3 Tips To Find Free Camping On Vancouver Island Without Reservations
Vancouver Island boasts some of the most spectacular camping spots in the world. The big Island boasts ocean beaches, forests, and mountains dotted with beautiful lakes and rivers. It’s really no wonder that the island’s provincial and national parks fill up fast in Summer. Camping reservations must be made months in advance to get one of these coveted campsites. It’s often impossible to get a campsite at provincial campgrounds like Miracle Beach, (Comox Valley) or Rathtrevor Beach (Parksville). In October last year, I was caught off guard when I tried to snag a campsite at Rathtrevor Beach Park and couldn’t get one. I was surprised to find it packed with families squeezing a last camping trip into the end of summer. The climate is usually really mild all over Vancouver Island, making for great camping for most of the year. However, last year’s extended summer camping weather brought a lot more people out camping, for longer. I guess that’s something we can expect to see more of as climate change continues to affect the way we camp.
Luckily, there are still plenty of places you can find amazing free camping on Vancouver Island, without enduring the crowds at Provincial and National parks. In this article, I’m going to share 3 tips I use to find amazing, often free RV campsites.
How To Find Amazing Camping On Vancouver Island
These tips will help you to find amazing Vancouver Island campgrounds. Finding a peaceful campsite in a natural setting is much easier than you might think. As a bonus, many of the places you’ll find with these tips are either free, or they have very minimal fees.
1. Look For Campgrounds In Less Populated Areas
There are lots of beautiful campgrounds on Vancouver Island that don’t see an awful lot of use from campers, even in summer. Frequently these campgrounds are cheap or even free. One trick is to look for forest service recreation site campgrounds in less popular areas like Vancouver Island North. You may also be able to get a recreation site campsite in the Vancouver Island South region. However, expect it to be busier there in the summer. The BC Ministry of Forests provides these small, tucked away recreation site campgrounds. Some of them are free, while others have a small campsite fee ($10-20). This helps to cover the cost of maintaining the campground. Although they’re unserviced, Forest Service campgrounds have amenities like fire pits and pit toilets. Nearly all Recreation site campgrounds are a little bit of heaven on earth. Click here to find recreation campsites on the North Island. Click here if you want to try your luck at finding a site closer to Victoria.
If you want to get away from the crowds on Vancouver Island and find free camping, be sure to check out the low cost campgrounds provided by Mosaic Forest Management. These are about $24/night but they are set in gorgeous spots and have basic amenities like campfire rings and pit toilets. Click here to see a list of Mosaic’s campgrounds.
2. Camp During The Shoulder Season
Campgrounds often open up with a lot more availability when kids are in school. Camping during a shoulder season makes it possible to enjoy camping in a provincial or national park without worrying about getting a reservation. The Spring shoulder season is between the end of April to the middle of June is a great time to snag a campsite and avoid the crowds. You may also want to try camping in the Fall shoulder season, between mid-September and November 30. Keep in mind that long weekends will mean that popular provincial campgrounds will usually be filled with campers . It’s a good idea to avoid provincial parks at these times if you want to get a campsite.
3. Use These Resources To Find Free Camping On Vancouver Island
There are now some great resources if you are looking for free camping on Vancouver Island. While Google is always helpful for research, it won’t bring up all the results. Sometimes an app like RV Life Pro can be very helpful for finding and researching campgrounds. However, if you want to find the best free campgrounds, you’ll have to do what locals do. Fortunately, there are some great guide books and apps available that can be excellent for finding these treasures. In addition to the links givent in the first tip, here are some guides that I use to find free camping.
- Vancover Island Backroads Mapbook. This is an up-to-date atlas of Vancouver Island’s forest service roads and attractions along them. You’ll find information regarding roads types and conditions. Backroad mapbooks also give you an idea of whether campsites have RV access. However, road conditions and access change frequently. You’ll want to to find out if the roads or campsites are still accessible before you take your rig there. Both Google and local community Facebook groups are usually very helpful for this.
- Camp Free In BC by Kathy Copeland and Craig Copeland. This is a handy book for finding a multitude of accessible campsites. Although the book is pretty dated, many of the campsites in it are still accessible. It’s a good idea to do more research before you make plans. You’ll want to make sure you can still get to the many free campsites listed.
- Camping Vancouver Island Blog This is a great blog that covers everything you need to know to have an enjoyable (and free) camping experience.