Vancouver Island is famous for its world-class beaches and the Central Island is no exception. Lay out a towel, throw a ball, take a leisurely stroll, explore for sea life, swim, boat paddleboard, kayak, fish — you can do it all on safe, family friendly beaches surrounded by snowcapped mountains and the sparkling blue sea.
Traveller’s Tip: When you’re planning your beach day, check the tides. These beaches are on the ocean, so they’re bigger when the tides are low.
The medium-sized city has some surprisingly nice beaches. Right downtown you can take a small ferry from Maffeo-Sutton Park to Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park, which boasts beaches for both exploring and sunbathing. Departure Bay has a long, curving shoreline which at low tide has a great beach for swimming, beachcombing and launching a kayak. Heading a short distance up-Island, you’ll find well-groomed trails into beaches at Pipers Lagoon Park, Neck Point Park and Blueback Beach. These are really more for hiking and exploring than sunbathing but are also well-used by paddleboarders, windsurfers and kayakers.
Parksville is all about the beach and there are two you must experience: Rathtrevor Provincial Park and Parksville Community Park. At high tide, the ocean laps right up to the shore; at low tide, the sea can be a kilometre away across a broad expanse of sandy beach. The sand bakes in the summer sun, the tide comes in and the water is like bath water. Heavenly. These beaches are great for everything you want to do at a beach. Rathtrevor is a much-sought-after camping destination so, if that’s your plan, book early online. Parksville Community Park also has an enormous playground and water-spray park for the kiddies, a concession and more, plus the downtown shops and restaurants are just a stroll away.
Just up-Island from Parksville is another long, curving bay with a sandy beach that becomes enormous at low tide. Like Rathtrevor and Parksville, this beach is great for everything. Unlike those beaches, however, it’s not accessed through a park but rather follows the coastal Island Highway. That means there’s parking all along the way, a beautiful seawall stroll and then the beach. There’s a beach concession and a selection of nearby restaurants and accommodations. Again, busy in summer.
Drive up-Island to Courtenay, turn right toward Comox, keep going straight through downtown Comox and you’ll hit Goose Spit Regional Park. No, the geese don’t spit there. Or maybe they do. It’s a sand spit great for swimming, strolling, boating and sunset photography. Just up the coast from there is Kin Beach Provincial Park, boasting a rocky beach great for picnics and exploring. Just up from there is Kye Bay, with a sweeping tidal sandy beach that’s great for swimming, boating and exploring. Less busy than some of the better-known beaches but no less spectacular. Still heading up-Island, you’ll find the Seal Bay Nature Park and Kitty Coleman Provincial Park, both with rocky beaches great for exploring. There’s camping at Kitty Coleman.
Halfway between the Comox Valley and Campbell River, you’ll find Miracle Beach Provincial Park with a sandy beach that draws sun lovers from all over the world. The beach and park are great for everything. If you want to camp, book early online. Just up from Miracle Beach, where the Oyster River meets the sea, is Saratoga Beach, with two kilometres of sand stretching along the Strait of Georgia. It’s sometimes forgotten on lists of the Island’s great beaches, and for no good reason. It’s got it all, plus nearby private resorts and camping.
There are many beaches between Ucluelet and Tofino. Long Beach and Chesterman are the largest and most famous beaches however the smaller beaches are well worth visting as well and often have just a few people enjoying them. Whether your interest lie is surfing, beachcombing or storm watching, the beaches of Pacific Rim National Park are the most spectacular in Canada. For a list and photos of ALL the beaches on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, follow this link.