Quiet, peaceful escape near Vancouver
August 17, 2010 3:36 PM   Subscribe

Where to go for a quiet budget vacation near Vancouver at end of August?

We have a week off before school starts again, and we (2 people) have no idea where to go for a few days to a week that would be quiet (no parties or other excitement) with good air, and good for a student budget. Maybe somewhere on Vancouver Island, but I have no idea where. The west coast of the Island is appealing in theory, but how busy is it nowadays? A previous askmefi question shows a 3-bedroom house for $200 a day -- nice but we only have two people. Too expensive for us. Campgrounds are inexpensive, but my experience with them is noisy kids, radios and smokey fires. I expect renting a boat and taking it to a marine park would be similarly noisy, not that I have experience with boats in that way. The air in the city has not been good with hazy smoke from the Interior fires. We'd love to escape for a few days. We like exploring nature, but I've had pneumonia this summer, so really high-energy activites are out. I'd be happy to house-sit, pet-sit, and tend someone's garden, but I guess we'll have to plan ahead for future years for that one. Isn't there some low-key, inexpensive escape available? Suggestions appreciated.
posted by Listener to Travel & Transportation around Vancouver, WA (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I just spent the weekend at China Beach, on the west coast of the Island (south of Port Renfrew). The campsite was full, but it was pretty quiet - quiet time begins at 11pm. There are also no fires right now.

I wouldn't recommend the west coast, as it is going to start getting cool in the evenings, which makes night uncomfortably cold (if you are camping). The east coast is much warmer and drier, and I would recommend Rathtrevor, in Parksville, for camping. It's a beautiful park with awesome views of the Sunshine Coast. You can spend the day at Rathtrevor beach itself, which stretches out for almost a kilometer at low tide. For day trips, you can drive over the hump to Port Alberni, and stop at Coombs along the way, or visit Parksville itself, or Qualicum Beach, Englishman River Falls, or Little Qualicum Falls.

Longbeach/Pacific Rim National Park is about 3 hours from Parksville, so technically-speaking it's do-able as a day trip.

It's going to cost about $20 a night at a campsite, although we stayed at a motel a few years ago with a kitchenette that was around $100 a night. We're planning to stay at a resort in Qualicum Beach in a couple of weeks, and it costs $125 a night to rent a two-room cabin.

Another cool place to camp would be Ruckle Park, on Saltspring Island. The campground is right on the water, and you can watch the ferries go by.

Both Rathtrevor/Parksville are easy to get to from Vancouver by ferry.

There isn't a lot of camping close to Victoria - Goldstream is pretty crowded and noisy. There are some private campgrounds in Sooke which I haven't checked out (too close to home), but Juan de Fuca Prov Park and Marine Trail is pretty spectacular - that's where China Beach is (beautiful sand and Sitka Spruce groves), and the day use park features a hiking trail to Mystic Beach. It's not too strenuous, but if you have had pneumonia... If you stay at China Beach, you can also make the drive to Botanical Beach, just outside Port Renfrew. But, once again, it's a bit of a hike down to the beach from the trailhead, and if you are recovering from a cold it may not be a good idea.

French Beach offers easier access to the beach (2-minute walk from the parking lot), but it's a shingle beach, rather than sand.

I would tend to avoid Lake Cowichan, because it can get quite rowdy.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:52 PM on August 17, 2010

I doubt we will see much rain before Labour Day so the fire ban will probably stay in effect until then and the province will have a brown haze that long as well.

That said, what about some of the smaller provincial campgrounds like Juniper Beach which is right on the Thompson River, near Kamloops. If you went during the week before the Labour Day weekend you probably can still get a spot.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 3:57 PM on August 17, 2010

What about heading to Bowen Island? I stayed there with my folks a few years back after a wedding in Vancouver, it was pretty nice and relaxing. It would probably help if you had a car, mind you.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:00 PM on August 17, 2010

The one thing about camping at China Beach that you definitely would not like is road noise - although the campsite is located away from West Coast Road, you can still hear the motorcycles - the road to Port Renfrew is really popular with motorcyclists because it twists and turns. French Beach would be the same. Texada or Quadra Island would be very quiet.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:10 PM on August 17, 2010

I forgot. A friend of mine stayed at Elkhaven Cottages in Sayward on the Island. If you have a car its about a 3hr drive up from Nanaimo. The old Island Highway can be a nice trip if you want to take your time. My friend and his partner stayed there for 3 nights. Just sat around reading trashy novels.

Also, I have a soft spot for Powell River, though not sure how busy it is up there this time of year or what camping is like but there are lots of cheaper B&Bs and motels to the south of town.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 4:15 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is a hostel in Birch Bay Wa. that is low key, economical, rent some bikes or go on hikes around Boundary Bay.
posted by hortense at 4:20 PM on August 17, 2010

You could easily find a quiet B&B on the island for far less than $200 a night.

Other camping opportunities that may appeal to you are:

Sidney Spit
Discovery Island (hire a boat to drop you off, pick you up)
Ruckle Park
Montague Harbour

As KokuRyu said, due to our very dry summer here in BC there are no campfires allowed, period. From my experience when there are no campfires then people tend to go to bed as soon as the sun goes down.
posted by talkingmuffin at 4:27 PM on August 17, 2010

Our honeymoon was in Tofino, on the Pacific Ocean side of Vancouver Island. It was idyllic. There is a wide range of lodging, including some nice camping options. Nearby is Ucluelet, which is even more low key and reportedly nirvana for fishing.
posted by bearwife at 4:54 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you have a vehicle that can handle questionable roads, grab a backroads map book and maybe check out some forest service campgrounds on the island. There are some beautiful out of the way spots, and noisy families usually stick to the full-facility easily-accessible ones.
posted by bethnull at 5:22 PM on August 17, 2010

i can easily recommend surf junction campground near ucluelet. no car required as it is accessible by greyhound and you can walk directly into long beach, or take a cab/bus/hitch around to many fabulous short walks and beaches nearby. very well run by nice people, great amenities, and reservations are very much recommended. the air is virtually guaranteed to be clear.
posted by paradroid at 7:19 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

i forgot: surf junction has an exemption on campfire bans and high quality firewood.
posted by paradroid at 8:08 PM on August 17, 2010

Yellow Point B&B is charming, very quiet, pretty quaint, and hosted by a lovely lovely couple who fix a fabulous breakfast. And ther rates are darned reasonable.

We've stayed there twice and if was lovely both times.

Activities: lawn games that we brought, walks, looking at the chickens with the kids, pubbing and eating out. We went to a logging fair one day, and some sort of forestry museum another, and spent time playing cards, drinking beer, getting pedicures and hanging out.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:33 PM on August 17, 2010

Response by poster: Great answers so far -- thanks. I just want to add that, yes, we do have a vehicle and I could probably paddle a canoe a couple of hours to get to a campsite, which would be great if the lake has no power boats. (Yes, I said no vigorous activity, but I used to paddle for 8 hours, no problem. I can probably do the equivalent of 2 in a day.)
posted by Listener at 10:34 PM on August 17, 2010

Response by poster: All useful answers. Thank you.
posted by Listener at 11:14 PM on August 18, 2010

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