5 Boat-Access Campsites You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Photo credit: Destination BC/Boomer Jerritt

It’s summertime, which means camping spots on Vancouver Island are a hot commodity. If you have access to a kayak, canoe or powerboat, ditch the wheels and check out these five camping spots that are still under the radar. Don’t worry if you don’t own a boat- we’ll tell you how to get your hands on a watercraft nearby to get exploring!

Just an hour west from Campbell River, sit two gigantic lakes that are popular for all sorts of summer recreation activities. Buttle Lake is 23 km long and 1.5 km wide, with depths in some places of up to 120 metres. Next to it lies Upper Campbell Lake, nearly just as grand in size. Both are epic spots for fishing, water skiing and going for a soulful paddle either by kayak or canoe. AND what’s better- they’re also home to five quiet and peaceful camping spots on its shores. 

Each of these five designated camping spots features pit toilets and several tent pads. When fires are permitted, you can enjoy a campfire in the steel campfire rings laid out at the sites. Pets are welcome but must stay on a leash at all times. 

What makes these camping sites so special is that they are accessible only by boat and are usually quiet and less visited than many other spots in the 200,000 plus hectares of wilderness that make up Strathcona Park. All of the marine campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Self-registration fee stations are located at boat launches (Buttle/Karst) and day-use areas (Karst/Lupin/Auger Point).

1. Rainbow Island on Buttle Lake

Location: Island on the north end of Buttle Lake at the outlet
Campsites: 5
Launch from: Buttle Lake Boat Launch
Distance from launch: Approx. 1.4 km
Nearby: The site itself is a short paddle from the boat ramp, making it ideal for those paddling with children. Nearby the island are calm, protected swimming areas, plus lots of opportunities for fishing!

2. Titus on Buttle Lake

Location: On the west shore of Buttle Lake to the north of the Wolf River outlet
Campsites: 5
Launch from: Buttle Lake Boat Launch
Distance from launch: Approx 6 km.
Nearby: Mt. Titus hike, swimming and fishing.

3. Wolf River on Buttle Lake

Location: on the west shore of Buttle Lake just south of Wolf River
Campsites: 4
Launch from: Buttle Lake Boat Launch
Distance from launch: Approx. 7 km.
Nearby: Wolf River, Wolf River-Buttle Lake tributary (closed to fishing), fishing on the nearby lake, swimming, Mt. Titus hike.

4. Phillips Creek on Buttle Lake

Location: at the outlet of Phillips Creek into Buttle Lake, on the North Bank.
Campsites: 4
Launch from: Karst Creek Boat Ramp
Distance from launch: Approx. 1.7 km.
Nearby: Marble Peak, Marble Meadows hiking trail, Mt. Phillips, swimming and fishing.

5. Upper Campbell Lake Camping:

Location: Just north of the Elk Portal on the east side of Upper Campbell Lake
Launch from: Buttle Lake Boat Launch
Distance from launch: Approx. 2.8 km
Nearby: Strathcona Park Lodge, swimming, fishing. 

Whether you plan on kicking back and relaxing next to the lake with a good book or getting geared up to access a coveted central Strathcona summit- the marine sites are worth a summertime visit.

If you don’t own a canoe or kayak to access the locations above, there are a few places to rent some nearby, including: 

Strathcona Park Lodge

Rentals available: 2-10 seat canoes kayaks, double kayaks and stand up paddleboards
Price: $39- $80 per day
Website: https://strathconaparklodge.com/day-activities/boat-rentals/

Comox Valley Kayaks & Canoes
Rentals available: Single & double kayaks, canoes, stand up paddleboards
Price: $46- $110 per day

Buttle Lake Campground also has kayaks and canoe rentals available to help you get to some of these hidden gems!

Enjoy your paddling adventures and be sure to share your photos on Instagram with the hashtag #ExploreVancouverIsland! Safe travels.