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Looking out to the Pacific Ocean from Botanical Beach

Botanical Beach Day Trip – Amazing Tide Pools

Botanical Beach on Vancouver Island’s wild west coast is an incredible destination if you like exploring tide pools. It also provides a taste of quintessential west coast scenery. And in winter it’s a superb place for storm watching – just be very careful around rogue waves. Access is excellent with the trailhead only about a 5 – 10 minute drive from Port Renfrew.

The beach is just a few minutes drive from Port Renfrew

Getting to Botanical Beach

Leave Sooke and drive the winding, narrow Highway 14. Allow 75 minutes to do it. When you get to Port Renfrew drive through town and look for the signs pointing the way to the beach.

But before you make the turnoff, I highly recommend picking up picnic supplies at the Coastal Kitchen CafĂ© but note that it’s closed in winter. There’s a big parking lot at the end of the road when you reach Botanical Beach.

From there it’s a 1.8 km walk on an easy trail, through temperate rainforest. You walk past Botany Bay – a worthwhile spot to explore too – on the way to the tide pools on the beach.

Read: What to do on a Trip to Port Renfrew, British Columbia

Botanical Beach is the end point – or starting point – for the Juan de Fuca Trail, a 47 km cousin of the famous West Coast Trail, that lies just a little further north so you may see backpackers coming or going if it’s spring, summer or fall.

TThe walk through the forest to the tide pools
The walk through the forest to the tide pools 
One of the pocket beaches at Botany Bay
One of the pocket beaches at Botany Bay

Visit the beach at low tide

The tide pools must be explored at very low tide – ideally on a falling tide – and all because you need to get out on the reef shelf to see the pools. Check out the tide charts for the day you want to go beforehand.

It can be tough, slippery walking on the beach shelf
It can be tough, slippery walking on the beach shelf
Why You Should Visit Botanical Beach on Vancouver Island
Even if it looks calm you need to be hyper aware of rogue waves
Tide pools visible at low tide at Botanical Beach
Tide pools visible at low tide

The tide pools contain all sorts of animal life – sea urchins, starfish, mussels, sea cucumbers, shore crabs and hermit crabs, octupus, chitons, limpets, sculpins, barnacles, periwinkles and sea anenomes. See the photo below as a guide.

Some of the creatures you'll find in the tide pools on Botanical Beach
Some of the creatures you’ll find in the tide pools 
Tide pools
Do you dare to put your hand in?
This tide pool is immediately beside the ocean at low tide
This tide pool is immediately beside the ocean at low tide
What lurks in this tide pool
What lurks in this tide pool?
Peering into a deep tide pool
Peering into a deep tide pool

You can spend many hours exploring the tide pools and enjoying a picnic – perhaps on the sandy beach at Botany Bay. Always be careful of where you stand. Avoid crushing any wildlife, falling into the pools or getting swept away by a rogue wave.

Looking out to the waves on a calm day
This is a calm day for weather? Can you imagine a storm?
The view to Washington's Olympic Peninsula
The view to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula
Exploring the tide pools
Exploring the tide pools

There are two other creatures you might see – whales – which we saw blowing just off shore, and a black bear – seen on the drive to the beach and fortunately not in the woods. Look out for both of them.

W Black bear seen on the drive to Port Renfrew
Black bear seen on the drive to Port Renfrew

Where to stay near Port Renfrew

There are lots of cottage type properties for rent including the popular Handsome Dan’s, the Sandy Feet 2 bedroom holiday home and Fish Tales Cottage for pet-friendly accommodation.

Further reading on things to do on Vancouver Island

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest board.

A trip to Botanical Beach to explore tide pools on Vancouver Island



Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing all those pictures! Vancouver Island has so much to offer, I can’t wait to visit and hike one of the trails. Although that black bear has me a little worried…

    1. Hiking the Juan de Fuca trail definitely has some appeal – especially early in the season when you most likely have the trail to yourself. Just FYI – I have heard that Sombrio Beach is the best of them all for camping overnight.

  2. Leigh, thanks for the virtual return to Botanical Beach! Tidepooling here was one of my favorite activities on Vancouver Island, too — saw a blue starfish, plain as day (though, sadly, no whales).

    I didn’t get a chance to hike the Juan de Fuca Trail, either, but I’d love to do it in the next few years, then head to Tofino and the Wickanninish Inn, then make it all the way to Telegraph Cove, the northernmost point of the island. Bet I could convince you to join me, huh? 🙂

    1. Bet I would join you. I love kayaking out of Telegraph Cove but I might choose Middle Beach Lodge or Long Point Resort instead of the Wickanninish. I especially love the Great Room at Middle Beach.

    1. I think anyone who’s grown up on a coast – like you,or the water has a natural affinity for other cities with similar physical characteristics. That’s just part of the equation but I think you’ll have a blast Candice in Vancouver. Hope you have time to explore outside of the city too.

  3. I recall, many years ago, enjoying tidal pools on Long Beach. It was absolutely fascinating. I have not heard of Botanical Beach before but when I have a chance to get out that way, I will check it out. Great photos. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I had seen similar pools when I hiked the West Coast Trail – but I wasn’t in the lingering mood at the time. A trip to Botanical Beach if you’re in the area is definitely worth the effort.

  4. The Juan Fuca trail is on my list of trails I want to hike, but haven’t made it there yet. The tide pools look really interesting. I could spend hours exploring them. Great photos!

  5. I have to add this to my bucket list when I schedule a visit to Seattle and Vancouver–but agree with one of the comments above– that black bear!

    1. @Scott Not too many places in the world where that’s possible. We were very lucky that day.
      @Charu Bears were seen from the safety of our car so no worries – as long as you don’t come between momma & her cubs. I

  6. Great shots and great article Leigh. Next time I go I’ll try to get more shots of the colourful critters in those tide pools. Also, check out Sombrio and Mystic beach.

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