The best camping near Courtenay, British Columbia.
As the largest city in Vancouver Island’s lush Comox Valley, Courtenay makes a great basecamp.
With the Pacific Ocean to the east, Puntledge River to the north, and Comox Lake to the west, Courtenay is swimming in summertime watersport options. Paddle along the shoreline to spot seals and orcas, float down the river in a tubing flotilla with your friends, or try your luck in a lake teeming with trout. And in Courtenay the fun doesn’t stop when summerRead more...
With the Pacific Ocean to the east, Puntledge River to the north, and Comox Lake to the west, Courtenay is swimming in summertime watersport options. Paddle along the shoreline to spot seals and orcas, float down the river in a tubing flotilla with your friends, or try your luck in a lake teeming with trout. And in Courtenay the fun doesn’t stop when summer does—as the weather cools, skiers and snowboarders head just out of town to the slopes of Mount Washington, Vancouver Island’s largest year-round alpine resort.
Where to Go
Horne Lake Cave Park
Less than an hour south of Courtenay on Highway 19 waits one of the coolest (and largely undiscovered) underground experiences you’ll ever have— exploring the caves at Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park. While these are wild, untouched caves without walkways, lights, or handrails, expert guides lead the way through echoing chambers and tight fissures.
Known as the Gulf Island with the most spectacular white-sand beaches, warmest swimming spots, and colourful locals, Hornby Island may be off the beaten track but it’s a track worth taking. To get there, drive 20 minutes south along Highway 19 to Buckley Bay and take two short ferry rides. Visit the Hornby Island Co-op for supplies and a slice of island life with food stalls, artisan markets, and live music happening throughout the year.
Just a 10-minute drive from downtown Courtenay, tucked down in the foothills of the Beaufort Mountains, Cumberland is the spot for mountain biking. With more than 80 kilometres of well-maintained single-track trails, bike enthusiasts are rewarded for their efforts with pristine forests and epic mountain vistas. This vibrant community is home to a wave of new businesses opening up along the charming historic streets to serve outdoor lovers.
When to Go
Summers are short, warm, and sometimes quite cloudy, while winters are long, cold, and wet. The best time to enjoy warm-weather pursuits in Courtenay and the Comox Valley is mid-July to mid-August, while snow-focussed alpine activities are doable from December to early April. The area is the island’s epicentre for skiing and mountain biking, meaning school holidays are very busy.
Know Before You Go
- Courtenay is a 2.5-hour drive from Victoria, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. It’s just over an hour’s drive from Nanaimo, the island’s second-largest city.
- Ferries from the mainland (Vancouver) service Nanaimo (Departure Bay) and Victoria (Swartz Bay). There is also a ferry route to Courtenay from Powell River on the Sunshine Coast.
- Main highways are well maintained, but many of the secondary roads can be rough. Make sure your vehicle is up to the challenge.