A film & travel writer & editor, currently travelling New Zealand ~
Published January 23rd 2013
British Columbia at its best
If you're traveling to Vancouver Island in the winter or the summer, you cannot visit without heading to Port Renfrew to check out the amazing Botanical Beach and it's tidal pools, set in the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park.
Just over a two hour drive from the islands biggest city, Victoria, is the seaside town of Port Renfrew. The road to Port Renfrew takes you past one of the islands best stretches of scenery.
Stop off and watch the surf along the way, or have a surf. In the winter you can grab a hamburger from one of the local joints along the road, and then sit back in front of their open air fireplace and watch the sun set. Getting closer to Port Renfrew the road can get a bit twisty and you may have to dodge the odd local who knows the road better than you, so if you're not that confident or you really want to make sure you get the best out of the views, I suggest driving into Renfrew during daylight hours.
There are a few really good places to stay, from camping to bungalows and backpackers, but beware - during winter the town can almost close down. That doesn't stop the storm watchers from booking out any hotels with the doors still open.
Top Tip for Accommodation: Camp at Pacheedaht Campground. It's around $10 for the night and you can have an open fire and spend the afternoon climbing the huge Douglas fir trees that have made land fall after falling off the surrounding cliffs into the sea. Tent it, sleep in your car, or take your motor home. Note: bears are alive and well in this part of the world, so any food/drink must be stored safely away at night.
The beautiful Botanical Beach is tidal so you will have to make sure you arrive at the correct time or the only thing to be seen will be the sea. Use this handy link to check out the tides and find the best time to visit. When the tides do go out, that's when the nature really turns it on as it leaves behind deep pools of salty Canadian water - so teeming with life, it would make David Attenborough jealous!
Kids will love it, especially the giant piano keys nature has carved into the rock wall on the western end. Miles of mussels, every colour of star fish, snails, crabs, luminescent sea urchins and living corals make this marine park a truly wild experience. You may even be lucky enough to spot whales as they glide along the horizon line.