Camping On Vancouver Island: 20+ Best Campgrounds (+ Camping Tips)

Best Vancouver Island campgrounds

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Vancouver Island is among the most special ones in Canada, with mild climate and astonishing natural beauties, scenic beaches, thundering waterfalls, old-growth forests and dramatic canyons. It’s 50-120 km wide and stretches 460 km parallel to the British Columbia mainland. Hikers, bikers, kayakers and campers all find their happy place here.

I’ll never forget that our first camping trip with our son was on Vancouver Island, and we fell asleep to the sound of a rushing creek in Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. Campers are spoiled on Vancouver Island. Whether you’re looking for waterfront campsites, beach camping, tent camping, options for RVs or backcountry camping, there are options – and very tempting ones!

Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

In this post you find our subjective selection of the 15 best camping spots on Vancouver Island, along with 5 glamping options for those who like combining the close proximity of nature with comfort, and lots of tips to make your Vancouver Island camping trip smoother and more enjoyable.

Best campgrounds on Vancouver Island

So let’s see the best campsites on Vancouver Island, grouped by region:

Campgrounds near Victoria

Goldstream Provincial Park Campground

Niagara Falls, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

looking for the best places to camp on Vancouver Island? find a waterfall and check for campgrounds nearby

Only 20 minutes drive from Victoria, Goldstream Provincial Park makes you feel like you are far away from civilization. The campground has 173 vehicle accessible campsites set in the forest among the huge Douglas fir trees and well off the highway.

Still you’re a convenient drive away from many shops, and the campground has hot showers, flush toilets and potable water. It’s one of the best Vancouver Island campgrounds for beginner campers, and families will appreciate the playground and the easy trails and lots of water access points in the area.

Campground info:

Things to do:

  • visit 47 m high Niagara Falls (not THAT one, this is yet another with the same name)
  • dip into swimming holes on the Goldstream River
  • hike among 600-year-old Douglas fir trees
  • get up to the top of Mount Finlayson
  • witness the salmon spawn in late fall

Sooke River Campground

The Sooke River Campground is one of the best private campgrounds on Vancouver Island which is ideal to explore the eastern region, Victoria and Sooke. It offers 70 shady campsites right next to the peaceful Sooke River. It’s a few minutes drive away from Sooke, so shops and restaurants are close. Victoria is 45 minutes drive away.

It’s great for families, as there are lots of amenities, a playground and large open space for biking and playing. It’s also great for kayakers, as it offers water access. If you’d like more comfort, they have some rustic cabins, too.

Campground info:

Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Sooke Potholes Provincial Park

Things to do:

  • hike and swim in Sooke Potholes Provincial Park
  • walk on Whiffin Spit
  • take a cruise from Sooke Harbour
  • hike the East Sooke Coast Trail
  • bike the Galloping Goose Trail that connects Sooke and Victoria
  • SEAPARC Leisure Complex (with swimming pool, leisure pool, swirl pool, golf course)

Tofino campgrounds

You have several options for camping near Tofino, but it’s among the most popular places to visit on Vancouver Island, so make sure to reserve your campsite well in advance.

Surf Grove Campground

Cox Bay Lookout, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Looking for the best oceanfront camping on Vancouver Island? How about stunning Cox Bay? It’s one of the best surfing destinations in Canada – if that sounds tempting, Surf Grove is your place. Rentals and lessons are available at the on-site Pacific Surf Company at the campground.

Surf Grove offers both semi-serviced and full-service sites, and it’s the most suitable for RVs, motorhomes or sleepers. There are sites for tents, as well, but they’re the same as for smaller vans, priced accordingly. Amenities are brand new, and they even have a sauna at the campground.

It’s a very special and well-equipped Vancouver Island campsite, ideal for those living the #vanlife.

Campground info:

Things to do:

Bella Pacifica Campground

This Vancouver Island campground is just outside of Tofino, but in a quiet forest setting. (Not that Tofino is such a busy town. It’s among the cutest coastal towns in Canada.)

Some sites are on the beachfront, some have ocean views, and the rest are in the shaded forest. It also offers sites with full hook-up for RVs. Four boardwalks give access to MacKenzie Beach, and you’ll have three nice washroom buildings with showers, and even laundry.

Campground info:

Things to do:

  • enjoy MacKenzie Beach
  • explore Tofino and Clayoquot Sound

Tofino, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Green Point Campground, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

The most affordable campground near Tofino is certainly Green Point Campground in Pacific Rim National Park. You can imagine the demand is huge for these sites. Anyone looking for places to camp on Vancouver Island near the beach and close to Tofino will try to grab a spot here.

While it’s not right on the beach, it’s behind Long Beach, and it’s the only campground in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. It has 94 vehicle accessible sites (with electrical service) and 20 walk-in tent sites. They’re sheltered in the forest and a short distance away from iconic Long Beach.

It’s midway between Tofino and Ucluelet, hence you can conveniently visit both while staying here.

Make sure to reserve your site in advance. Most sites fill up as soon as reservations open each year. Since it’s located within Pacific Rim National Park, you need a park pass to stay at Green Point Campground.

Campground info:

Things to do:

  • walk (or try surfing!) on Long Beach
  • explore Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Ucluelet campgrounds

Ucluelet Campground

This is a straightforward choice for Ucluelet camping. This campground doesn’t have a wilderness feeling, you definitely feel like being in a city park, but then, you are. Ucluelet is easily accessible on foot, and you’re close to cafes and restaurants. 

From the 125 campsites, some overlook the pretty harbor, some are in the shady forest, and others offer mountain views. Facilities are good, hot showers and clean toilets. It’s one of the best Vancouver Island campsites for beginner campers because of all the conveniences, and also because of the great hiking and paddling opportunities nearby.

Campground info:

Things to do:

  • walk and dine in Ucluelet
  • kayak or paddle on the sheltered waters of Barkley Sound
  • hike the Wild Pacific Trail

Wya Point Resort

Wya Point Resort is for those who’d love a peaceful oceanfront campground, with great amenities. It’s located just south of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and gives access to a beautiful, secluded beach.

It’s primarily a tent campground, but smaller RVs might also fit. The sites are mainly in the forest and offer plenty of privacy. Most of them are vehicle accessible, but the oceanfront sites require a short walk from the parking. Hot showers, flush toilets and a dishwashing station are available.

To access the campground, you need to drive on a dirt road, well off the main highway.

Thanks to the remote location and the close proximity of the beach, Wya Point Resort offers one of the best camping on Vancouver Island if you’re looking for a romantic getaway.

Campground info:

Things to do:

  • walk to Wya Point Beach from the campground
  • hike the Wild Pacific Trail
  • kayak or paddle on the sheltered waters of Barkley Sound
  • explore Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Nanaimo campgrounds

Pipers Lagoon Park, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Living Forest Oceanside Campground and RV Resort

This private campground is a few minutes drive from downtown Nanaimo, and it’s the best RV campground on Vancouver Island.

300 well-equipped sites await, nestled between ocean and old-growth forest. Some sites are oceanfront, some are riverfront, while others are in the shady forest. This is mainly a resort which offers plenty of facilities, like 30 and 50 amp service, sewer, water and showers.

You can stay there in a tent, as well, but personally, I’d choose another campground for tent camping, as this one really focuses on RVs.

Campground info:

Things to do:

  • walk or bike on the roads and trails inside the campground
  • swim in Nanaimo River
  • visit downtown Nanaimo and the Harbourfront Walkway
  • explore the coastal parks of Nanaimo (Neck Point Park, Pipers Lagoon Park, Departure Bay Beach)
  • hike to Ammonite Falls

Camping near Port Alberni

Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park Campground

Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

our very first tent setup (how many things can you count that we did wrong?)

It’s an ideal stay on your way from Nanaimo to Tofino. This was the first campground we stayed at in Canada, but it’s not only nostalgia that makes us think it’s one of the best campsites on Vancouver Island.

It’s quiet and shaded, located along Little Qualicum River, and it gives access to the Little Qualicum Falls loop trail. It’s a short drive from Cameron Lake, Port Alberni and Cathedral Grove.

It has 96 vehicle accessible campsites in two areas, the Lower and Upper Campground. Amenities are quite basic, but the location and the peaceful vibe makes up for it.

Campground info:

Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Things to do:

  • hike the Little Qualicum Falls loop
  • visit Cameron Lake, and conquer Wesley Ridge for a scenic view above the lake
  • visit Cathedral Grove
  • Englishman River Falls are a short drive away

Parksville campgrounds

Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park Campground

Where to camp on Vancouver Island with small kids? Centrally located and close to an endless beach with shallow, warm water, Rathtrevor Beach Campground is a favorite for families and one of the most popular campgrounds on Vancouver Island. It’s a few minutes drive from Parksville.

Most campsites are less than five minutes walk from the beach, but they have plenty of shade under the huge Douglas Fir trees. The campground is huge, with 250 drive-in campsites, 25 walk-in sites and great amenities, including multiple hot showers, flush toilets and a playground.

Rathtrevor Beach Campground is Vancouver Island beach camping at its most convenient. I know, and I’ve already explained that the sites are not directly on the beach. However, you rarely want to camp on the beach, because it’s the least sheltered. The forest behind the beach often offers the best “beach camping” experience.

Campground info:

Things to do:

  • enjoy the warm, shallow water at the beach (at high tide)
  • bird-watching and picnicking on the beach

Englishman River Falls Provincial Park Campground

Englishman River Falls, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

It’s a great campground to stay for a night or two on your way towards the west coast of Vancouver Island. It’s close to two powerful waterfalls – you can reach them on easy hiking trails from the campground. In summer swimming is allowed in the river below the lower falls.

The campground offers 104 vehicle accessible campsites, but only in the summer season. Parksville is 15 minutes drive away.

Campground info:

Things to do:

  • visit Englishman River Falls and the deep canyon
  • swim in the pool below the lower falls in the summer
  • visit the giant trees at Cathedral Grove
  • enjoy sandy beaches in Parksville and Qualicum
  • witness the salmon spawn in late fall

Juan de Fuca campgrounds

Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, BC, Canada

Camping on the beach on Vancouver Island (this time for real, truly on the beach!)? Find quieter camping spots, ideal for tent camping? That’s why we love the campgrounds on the Juan de Fuca coast.

First of all, here are the best things to do when staying at these campgrounds:

  • hike to several beach waterfalls, like Mystic Beach, China Beach, Sombrio Beach or Sandcut Beach
  • explore Juan de Fuca Provincial Park
  • hike the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail (or part of it)
  • go surfing on Sombrio Beach
  • visit the tide pools at Botanical Beach (low tide is the ideal time)
  • find Canada’s gnarliest tree in Avatar Grove

China Beach Campground, Juan De Fuca Provincial Park

This is a great campground to explore Juan de Fuca Provincial Park and the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. It’s the southern terminus of the Juan de Fuca Trail.

Also, it’s not actually a beach campground as the sites are 1 km from the beach. (But it means you get protection from the wind.) China Beach is accessible via a steep forest trail, and it’s a large pebbly-sandy beach with cliff waterfalls, driftwood and panoramic views.

There are 78 large vehicle accessible campsites among the giant pines and cedars, and they offer plenty of privacy.

Campground info:

Jordan River Regional Park Campground

It’s an oceanfront camping site, looking out on the Juan de Fuca Strait and offering views of the Olympic Peninsula. There’s a trail through coastal hemlock and cedar forest to Sandcut Beach.

It has 15 vehicle accessible campsites and 7 walk-in sites, all operating on a first-come, first-served basis.

Facilities are limited as there are only pit toilets, but you can camp right by the ocean. I know, I’ve mentioned this already, but it’s really the location that sells this campground (and the fact that you don’t need to nervously click and book months in advance to get a spot, like in many cases when you’d like to stay at a provincial park). It’s Vancouver Island tent camping at its best.

Campground info:

Sombrio Beach backcountry campsite

Sombrio Beach, Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, BC, Canada

Sombrio Beach is the best off-the-beaten track beach camping on Vancouver Island. It’s not accessible by car and is one of the backcountry campgrounds along Juan de Fuca Trail, however, it’s only a short walk (~1.5 km) away from the Sombrio Beach Trailhead parking (and you can pull your stuff down in a beach cart).

It’s ideal for surfers, hikers, beach lovers and spontaneous campers as reservation is not possible. Sombrio Beach is among our favorites in British Columbia! It’s scenic, backed up by beautiful coastal forest, there’s a secret waterfall in a slot canyon behind the beach, then another waterfall that flows into the ocean, and some exciting tide pools.

East Sombrio Beach offers no designated sites, you can simply set up your tent on the beach. The West Sombrio camping area has camping pads. It only offers basic facilities, like pit toilets and bear canisters to store food safely. There’s running water, but it’s not potable, and there’s no garbage bins, so you need to pack your trash out.

You find self-registration envelopes at the trailhead where you can pay a camping fee of 10 CAD (or you can pay online in advance).

It’s one of the most beautiful secret camping spots on Vancouver Island. You compromise on comfort, but not on outdoor adventures.

Campground info:

Pacheedaht Campground (near Port Renfrew)

Pacheedaht Campground is another one for beach campers! You can camp right on the 2 km long sandy beach here, and it’s at the southern terminus of the West Coast Trail (reservation required). It’s also where Gordon River meets the ocean, so lack of natural attractions can’t be a complaint.

From the roughly 65 sites some are on the waterfront, others are set into the forest or offer views of the San Juan river estuary.

It’s located on Pacheedaht First Nation land, and is just outside of Port Renfrew.

Campground info:

Campbell River campgrounds

Quinsam Campground, Elk Falls Provincial Park

Elk Falls Suspension Bridge, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Quinsam Campground might be your best bet for Campbell River camping, as it’s a few minutes drive from Campbell River and offers riverside camping in Elk Falls Provincial Park.

It has 122 campsites. Most of them are in the second-growth forest, some are right next to the Quinsam River, and all of them are vehicle accessible. With a playground on-site and lots of short trails in Elk Falls Provincial Park, it’s an ideal campground for families.

Campground info:

Things to do:

  • visit 25 m tall Elk Falls and the Elk Falls Suspension Bridge
  • witness salmon spawn in the Quinsam and Campbell Rivers in the fall, fish for salmon year-round
  • visit the Quinsam River Hatchery
  • explore the Campbell River area and Strathcona Provincial Park

Elk Falls, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Loveland Bay Provincial Park Campground

Searching for the best lake camping on Vancouver Island? You have so many options. Just half an hour drive from Campbell River, Loveland Bay Provincial Park has a campground along this tranquil lake, with all the 31 campsites along the lakeshore.

It’s vehicle accessible, but to access the campground you need to drive the last stretch on a gravel road.

The facilities are minimalist, mainly toilets and drinking water, but there’s a boat launch, as well. Campbell Lake warms up fairly quickly in the summer, and it’s popular for swimming, kayaking and paddling.

Campground info:

Things to do:

  • enjoy water activities at Campbell Lake
  • hike the Lookout Loop
  • visit Elk Falls Provincial Park
  • day trip to of Campbell River, Gold River, Sayward, Kelsey Bay and Cortes Islands

Kitty Coleman Beach Provincial Park Campground

One of the very few secret campgrounds on Vancouver Island is Kitty Coleman Beach Provincial Park Campground. It’s a half an hour drive from Campbell River and run by volunteers.

It’s not only affordable, but has incredible oceanfront campsites and a boat launch, as well. There are 65 campsites altogether, and all operate on a first come, first serve basis. That’s right, no booking months in advance! It’s as flexible, as peaceful and as beautiful as your perfect image of island camping.

Campground info:

Things to do:

  • walk on the beach and in the Douglas fir forest at the campground
  • swim, kayak or paddle at Kitty Coleman Beach in the summer
  • explore the Comox Valley and the Campbell River area

Buttle Lake Campground, Strathcona Provincial Park

Lower Myra Falls, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Another tempting Vancouver Island lake camping option is at Butte Lake, in the heart of the wilderness – yet accessible by car.

Strathcona Provincial Park is the oldest park in British Columbia, and it’s located in the center of Vancouver Island, among rugged mountains, and is dotted with lakes. Rivers, creeks, streams are rushing, and you find some of the prettiest waterfalls on Vancouver Island here.

Strathcona Provincial Park has two vehicle accessible campgrounds, and Butte Lake Campground is the one that’s quicker to access. It’s a great base to explore more of Strathcona Provincial Park.

It’s set on Buttle Lake, though the campsites are mainly in the Douglas fir forest, only a few of them are on lakefront. Altogether there’s 85 campsites, some can be reserved, and some are first-come, first-served.

Campground info:

Things to do:

  • swim in Butte Lake (there are buoys that mark the designated swimming areas)
  • kayak or paddle on Butte Lake
  • hike to Lady Falls, Upper and Lower Myra Falls, Lupin Falls
  • conquer Crest Mountain
  • do a day hike (or multi-day hike) in Elk River Valley

Lady Falls, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Ralph River Campground, Strathcona Provincial Park

Ralph River Campground is towards the southern end of Buttle Lake, more remote and more peaceful. The campground is by the lake, but the sites are in an old growth Douglas fir forest.

All the 75 campsites are first-come, first-served and vehicle accessible. There are few facilities (pit toilets and potable water with hand pump), but lots of hiking trails of various length and difficulty nearby.

Campground info:

Things to do:

  • stop at Auger Point on your way to the campground
  • walk the short (2 km) and easy Karst Creek Trail
  • see the old-growth forest on Wild Ginger Trail that starts from Ralph River Campground
  • hike to Lady Falls, Upper and Lower Myra Falls, Lupin Falls

Lake Cowichan

Gordon Bay Provincial Park Campground

Are you looking for a campground far out in the wilderness, yet with easy access, great facilities and possibly the sunniest climate in Canada? Gordon Bay Provincial Park Campground is ideal for families and those who prefer exploring off the beaten track as this is not on the typical Vancouver Island road trip route.

The campground is set in a second-growth Douglas fir forest, a short walk away from Cowichan Lake, and it offers 126 vehicle accessible campsites. Families will appreciate the playground at the campground and the sandy beaches at the lake.

There’s also a boat launch for kayakers and paddlers.

Campground info:

Things to do:

  • swimming, sunbathing, paddling, windsurfing and water skiing at Lake Cowichan
  • hike the Cowichan Valley Trail, Marble Bay Trail and on the Bald Mountain Peninsula

Free camping on Vancouver Island

Cameron Lake, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Wild camping is not typically allowed or encouraged in British Columbia. Sleeping in your car is tolerated as long as you’re considerate and keep nature intact, but what about free tent camping?

Actually, it very well exists. The province has a wonderful recreation site system that offers low cost or even free camping opportunities. You find many recreation sites on Vancouver Island, check them out here on a map.

But you need to be aware that recreation sites have only the very basics and operate a bit differently than provincial park counterparts. Their campsites are all first-come, first-served and are usually accessible via gravel roads (they might require a high clearance vehicle for access).

Facilities are normally pit toilets only. There’s no potable water (bring water or treat lake/river water), and garbage bins are rare, so you should carry out everything you packed in. Some of these campgrounds are regularly maintained, others are only infrequently.

Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Marble River Recreation Site

Marble River Recreation Site with 33 free campsites is just off Highway 30, on your way to Port Alice. Granted, not many people take this route, but that’s what gives a special charm to the northern region of Vancouver Island.

There’s a small boat launch, picnic tables and pit toilets. No garbage bin.

The recreation site is closed and gated for the winter season. Find more info here.

Clayoquot Arm Beach Recreation Site is closed

Free camping near Tofino? This was your best bet, with a possibility to camp on the beach at Kennedy Lake. It’s not actually in Tofino, but 40 minutes drive away, including driving 8 km on gravel road. However, it’s closed until further noticesee more info here.

5 essential things to pack for tent camping in British Columbia

Lightweight tarp (two of them, actually): shelter from the rain, shade from the sun and an extra layer under your tent. It can rain any time of the year, and tarps kept us (and our tent) dry during so many downpours. Nothing fancy, just a simple, lightweight tarp – and a…

Paracord: to fix the tarp and to solve a million other problems. Really, paracords are versatile and come handy in so many situations while camping. Have a spare one, keep it in the trunk of your car.

Mosquito repellent: the mosquitoes in some areas of BC can be vicious, especially in spring and early summer. Use a repellent spray, mosquito patches or a mosquito head net (or all of them).

Lighting: always, always bring a separate source of light (and I don’t mean your phone). If your hands can be free, it’s ideal: headlamps and/or lanterns. A lantern is great for hanging out by the fire or lighting up the tent for evening card plays.

Camping stove: don’t rely solely on campfires for cooking food. Campfire bans can come in at any time, or the wood might be too wet. Bring a classic propane stove, extra points if it has wind-blocking panels.

Glamping on Vancouver Island

Have you been scrolling all the way here to finally find the glamping possibilities? Lucky you, because there are some very cool ones on Vancouver Island.

Free Spirit Spheres, Qualicum Beach

This might be one of the most unique accommodations not only on Vancouver Island, but in the whole world!

It’s a treehouse resort, and your place to stay is one of the three giant spherical treehouses. They’re simply works of art, and you can spend a magical night up in the tree, like you imagined it as a child.

Find more info and book the place here.

Cowichan River Lodge, Lake Cowichan

Cowichan River Lodge is set in the majestic forest, along the river and has rooms with a terrace or a balcony. This wooden lodge is a perfect getaway for those who’d like to feel like being in the wild while enjoying a cozy house.

Find more info and book a room here.

Wya Point yurts and lodges, Tofino

I’ve already mentioned Wya Point Campground in this post, but it has options for you even if you’re not a camper. You can stay in one of the lodges and waterfront yurts, and they have heating!

You’ll either have a shared or private bathroom, depending on the exact place you book. Lodges come with a fully equipped kitchen.

Find more info and book your place here.

Wild Pod, Tofino

Wild Pod Glamping is right in the heart of Tofino and offers futuristic waterfront geodesic domes. Located at the tip of Grice Point, they’re walking distance from shops and restaurants in Tofino. 

Each pod is suitable for 2 adults and comes with a panoramic window. Ensuite bathroom, blackout curtains, kitchenette and a propane fireplace is included. Kids or pets are not allowed.

Find more info and book your place here.

Fort Rodd Hill National Park oTENTiks (near Victoria)

Fort Rodd Hill National Park doesn’t offer traditional campsites, but five oTENTik sites. Many Canadian national parks have oTENTiks, they’re fully equipped tents with bunk beds, heat, lights, a table and chairs, cooking equipment, a cooktop and barbecue. You also find an outdoor deck and a picnic table.

The oTENTik sites in Fort Rodd Hill National Park are located in the same area that military families used to stay back when the fort was in operation. Refrigerators, freezers, flush toilets, water and sinks are available in the central building.

Find more info and book your place here.

Don’t get lost on the backroads of Vancouver Island!

As we learned from our own mistakes, relying on Google Maps and other online maps in British Columbia is risky, especially when driving on the back roads. They don’t have accurate information. What to use then not to get lost?

The Backroad Mapbooks has a great outdoor recreation guidebook series about Canada, with waterproof maps, GPS maps and a smartphone app. Their Vancouver Island edition comes very handy for traveling extensively on this large island.

Vancouver Island campgrounds on a map

Click here to see all the campgrounds on Vancouver Island on a map, grouped by provincial campgrounds, national and regional park campgrounds, private campgrounds – and free ones!

Vancouver Island camping

Vancouver Island camping tips

When are campgrounds open?

Lots of campgrounds are seasonal and only operate from March/May to September/October. July and August are the sunniest, warmest and busiest months. I strongly recommend booking in advance for the summer months, and avoiding holiday weekends, like Canada Day, BC Day and Labour Day. Also, prepare for campfire bans due to wildfire risk towards the end of the summer.

Some campgrounds operate year-round, but most of them have very limited facilities in winter (like water taps are shut off).

What if you don’t have a reservation?

Elk Falls Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Most provincial campgrounds offer a number of first-come, first-served sites (check the exact number for each campground). If you go in the summer, arrive as early as possible. First come, first served “check-in” time at provincial parks starts at 7 am, and you should be there at 10 am the latest to grab a spot.

Spring and fall are less busy, the competition for camping is not that nerve-wracking. The weather is colder, especially the nights, but it could still be warm enough for a pleasant camping experience. With that said, be prepared for chilly and rainy days.

Even if a provincial campground is fully booked, it’s worth calling them or checking in person for no shows. Cancellations happen, and you can take advantage of them.

What if you want to reserve a campsite, but the campground is fully booked?

Patience and hope, that’s all I can tell you as good advice. And to book as early as possible to avoid this situation. But people might cancel, and if it’s a large campground and you simply show up, you might be able to get a spot because of a last-minute cancellation. Don’t count on that though.

Pipers Lagoon, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

For the provincial park campgrounds, there’s actually a new feature introduced last year, called “Notify Me”. This means emailing you when a campsite becomes available. You can create up to five different availability notifications through your reservation account.

Can you camp in the winter?

It’s technically possible, but most people won’t enjoy tent camping on Vancouver Island in winter. The coast rarely gets snow, but torrential rains and high winds can make it challenging to enjoy being outdoors, let alone sleeping outdoors.

Private or provincial campgrounds?

It depends on your travel style and personal preference. Provincial parks are better for tent camping, because sites usually offer more privacy, nightly rates are more affordable and basic facilities are available. Most of them don’t offer hookups for RVs though, and some of them are not even suitable for RVs, especially for larger ones.

Private campgrounds focus more on RV owners who likely need serviced campsites with power, water and sewer hookups. They offer more facilities and charge more accordingly.

Ammonite Falls hike, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

We camped in a tent and loved provincial campgrounds (other than the crazy race for booking them months in advance!). We found them nicely maintained and clean, and their location is also usually wonderful. Each campsite has its own picnic table.

Where to do the shopping?

It’s worth doing bulk shopping at the beginning of your Vancouver Island camping trip, and a few times during the trip. You find Walmarts in the bigger cities (Victoria, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Campbell River and Courtenay) and smaller local supermarkets in the small towns and villages.

The most popular Vancouver Island tours