiasts for its rugged beauty, amazing open water fishing and stunning landscapes.

Rugged Point

Cox Bay

The east coast of the island, facing out to the Strait of Georgia (and the Salish Sea on the south end) is a much calmer coast by contrast. Typified by sandstone, cobblestone and smooth rock shorelines with pockets of sand beaches (notably in Parksville and between Courtenay and Campbell River) the east coast is more protected for the most part and less rugged. While winter storms still hit on the east coast, they are not as aggressive in wave action as on the west coast of the island.

Campbell River


Saratoga Beach

The east coast also provides access to the mainland of BC through the ferry service from both Nanaimo and Victoria. The main highway system runs along the east side of the island, and most towns and cities have been built from the east coast inwards. While there are still more remote areas on the east coast of the island, most of them are north of Campbell River.

Discovery Passage, north of Campbell River

Thanks to its size and geography, Vancouver Island offers an array of outdoor experiences, from calm ocean kayaking among small islands in the Strait of Georgia to wild and wet storm watching on the west coast. Both sides of the island offer amazing beauty and incredible regions to explore, vacation in or call home.
West Coast Vancouver Island

It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Live It!