Parks, Lakes & Beaches
It’s water world in the Comox Valley and Campbell River region, with lakes, rivers and ocean shores set for exploration.
The Courtenay River Estuary & Courtenay Riverway Airpark is a special and unique area featuring an estuary, lagoon, tidal flats and a salt marsh. Low tide exposes an extensive tidal flat encompassing the entire estuary. The area provides habitat for 145 bird species (more than 70,000 birds, including Trumpeter swans), 218 plant species, 29 fish species (including all five species of pacific salmon) and innumerable species of intertidal animals (clams, worms, bacteria, viruses, etc.). Eagles, herons and various water birds can be seen year-round and seals regularly travel and fish for salmon in the river. Shooting stars and marsh hollyhock also grow in the marsh. Simms Park, Lewis Park and the lower Puntledge trail provide scenic riverside walks just steps from downtown Courtenay. South of the Old Island Highway just before the Fifth Street Bridge, Simms Park borders the Courtenay River and Slough.
Willemar Lake offers a remote wilderness camping and canoeing experience. Following the Comox Lake main logging road past the south end of Comox Lake, you’ll hit the foot of Willemar Lake. At nearby Forbush Lake, the Puntledge River Trail starts at its western end; 2 kilometres into the hike, pull out your picnic lunch for a rest by the waterfall. In the winter, Nymph Falls Nature Park is a raging high current river. In the summer, the waters calm down and this beautiful spot becomes a busy swimming hole for many. There is also a picnic area. The Puntledge River cascades off a series of exposed bedrock ledges before plunging into a deep pool, which is Barbers Hole. Like the other falls on the Puntledge, Stotan Falls consists of a series of falls and slides. This one drops about 60 feet in about 150 meters of run. Stotan Falls is a popular swimming ground, offering pothole jacuzzis, diving ledges and wading for the kids. The Filberg Lodge and nine acres of beautifully landscaped grounds are located on the harbour near the end of Comox Avenue. Wander through the magnificent gardens, enjoy some refreshments at the Filberg Tea house or take the children to enjoy the Hands on Farm.
You’ll find strong winds at Goose Spit Regional Park, and that’s just how the windsurfers like it. Considered to be one of the choice windsurfing locations in the area, Goose Spit is blessed with winds that funnel off the Strait of Georgia and up the Forbidden Plateau. Kye Bay has one of the most spectacular sandy beaches on the east coast of Vancouver Island, as well as a long offshore reef, which dries at some tides, creating two very diverse habitats to explore. The beach is very popular with families, particularly in the summer. Kin Beach Provincial Park offers a large day-use area with picnic facilities and a playground, as well as a campground. This small park overlooks the Strait of Georgia and offers scenic views of the mainland. Explore the rocky beach, or enjoy a picnic under the shade of mature Douglas fir trees. Seal Bay Regional Nature Park is a wildlife hot spot, and in fact, BC Wildlife Watch has designated the area as a great viewing site. Watch for California and Stellar sea lions, seals and for the annual herring migration in the spring. The Comox Native Band refer to this area as Xwee Xwhya Lug, a place with an atmosphere of serenity, and you'll quickly agree after some time in the wooded trails.
When a great beach is the priority, Miracle Beach Provincial Park is one of the most popular on the Island. The 137-hectare beach park offers picnicking, camping, beachcombing, swimming, hiking, dog walking and exploring marine tidal pools. The beach itself is cobblestone, but during low tide nearly a quarter-mile swatch of hard-packed sand flats make for a terrific sandcastle and tidal pool exploration zone for kids. (And speaking of kids, stop by the mini-golf for a round or two at Miracle Beach Adventure Golf while you’re in the park.) It’s a terrific park for wildlife spotting, with tidal pools in the sand flats that are home to water eels, starfish and crabs; seals that play along the water's edge; and herons, ravens and eagles soaring overhead. And for the true nature buff, the natural history displays at Miracle Beach Nature House make for a great rainy-day activity. Miracle Beach Provincial Park connects to Saratoga Beach—offering kilometre after kilometre of sand and beach.
The Robert V. Ostler Park is a community park situated in the downtown core, and is a popular gathering spot for locals and visitors. The park, formerly named Foreshore Park, was named in memory of a former Mayor of Campbell River. The park features picnic tables, a park and playground, and a large grassy area perfect for a family picnic. There are also Totem Poles, viewing benches and a rocky beach.
The Rotary Beach Park is an oceanfront park best known for its 6-kilometre paved walkway, the Rotary Seawalk, and displayed chainsaw wood carvings. The walkway is an activity mecca. From the park, there are some great views of the surrounding islands, marine activity and seabirds. Sequoia Park, located next to the Campbell River Museum, is a great place to view Cape Mudge First Nations Village and the lighthouse on Quadra Island. An enormous Sequoia tree looks over the Discovery Passage. There is also a stairway to the water with access to natural caves. This is also the location of the Campbell River and Ishikari, Japan, Sister City 10th Anniversary Ceremonial Torii Gate.
One of the top draws to the area for boaters is the Sayward Forest Canoe Route, a 50-km system of lakes and rivers that generally takes between three to four days to complete. The BC Forest Service has constructed portage trails that link these lakes, and also offer maps of the route itself. Forming part of the Sayward Forest Canoe Route, Gosling Lake offers excellent trout fishing, as well as paddling. A small campsite and boat launch are found at the lake. Loveland Bay is a 30-hectare park on the north shore of Campbell Lake, a rustic campsite where swimming, waterskiing, boating and fishing are popular pastimes. Near Loveland Bay is the Snowden Demonstration Forest, another destination for hiking and mountain biking. Morton Lake was reforested in 1938 after the Great Campbell River Fire destroyed nearly everything on site. It is a popular spot for boating, swimming and canoeing, and a trail in the park will lead to the quiet Andrew Lake, and the nearby Mohun Lake is an excellent fishing destination.
Buttle Lake, named for the 1860s explorer Commander, John Buttle, is the largest body of fresh water in Strathcona Provincial Park (BC’s oldest and Vancouver Island’s largest park). Canoeing and fishing are popular on the lake. There’s a boat launch here, and it’s a popular spot for waterskiing in the summer. In winter, cross-country skiers and snowshoers trek through well-marked hiking trails. The alpine trails in Strathcona Provincial Park close to Mount Washington meander through some of the most breathtaking natural terrain in BC, including the Paradise Meadows trailhead.
Elk Falls Provincial Park offers riverside campsites, and a trail that leads to the Quinsam River Hatchery, which opens daily for tours, and is a great spot for the kids. This area is also a mecca for fishing fanatics. The Elk Falls day use area leads to the 25-metre waterfall, and hiking trails wander throughout the park. Along the trails are viewing platforms, viewing benches overlooking the falls, rivers, canyon cliffs and the hatchery. For those interested in some sun or a swim, visit McIvor Lake only a few minutes west along the highway. The lake is popular with locals and offers a variety of activities, including areas for swimming, canoeing and waterskiing.
Heading north, you can stop for a peak at the Seymour Narrows-Ripple Rock Lookout, and down to Brown’s Bay. South, you can tour by Oyster Bay Regional Park and sneak peaks at Quadra Island and beyond. This park is a terrific spot for those who enjoy walking the waterline: a shoreline walking trail winds from the southern perimeter to the central harbour. Baby strollers and bikes alike share this path.