Camping at Porteau Cove Provincial Park

Quick Facts:
  • BC Provincial Parks website:
  • Access to water: steps to the water’s edge
  • Fantastic views of Howe Sound
  • Deluxe facilities: flush toilets, hot shower in the loop.
  • Activities: water sports, or just be mesmerized by the ocean views.
  • Beach type: rocky beach.
  • Main drawbacks: traffic noise from highway and trains, fearless raccoons and squirrels
  • Outdoor Fam rating: 9 out of 10

The most stunning waterfront campsites are usually reserved for paddle campers who have to put in the work, but there’s one location where you can park your car next to your tent: Porteau Cove Provincial Park.

It’s an easy 1 hour drive from Vancouver, and it allows you to camp right on the water’s edge. It’s a mere few minutes from the restaurants, hiking trails and attractions around Squamish. Combined with its small size, booking a site in this gem of a park is akin to scoring a Taylor Swift ticket.

That’s why we have never been able to reserve a spot here. In the usual camping season, the most desirable sites get instantly booked up within a second of opening, no matter what day of the week. I imagine it’s easier to book a site in the winter, which is possible since this campground is open year-round, but it may be too cold for the kids to enjoy.

Thankfully, there are several camping families in Big Bro’s class, and we were invited for an overnight stay at this legendary park by Jill and Shadab. This was their third time camping here, and it’s easy to see why they love it.

Walk-In Campsites at Porteau Cove

The walk-in sites are the last to be booked up, due to their small size, lack of privacy, and the inconvenience of having to go back and forth to your car to put bear attractants away.

The brothers bike down the path to explore the walk-in campsites
Parking lot for the walk-in sites are near sites 40

It’s about 200m to walk from the small parking lot for walk-in campers to their campsites. The park thoughtfully prepared some wheelbarrows for use.

Most of the walk-in sites are adjacent to each other with no attempts at separation. The pads are extremely small. Our 4-person tent would fit, but a larger, family sized car camping tent would have trouble. There is only a bench in each site, no picnic table, no fire ring.

Instead, there’s a communal fire ring at the end of the walk-in campsites.

Due to the close proximity and lack of tree cover, even sites on the back row can easily see the ocean, but their views would obviously be obstructed by the waterfront row and some trees.

There’s a small grassy field here for some activities. There are no showers and no flush toilets near the walk-in sites.

The sites are so small, the campers can’t really cook at their site. So there is a shared cooking/eating shelter for the walk-in sites.

This reminds us of camping in Ruckle Park in several ways, with its waterfront location, rustic amenities, and walk-in logistics. An important difference is Salt Spring Island has no bears, so we could leave our food and cookware at our site. Here in Porteau, after every meal the campers would need to go lock everything up in the car because there are no bear caches.

Deluxe, Serviced Drive-In Camping

The main camping area in the park is a lollipop shaped loop and a handle. The only washroom/shower/flush toilet is in the center of the loop. People camping in the handle walk to the loop to use the facilities and get water.

Separate from the lollipop and closer to the walk-in campsites is 7 more drive-in sites (38-44), which have pit toilets near them.

Each drive-in sites have electric hookup, which can be very helpful during winter.

In the loolipop loop, the waterfront row has very good views of the ocean and decent tree cover. With their proximity to the shower building, these sites (#1-11, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22) would be the crème de la crème here.

Some downsides

One thing that none of the gorgeous photos of Porteau Cove show is just how loud and pervasive traffic noise is. You get the constant hum of Sea to Sky Highway, and the occasional loud screeches and horns of the passing trains.

The train is literally right there.

Another problem with this is the brazen aggression from raccoons and squirrels. Shadab had several run-ins with them; one time when he was unloading his car, as soon as he turned his back a critter got in and snatched his marshmallows. He has even been told to keep the tent zippers as high up as possible, otherwise the raccoons might unzip them and get in.

2023 Trip Report

Jill and Shadab picked up a cancellation for the weekend for site #34, which was in the lollipop handle. It has an added bonus of a very easy beach access directly from the site (some other sites are built on large boulder foundations, which make it hard to walk down to the beach).

With direct view of the rocky beach, we were comfortable letting the kids explore the area.

After dinner, I also hopped onto the paddleboard for a quick tour of the campground from the water.

Due to the sheer beauty, everyone went to bed very late by our camping standards.

Middle Bro enjoying the moon:

Big Bro and his friend:

Our camp at night

Moon shining on the ocean.

Early next morning, I did a short sunrise paddle from Porteau Cove to Ferry Creek.

And came back to camp in time to enjoy plenty of quiet coffee time with Tina on the beach.

A handsome great blue heron kept us company.

Since it’s only an overnight stay, we couldn’t linger and enjoy the campground more. Big Bro was quite bummed about it, but I can’t even promise him when we can come back since it’s such a coveted spot. Maybe we will try again in the off season.

Bye-bye ocean!

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