Mountains, beaches, and forests—Vancouver Island camping offers access to it all.
Vancouver island campers will find some of western Canada’s best natural beauty right outside their tent flap, all set in a compact-enough size for an action-packed trip with Victoria serving as a convenient city hub. Options range from rugged wilderness campsites set amid remote beaches to family-friendly camping spots surrounded by ancient rainforest, and no matter when you set out, temperatures are generally mild enough for year-round camping. Outdoor activities on the island are seemingly endless too—think hiking, fishing, kayaking, and keeping an eye out for wildlife such as bears, whales, and elk. Explore this wild part of British Columbia with a tent campsite, RV stay, or a glamping getaway.
Yes, summer afternoons in Victoria can be a bit of a mob scene with cruise ship tourists scurrying to score their bucket list experiences, such as high tea at the Empress Hotel and wandering Butchart Gardens. But there’s so much more to the South Island (as locals call it), with dozens of provincial and regional parks to explore and unwind in. Can’t-miss adventures include the flat and smooth Lochside and Galloping Goose bike routes, the Sooke Potholes swimming hole, and the endless Pacific Ocean vistas along Highway 14 to Port Renfrew. Two provincial park campgrounds and numerous private RV parks sit within an hour of downtown.
How can a town that’s literally at the edge of North America (truly the end of the road) be so cool? In Tofino, explore the bold First Nations artwork of the Vickers Gallery, then rent surfboards at any of the funky surf shacks lining Highway 4 into town. Campers need reservations at Pacific Rim National Park in the summer months, yet there are a half-dozen private campgrounds that handle the overflow. Regardless of the weather, hikers will want to see Ucluelet's Wild Pacific Trail, and if you're looking to splurge on your next camping trip, book a whale watching excursion (with guaranteed sightings!), a zodiac trip to Hot Springs Cove, or an aerial floatplane tour around the Tofino.
The dozens of Gulf Islands are like Vancouver Island in miniature—they’re rugged, picturesque places with quiet country roads and hidden camping gems. Visit farmer’s markets, dine at nautically-themed pubs and restaurants, and walk among the tangled arbutus trees that stand sentinel over precipitous limestone cliffs.
Two-and-a-half hours north of Victoria, Nanaimo is a major port of arrival and departure for BC Ferries’ routes connecting Vancouver city to Vancouver Island. This mid-Island region extends north to Comox and Courtenay along the island's sheltered, sunny eastern coastline, providing campers every possible kind of adventure. Sea kayaking, canoeing, sand-castle building, mountain biking, golf, and, of course, hiking and biking can be enjoyed on an almost year-round basis. Meanwhile, small ferries chug over to tiny west coast island communities. Watch for breaching and spy hopping orcas, plus bald eagles soaring overhead.
Continuing north of Campbell River (the "salmon fishing capital of the world"), forestry roads leading into the wilderness should be treated with caution, as massive logging trucks are still active in the area. The rewards for the journey, however, are well worth it, as North Island camping on remote mountain lakes means you’re unlikely to find anyone else around. Campers making the lengthy trip to Cape Scott Provincial Park at the western tip of Vancouver Island can set up their tent right on the beach for ocean views (stock up on supplies at Port Hardy or Port McNeill). To extend your adventure, ferries for Alaska via the Inside Passage depart from Port Hardy, the largest town in the region.
Yes, there are several locations on Vancouver Island where you can camp for free. These are typically known as "recreation sites" and offer rustic, first-come, first-served camping. Some popular free camping spots on Vancouver Island include:
Please note that these sites are usually more basic and may not have all the amenities you would find at paid campgrounds. Always practice Leave No Trace principles and respect the environment when camping in these locations.
There are several beaches on Vancouver Island where you can camp. Some popular options include:
Please note that some of these campgrounds may require reservations, and availability can be limited during peak seasons. It's always a good idea to get in touch for the most up-to-date information on fees, rules, and reservation requirements.
Camping costs on Vancouver Island can vary depending on the type of campground, location, and amenities. On average, expect to pay between CAD 15 to CAD 45 per night for a basic tent or RV site at a provincial park or private campground. Prices can be higher for campgrounds with more amenities or for glamping options. Remember that reservation fees and additional vehicle fees may apply in some campgrounds.
To camp on Vancouver Island, follow these steps:
For more information about camping on Vancouver Island, visit Hipcamp.
While wild camping is generally not allowed in most provincial parks on Vancouver Island, there are some opportunities for backcountry camping in designated campsites with proper permits and permissions. Some popular areas for backcountry camping on Vancouver Island include Strathcona Provincial Park, Cape Scott Provincial Park, and the West Coast Trail in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. It is essential to obtain the necessary permits, follow Leave No Trace principles, and respect the environment and wildlife.
Wild camping may be allowed on certain Crown land with permission. For more information about camping on Vancouver Island, visit the BC Parks website and the BC Recreation Sites and Trails website.