Vancouver Island is a mecca for paddlers, outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Visitors to this world-class Canadian destination will find plentiful options when choosing a campground. On Vancouver Island, you’ll find stunning oceanfront campsites, campgrounds for families, options for tent camping and RVs, and wilderness camping for kayakers and paddleboarders.
And there’s more than just drive-in sites. You’ll also find free camping on Vancouver Island and secluded backcountry sites within a short distance of urban areas like Tofino and Victoria, or go way off the beaten track for a superlative wilderness camping experience.
To help you decide where to pitch your tent, we’ve compiled the ultimate list of the best camping on Vancouver Island.
[This article is part of our 7 Adventurous Things To Do On Vancouver Island Paddlers Will Love series. Read more about the varied attractions and stunning scenic beauty of Canada’s Pacific Coast.]
Best Campgrounds on Vancouver Island
Green Point Campground
The only campground in Pacific Rim National Park is located midway between Tofino and Ucluelet (a 20-km drive on Highway 4), with sheltered, private drive-in campsites located a short distance from spectacular Long Beach on Vancouver Island’s Pacific coast. There are 94 drive-in sites open to tent camping and RVs, or book one of 20 walk-in sites if you’re looking for a more secluded camping experience. The campground is open from March to October and makes an excellent base camp for paddlers looking to explore the wild Pacific waters. Reservations are recommended.
Goldstream Provincial Park
This campground near Victoria (a mere 16-km drive on Highway 1) features great hiking and a peaceful vibe, set in a mature forest off the highway. Highlights include waterfalls and 600-year-old Douglas fir trees, as well as secluded swimming holes on the Goldstream River. There are 159 drive-in campsites, available year-round. Reserve your Vancouver Island campsite online.
Strathcona Provincial Park
Strathcona is British Columbia’s oldest provincial park and one of the province’s largest. Besides plenty of wilderness opportunities, including paddling on inland lakes, backpacking, mountaineering and mountain biking, Strathcona boasts two of the best campgrounds on Vancouver Island. The Buttle Lake campground features 85 drive-in sites, set in the forest or on the lakeshore (perfect for paddlers); meanwhile, the Ralph River campground has 75 sites. Access to the park is via Highway 28 from Campbell River; it’s a scenic 48-km drive to Buttle Lake. Reserve your campsite online.
French Beach Provincial Park
Another Vancouver Island campground near Victoria, French Beach offers great oceanfront camping with stunning views to Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula and good access to the Strait of Juan de Fuca for kayakers and paddleboarders. The campground is off of Highway 14, west of Sooke. Campsites are located in a mature forest, a short walk to the beach. Sixty-nine drive-in sites are open year-round with online reservations available for the summer months.
This private campground within a five-minute drive from downtown Nanaimo is the best RV campground on Vancouver Island. Living Forest Oceanside Campground is a veritable RV resort, with 345 campsites featuring 30-amp and 50-amp electrical hookups and sani-dump stations. What’s more, paddlers have easy access to sheltered water from a sand and gravel beach.
Family Camping on Vancouver Island
Many of the best campgrounds on Vancouver Island are perfect for families. Here are three of our favorites.
Gordon Bay Provincial Park
This family campground on scenic Lake Cowichan, 35 km from Duncan, features plenty of sunshine. In fact, the region boasts the warmest climate of anywhere in Canada. Visit in April for great wildflowers and trout fishing; paddlers will love easy access to one of the largest (and warmest) freshwater lakes on Vancouver Island. You’ll find 126 car-accessible campsites. Reserve online.
Parksville’s Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park provides the perfect setting for beach-loving families, with warm and shallow water and an immense strand of sand to explore at low tide. The 250 drive-in campsites are located no more than 200 meters from the oceanfront, making this an ideal base camp for paddlers. The campground is quiet and shaded by tall trees—yet less than a five-minute drive from the town of Parksville. The campground is open year-round; be sure to reserve your site online in the summer months.
Take the passenger ferry to Newcastle Island (Saysutshun) Marine Park, just offshore from Nanaimo, and step back in time in a car-free paradise. All 18 campsites are accessible via a family-friendly five-minute walk from the ferry dock. This is a wonderful place to introduce your children to Canada’s rich Indigenous heritage as you walk amidst the remains of at least two vibrant Salish villages. The park’s sandstone geology and rich tidal pools will also fascinate visitors young and old. Reserve your campsite online.
Beach Camping on Vancouver Island
We’ve already listed a handful of Vancouver Island campgrounds with beach access. Of course, with thousands of kilometers of shoreline, the options for sand beach camping on Vancouver Island are nearly endless. Here are a few more faves for worshippers of sun and sand.
This private campground is located within minutes of Tofino on Vancouver Island’s Pacific coast. Many of the 187 sites are located next to Mackenzie Beach, which offers sheltered conditions for kayaking and standup paddleboarding. Reservations are recommended.
Jordan River Regional Park
One of Vancouver Island’s best campgrounds is located at Jordan River, on Highway 14, west of Sooke on the Juan de Fuca Channel. The Jordan River Regional Park campground offers a mix of sites for RVs and tent campers, with easy access to a sweeping Pacific Ocean beach. This is a great location for advanced kayakers to try surfing. All sites are available on a first come, first served basis.
China Beach Campground
This sandy Vancouver Island beach campground is located on the Juan de Fuca Channel off of Highway 14, about a 90-minute drive west of Victoria. The beach is stunning, with fine white sand, incredible views and a gorgeous waterfall. The Juan de Fuca Provincial Park campground features 78 drive-in sites. Book your campsite online.
Kayak Camping Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is a world-class sea kayaking destination, with countless touring options for all levels of paddler. For multi-day trips, Vancouver Island also offers outstanding coastal camping. We’ve compiled a few of the best kayak campsites on Vancouver Island.
Cape Scott Provincial Park
The northern tip of Vancouver Island is a prime destination for advanced sea kayakers. Cape Scott Provincial Park encompasses over 115 km of Pacific coastline, with 30 km of remote beaches—many which make prime kayak campsites. Launch from San Josef Bay or the community of Port Hardy.
Set in Gulf Islands National Park, the James Bay campground on Prevost Island is a fantastic destination for Vancouver island kayak camping. Parks Canada maintains 10 primitive sites here, making scenic Prevost Island a great overnight stop on your Vancouver Island kayak trips. Camping is first come, first served.
Broken Group Islands
This archipelago in Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island offers fantastic kayak camping for intermediate paddlers. Parks Canada maintains seven backcountry camping options in the islands, including a spectacular site at Hand Island—with a unique shoreline of sand and shell beach. Reservations are available online.
Located in secluded Nootka Sound well north of Tofino, remote Hesquiat Peninsula Provincial Park is a great destination for sea kayakers with countless excellent campsites available on remote sand and pebble beaches. Many of the camping options feature easy access to old-growth Sitka spruce forests and the opportunity to encounter remarkable terrestrial and marine biodiversity.
Glamping Vancouver Island
If you’re looking for a more glamorous camping experience, check out our list of luxury camping options on Vancouver Island. Or maybe you’re looking for four walls and a solid roof? If so, take a peek at our comprehensive list of Vancouver Island’s best cabin rentals.
Clayoquot Wilderness Resort
Clayoquot Wilderness Resort’s luxury camping accommodations are perched in the deep green forests of Vancouver Island, with views of the Pacific Ocean near Tofino. Amazing canvas tents feature king-size beds, bathrooms and showers, with options available to sleep from four to eight guests. This Vancouver Island resort offers kayaking, standup paddleboarding and many more guided adventures in the spectacular UNESCO-designated Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve. Check availability and make a reservation online.
Experience Vancouver Island in luxury at the Pachena Bay Campground, located five km from the town of Bamfield. Bright and cozy canvas tents are available to rent for a premium glamping experience adjacent to one of Vancouver Island’s best sand beaches. The campground is located on the famous West Coast Trail, with access to spectacular old-growth rainforest and a beautiful waterfall that cascades directly into the ocean.
Wya Point Campground
Wya Point is a private oceanfront campground near Ucluelet, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, with accommodations ranging from tent campsites to RV parks, yurts and luxury cabins. Fourteen yurts are located right next to a secluded beach, with several sizes available. Wya Point is dog-friendly and provides surf lessons, whale watching tours and more. WiFi, showers and flush toilets are available. Book online.
Stay in a unique geodesic dome at WILDPOD Glamping, located in Tofino. Six oceanfront domes are available for your luxury camping experience. Fall asleep to the sound of the tide and wake up refreshed, ready for adventure in one of Vancouver Island’s greatest outdoor destinations.
Free Camping on Vancouver Island
There’s an abundance of free camping on Vancouver Island available for outdoor enthusiasts in search of a more rustic experience. Make sure you practice the principles of Leave No Trace in these pristine locations. For a comprehensive map of over 1,000 wild camping options on Vancouver Island check out Recreation Sites and Trails BC.
A favorite among intermediate-level sea kayakers, this island near Tofino in Clayoquot Sound is a great introduction to wild camping on Vancouver Island. A large beach is available for free camping, just be sure to pack out your waste and be respectful of wildlife.
There are plenty of free camping options in remote Quatsino Sound, on the northwestern corner of Vancouver Island. Forest access roads lead to a free, user-maintained car-camping site at Koprino Harbour with fire pits and picnic tables. Experienced sea kayakers can venture into the open Pacific Ocean waters of Quatsino Sound to find numerous wilderness beach campsites, all available for free.
You’ll find a variety of free camping options on Campbell Lake, located west of the town of Campbell River. Many road-access recreational sites for car campers and RVs are located on the waterfront, providing access to paddlers. Campbell Lake is located on Vancouver Island’s Sayward Forest Canoe Route.
Camper Van and RV Rental Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is a fantastic destination for a road trip by camper van or RV. You’ll find great itineraries to match any objectives, from backroads tours to wilderness campsites, or more urban adventures exploring the rich culture of British Columbia. Here’s what you need to know to score that perfect ride.
Justgo Campervan Rentals
Based in Nanaimo, Justgo rents classic VW campervans and four-wheel-drive Jeeps with rooftop tents to live out your vanlife dream in one of the greatest road trip destinations on the planet. What’s more, the company’s experts will give you insider knowledge to find the best campsites and travel itineraries on the island. Book your van online.
Cool Camper (250-216-9523) rents campervans and small RVs with unlimited mileage packages ready for Vancouver Island road trips, all from its base in Sidney. Each rental comes complete with kitchen supplies, a propane stove, bedsheets and more, with packages available for couples and families.
Vancouver Island RV Rentals
Looking for a bigger camping rig? Vancouver Island RV Rentals (Saanichton, 250-857-6153) offers family-sized Coleman Dutchman trailers for your Vancouver Island camping adventure.
Where to Buy Camping Gear on Vancouver Island
Need camping gear on Vancouver Island? No problem. You’ll find knowledgeable, friendly staff at these well-equipped camping stores in Victoria, Nanaimo, Campbell River and more.
Robinson’s Outdoor Store
Robinson’s Outdoor Store in Victoria (1307 Broad St, 250-385-3429) has an 80-year tradition of selling outdoor equipment and camping gear on Vancouver Island. The shop specializes in adventure travel gear (including tents and sleeping bags) and apparel from top brands, as well as fly fishing gear.
Valhalla Pure Outfitters
A West Coast original, Valhalla Pure is a great destination for camping equipment on Vancouver Island with stores in Courtenay (2885 Cliffe Ave, 250-871-3963), Nanaimo (5773 Turner Rd, 250-751-8686) and Victoria (1824 Store St, 778-432-3579). Purchase high-end apparel, camping gear (including tents, sleeping bags, cooking gear and backpacks), paddling accessories and the best in kayaks and SUPs.
Mountain Equipment Co-op
MEC is a classic Canadian retailer of quality outdoor gear with a location in Victoria (1450 Government St, 250-386-2667). You’ll find a wide variety of equipment, paddling gear (including canoe, sea kayak and SUP rentals) and apparel, making MEC a great choice for quality camping gear on Vancouver Island.
Hit the road to discover the best camping on Vancouver Island. | Photo courtesy of: Northern BC Tourism // Mike Seehagel