When I was a kid growing up in Quebec, my family spent many summers camping throughout the province, trying out different spots and exploring nature. Now that I have a family with kids of my own, and live in Mother Nature’s backyard here in beautiful British Columbia, there are more reasons than ever to head to the great outdoors for nights under the stars, camp fires, making s’mores and creating lasting memories. And, B.C. is a pretty big province, with lots of incredible places to go camping … so, how do you choose the location that’s right for your own family? Well, don’t fret. I’ve compiled a list of the top family camping spots in B.C. for you, so all you have to do is worry about packing the marshmallows and graham crackers. Read on for suggestions on where your family should be pitching their tent this summer.
If you’re living in the Lower Mainland or Vancouver proper—and you don’t want to travel too far—there are ample camping opportunities right close by. These are great locations for a simple overnight trip when you just want to get out of the city for a day, or for longer holidays where you’ve decided on a less expensive “stay-cation” in awesome B.C.
Alice Lake Provincial Park
Okay, maybe I’m being a bit subjective just because I live in the Sea to Sky Corridor in Squamish, however I think most people would also place Alice Lake on a list of top spots to camp in B.C. It’s just an hour drive from downtown Vancouver, and the lake is simply gorgeous, surrounded by towering, snow-capped mountains, dense rainforest and some sunny grassy areas. In addition to Alice, there are also three other freshwater lakes in the park, so make sure you’ve packed a fishing pole as well as your bathing suits. All the lakes are connected by great hiking trails, so bring some comfortable footwear or hiking shoes, as well as a good mountain bike, because Alice Lake’s trails connect to some of the best riding on the North Shore. But make sure you reserve well in advance at this popular camping spot, because it is full even on weekdays.
Cultus Lake Provincial Park
Also located a little over an hour outside of downtown Vancouver in the Fraser Valley, Cultus Lake Provincial Park probably offers the most family activities of all the campgrounds on this list. There are four campgrounds at this beautiful lakefront park, surrounded by forested hills and mountains. Bring plenty of bug spray to keep the pesky mosquitoes at bay, and fill your large cooler with some extra beverages because you’ll definitely be making a few new friends at this extremely busy camping spot. What makes it such a popular location is the small Cultus Lake community itself, which features an outstanding waterpark with water slides galore, plus two golf courses, bumper boats, go-carts, canoe, boat and jet ski rentals, mini golf, restaurants, stables, marina and more. Again, book early because this is a sizzling hot destination for families.
The Sunshine Coast is just as easy to get to from Vancouver as the Sea to Sky Corridor, and it may present a bit more of an adventure for the kids because you have to take a short ferry ride to get there. However, in just about 45 minutes you can sail over from the Lower Mainland to Sechelt, where you’ll find a few ideal family campgrounds.
Porpoise Bay Provincial Park
Just a few minutes north of Sechelt you’ll happen upon Porpoise Bay Provincial Park. This popular and fair-sized campground offers open, grassy areas and nice sandy beaches. Paddlers tend to like this location quite a bit, and use it as a home base for paddling excursions along the Strait of Georgia. There are also tidal zones to discover, plus a kids playground and even an isthmus (a narrow strip of land with sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land) to explore. The park also has a “clean air policy” in effect, so there are communal campfires (they are not permitted at individual camp sites) so you’ll want to bring a good camping stove in case you’re not keen on hanging out every night with your site neighbours.
If you are going to camp in B.C., you absolutely must make the trek and take the longer ferry trip over to Vancouver Island. The area is simply pristine, sparsely populated and offers meadows teeming with wildflowers, mountains, beaches, rivers, lakes and an incredibly diverse ecosystem with a multitude of opportunities for wildlife viewing.
Green Point Campground, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
Located between Tofino and Ucluelet, Green Point Campground is one of the nicest spots on the West Coast. The campground itself is perched on a bluff above famous Long Beach, where your kids can spend endless hours on one of the most amazing (and long, hence the name) sandy beaches anywhere, building sand castles to their heart’s content. You’ll want to bring some binoculars along on the trip, because there is a good chance you could spot a gray or humpback whale out in the Pacific Ocean. It’s also a good idea to pack some rain gear when camping out here, as well as some good tarps for your site, because the west coast of Vancouver Island is certainly no stranger to storms rolling in from the sea.
Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park
Over on the east coast of Vancouver Island you’ll find the busy and super-popular-with-families Rathtrevor Provincial Park. Kids will love the beach here, because when the tide goes out, the ocean practically disappears into the horizon. That leaves a huge swath of softer-than-soft sand for the ultimate beachcombing/sandcastle-making experience. In the area you’ll also find a pretty fun adventure playground for the kiddies, as well as a water park right on the beach. Nearby Parksville also offers mini golf, bumper boats, museums, waterfalls, a butterfly garden and a whole lot more, such as hiking, biking, kayaking. Plus (for Dad and Mom), there are a few select wineries also located in the area.