A camping or RV trip to Vancouver Island is the perfect way to explore all the islands’ nooks and crannies. Where do you go when there are over 150 provincial parks, two national parks, hundreds of recreation sites, and dozens of private campgrounds to choose from? Let this be your guide.
Camping at Provincial, National, & Private Parks
Being the easiest to organize and set up, front country camping is the most popular camping experience in BC. On Vancouver Island, visitors can choose from campsites in provincial, national, or private parks. Drive right into your site, pitch a tent (or park an RV), and you’re camping.
For a truly West Coast camping trip, head for Green Point Campground in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, situated between Tofino and Ucluelet. This campground has access to spectacular Long Beach and is a quick drive, or cycle, to the many surrounding beaches and forested trails.
On Northern Vancouver Island, don’t miss camping at The Forest Campground at Telegraph Cove Resort. This private campground has over 100 serviced campsites in a forest that sits 1 km (0.6 mi) from the seaside village of Telegraph Cove. Be sure to head out on the water for a whale-watching tour or a sea-kayaking experience while visiting this unique region of Vancouver Island. Those looking for alpine adventures should check out Strathcona Provincial Park. Here, Buttle Lake and Ralph River campgrounds are where campers can enjoy sandy beaches for swimming, canoeing, and hiking.
On the mid-Island, head for Kitty Coleman Provincial Park, outside of Courtney. The 65 vehicle-accessible sites here are all first-come, first-serve. Almost all the sites offer an incredible ocean view and swimming, boating, and fishing. Nearby is the Living Forest Oceanside Campground and R.V. Park. This privately-run camping area has over 300 oceanside and riverside campsites on 53 sprawling acres. For a chance to sleep under the stars and beside the ocean, camp at Prior Centennial or McDonald in the Gulf Island National Park Reserve. This archipelago in the Strait of Georgia is a remarkable destination for nature and wildlife lovers.
Prefer to get a little closer to nature and camp without the sound and distraction of vehicles? Many provincial parks on the island offer walk-in campsites, a great way to get a little deeper into the wilderness. Many of the sites are less than a 1 km walk-in and come with wheelbarrows for transporting your gear to and from the parking lot.
Head for Ruckle Provincial Park on Salt Spring Island for walk-in sites that overlook the ocean. While camping here, spot whales and other sea life from your tent. This park is a great base for bike-packing campers, too. Ride onto the ferry and explore Salt Spring Island by bike while basing yourself at Ruckle. In Ucluelet, campers can stay at Wya Point Resort. This resort sits on 600 acres of Ucluelet First Nation’s traditional territory and features walk-in sites beside the ocean. Be sure to check out the First Nations owned and operated Way Point Surf Shop for surf lessons and rentals while here, too.
Paddle, Boat, and Ferry-Access Camping
What can get more remote than paddling to your campsite? On Vancouver Island, visitors can kayak, canoe, boat, or ferry to campsites on remote islands, in hidden inlets, or the far reaches of secluded lakes.
In Clayoquot Sound, north of Tofino, the Hesquiaht First Nation own and operate Hot Springs Cove Resort & Campground, accessible by water taxi, private boat, or floatplane. Set up camp here before following a boardwalk through the rainforest to soak in the natural mineral pools of Hot Springs Cove.
In the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, boaters and kayakers can check out Sidney Spit Campground, on the north end of Sidney Island for family-friendly camping with sandy beaches, trails, and marine life.
Sea kayakers will find that another archipelago, the Broken Group Islands, is perfect for exploring crystal-clear waters and sheltered bays.
Part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, paddlers have a chance to camp at eight different campsites while on a multi-day kayaking adventure.
To avoid the crowds of peak season, try visiting this park in May, June, or September.
Multi-Day Backcountry Camping
Up for a challenge? There are a number of multi-day hiking routes on Vancouver Island that can take you into remote backcountry camping areas. Wake up to the sound of the ocean crashing on the beach, tucked into a hidden inlet on a secluded island, or on the banks of an alpine lake.
The most famous route on the Island is the West Coast Trail and reservations book up quickly but there are many other multi-day hikes worth checking out.
The Nootka Trail is a 44km (25 mi) hike on remote Nootka Island. This trip takes plenty of pre-planning and experience but is worth the effort for dedicated backpackers.
The West Coast Trail’s sister route, the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, offers remote beaches and untamed rainforest without the crowds. On this route, Mystic Beach rewards hikers with a waterfall that plunges into the ocean.
For a really remote experience, head for Cape Scott Provincial Park and the North Coast Trail, where you can hike along more than 40 km (25 mi) of trail. Camp on secluded beaches that dot the most northwestern tip of Vancouver Island.
How and When to Reserve Camping Sites
Camping reservations at BC Parks can be made up to four months in advance of your arrival date. Trail permits and reservations for National Park areas, trails, and sites open every January for the upcoming season. Camping areas run by Recreation Sites and Trails BC are all allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. While privately-run campgrounds each have their own reservation policies.
Quick Resource Guide
Parks Canada (National Parks)
Reservations, permits, and information for camping in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
BC Parks (Provincial Parks)
Information on BC’s Provincial Parks, including reservations and resources for planning a trip.
Recreation Sites and Trails BC
List of recreation sites that allow camping. All allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.
Camping & RV in BC
Comprehensive information about campgrounds and RV sites in BC.
Go Camping BC
A guide for all provincial parks in British Columbia.
Useful information for trip planning, outdoor safety, and being prepared in the outdoors.
Go RVing Canada
Find RV rentals and RV sites on Vancouver Island.
BC Marine Trails
Resources for marine travel and boat-access camping.