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Old 02-21-2024, 08:59 AM   #1
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Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Where to camp, what should we visit?

Hi Folks,

I haven't been active on the Airforum since they canceled the airforums app last fall (back in 2023). I miss the app, it was much easier to read and respond to postings on my phone vs the website.

Anyway, I'm trying to start keeping up with Airforums again. Let me kick that activity off with a topic for everyone

We have a really fun trip planned for this summer. Will leave North Texas in mid-may, then travel up the spine of the Rockies, hitting Grand Tetons, Yellowstone NP, Glacier NP, Waterton Lakes NP, Banff NP, Jasper NP before moving over to Vancouver, BC, Vancouver Island, then traveling down the Coast of Washington and Oregon (and zig/zagging over to North Cascades NP, Mt Ranier, Mt St Helens, Crater Lake, Oregon Caves NM) before hitting NW California (Redwood NP, Lassen Volcanic NP) and heading for home via Great Basin NP (UT), Capitol Reef NP, Valley of the Gods (UT), etc. We'll be gone for 4.75 glorious months and miss all of the summer heat back in Texas :-)

Now, finally I get to my actual question, LOL.

We have two weeks allocated to visiting Vancouver Island, BC. We'll be there from 7/11/2024 - 7/25/2024.

But, we don't have anything mapped out for Vancouver Island in terms of things we "must see/visit" or places to camp. We'd like to stay in 2 or perhaps 3 campsite locations over the 2 weeks we will be in the island and take day trips from the campsites to visit the destinations/hikes/activities that we would like to do.

We are set up for boondocking for up to 5 days at a stretch, so we would love to hear about places to camp on public land in addition to RV parks.

We have a 27ft Globetrotter FB Twin (it's really 28 ft long) and an 2024 F350 short bed (20.6ft long). The combo when hitched up is around 49ft in total, so please keep that in mind when suggesting campgrounds/campsites. We don't fit in some of the smallest campsites :-)

I'll stop typing now and hope everyone has some great recommendations for us. Have fun out there !!
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Old 02-21-2024, 09:44 AM   #2
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I don't have any suggestions, but welcome back to the forums, and that is going to be one EPIC trip!!
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Old 02-21-2024, 09:51 AM   #3
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A few ideas for you

When you travel to Metro Vancouver suggest you have a booking not far from whatever ferry you will be taking to Vancouver Island. Your choices are Horseshoe Bay which takes you to mid island, or Tsawwassen, which can take you to Victoria (Schwartz Bay) at the southern tip of the island. Make ferry reservations in advance, on line. If going through Horseshoe Bay, check out Capilano RV park in West Vancouver, it is convenient. There are also options near Tsawwassen.

On the Island, if we had two weeks, our bases would be Victoria (provincial capital, very scenic, lots of day trips); Parksville (mid island, great sandy beaches for walking, convenient mid point after wandering up the island and checking out the smaller towns) and Long Beach.

Suggest using two BC Ferry routes, one in each direction, travelling either up or down the island, and creating a loop. There is also a ferry from Victoria to the US but we don’t recommend it.

We prefer provincial and national park campgrounds but they will be in high demand.

In Victoria we have stayed in private campgrounds near Victoria itself.

Travelling up the island check out Chemainus and Ladysmith.

In Parksville we have stayed at Rathtrevor Provincial Park, and Park Sands, a private campground, both right on the beach. Englishman River Falls is close by, and nice, but we haven’t camped there.

On the way across the island check out Cathedral Grove.

Long Beach is our favourite spot on the island. Two towns, Tofino and Ucluelet, with the national park between. Incredible beaches. A new cycling path between the towns. Green Point campground in the park if you can get in. One of the private campgrounds near Tofino if you can’t.

Edit: the road to Long Beach has had some closures the past year. Should be fine when you go. Suggest you bookmark DriveBC for road condition updates throughout BC.

Happy planning!

Jeff
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Old 02-21-2024, 10:29 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by jcl View Post
A few ideas for you

When you travel to Metro Vancouver suggest you have a booking not far from whatever ferry you will be taking to Vancouver Island. Your choices are Horseshoe Bay which takes you to mid island, or Tsawwassen, which can take you to Victoria (Schwartz Bay) at the southern tip of the island. Make ferry reservations in advance, on line. If going through Horseshoe Bay, check out Capilano RV park in West Vancouver, it is convenient. There are also options near Tsawwassen.

On the Island, if we had two weeks, our bases would be Victoria (provincial capital, very scenic, lots of day trips); Parksville (mid island, great sandy beaches for walking, convenient mid point after wandering up the island and checking out the smaller towns) and Long Beach.

Suggest using two BC Ferry routes, one in each direction, travelling either up or down the island, and creating a loop. There is also a ferry from Victoria to the US but we don’t recommend it.

We prefer provincial and national park campgrounds but they will be in high demand.

In Victoria we have stayed in private campgrounds near Victoria itself.

Travelling up the island check out Chemainus and Ladysmith.

In Parksville we have stayed at Rathtrevor Provincial Park, and Park Sands, a private campground, both right on the beach. Englishman River Falls is close by, and nice, but we haven’t camped there.

On the way across the island check out Cathedral Grove.

Long Beach is our favourite spot on the island. Two towns, Tofino and Ucluelet, with the national park between. Incredible beaches. A new cycling path between the towns. Green Point campground in the park if you can get in. One of the private campgrounds near Tofino if you can’t.

Edit: the road to Long Beach has had some closures the past year. Should be fine when you go. Suggest you bookmark DriveBC for road condition updates throughout BC.

Happy planning!

Jeff
I agree with everything Jeff said. In my opinion, Tofino is a must. My wife and I stayed there a few years and had a blast kayaking in the sound with a group. I lived in Nanaimo many years ago. I always head back to Tofino when I visit the Island.
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Old 02-21-2024, 10:34 AM   #5
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I certainly would defer to JCL/Jeff regarding camping on Vancouver Island but as a Washington neighber/local I would differ on the ferry advice - there are two options to go from Vancouver Island directly to the US and I would be hesitant on taking the Sidney/Anacortes - San Juan Island route: it is very scenic but current scheduling is a bit of a problem and it would entail yet another ferry (Couprville/Port Townsend). However, I would STRONGLY encrouiage taking the Victoria to Port Angeles boat: it gets you directly to the Olympic National Park, Washington beaches etc. It is not part of the Washington State Ferry system but rather a small ship that crosses the straight, the "Black Ball Ferry".
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Old 02-21-2024, 12:40 PM   #6
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I certainly would defer to JCL/Jeff regarding camping on Vancouver Island but as a Washington neighber/local I would differ on the ferry advice - there are two options to go from Vancouver Island directly to the US and I would be hesitant on taking the Sidney/Anacortes - San Juan Island route: it is very scenic but current scheduling is a bit of a problem and it would entail yet another ferry (Couprville/Port Townsend). However, I would STRONGLY encrouiage taking the Victoria to Port Angeles boat: it gets you directly to the Olympic National Park, Washington beaches etc. It is not part of the Washington State Ferry system but rather a small ship that crosses the straight, the "Black Ball Ferry".
It is certainly possible to take the Coho from Victoria. The reasons we don’t recommend it are:

The Victoria terminal for Black Ball is right downtown, with traffic congestion. The terminal can be tight. Loading is through a side door, unlike the end loading of the BC Ferries. They can accommodate trailers and trucks, it is just tighter.

The Coho was built in the 1950s. It is the only vessel they have, so no backups in the event of a mechanical. BC Ferries can also have breakdowns, but they have multiple vessels on each route.

The Coho holds 110 cars, so is 1/3 the capacity of a BC Ferry on the Tsawwassen route.

The Coho trip costs more, and there are fewer amenities on board.

The route the Coho follows is less scenic than via Active Pass.

The Coho has far fewer sailings, 4 per day in high season vs near hourly.

The border immigration clearance adds a step. It can be faster at a land crossing.

If I was planning, coming from Banff I would come to West Van, stay overnight at Capilano RV park, cross from Hirseshoe Bay, do Parksville and Long Beach, then Victoria, travel back to Tsawwassen on BC Ferries, and then to the US, taking the Pacific crossing (aka the truck crossing) 1 mile or so from the Peace Arch crossing which is among the busiest. There are billboard signs several miles from the border giving wait times at each crossing, with four to choose from.
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Old 02-21-2024, 04:50 PM   #7
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We traveled to VI this past September and would offer the following:

1. we stayed a week at Surf Grove campground just south of Tofino. Full hook-ups and very convenient to Cox Bay, which has a nice beach and lots of surfer activity. Tacofino for great tacos! The road from Port Alberni is mostly two lane and much improved since the last time we drove it several years ago.

2. then traveled to Sidney and stayed one night at Oceanside RV Resort in Saanichton. We wanted to be close to Butchart Gardens, which is a must see. The RV park is just "ok" and you do drive through an area that is a little iffy. Had dinner at 10 Acres Pier in Sidney, which has a nice downtown area on the water.

3. Stayed three nights at Pedder Bay, about 15 miles from Victoria. Nice quiet RV campground with full hook-ups. Note: Salish Seaside RV is very convenient to downtown Victoria, but we liked Pedder Bay for the peace and quiet.

4. Took the Black Ball ferry (the Coho) from Victoria to Port Angeles. No real issues with loading other than you do need to drive through downtown Victoria. Suggest grabbing a great meal to go at Finest-at-Sea, which is near the terminal in Victoria. The good news for use is that we could take our dog to the passenger areas on the ferry.

5. From Port Angeles, we took the 101 south, stopping at Port Townsend, then cut over to I5 at Olympia, WA.

Whatever you do, avoid the I5 through Seattle!!!! The drivers and traffic are something to avoid at all costs!!

hope this is useful. We love VI!!
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Old 02-21-2024, 04:59 PM   #8
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Welcome back! I will follow along - Vancouver is on our list, maybe not this year but sooner than later.

I see quite a few places on your itinerary we have been to and would be glad to share any insights. A stray thought, maybe to the PNW people it might be ordinary but one of the most gorgeous campgrounds we ever stayed at was Iron Creek, a NF campground in Washington. It's not too far from Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Ranier so we used it as a base*. It's in a grove of old-growth Hemlock, Cedar, and Douglas Fir, huge trees and bordered by a river. On the way out we took the National Forest roads to Portland which had great views of Mt. St. Helens (and a little rugged). Anyways, one suggestion of many, I'm sure.

*It was cloudy and rainy the days we were there and we never did get much of a view of Mt. Ranier or Mt. St. Helens, but still a great trip.
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Old 02-21-2024, 05:21 PM   #9
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Foobar, glad to have you back!

Regarding Vancouver I've been watching these folks as the travel thru Canada and Vancouver. Maybe their video will be helpful for your planning process.
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Old 02-22-2024, 05:56 AM   #10
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Thanks for all the responses.

I forgot to mention that we do have ferry arrangements made (for good or ill, lol).

We are taking the BC Ferry from Vancouver Tsawwassen Terminal to Nanaimo on the way over to the Island, so we will target campgrounds in the Northern section of the Island in phase 1 of Vancouver camping.

Phase 2 (Campsite #2) will target the middle of the island.

Phase 3 will be in the southern area closer to Victoria.

Two nights before we depart on the Coho Ferry to the Olympic NP area, we have RV park reservations near the Ferry terminal in Victoria. That will give us at least one solid day to wander around Victoria and make it easy to get to the Coho ferry terminal. We already have reservations on the Coho Ferry to Port Angeles.

We might add and extra night onto the Victoria RV park reservation if we need more than one day to properly enjoy and explore Victoria (if you guys have a list of must see items in Victoria and a recommendation regarding how many days we will need to see everything, we are all ears as they say :-)).

Thanks a lot for the recommendations so far.

If we want to boondock for the first 5 days in the North, where should we camp in Phase 1?

For Phase 2, an RV park somewhere in the middle of the Island for at least one night would be beneficial to dump tanks and refill fresh water, then we could boondock for 4 nights or so. Any recommendations for an RV park and boondock campsite in the middle (i.e. the middle section when drawing a line across the island from north to south)? Anywhere from the Western area, mountainous interior, to the Eastern area is ok.

For phase 3 in the southern part of the island, as long as we can find a dump station and fresh water in between phase 2 and phase3, we can boondock until hit the RV park in Victoria.

Any specific recommendations would be appreciated. I expect campsite reservations are going to be tough to get, especially for the provincial campgrounds. There seem to be a lot of forest service campsites that are first come first served. How likely will it be that some of these will be available?
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Old 02-22-2024, 09:23 PM   #11
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The north island is like the mid island but less populated. Same water, protected quite a bit. Campbell River for fishing, or Parksville for beaches. The west side is open to the Pacific and completely different than the east side. Well worth seeing. Victoria is worth seeing but I would make sure you have a few days.

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Old 02-23-2024, 12:21 PM   #12
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We live on Vancouver Island and these are some of our favorite places.

At mid-island, Campbell River is a nice place to visit and has great views of the coastal mountains on the mainland, Salmon Point CG is well located. From here take a day trip to Elk Falls Park and go on the walkway by the falls. If you drive further north from Campbell River things get more remote, if that is what you are looking for.

Heading south to Qualicum / Parksville the beaches are vast at low tide and there are many CG’s to choose from including Rathtrevor Beach provincial park. Good easy day trips (without the Airstream) from here include Englishman River Falls and Cathedral Grove to see the giant trees.

On the west coast of the island, Tofino should not be missed with it’s numerous vast beaches facing the open ocean. A nice CG is Surf Grove, pricey but close to the beach. Nearby Ucluelet is a great spot to see and make sure to take a hike on the Wild Pacific Trail.

On the way down to Victoria there is the Malahat Skywalk which offers great views.

In Victoria if you are staying at Salish RV CG you can take the scenic Songhees Walkway along the harbour right into downtown. If you get tired, take a ride on the water taxi on the way back. If you are staying at Fort Victoria CG then drive into the city and park at the seaplane airport parking which is right down town. Things close by are Fisherman’s Wharf, Dallas road walkway, the Parliament Buildings, the Empress hotel.
A short drive from downtown is Esquimalt lagoon which offers great views of the Straight of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains in Washington State.

There are many more places to see but you would need more time.

Enjoy.
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Old 03-06-2024, 11:30 AM   #13
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Well ... First of all Vancouver Island is a great place to visit .. You need to know however, in the summer it is very much in demand ... my advise is to do an internet search for camp grounds and BOOK AHEAD. I am sorry to say if you don't it will be challenging. As far as Boondocking goes the Provincial Parks still require you to book a campsite. The "first come/first served" become few and far between. It is possible to find Forestry Campsites but that means driving on "logging road" with the hope of finding one. Really the bottom line is Book Ahead if you want a stress free visit to the Island.
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Old 03-06-2024, 05:02 PM   #14
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I certainly would defer to JCL/Jeff regarding camping on Vancouver Island but as a Washington neighber/local I would differ on the ferry advice - there are two options to go from Vancouver Island directly to the US and I would be hesitant on taking the Sidney/Anacortes - San Juan Island route: it is very scenic but current scheduling is a bit of a problem and it would entail yet another ferry (Couprville/Port Townsend). However, I would STRONGLY encrouiage taking the Victoria to Port Angeles boat: it gets you directly to the Olympic National Park, Washington beaches etc. It is not part of the Washington State Ferry system but rather a small ship that crosses the straight, the "Black Ball Ferry".
I agree that the Black Ball ferry - The Coho - is the best way to go for at least one of your trips to Vancouver Island. We’ve taken all of the ferries mentioned and most recently the Coho with our 25’ FC last fall. I am a 45-year resident of Washington and have taken all the ferries many times with all types of vehicles (motorcycles, bicycles, automobiles, just my kayak on wheels, walk-on, Airstreams, and rental U-Haul moving trucks). They are interesting and a fun way to travel. Unfortunately, the shortage of crew and significant equipment problems are plaguing this formerly very efficient service. The fix is years away.
BC Ferries are excellent. But it’s definitely worth crossing directly into Victoria from the USA Olympic Peninsula (either both directions or on your return trip).

We spent 30 days on the island from Victoria (there’s a terrific rv camp just west of Victoria within walking distance along the harbor or via “water taxi” of downtown. It’s located on the waterfront near where cruise ships dock and adjacent to the largest seaplane airport in the world.

Salish Seaside RV Haven
Location: 445 Head St
Esquimalt, BC, Canada
Phone: 250-590-5995, John
Back in, full service, 50 AMP

Remember the Canada dollar is about $.75 USD, so prices, while not cheap (especially fuel) they are about 25% less than it first appears. Usually it’s best to use your credit card if it has no exchange rate fee - this assures you the best exchange rate.

Costco fuel is cheaper but in Canada Costco takes ONLY Mastercard - NOT VISA as in the USA.

Important - if anyone in your party has EVER had a DUI anywhere in the states they WILL be denied entry at the border. DUI is a felony in Canada.

There are many great camps all along the coast. I saw terrific aurora borealis in September from Rathtrever Provincial Park.

Don’t miss Telegraph Cove. And Brown Bay is the site of famous Ripple Rock - world’s largest planned non-nuclear explosion. Ripple Rock RV Park.

And Quatse River Campground is a good starting point for visiting Cape Scott (definitely worth the drive - but on a weekend to avoid major logging machinery along the route (no trailer!).

8400 Byng Road Port Hardy, BC V0N 2P0 Canada
250-949-2395

Vancouver Island is an amazing place. There’s much more I could say, but I will end my lengthy comments here. Have a wonderful trip!
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Old 03-07-2024, 11:01 AM   #15
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I agree that the Black Ball ferry - The Coho - is the best way to go for at least one of your trips to Vancouver Island. We’ve taken all of the ferries mentioned and most recently the Coho with our 25’ FC last fall. I am a 45-year resident of Washington and have taken all the ferries many times with all types of vehicles (motorcycles, bicycles, automobiles, just my kayak on wheels, walk-on, Airstreams, and rental U-Haul moving trucks). They are interesting and a fun way to travel. Unfortunately, the shortage of crew and significant equipment problems are plaguing this formerly very efficient service. The fix is years away.
BC Ferries are excellent. But it’s definitely worth crossing directly into Victoria from the USA Olympic Peninsula (either both directions or on your return trip).

We spent 30 days on the island from Victoria (there’s a terrific rv camp just west of Victoria within walking distance along the harbor or via “water taxi” of downtown. It’s located on the waterfront near where cruise ships dock and adjacent to the largest seaplane airport in the world.

Salish Seaside RV Haven
Location: 445 Head St
Esquimalt, BC, Canada
Phone: 250-590-5995, John
Back in, full service, 50 AMP

Remember the Canada dollar is about $.75 USD, so prices, while not cheap (especially fuel) they are about 25% less than it first appears. Usually it’s best to use your credit card if it has no exchange rate fee - this assures you the best exchange rate.

Costco fuel is cheaper but in Canada Costco takes ONLY Mastercard - NOT VISA as in the USA.

Important - if anyone in your party has EVER had a DUI anywhere in the states they WILL be denied entry at the border. DUI is a felony in Canada.

There are many great camps all along the coast. I saw terrific aurora borealis in September from Rathtrever Provincial Park.

Don’t miss Telegraph Cove. And Brown Bay is the site of famous Ripple Rock - world’s largest planned non-nuclear explosion. Ripple Rock RV Park.

And Quatse River Campground is a good starting point for visiting Cape Scott (definitely worth the drive - but on a weekend to avoid major logging machinery along the route (no trailer!).

8400 Byng Road Port Hardy, BC V0N 2P0 Canada
250-949-2395

Vancouver Island is an amazing place. There’s much more I could say, but I will end my lengthy comments here. Have a wonderful trip!
Thanks, early next week the provencial campground reservation window opens up for our trip timeframe. So we are starting to review all the valuable feedback we received here and will use it to guide our planning.

Thanks a lot to everyone who have taken the time to help us out with some guidance. I'll report back sometime next week after we get our plans ironed out and finalized.
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Old 03-07-2024, 04:01 PM   #16
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Timely thread. We are heading to Banff in September for a week. We will be leaving from being in New Mexico and Colorado for July and August from Dallas to escape the heat. It looks like this one is going to be long and brutal.

We have had reservations in Oregon at Sea Perch RV Resort on the coast for over a year now in October. We plan on making our way their from Banff. I had originally planned on making our way from B.C down the coast line, but we changed our plans.
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Old 03-18-2024, 02:47 PM   #17
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Reservations have been completed.

We'll spend:

4 nights at Rathtrevor Beach Campground (just north of Nanaimo where we will land first via the ferry from Vancouver)

4 nights at Tsawaak RV resort (new RV park run by a local Indian tribe, pricey but nicely located on the beach in the Tofino area)

4 nights at Goldstream Provencial Park (NW of Victoria)

2 nights at Pedder Bay RV resort and marina right next to Victoria and convenient to the Coho Ferry.

We'll use the Rathtrevor Beach Campground as a base of operations for day trips and hikes in the Eastern central section of Vancouver Island. Tsawaak RV Park will serve for the central/western section of Vancouver Island. Goldwater will be used as a base to explore the SW and SE sections of Vancouver Island. Any time left over from exploring from Goldwater will be spent in Victoria. The Pedder Bay RV park will reserve at least one full day to see and enjoy Victoria and position us well to hop on the Coho Ferry to Washington State on our last day in Canada.

Thanks again for all of the suggestions on places to stay and things to see and do. I have captured all the notes in our travel itinerary and we'll refer to them when we are scouting Vancouver Island while we are there.
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Old 03-23-2024, 01:18 PM   #18
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Sound fabulous! For some of us headed that way sooner than later, I'd certainly appreciate an update on how things turned out.
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Old 03-26-2024, 03:19 PM   #19
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Sound fabulous! For some of us headed that way sooner than later, I'd certainly appreciate an update on how things turned out.
Will do.
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Old 04-04-2024, 11:29 AM   #20
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We live here I didn't know the Tsawaak RV resort existed! So can't offer advice there. Doesn't look like it's waterfront tho. -- just looked at the website, it's off the water and on the small side. It is closer to town.

For Tofino, our go-to is Surfgrove, short walk to Oak Bay beach, surfing vibe. https://surfgrove.com/
See the vintage Argosy .

Sproat Lake camground is about 1.5 hours from Tofino. The lake is amazing if you are into paddleboarding, or swimming etc. Super clean water and warms up in July. Ride your bike to Sproat Lake landing for a meal or cappuccino at Dellas Cafe.

https://www.sproatlakelanding.com/
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