Boat Camping Around Vancouver Island

Where and How to Camp by Boat

Camping by boat might not be what comes to mind when you think about heading into the great outdoors. Usually, it involves planning when and where you want to go before packing everything into your car, not your boat. But, for boat owners, camping can take on a whole new dimension. There are two ways to go camping by boat:

  • By Yacht. With a yacht, your opportunities for camping by boat are virtually endless. After all, you can cook and sleep in your boat and take a dinghy or kayak out for exploring. 
  • By Canoe. Launching from a boat ramp and paddling your canoe through one of our many lakes and rivers can certainly be a way that you can go camping by boat. Everything you take must be able to fit into your canoe, however, so pack smart! 

Check the Weather Before Going Boat Camping

Inland boat campers may get a little soggy in poor weather, but those going camping by boat can face much more extreme weather. Check the forecast for the places you intend to visit, but make sure you check the marine weather too. This type of forecast gives you valuable information concerning wind speed, wave height, precipitation, storm watches, air temperatures, and more. Learning how to understand a marine weather forecast will help you plan a safe trip. 

Staying Safe


Camping by boat doesn’t just involve loading up and leaving. There are three critical things to consider when you are getting ready to go out on a boat:

Take the time to ensure that your boat is safe and that you and your guests understand how to enjoy camping by boat safely. Transport Canada requires – by law – that the following items be present:

  • One correctly fitted Personal Flotation Device/ Lifejacket for every passenger
  • One buoyant heaving line at least 15m in length
  • A manual propelling device or anchor with at least 15m of rope
  • A selection of visual signalling devices
  • A sound signalling device
  • A fire extinguisher
  • A bailing device or hand pump

If you are canoe camping, safety measures are a little more straightforward. Make sure you have the above items and that everybody knows what to do in an emergency. If you have a yacht, you will also need to think about a few extra things:

  • Are your fuel and oil levels good?
  • Are all the onboard batteries charged?
  • Are all the lights working?
  • Is the radio working?
  • Do your guests know what to do if you are incapacitated?

Ready, Set, Let’s Go Boat Camping!

As with any trip, camping by boat requires a few last-minute preparations so that everything is well-planned and organized. The most basic preparations involve making sure you have enough clothing, bedding, food, water and first aid to cover the entire trip. In addition, you will need to make sure all your essential documents – such as licences and ID – are easily accessible. Finally, you will also need to consider the weather forecast for the entire span of your intended trip to determine potential safety issues.

If you are heading out on a yacht, there are a few things to prepare before you leave:

  • Put your essential papers in a safe, accessible place
  • Check your onboard machinery
  • Check that your safety devices are not expired 
  • Have all the maps and charts you will need for the trip 
  • Calibrate your compass
  • Check your anchor and ropes
  • Check your engine
  • Check for damage, including the electrical and sanitation systems
  • Make sure someone you trust knows where you are going and when you expect to be back

The Top 3 Spots to Boat Camp Around Vancouver Island

Buttle Lake, Strathcona Park

Awe-inspiring Strathcona Park is almost at the center of Vancouver Island. It extends from midway between Parksville and Courtenay to just northwest of Campbell River. It is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia, having been incorporated in 1911. While you get to the Buttle Lake, Karst Creek and Ralph River campgrounds and boat ramps by vehicle, there are also campsites on the lake that are boat access only. Over 23 kilometres in length, Buttle Lake features these popular camping spots:

  • Rainbow Island
  • Mt Titus Marine Campsite
  • Wolf River
  • Phillips Creek

All campsites have pit toilets and several pads for tents. Along with fantastic boating opportunities for kayaks, canoes, and motorboats, Strathcona Park boasts some of the most scenic hiking trails on all of Vancouver Island. You can also enjoy rock climbing, fishing, swimming, waterskiing and abundant wildlife watching.

Broken Group Islands

Located between Ucluelet and Bamfield on Vancouver Island’s west coast, you will find Barkley Sound, home to the lush forests of the Broken Group Islands. While visitors are encouraged to explore and go camping by boat to their heart’s content, onshore camping can only be done at these designated areas:

  • Hand Island
  • Turret Island
  • Gibraltar Island
  • Willis Island
  • Dodd Island
  • Clarke Island
  • Gilbert Island

Access to the Broken Group Islands is boat-only, but there is plenty to see and do onshore and offshore. You can explore tidal pools or take a leisurely paddle through the emerald-green waters that surround the islands. Be on the lookout for eagles, bears, whales, sea otters, and so much more!

Each designated camping area features solar composting toilets, but visitors must bring in their own water and take out any refuse and protect the local ecosystem. 

Rugged Point Marine Provincial Park


Located ¾ up the west coast of Vancouver Island, this boat-access-only park sports one of the most stunningly beautiful stretches of coastline on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Its protected beaches are quiet and serene, contrasting sharply with the wind-swept waves of the Pacific.

Rugged Point Marine Provincial Park is a haven for explorers and boat enthusiasts, but not many know that you can camp onshore there. The designated camping area is small, featuring only four tent platforms, but you are allowed to pitch your tent on the beaches if you wish.

Alternatively, you can spend your nights offshore and stretch your legs in the day-use area. There you will find a sheltered picnic area, a pit toilet and a food cache.

Rugged Point Marine Provincial is popular for canoeing and kayaking, but you can also fish, windsurf and see wildlife.


Do we have you thinking about going camping by boat? Our experienced crew will help set you on the right path. Contact Van Isle Marina today!