Camping at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park

A highly anticipated campground this season was Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, which is one of the most popular provincial parks on Vancouver Island. Thanks to Billy’s lightning-speed reservation skills, we were lucky to snatch up the last spot for our week-long trip after camping on Gabriola Island.

Before getting there, we made a quick stop at Nanoose Bay Recreational Shellfish Reserve. The actual reserve is located about 1.5km to the east along the south shore, but there were many people clamming just off the access point. The public beach lies in close proximity to areas leased by private a shellfish farm, and signage warns visitors to keep out.

Upon arrival at the gatehouse at Rathtrevor Beach Campground, we discovered that it doubled as a convenient store. They offered ice, snacks, ice creams, popsicles, and firewood if there wasn’t a fire ban. What made it even more interesting was that they also had helmets and bikes available for rent.

The campground itself is very large, hosting 250 campsites split into multiple large loops, and during the summer months, it’s always bustling with people. Be cautious of groups of children biking around the loops.

Our campsite (#45) was a bit of a distance from the shower house, but it was conveniently close to an outhouse with pit toilets. It was situated on the quieter outer perimeter loop of the campground.

As soon as we stepped out of the car, we noticed rows of ants surrounding our site. Upon closer inspection, we realized they were forming a highway heading towards a massive 4-5 feet tall mound just behind the bushes. Yikes! That was an ant colony! It was our first encounter with one, and it happened right at our campsite. We decided to move our tent farther away from the mound and the ant highway.

Billy looked it up, and we are certain this is a western thatching ant colony. So if you are an ant enthusiast, Site #45 is highly recommended.

Fortunately, the tent remained untouched by ants, but I, unfortunately, got bitten by one near the picnic table while preparing snacks for the kids. We took extra precautions not to drop food on the ground, and that seemed to work in preventing more ant visitors.

On a brighter note, the playground in the middle of the campground was fantastic. A large and spacious playground with several play structures was surrounded by a pump track that offered different routes for varying skill levels. As a parent with multiple kids, I could stay in one place, help the little ones with the playground, and keep an eye on our older child zooming around the pump tracks. It was perfect!

Regarding the washrooms and shower houses, there were three large facilities with flush toilets and shower stalls in the center of the campground. However, these tended to get very busy during peak times, since the ratio of campsite-to-washroom seemed quite high for a provincial park. Even attempting to take a shower around 7 pm resulted in a full line-up. There was still a line for brushing teeth at 9 pm. This was probably the busiest restroom we’ve encountered at any campground so far. Fortunately, there were also several outhouses with pit toilets scattered throughout the campground if you preferred to avoid the lines.

For beach access, you might want to consider driving over to the day use parking lot if you plan to engage in water sports. The famous sandy beach at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park is breathtaking, which can stretch out for a kilometer at low tide. During higher tides, many people wade in the warm shallow waters, which was basically a gigantic natural wading pool. No clamming, fishing, or crabbing is allowed in the park.

The campsites closest to the north also have an easy access to the north beach, but it’s a lot more exposed to strong winds and waves compared to the sand banks on the east side of the park.

There’s also a small playground that offers some shade throughout the day. Next to the playground, you’ll find a covered picnic area with a sink, which can be quite convenient.

Lastly, keep an eye out for the many wild bunnies that roam the grassy fields.

In summary, Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park is a beautiful and enjoyable camping site that offers all the essentials. However, it can get quite busy and crowded at times. Our boys had a fantastic time here, so we’re considering returning if we decide to visit the Nanaimo area again.

P.S. A note of caution for the paddleboarders. This park is a lot of fun for the beach and shallow water activities, but at low tide, the huge sandbank meant that Billy had to carry his board and crab trap, and walk with Big Bro for 1km before he can launch onto the ocean for some crabbing. And the huge campground also meant that for the majority of the campsites, it’s not convenient to walk to the water with a board.

For crabbing, we looked up the provincial park boundary to make sure we set the trap outside. Turned out there were many others with the same idea, with probably a dozen traps scattered across the bay just outside the provincial park.

The wind picked up and we were blown to south to the beach around Pacific Shores resort. This is also outside the provincial park boundary, and Oceans and Fisheries Canada deemed it safe for clam harvesting. So Billy and Big Bro harvested some clams while waiting for a pickup from me. It’s quite doable, therefore, to crab and clam while camping here.

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