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Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park
If you’re looking for a picturesque parkland where you can hike as well as enjoy the island’s beaches, then Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park may be a place to stop on your travels. Just a 5-minute car ride from the quaint town of Parksville, Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park has all you need to camp while exploring Vancouver Island.
British Columbia is well-known for its spectacular hiking trails, long winding beaches, and breathtaking views of its natural scenery. The region’s natural parks are some of the most visited in the world and offer an abundance of dense forests that are home to some of the most interesting species of animals and other wildlife.
On the western part of British Columbia lies Vancouver Island, a popular destination for campers from around the world. Whale watching, scuba diving, and surfing are just some of the activities that visitors can partake in while exploring the island, so you can understand why it’s so popular!
If you’re planning to travel there by car, it may be best to follow signs for Parksville as the park is located approximately 3km south of the town on Highway 19a. You’ll want to take exit 51 from the Inland Island Highway and follow the road until you see signs for the park.
An Overview of Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park
Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park is open all year-round, but like most parks in the area, it’s particularly popular during the summer months. Therefore, you’ll have to make a reservation if you’re thinking about camping at the park between the last week of June until Labor Day in September.
The park was founded in 1886 as Rathtrevor Campground by William Rath, a gold prospector who constructed log cabins in the area and then later a barn in 1895. After William’s death in 1906, his wife took over the land and decided to transform it into what it is today, a fully functioning campsite now known as Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park.
Due to the abundance of activities on offer in the area, Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park is a go-to destination for families searching for a camping getaway. As the park is located off the beach, water activities are very popular amongst visitors. The beach has facilities that allow visitors to go canoeing and kayaking, but it’s best to check the local tide guides before you go as the tide can sometimes be too low. Visitors should note that the park doesn’t have a boat launch, but the French Creek Marina located 8km north of the park does, so you won’t have to travel that far if you’re wanting to launch your own boat.
Vancouver Island’s waters are home to some of Canada’s most interesting sea life so it’s no surprise that saltwater fishing is so common here. With the right fishing license, you’ll have the chance to catch salmon, halibut, trout, and many more species of fish. Be sure to check British Columbia’s fishing regulations before going out on the boat.
As is the case with most campsites, Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park comes with picnic areas where you can enjoy an outdoor lunch with the whole family. If you’re visiting as a large group, you can reserve a group picnic shelter. Those who stay at the park’s campsite are permitted to make campfires using the designated campfire rings, and firewood can normally be purchased on the site. There’s also an amphitheater located in the park that hosts a multitude of exciting events and shows, including nature displays suitable for all ages.
The park does allow visitors to bring their pets, but you must keep them on a leash at all times. However, dogs are not permitted on the day-use beach areas.
Rathtrevor Beach Campground
There’s a range of camping options if you’re thinking of camping overnight at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. The park has 250 vehicle-accessible campsites, 25 walk-in campsites, and 6 group campsites that all need to be reserved in advance in summer. Drive-in and walk-in sites are open all-year-round, however, the group campsites are only available to reserve from May 14th to October 30th. If you want to camp during the cold winter, you’ll have to pay an extra fee of $13 per party per night between the months of November and March.
The campsite has both pit and flush toilets, a sani-station area, and a total of 4 hot showers (3 in the main campground and 1 in the group site area).
A popular part of Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park is its beach. A leisurely stroll down the 2km shoreline is the perfect way to unwind and enjoy the breathtaking views of the natural surroundings.
During low tide, the ocean recedes by around 1km, giving visitors the opportunity to walk out across the sand and then swim in the shallow waters that are especially warm during the hot summer months. If you’re brave enough, you can really impress the locals and take a dip in the island’s cold waters in winter! When the tide goes in, visitors can also go shell hunting. Shells and sand dollars are commonly found on the sandy shores of Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, and looking for these beach artifacts is a great way to pass the time with children.
If you’re seeking something a little more thrilling, this beach and its surrounding water is a great destination for windsurfing enthusiasts. You’ll need to rent your own equipment, but it’s definitely worth it. So, put on a wetsuit, go out into the sea and leave your troubles on the shore of Rathtrevor Beach!
There’s never a shortage of wildlife in Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. In fact, the beach is a popular destination for birdwatchers. From the beach, you can observe hundreds of species of birds coming and going from the tall Douglas fir trees of the park. If you visit the park between February and April, you may be lucky enough to see the Brant geese migration as they flock to northern Canada and Alaska. The park is full of birds, including eagles, hawks, and owls, so it’s not surprising that Rathtrevor is known locally as a birdwatching paradise. No matter what you like, you can spend hours upon hours enjoying Rathtrevor Beach and its surrounding areas.
Rathtrevor Beach Tides
Rathtrevor Beach experiences semi-diurnal tides, which means there are two high tides and two low tides each day. The tide range at Rathtrevor Beach can vary from as low as 1.5 feet to as high as 12 feet, depending on the time of year and the phase of the moon. During low tide, the beach expands and provides ample space for activities such as beachcombing, sandcastle building, and exploring the exposed tide pools. Conversely, during high tide, the water comes right up to the shoreline, making it an ideal time for swimming, boating, and other water-based activities. The Rathtrevor Beach tides provide visitors with a unique and ever-changing experience, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
Rathtrevor Beach Path Trail
If it’s your first time visiting the area, The Rathtrevor Beach Path Trail is a great hike to get your bearings as it loops a good portion of the park. The 3.4km trail is mostly flat with little elevation and is very doable for amateur hikers.
Start the hike at the starting point on Kinnikinnick Drive and follow the signs north up the trail. After 100 meters, turn right and then right again. Walking straight on for the next 1.5km of the trail, you’ll have spectacular views of the ocean on your left. If you’re interested, you can take a quick break and explore the small tidal pools just off the trail. These pools are home to some of Vancouver Island’s most impressive sea life, including sand dollars, scallops, and crabs.
You’ll then follow the trail right as you walk away from the beach and towards Rath Road. This area of the trail is usually brimming with rabbits, so if you’re quiet enough, you may be able to spot some. Follow the signs towards Kinnikinnick Drive, where you’ll finally return to the starting point.
The trail is dog-friendly, but please keep them on a leash and in sight at all times as animals, including bears and deer, often roam these areas.
Steve and I loved exploring Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park while we were exploring Vancouver Island on our honeymoon check out some of our other experiences below.
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