When temperatures start to soar, tourists and locals alike seek out the best places to cool off. Whether you prefer freshwater frolics or salty ocean waves, there are some amazing spots to swim on Vancouver Island.
While many of the following spots have already been mentioned in a recently published article entitled, “Best Sandy Beaches“, there are several more great places to explore.
Due to the vast array of spots to swim on Vancouver Island, this particular post focuses on the Mid-Island area. And the areas are listed south to north.
This large park is a major gathering spot for summer activities, including many of Ladysmith’s festivals and community events. However, it is also a fantastic location to swim, picnic, kayak, and play. For the kiddos, there is a great playground and a water spray park, as well as a sandbox with a climbing apparatus and a playboat.
Head to the town of Ladysmith via the Trans Canada Highway. As you approach the village there is a large sign identifying Transfer Beach. Follow the short paved access road to a large parking lot.
The Nanaimo River offers deep swimming holes of cool clean water. Its many access points provide locals with some of the best freshwater pools around.
While there are several entry points into the Nanaimo River, one of the easiest to access is at the Nanaimo River Regional Park. A developed trail network provides walkers, cyclists, swimmers and nature lovers with lots of room to recreate in the woods and along the river.
Park entrances are located on Fry Rd (off Nanaimo River Rd, off Hwy 1) and Frey Rd (off Emblem Rd, off Thatcher Rd, off Main Rd, off Morden Rd, off Hwy 1).
Another popular access point to the Nanaimo River is the Cedar Bridge, on your way into Cedar (although parking is atrocious).
Offering Nanaimo’s only lifeguarded freshwater swimming spot (June-August), it’s no wonder Westwood Lake is a popular place to be in the summer. Enjoy the sandy beach, small playground, washrooms and change rooms, plus a well-groomed 5 km trail that circumnavigates the entire lake.
Park entrance is located at 381 Westwood Road, off of Jingle Pot Road.
If relaxing near a beautiful lake is what you like to do, then make sure you’ve visited the top 10 lakes on Vancouver Island.
Parksville locals head to the beautiful Englishman River when they are looking for freshwater swimming. Deep crystal-clear pools can be found at Top Bridge as well as at the base of the lower Englishman River Falls.
Top Bridge is found at the end of Chattell Rd (off Kaye Rd, off Hwy 19A by the truck scales).
Englishman River Falls Provincial Park is located 13 km southwest of Parksville. Take Errington Road off Highway 4, toward Port Alberni. Directional signs are posted on main highways.
This 2 km long stretch of sandy beach is a famous Parksville landmark. The shallow, and ultimately warm, waters at Rathtrevor make for the best swimming opportunities for young children. At low tide, that same shallow water area becomes nearly a kilometre-long stretch of soft sand leading out into the Strait of Georgia.
Rathtrevor Beach fronts many of Parksville’s resorts along Resort Drive, as well as the Provincial Park. The easiest and most convenient access point is found at the Rathtrevor Provincial Park (off Hwy 19A).
During those warm summer days, the ocean water temperature at Parksville Beach can be as high as 20°C in the shallow areas. Even at high tide, this flat beach is a safe spot to play or stroll. The Community Park is a perfect access point to Parksville Beach. With a huge (albeit fantastic) play park, a water spray park, and sandy shores perfect for building sandcastles, this park will surely keep those little ones happy for hours!
The Community Park is located at 193 Beachside Drive (off Hwy 19A).
For a refreshing freshwater dip surrounded by beautiful forested mountains, head to Cameron Lake. It’s an ideal spot for picnics, fishing, windsurfing and swimming, It’s conveniently located just off the highway between Parksville and Port Alberni.
Located off of Hwy #4 on your way to Port Alberni. Watch for signs for ‘Cameron Lake Day Use Area’.
Don’t let the name of this lake keep you away, for it’s a glorious place to cool off in the summer, as well as one of the best picnic sites in the area. Spider Lake features a small sandy beach and warm water perfect for all ages. With its many legs of winding inlets (the reason for its name), the lake is also popular for canoeing and kayaking.
Spider Lake Provincial Park is located16 km west of Qualicum Beach. The park can be accessed via the Horne Lake exit off Hwy #19 or Hwy #19a. Follow signs for 5 km to Spider Lake.
The shallow water at Qualicum Beach heats up nicely when the weather is hot, making it an ideal ocean swim location. The natural curve of the bay also makes it somewhat sheltered created a calm spot. And the ideal spot for swimming is right near the Shore Restaurant which serves delicious food, ice cream and drinks!
For a scenic drive, take the Oceanside Route through Parksville to Qualicum Beach along Hwy 19A. For a quicker route, take exit 60 off BC-19. Merge onto Memorial Road (BC-4 E) and take the second exit at the roundabout to stay on Memorial Road. Head down to the water and turn left at the lights. Your destination will be on your right. Parking is available along Hwy 19A near the Shore Restaurant.
The incoming tide at Kye Bay gently washes over the hot sand making the ocean water an ideal temperature to swim in. And with its many shallow tidal pools filled with marine life, and soft sand perfect for building sandcastles, it’s no wonder Kye Bay is known as one of the best beaches for kids. Kye Bay beach is also dog-friendly, and a popular picnic spot for Comox locals.
From Hwy 19A follow Ryan Road to almost the very end and turn right on Military Row (right by the Comox Airforce Museum). At the roundabout take the Knight Road exit. Continue along Knight Road until you find Kye Bay Road, and follow until the very end.
Located between Courtenay to the south and Campbell River to the North, Saratoga Beach is considered one of the best stretches of soft shimmering sand on the sheltered east coast of Vancouver Island. The mile-long gently sloping stretch of beach is the perfect oceanfront playground for children. With the tide extending almost a quarter of a mile out, this area offers warm, shallow and safe swimming conditions, free from powerboat traffic, deep water or strong currents.
From the community of Courtenay travel north on the Inland Hwy (Oceanside Route) approximately 25 kilometres (16 Miles) to Saratoga Beach. The turnoff to Saratoga Beach is exit #144.
Have I missed any of your favourite spots to swim in this area of Vancouver Island? Let us know in the comments below.
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And of course the biggest lake one the island lake cowichan!
Lake Cowichan is amazing, and yes, definitely a great suggestion. Just so you are aware, however, Kennedy Lake is the biggest lake on the island. 🙂
Not actually on Van Isle, but Tribune Bay on Hornby is great place for a Ocean Swim.
Definitely a great spot!
Qualicum Beach! The bay keeps it calm most of the time, endless sand, awesome ice cream/coffee shop right on beach, SUP rentals right st beach also! and shallow for long ways out… edge of paradise????
Oooh, yes, thank you, Connie! Great suggestion!