Ruckle Provincial Park Group Camping: Oceanfront Fun for Large Groups

Sharing our love for the outdoors has been a passion of our family for a while. We have introduced camping to many of our friends, but we’ve always booked individual campsites for the group. It’s somewhat stressful because it relies on successfully booking multiple campsites near each other if it’s more than 2 families, otherwise it’s difficult to share the camping experience together. Even if the sites are next to each other, space for group activities are usually limited and the group is usually divided.

Group campsites solve that problem. In many BC Provincial Parks, group camping is offered for groups of varying sizes and can be booked up to 1 year in advance. In Golden Ears, for example, a group site can have up to 20 tents for 50 people!

We took a leap and booked a group site at one of the most beautiful places we’ve camped at so far: Ruckle Provincial Park on Salt Spring Island. We figured we have enough camping friends to muster, so we made an executive decision on the dates and site, as time was of the essence; most summer weekends are already booked up.

Sunrise at Ruckle Provincial Park

Group Sites in Ruckle Provincial Park

We chose Group Site 3 to be closest to the ocean, which turned out to be an excellent choice. It’s ‘tier 3’ by my definition, which means it’s set behind the main walking path.

View of our tents from the main walking path.

We still had awesome views of the ocean, and there are a few trees to provide some cover where we can hide from the sun during the day. We also had a large grassy field to ourselves where we played frisbee with our neighbors.

Long grassy field that’s part of Group 3. Our Group 2 neighbors came over a few times to play frisbee so we joined them.
View from Group 3 fire ring

In comparison, Group Site 2 is situated about 50 meters uphill behind our site, and the views of the ocean is much more obstructed.

View from Group 2 fire ring

Group Site 1 is set much further back in the woods, providing excellent privacy and tree cover in exchange for views of the ocean.

View from Group 1 fire ring
Campsites in Group 1

Each group site are allocated 5 picnic tables and a private fire ring with benches. There are water taps and pit toilets near by. The group sites are situated on a grassy field which slopes down towards the beautiful ocean.

It wasn’t clear from available maps online exactly where the group sites are, but this is the exact pins for the fire ring for group site 1, 2, and 3. They are clearly visible on Google Maps satellite view.

Map in the park shows where the group sites are better than the online map.

The Camping Party

We put out a call for our friends, and we were thrilled that Leo and Susanna, Tom and Alison, and Mike and Maria signed up quickly. We have camped with Mike and Maria at Hicks Lake before, so we know they are experienced campers. Tom and Alison also camped when they were younger, but this is the first time with their 3 boys.

We were most impressed with Leo and Susanna who have never camped before. I warned them that this is a very beautiful, but also a very rustic/primitive walk-in camping experience with no shower and no flush toilets. As the date drew nearer, we kept checking with them to make sure they haven’t gotten cold feet. Their determination has not wavered even once.

We carted our supplies down to our group site as last time. The main difference: with the benefit of having a reservation, we were much more relaxed. Also, Big Bro and Middle Bro were strong enough to help with pulling the wagon now. Group Site 3 is so big that we can easily find enough spots to set up 4 tents for 4 families down slope facing the ocean.

Leo the man setting up their tent for the very first time.

The grass on the field was a little long in most places, and our group had multiple garter snake sightings. They are small and harmless, and they wanted nothing to do with us.

Camp Activities

We fully enjoyed the group camping experience. It was nice to cook and share food together, sit and socialize around the extra-large right ring, and the adults can take turns running group activities for the kids. This would have been very difficult to do if the 4 families were split up into two small sites, as the space would be limited and activities divided.

Our group enjoying a fireside dinner.
Me leading a small expedition group
Story time with Auntie Alison under some tree shade
Baseball with Uncle Mike
Badminton with Uncle Tom
Music time with Uncle Leo
Night walk with Uncle Billy
The kids found a secret hideout under a tree

Being so close to the ocean, we went on a shore walk during low tide. Tidal pools are always a kid favorite.

Launching Paddleboard from Ruckle Campground

Near the shared fire ring near campsite 28 and 29, there’s an easy access to the beach. We noticed that there was a canoe parked here, and upon closer inspection, we determined that an area of gentle sloping rock bed is an acceptable launch point for our paddleboards and raft. Mid to high tide would be ideal for launching here, as the seaweeds and barnacles become exposed during low tide.

Energized, I came back with my crab traps. SUP crabbing from camp is one of my favorite activities. There are mostly red rock crabs here, and we were highly successful.

Paddling here was mostly calm for us during this low-wind summer weather, but it’s active with boat traffic, so boat wakes were frequent.

The group also took an easy short walk to beaver point. The trails were well maintained and mostly flat.

Rest of Saltspring Island

We also visited the nearby Saltspring Island Cheese, and of course the town of Ganges. On Day 3 of our our 4-day trip, we went to the Rainbow Rec Centre in Ganges for a swim and much-needed shower followed by a nice dinner at the Oystercatchers with live music. Honestly though, even though we stayed for 3 nights this time, Ruckle Park is still too mesmerizing for us to peel away and explore the rest of the island enough.

This successful group camping trip definitely opened up some exciting opportunities for us. For one, this is clearly the best way to camp with a larger group of friends. It’s also reservable much further in advance, so the group can have ample time to plan.

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