Vancouver Island's Best Seaside Campgrounds

by - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

With beautiful beaches, old growth forests, and endless hiking trails, Vancouver Island, BC is a nature lover's paradise. I have spent many a vacation on the Island and recommend staying seaside for the best experience. Seaside camping means beach fun, paddling or surfing, fishing, and awesome views. Bonus if you can have a sunset bonfire on the beach! The mild climate and absence of bugs near shore make for very pleasant camping too. When it's time to restock provisions, visit an island village for local flavor.

** For more awesome waterside campgrounds in Alberta, California, and Utah, scroll down!**



Top 3 Family-Friendly Seaside Campgrounds on Vancouver Island

How did I choose? My criteria for top family-friendly seaside campgrounds was: Campsites within 200 metres of the beach; sandy beaches; water taps and showers on site; beautiful scenery; and amenities (shopping, laundromat) within 10 km. The exception is Green Point, which is located 20 km from shops, and requires a bit of hike to the beach, but it's all worth it! 

For detailed trip reports of the campgrounds listed below plus more photos, please click on the links. 

1. For gentle waters to wade and paddle, head to Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, Parksville. This family-friendly park is conveniently located near Parksville and is a short drive from the Departure Bay ferry terminal. At low tide, the beach is about a kilometre long! When the beach disappears at high tide, bike in to town or explore one of the area's hiking trails.
  • Campsites are 100-200 metres to the beach.
  • 3.5 km from downtown Parksville
  • Calm waters good for wading and paddling (but note the water is far away at low tide)
  • Bike path parallel to beach
  • Hiking trails
  • Nature House and interpretive programs for kids
Rathtrevor Beach, Parksville, BC
2. Enjoy epic beach walks along Long Beach, learn to surf, or hike in the coastal rainforest while camped at Green Point Campground, Pacific Rim National Park. Recent upgrades have made the campground better than ever - there are showers (finally!) and walk-in sites now have fire rings, so you can stay longer and more comfortably.
  • Spacious, private campsites are on a forested bluff about 500-700 metres from the beach. Note that the trail down to the beach is rather steep. 
    • Booking Tip: Oceanside (closer to the ocean but not right beside the beach) sites are sunnier and quieter (further from the road) and much more affordable than ocean sites at private campgrounds.
  • 20 km to Tofino; 20 km to Ucluelet
  • Showers, dishwashing buildings, washrooms (NEW!)
  • Interpretive programs during the day and indoor evening theatre programs
  • NOT a swimming beach; try Wickaninnish Beach for beginner surfing; MacKenzie Beach's sheltered water are good for wading and stand up paddleboarding.
  • Surfing, beach walks, Long Beach Challenge (9.5 km scenic trail)
  • Forested walk-in sites available in addition to vehicle accessible sites.
  • Equipped camping is available if you fly to the Island and don't want to bring camping gear! All camping gear provided and set up for you (note accommodation is a regular tent, not glamping variety).
  • As this campground is in a National Park, you require a National Park Pass to stay here.
Long Beach, Pacific Rim National Park, BC
3. If you like getting away from it all, you will love the private, secluded beach at Wya Point Walk-In Campground, Ucluelet. Although this is a walk-in campground, it has the amenities of a front country campground (showers, dishwashing sinks, flush toilets). Not prepared to walk-in camp? Stay at the lodge or seaside yurts!
  • Oceanview and forest campsites are mere metres from the beach. Our "forest" site was only 10 steps from the beach (and was a bit cheaper than an oceanview site)! 
  • 6 km to Ucluelet and Wild Pacific Trail. 
  • NOT a swimming beach; try Wickaninnish Beach for beginner surfing; MacKenzie Beach's sheltered water are good for wading and stand up paddleboarding.
  • Hiking trails from access road
  • Showers, spacious bear lockers, and water taps; wheelbarrows to bring gear from car to campsite
Private beach at Wya Point, Ucluelet, BC

More Great Campgrounds on Vancouver Island

  • Mystic Beach, Juan de Fuca Provincial Park (north of Sooke): A sea cave, waterfalls and rope swing await you on this pristine beach. You must hike 2 km to this backcountry campground (no tent pads or amenities - camp above high tide line), but it's worth the effort. Read more about our adventure on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail!

  • Goldstream Provincial Park, Victoria: Not seaside, but worth mentioning as it's beautifully situated amongst old growth trees a short drive (18 km) from Victoria, BC. This gorgeous, well-maintained campground has several hiking trails, showers, a playground and small pump track.

  • Living Forest Oceanside Campground and RV Park, Nanaimo: A popular campground with 300 spacious sites on 53 acres near Nanaimo "where the river meets the sea". Not just for RVs, it also has a tent/small tent trailer loop. I have not stayed here, but USA Today lists this campground as one of the top two places to camp in BC. Located 5.5 km from Nanaimo. Great paddling on the Salish Sea (formerly known as Nanaimo River).
  • Bella Pacifica, Tofino: The closest campground to Tofino (3.6 km) has forest and oceanside campsites available as well as showers. It's a great base camp for exploring the area's many beaches and hiking trails. Sites are typically smaller than what you'd get at Green Point, but you're closer to Tofino.

Best Waterside Campgrounds in North America

1. The Best Waterside Campgrounds in North America - Mountain Mom and Tots
  • Some of my favorite camping spots near water in California, Utah, and Alaska!

2. Camping and Swimming at Sand Hollow State Park, Utah - The Kid Project
  • Camping with close access to national and state parks, slot canyons, plus crystal blue water and cliff jumping out your tent door! Check out Sand Harbor State Park in Utah!
Sand Hollow State Park, Utah
Image Credit: Alyssa Erickson
3. Find Your Inner Glamper at Santa Barbara's El Capitan Canyon - Jennifer Fontaine, Examiner.com
  • Nestled between the picturesque Santa Barbara mountains and the vast Pacific Ocean, El Capitan Canyon offers families 300 acres of camping, cabineering and luxurious yurts perfect for adventure and relaxation.
El Capitan Canyon, California
Image Credit: kerem hanci photography
4. Family Approved: Best Waterside Campground - Highland Lakes Stanislaus National Forest, Northern California - Chasqui Mom
  • Escape to the California Sierras, to Highland Lakes for a more rustic car-camping experience with the beauty of lakes and lovely mountain peaks.
Highland Lakes, Northern California Sierras
Image Credit: Melissa Avery
5. The 5 Best Waterside Campgrounds Near Calgary, Alberta - Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
  • Enjoy waterside camping beside gorgeous mountain lakes in the Canadian Rockies, play in a river in the Alberta Badlands, swim or paddle with painted turtles in beautiful British Columbia, or soak up some sun on a family-friendly beach near Calgary.
Image Credit: Tanya Koob
6. San Elijo Beach Camping for Urban Nature Fun - Walk Simply
  • San Elijo State Beach campground, my favorite campground in San Diego County, has miles of sandy oceanfront land to explore.
San Elijo State Beach, California
Image Credit: Traci Lehman

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