Your Ultimate Guide to Camping on Vancouver Island

camping on vancouver island

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Ready to go camping on Vancouver Island? You picked an excellent choice for your upcoming outdoor trip! I rave about Canada on this blog all the time. Personally, I think Canada is one of the best destinations for solo female travelers. And Canada’s natural beauty? Is second to none. Photo fail to do it justice.

Oh, as for Vancouver Island, it ranks with one of the prettiest places that I’ve ever gone to.

Needless to say, Vancouver Island was one of the highlights of my trip to Western Canada, and I hope I inspire you to visit here in the near future.

I mean, imagine it. The scenic greyish water of the Pacific Ocean. The evergreen trees creeping close to the sand. The laughter of surfers. Humidity on your cheeks and hair. Orcas splashing in the waves far in the distance. The smell of salt. Barbecues. Vancouver Island is a paradise.

Needless to say, I loved camping on Vancouver Island. I’m sure you will too.

camping on vancouver island

Why You Should Go Camping on Vancouver Island

Now why should you visit Vancouver Island in particular? Um. Because it’s gorgeous?

To be honest, Vancouver Island was my first time experiencing the Pacific Northwest. I absolutely fell in love with the misty and relaxed atmosphere, sharply contrasting against the East Coast’s stressed and congested vibes. I felt transported to another “chiller” universe. As a result, this place holds a special place in my heart.

Of course, your interests matter a lot when deciding to camp on Vancouver Island. After all, Canada has many spectacular national parks meaning an infinite number of options await avid outdoors folk. So, if you prefer boating and surfing to mountain climbing, then I definitely recommend Vancouver Island over say Banff National Park. Vancouver Island is all about the Pacific Ocean and its wonders.

Finally Vancouver Island is very easy to add onto if you’re already planning a visit to Vancouver. There are many modes of transportation you can choose from but the most popular is The British Columbia Ferry Service. The ferry only takes 1 hour and 35 minutes. Arrive on time and book your ticket in advance to prevent any stress.

camping on vancouver island

Best Camping Spots on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island has many campgrounds for you to choose from. TripAdvisor’s most highly ranked campgrounds include Cedar Grove RV Park & Campground on Qualicum Beach and Salmon Point Resort RV Park & Marina in Campbell River.

My advice is to reserve a spot close to the Pacific Ocean and/or Pacific Rim National Park. Being able to walk to the beach and/or sleep inside the rainforest makes your camping experience even more magical. For example, I could even hear the waves as I drifted off to sleep. How cool is that?

Keep in mind your campsite might not have a shower. Mine didn’t. But I promise you will survive.

Book your campsite well in advance especially in the summer months. The best camping spots on Vancouver Island quickly sell out. So don’t delay!

Want other options? Book your accommodation on Vancouver Island. 

camping on vancouver island

What to Bring when Camping on Vancouver Island

Fortunately, camping on Vancouver Island is fairly easy in the sense that if you forget something, you can always buy it in Tofino or Victoria without too much hassle. After all, you’re not isolated in the middle of nowhere. Still, it pays off to pack well ahead of time.

1. A Reliable Headlamp

Don’t forget to pack a headlamp when you’re camping on Vancouver Island. The pitch blackness of night is no joke. Far from it, actually. If you’re positive you’ll wander the campsite a night, then you might want to invest a step further and check out LuminoLite’s Ultra Bright CREE LED Headlamp for your trip. You won’t get lost with that light on your head!

2. Natural Insect Repellent

Ugh, insect bites are itchy and uncomfortable and ugly. No one likes bugs especially when you’re trying to sleep. Bring some insect repellent to keep away all pests. Mosquitos may linger around in the summer months so it’s good to be prepared in advance. The fewer bites, the better.

camping on vancouver island

3. Sleeping Bag

Like I said on my other Canada posts, Western Mountaineering’s UltraLite 20 Degree Sleeping Bag is the best ultralight sleeping bag on the market. Easy to pack and keeps your super warm. Temperatures drop here at night. Is it expensive? Yes. But, if you’re an avid camper, then the price is worth it. If you want to save money, then aim for TETON Sports Tracker since it’s still a quality sleeping bag at a lower price point.

4. Camping Utensils

Avoid bringing plastic utensils with you. They’re cheap and not environmentally friendly. Instead purchase a Camp Kitchen Utensil Organizer Travel Set for your trip. This complete set will allow you to cook gourmet meals at your campsite. Yum!

camping on vancouver island

5. Outdoor Water Shoes

Vancouver Island’s beaches and springs are rocky. Literally rocky. You don’t want to hurt your feet so invest in a good pair of outdoor water shoes in order to fully take advance of Vancouver Island’s natural wonders – without the foot pain.

6. Dry Shampoo

As I’ve said, not all the best camp sites in Vancouver Island have showers available. Furthermore, humidity tends to linger in the air since Vancouver Island is (obviously) located on the coast. Bring along a bottle of dry shampoo to keep your hair looking clean and nice. You want cute pictures even if you’re roughing it!

camping on vancouver island
Yes, a whale is there.

7. A High Quality Guidebook

Lonely Planet has published a specialized guidebook that focuses exclusively on British Columbia. Guidebooks will help you sketch out a solid itinerary for your camping trip in Vancouver Island.

8. A Reusable Water Bottle

Personally, the salt air dehydrates me. So, even though Vancouver Island’s weather is moderate, you still want to bring a water bottle with you. I like Nalgene Tritan’s 32oz Wide Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle because of it’s bigger size. Again, you’ll also protect the environment by not bringing plastic bottles with you.

Doing more camping in Canada? Check out my Banff Packing Guide.

camping on vancouver island

What Are Cool Things to Do on Vancouver Island

Eeee, time for the fun part! Vancouver Island is packed with many activities that appeal to all campers and travelers. You could spend an entire week on this massive island, but still not see every single thing. Which is perfect because you’ll never feel bored.

Below are some of the things I enjoyed on my own camping trip on Vancouver Island. Of course, you’re free to add more suggestions to the comments.

camping on vancouver island

1. Surf on the Pacific Ocean

Are you a surfer? Then you couldn’t have made a better choice by camping on Vancouver Island! Bring your wetsuit and surf board, and go catch the waves.

Have you never tried surfing in your entire life? Feel nervous about it? No worries! Tofino has many surf schools available to help inexperienced beginners. So don’t be scared to hit the water! Tofino is known for surfing so you can’t steer wrong with lessons. You’ll transform into a pro before you know it!

camping on vancouver island

2. Visit the Surf Town of Tofino

Tofino is one of the most popular towns on Vancouver Island. And it’s so easy to see why! Over all, Tofino is a very scenic place located on a peninsula within Clayoquot Sound. This prime area makes it easy to walk to the nearby beaches.

Like I said, Tofino is known for surfing, but other options are available for campers who want to stay on the dry ground. Tofino has many lovely art galleries and coffee shops waiting just for you. You can even go to a museum to learn all about the local history.

camping on vancouver island

3. Take a Zodiac Whale Watching Tour

You can’t miss a whale watching tour when you’re camping on Vancouver Island!

In particular, Zodiac Whale Watching tours are a ton of fun! The small boat (a RIB) moves fast. Fast. Adrenaline really does rush through your veins as you zip through the most beautiful parts of Clayoquot Sound. I was lucky enough to see many whales on my own trip!

A word of warning, though. Bring seasickness wristbands or Dramamine (motion sickness tablets) with you, especially if you’re prone to experiencing nausea on boats. You also want to pack a waterproof pouch for your phone which will allow you to safely take pictures.

Keep your eyes peeled for majestic sea creatures!

camping on vancouver island

4. Bathe in Hot Spring Cove

Need to rest? Don’t worry.

Vancouver Island has plenty of hot springs for you to soak your sore muscles. Lovely, huh? Hot Spring Cove are rustic natural hot springs located in Maquinna Provincial Park. Relax in one of the natural geothermal rock pools and listen to the many waves crash around you. This unique place is so much better than an expensive spa!

Remember to bring those water shoes with you! I wasn’t prepared at all for the rocks. Let’s just say my feet didn’t enjoy the experience too much. Ouch!

camping on vancouver island

5. Awe at the Beautiful Redwoods

Vancouver Island isn’t only limited to beaches. Oh no. There’s a lot more.

For instance, Vancouver Island is home to the glorious Pacific Rim National Park. So take advantage of your location and visit the soaring Redwoods. You’ll feel stunned at just how large these trees are. I couldn’t even fit them into my camera when I tried to take a few pictures.

Respect the trees. Meaning don’t carve your initials on them, haha. You can try to hug the circumference of their trucks, though, like I did.

camping on vancouver island

6. Take a Trip to Scenic and Elegant Victoria

Add a cosmopolitan flair while you’re camping on Vancouver Island! How? Take a visit to Victoria.

I loved Victoria, you guys, and I wish I had spent more time there. You’ll feel like you’re smack in the middle of a British seaside city. In particular, Victoria is known for it’s stunning architecture and vivid floral displays. You can also enjoy some wonderful shopping if you really need a break from the camping life, haha.

camping on vancouver island

7. Relax on the Many Beaches.

Vancouver Island has a ton of beaches for you to enjoy on your visit. If you’re not originally from the Pacific Northwest, then you’ll immediately notice that the beaches have rainforests surrounding them rather than sandy dunes and seagrass. It’s awesome.

Take a book and settle in. Or go into the water. Just bring a wetsuit with you. Water temperatures are still cold even in the middle of the summer months.

Don’t forget to visit the beaches when the sun sets. The views are spectacular.

camping on vancouver island
Eeek! A bear!

Things to Avoid when Camping in Vancouver Island

While Vancouver Island is a lovely place, you still need to take some precautions to ensure your vacation is a magical one.

The most important tip to remember is don’t, under any circumstances, aggravate Vancouver Island’s many wild animals. For example, Vancouver Island is home to several black and brown bears. And while bears don’t normally pose problems to tourists, they will defend themselves if provoked, especially if their cubs are in proximity. Leave the bears alone.

Another rule of thumb is to keep any food or “sweet smelling” products out of your tent. Bears are naturally drawn to these scents. You don’t want to wake up to a paw knocking through your tent. Lock your leftovers as well as your deodorant and shampoo in your truck or another secure location.

Littering is also unimpressive. Nature is magnificent so show some respect when you dispose of your garbage.

Finally stay aware of fire warnings. Simple pictures usually accompany the warnings, which are written in both English and French, and these signs are posted all over the popular campsites. If the alert is high, then do not barbecue or make fires. I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but there’s absolutely no excuse for not heeding the fire warnings. Be informed.

camping on vancouver island

Are you planning on camping on Vancouver Island? Do you like camping trips? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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camping on vancouver island | camping in vancouver island | vancouver island | visit canada | travel to canada | british columbia | camping in canada | solo female travel blog | north america travel