I was recently approached by a group of groomsmen coming to the area for a bachelor trip, looking for some great places to camp, and a guided hike as well. With a wedding in my future (sorry, ladies lol) I was happy to help the best man plan the adventure. I don't offer overnight guiding services, but am happy to lend a hand in the planning with some local knowledge. I'll share here the same advise I sent them via email, plus a few extra tips, and I hope it helps you plan a great camping adventure on Southern Vancouver Island.
- Sunny Shores - Just off of Highway 14 and on the edge of the Sooke Basin is Sunny Shores. Its a mixed-use site (Tents, RVs, Fishing Charters, marina) so it can be a busy place. Picnic tables and fire-rings at your sites, there's also a mini-golf course in the campsite, some casual fun to enjoy through the afternoon. Its about 10 minutes drive from town, and next door to a smoked salmon producer! Walking distance to a small market/convenience store, brewery, and restaurant.
- Sooke Potholes campground - This campground is set between the Sooke River, and the Galloping Goose Trail. The river is a popular swimming spot, but staying at the campground gives you access to some swimming spots that the Day-Use crowd don't come to. No cell phone service in the campground, and limited connections in the rest of the park, but you're only about 12km from the town of Sooke for any supplies you might need. The galloping goose trail next to the camp ground is a 55km recovered rail line trail that runs from the Sooke Potholes area to downtown Victoria, there are plenty of side-trails off of it to go explore the area around the campground. This campground takes no reservations, but if you can't find a spot here, you would have only made a short detour from Highway 14, and could continue forward to other options.
~Fees (all payable by cash only)
-$25/night; $10 extra vehicle;
-One Rustic Cabin $40.00 (taxes included)
-Two Larger Rustic Cabins - 4 ADULTS MAX $60.00 (taxes included)
-Firewood $5.00, Half Wheelbarrow
- French Beach Provincial Park - A small park with a beautiful beach, and plenty of other places close by to explore. French beach makes a good base camp for adventure, or a great spot if you just want to relax on the beach and listen to the surf crash. The beach is on the west coast of the Island, so great sun exposure and sunset viewing. This campground takes reservations, but only until September 2nd, after that point it is first come first served. There is an AMAZING pizza place walking distance from the campground, Stoked Pizza makes thin crust wood fired pizza, and they have a nice patio to enjoy their pies. If you can have a fire at your site though, just grab some take out and warm them on the fire back at camp! You're about 25 minutes drive from Sooke at this campground and little to no cell service past Sooke.
~Vehicle Accessible Camping Fee: $26.00 per party / night
~Fees Apr 1 - Oct 31 $15/night. Nov 1 - Mar 31 $10/night. Additional vehicle $5/night. Payable by cash only. Fees include taxes.
- China Beach Provincial Park - 10 minutes on from Jordan River is China Beach, a beautiful sandy stretch of beach and a nice spot for ocean swimming. The shallow waters and sandy bottom make it a little warmer, and a small waterfall at one end of the beach gives you a spot to rinse the salt off, which is nice because there are no showers at this campsite. As with the other provincial park, it is first come first served after September 2nd. Picnic table and fire ring, but fires only allowed dependant on fire bans/restrictions. This campground is at the southern trailhead of the Juan de Fuca Trail, a 47km coastal trail much like the West Coast Trail. A 45minte hike from China Beach will get you to Mystic beach, which is a popular "First night" spot for hikers doing the whole trail. If fire-bans are not in effect, this is a great beach to have a sunset fire on and then hike back to your campsite at China Beach. Don't forget your headlamps!
~Vehicle Accessible Camping Fee: $20.00 per party / night
~ Sombrio Beach ~ The access road off the West Coast Highway is not well marked, and the gravel road to the parking lot is usually a minefield of potholes or puddles, depending on the season, but it is well worth the effort to get there. This is not a vehicle access camping area, there is one parking lot and then a 10 minute walk downhill to the beach. Camping is permited anywhere along the beach (be sure you're well above the high tide line!), so on your first trip from the car just take a few items to mark your camping spot. It takes about 20 minutes to walk the length of the beach and find a good spot. There is no tap water available, but some small creeks run out on to the beach year round and can be used (if treated) for cooking and drinking. Outhouses and Food Cache bins are available, and black bears are a common sight, so use the Food Cache bins! This beach is in the middle of the Juan de Fuca trail, so you can leave from the beach on a lengthy day hike in two directions while using Sombrio Beach as a beautiful basecamp.
$10 per night for adults, $5 per night for kids. Look for a red pay box in the parking lot by the map, cash only. Keep your tear-off recipt with you at your campsite for proof of payment if the park wardens come by.
Feel free to email me at TheNaturalConnectionVictoria@Gmail.com with any questions on hiking, camping, or adventuring on Vancouver Island.