A pleasant drive and day trip is the route to the small town of Port Renfrew.
Take a beautiful and scenic drive of approx. 100km (one way) to the West Coast town of Port Renfrew.
Fishing, whale watching, bird watching, hiking and exploring tidal pools on low tide are some of the activities found in and around Port Renfrew.
The most notable attraction is called Botanical Beach where exposed tidal pools show a large variety of marine fauna & flora.
The Botanical Beach parking lot is the western terminus of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, located at
Kilometer 47. This parking lot provides access to nearby Botany Bay and Botanical Beach itself.
Botanical Beach affords visitors with access to uniquely rich tide pools and shoreline trails with fantastic geological features. The extensive variety of marine flora and fauna in this colourful intertidal zone includes red, purple and orange starfish and sea urchins, white gooseneck barnacles, blue mussels and green sea anemones and sea cucumbers. Coralline algae, periwinkles, chitons and sea stars can also be seen at Botanical Beach.
The region is so biologically significant that the University of Minnesota installed the first marine research station in the Pacific Northwest at Botanical Beach in 1901. Since then, the area has been used for research by a number of universities in BC and Washington.
A low tide of 1.2 meters or less is best for viewing these tide pools (Port Renfrew tides).
Impact of human activity on the intertidal area is of growing concern. When visiting Botanical Beach, please look in the tide pools only – do not touch the marine life. Do not remove, collect or disturb any tide pool life, shells, plants, flowers, kelp, etc. – they are all part of a vulnerable ecosystem that Botanical Beach was established to protect. Even touching the water in a tide pool with sunscreen on your hands can create an “oil slick” that could kill the vulnerable creatures in this sensitive ecosystem. Photographs make great souvenirs.
The Botanical Beach day-use area offers parking, pit toilets, visitor information and picnic areas. While hiking on the trail, cars can be left overnight in the Botanical Beach parking lot.
Port Renfrew is also very close to many world-class trails and parks:
WEST COAST TRAIL
The West Coast Trail is an internationally acclaimed hiking trail that retraces an old telegraph route that once connected Victoria with Cape Beale near Bamfield. Once used as a safety route for survivors of coastal shipwrecks, the trail takes the hiker along the wild and remote west coast of Vancouver Island through cedar, hemlock and spruce forests, along cliffs, beaches and sandstone ledges and over suspension bridges spanning rivers and flowing streams.
The Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) is fighting to preserve this stand of old-growth forest near Port Renfrew, with its burly cedars, large Douglas Fir, and home of Canada’s gnarliest tree.
RED CREEK FIR
The San Juan and Gordon Rivers converge at the foot of Port San Grey whole in estuary (II. Chester) Juan bay. The proximity to the Pacific and local high relief results in a mild and wet maritime climate. This has created ideal conditions for vegetation to grow and the result, after millennia, is that the San Juan Valley has deep rich soils. The presence of the giant Red Creek Fir is a testament to these superb growing conditions. Said to be Canada’s largest standing Fir Tree, the Red Creek fir is estimated to be 750 years to 1,000 years old.
Height – 73.8 m (242’)
Circumference -12.55 m (41’2”)
Crown – 22.9 m (75’)
Located 2.5 km outside of Port Renfrew, the Red Creek fir is accessible by four wheel drive only.
CARMANAH WALBRAN PROVINCIAL PARK
Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park is a luxuriously forested sanctuary that is without a doubt one of the most remarkable wild places on Vancouver Island. The park is home to the world’s tallest sitka, the Carmanah Giant, at 95m (315 ft) and some of the world’s largest spruce trees, some living for 800 years or more. The park is also home to ancient, gnarled cedars – estimated to be well over 1,000 years old – clinging to the side hills. The park offers protection to diverse forest ecosystems, including a large Sitka spruce ecosystem that represents 2% of BC’s remaining old-growth forest.
Access to the park is 20 km north of Port Renfrew.
JUAN DE FUCA TRAIL
This hiking area stretches along 47 kilometres of wild and beautiful rainforest coastline, cradled between Port Renfrew at the west end and Jordan River at the east end. West Coast rainforests with giant cedars and beautiful white sand beaches are two of the many features one will encounter as the unforgettable experience of hiking this trail begins to take hold.
Located at approximately Kilometer 29 of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, the large cobbled Sombrio Beach can be reached via a 250-meter access trail from the Sombrio Beach Trailhead parking lot, off Hwy 14. There are two designated wilderness camping areas at Sombrio Beach; one at East Sombrio and one at West Sombrio.
Visitors can explore or hike east or west along the beach, enjoy a picnic or try their hand at surfing in this world-class surfing area. Sombrio Beach is part of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, so please respect trail hikers. Parkinson Creek is approximately 9 km west of Sombrio Beach; the nearest trailhead to the east is the Juan de Fuca East (China Beach) Trailhead at Kilometer 0.
China Beach day-use area is a spectacular spot for family outings and day trips, 35 km west of Sooke and 36 km east of Port Renfrew. The 15-20 minute hike (each way) through the mature forest of Sitka spruce, Douglas fir and Western red cedar leads visitors to the great rolling breakers of a tumultuous sea.
The fine sand beach is ideal for picnicking, sandcastle building, wading and relaxing. Take a short walk to the western end of the beach to the waterfall or wander at length to the east. It is possible to walk along the beach between China Beach and Second Beach.
In the spring and fall, look for the magnificent grey whale offshore as it travels along its migratory route. As many as 17,000 of these mammoth creatures travel down the coast throughout the migration period; some, in fact, spend the summer off the shores of Vancouver Island.
There are 78 drive-in campsites available at this campground. Campsite reservations are accepted and first-come, first-served sites are also available. Some facilities are wheelchair accessible; pit toilets and water taps are located throughout the campground. There are no showers facilities and no sani-station/dump facilities at this park. Closest sani-station located at French Beach Provincial Park. No cycling on park trails; cycling is permitted on the campground road network only.
Port Renfrew offers world-class salt water fishing for salmon, halibut, crab, ling cod, red snapper, and a variety of bottom fish. Port Renfrew’s fishing, in particular the nearby Swiftsure Bank, is considered by many to be BC’s best kept secret. Learn more about salt water fishing opportunities in Port Renfrew at FishingPortRenfrew.ca, including information on species, seasons, and locations.
Port Renfrew’s rivers and lakes also offer abundant fresh water fishing for trout, bass, and steelhead.
SURFING, KAYAKING & CANOEING
Port Renfrew is located in San Juan Harbour, home to two surf breaks, both breaking at the rivermouths along the beaches to the north-west of town. When the big south-west swells arrive, these can deliver some excellent waves … but a good wetsuit is required, year-round! While not common, windsurfing can also be done in the Harbour … summer is consistently windy in the afternoons.
The San Juan and Gordon Rivers offer miles and miles of kayaking and canoeing … including some white water kayaking for the adventurers. Contact Trailhead Resort for more information on kayaking opportunities.
Fairy Lake and Lizard Lake are two nearby swimming lakes, approximately 5km and 10km from Port Renfrew along the Gordon Main Road (towards Lake Cowichan). When the summer fog rolls in and the beach is chilly, it is not uncommon to find after the short run inland it is 10-15 degrees (Celsius) warmer … beach weather! Locals and visitors alike enjoy the summer swimming. And yes, you can even search for lizards in Lizard Lake! (actually red bellied newts)
RestaurantsCOASTAL KITCHEN CAFE
Fully licensed restaurant serving breakfast, lunch & dinner since 2001. Famous for our Halibut & chips, 35 cent wing night, & Fisherman’s breakfast.
250-647-5545PORT RENFREW RESORTS
Enjoy fresh local fare while enjoying the view from the waterfront dining room and large deck at the restaurant and Wharfside pub.
Located at the Port Renfrew Marina. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Come try our fish tacos, pulled pork sandwiches and wood fired pizza. We deliver! Check us out on Facebook.
(613) 855-3373 / www.facebook.com/SalmonberryBistro
There are many options if you want to spend a day … or longer in the area. Click HERE for a listing.
RV Parks & MarinasRV Campsites & MarinasBUTCH’S MOORAGE
Seasonal moorage. First come, first served basis.
250-647-5517PACHEEDAHT CAMPGROUND & MARINA
Oceanfront Camping, Boat Launch, Marina & Showers. Reservations recommended. email@example.com
250-647-0090PACIFIC GATEWAY MARINA
Pacific Gateway Marina is a small family operated business. Moorage for up to 45 boats. Open annually from May15-Sept 15. Services include: fuel,fresh water & ice. Providing service to the local charter fleet & Port Renfrew’s numerous visitors.
firstname.lastname@example.org / office: 250-412-5509 / 1-877-443-4303PORT RENFREW MARINA & RV PARK
Marina & RV park open May 1 – Oct. 15. Offering tent & RV sites, some with power. Boat launch & moorage, bait, tackle, fishing licenses, ice, gas. Daily, monthly & seasonal rates.
A good way to go is the ‘circle route’ … going one way out and the other way back. This makes the trip a grand total of approx. 266kms. The roads have been much improved in the last few years and it makes a nice (although long) drive!