Looking for beach vacation ideas but without the crowds? Head to British Columbia’s west coast for some of the most breathtaking secret beaches.
A 40-minute drive outside of Victoria, BC, you’ll find the quaint town of Sooke. Connecting Sooke and Port Renfrew is the Juan De Fuca Highway, which snakes along the island’s west coast, bound by trees and ocean. Though Port Renfrew is a great destination in and of itself for nature lovers, anglers, and surfers alike, the true treasures of this drive are the hidden beaches along the way. You’ll be glad you ditched the crowds when you’re taking in expansive vistas and lively tide pools.
East Sooke Park
More rocks than sand, you can still find a spot to sun yourself at this gorgeous park just outside of Victoria. After driving about 30 kilometres through farmland, you’ll arrive in the forest, a perfect spot for an afternoon hike. Once you’ve clamoured through a few wooded patches, enjoy a bevy of secluded coves teeming with tide pools. Plus, in certain hidden nooks, you might spot an impromptu volleyball game or find yourself splashing in azure waters typically associate with tropical locales.
With three access points, you can experience something different each time you visit East Sooke Regional Park. Plus, on the way back to Victoria, you can take the scenic route and stop at local favourite My Chosen Cafe for comfort food in a farm-inspired space.
Once you’ve passed Sooke, you’ll be in slightly more remote territory, but you’ll be rewarded by some of the most beautifully diverse scenery and shores. Consider if a bit of a beach tour as you head towards Port Renfrew.
French Provincial Beach Park
Look out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca as you enjoy the pebbled and sandy shores at French Beach. With easy access from the road, you’ll be treated to expansive ocean views, spots for ocean dips, and even a grassy area for picnicking or lounging. There’s also camping available, and trust us, there’s nothing more quintessentially British Columbia than waking up to gray whales passing by. If you’re keen, head up to this beach with a group of friends for a seaside BBQ, then enjoy the sunset as another perfect coastal day comes to a close.
Shhh, don’t tell the surfers that we’re letting you in on this secret. Sombrio Beach is a hot spot for catching waves, or watching up-and-coming surfers ride the often tumultuous West Coast crests. Only 10 minutes from the parking lot, you’ll be treated to low-key hiking trails, tree-top bridges, and, of course, a smooth stone beach. But don’t let the rocks dissuade you from getting your tan on. Grab a patch of beach and let the surfers entertain you, or simply drift off to the sound of waves lapping the shore. Sombrio Beach is also a great spot for a rustic camping session, though the amenities aren’t as robust as French Beach. Spend a misty morning exploring the shoreline — you might even catch a windsurfer playing in the waves — then hike to a waterfall for the picture perfect day.
China Beach and Mystic Beach
To get to Mystic Beach, you’ll follow a winding trail, cross a suspension bridge, and then tiptoe over log ladders. But when you arrive after a fun 45-minute hike, you’ll know exactly how it got its name. More secluded than the other beaches on this list, you’ll definitely experience tranquility on these pebbled shores. Surrounded by cliffs, you might even see hikers pass by as the beach marks the start of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, a multi-day hike for the adventurers out there. Take it all in from a tree swing, high above the sand and sea.
Want to experience similar surroundings, but not a hiker? Try out China Beach. Still nestled away from a lot of the tourist traffic, this beach is great for groups — sand castles, picnics, and all. Plus, the tide pools are absolutely amazing and the fine sand is perfect to dig your toes into. Only about 15 to 20 minutes from the trailhead, you can maximise your lounging time and really enjoy the expansive views of the Pacific Ocean laid out before you.
Get to know BC’s wildlife at a park full of natural wonders. Tide pools are aplenty amongst sculpted sandstone and craggy shorelines, meaning this beach is more suited to chairs than towels. That said, you won’t be bored as orcas, gray whales, and harbor seals frolic right in front of you. Rather than spending your day laid out in the coastal sun, experience crystal clear ‘potholes’ that showcase sea urchins, starfish, and all sorts of other sea life.
The best time to visit? Low tide. Check out the tide tables and plan accordingly — though we think this spot is truly beautiful whenever you choose to stop by. Because of its rugged nature, it’s best to be very prepared when you head to Botanical Beach. The tides can be unpredictable and the sandstone can be slippery, so plan accordingly.
If you’re feeling famished after your day on the shores, drive just a bit further to Port Renfrew, and dine at the rustic Coastal Kitchen Café and leave satiated for your drive back to town. Or, if you’re looking for a true escape, make your beach tour an overnighter at one of the many cabins around this little town.
They’re not all sand and surf, but these secret beaches will give you a taste of the true ruggedness and beauty of the West Coast. Whether you spend your days lounging on the shore watching the surf pass by, or exploring the vibrant sea life that flourishes in tide pools, you won’t regret the drive because that Instagram picture will definitely be worth it.
Need more inspiration? Head over to the Hello BC website.