The Chilkoot Trail, which begins on tidewater in Alaska and climbs up over mountains in…
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.
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 Café 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Where to stay near Port Renfrew
Further reading on things to do on Vancouver Island
- 7 Great Things You’ll Want to do in the Sooke Area
- Hiking in Victoria BC – A Couple of the Must Do Trails
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