Right after Labour Day, Colin, Ellie and I spent a few nights camping at Porteau Cove – a spot between Vancouver and Whistler. My family will tell you that I am not a camping girl. On my first camping trip with no toilets, I actually built myself a little toilet out of rocks! So suffice to say I’ve come a long way to not only being the one to suggest we go camping but also enjoying it so much!
Porteau Cove is an amazing spot to go camping. It’s only an hour drive from our house which makes it super accessible. But it totally feels like you’re out in the middle of nowhere! Plus, the views are incredible! In the few drives I’ve done up to Whistler this year, I’ve practically had my head hanging out the window as we drive past the Porteau Cove area. So when Colin brought up the idea of us doing a little getaway on his rare midweek days off, I immediately thought of Porteau Cove (okay, not immediately. I thought of it after we got priced out of hotels in Tofino and Salt Spring Island.).
We booked a walk-in site because all of the drive-in ones were full by the time we got to booking. You can tell we’re not huge campers because we weren’t sitting on the BC Parks website the day campground reservations opened. This was definitely a last minute trip. Luckily, a walk-in site right on the water was still open.
Unluckily, on the day we were to leave I had a horrible cold. I get these colds every few months that absolutely hit me like a brick. I’m gross and going through tissues faster than I can count. But they only ever last for one day. It doesn’t matter if I take medicine or not. I will always wake up the next day practically as good as new.
So poor Colin had to put up with my sniffling, complaining and not being all that helpful as we packed up the car and unpacked at our campsite. Despite Porteau Cove being so close and us only going camping for two nights, we still managed to fill an entire car with stuff. One thing I hate about camping is how much gear you have to bring. You can be going for one night and you’ll still have to make three trips to the car to carry all of your stuff.
And with a walk-in site, you have the added pleasure of walking in all of your gear from the car. Thankfully, they had some wheel barrows to assist us but it still wasn’t the most fun. Especially because I had to stop and blow my nose every few feet.
But we made it! We brought everything in to the very tiny campsite we had reserved. It was barely big enough for our eight-man tent. Yes, we’re a family of two and a dog and we have an eight-man tent. I’m a firm believer that the number of people a tent says it will hold is double the number it should actually hold. I can’t even imagine eight full-grown adults sleeping in our tent.
After we (mainly Colin) got our tent pitched, we headed over to the little bay area behind us. Porteau Cove is lousy with beautiful water views so we had choice for where we wanted to settle. We took our books, bags of chips, chairs and Ellie down to the bay to watch the sunset. Ellie got to roam all around the pebble beach and be a little adventure pup!
For dinner, we pulled out the grill we had packed and went for the traditional camping meal: hot dogs! Unfortunately, there was still a fire ban so no campfires for us. But that’s okay! Hot dogs on the barbecue are just as good.
After dark, there isn’t a ton to do at Porteau Cove. But honestly, that suited us pretty well. It was nice to be away from our usual nightly routine of watching TV on the couch. We opted to make our Porteau Cove camping weekend unplugged (well, I did, anyway. Colin was still on his phone a bit.). And that was by choice, because Porteau Cove still has cell service if you need it. So we spent the evening playing cards by flashlight and enjoying a slice of cheesecake I had packed.
Before bed, we headed out again to brush our teeth and give Ellie one last walk. I looked up and was absolutely blown away by the stars. They were so insanely bright and you could even see parts of the milky way! It reminded me of seeing the stars in South Africa in the middle of Kruger National Park. I haven’t seen stars like that in so long. It was pitch black except for a few propane fires in the distance and faint street lights. Colin and I headed out into the open field to hunt for constellations (we found some!) and crane our necks back until they hurt. Definitely one of my favourite moments!
The next morning, I got up and sat on the beach with Ellie. It was so quiet and peaceful. A lot of the walk-in sites had packed up by the next morning, so we had most of the campground to ourselves – including the pebble beach with large driftwood logs perfect for sitting. Colin joined us and we ate our breakfast muffins on the logs while Ellie ran around off leash. Camping is really Ellie living her best life.
We spent the day alternating between the beach, the bay area and the grass lawn. We pulled out our beach blanket and played cards on the lawn. Breaking our unplugged rule, we listened to a podcast on the bay. And we took a nap and read our books on the beach. It was so nice to do things like play card games, read and even listen to a podcast together – things we just don’t do at home. And not because we can’t – we just don’t. It’s so much easier to scroll through Instagram and watch Netflix when you’re at home than it is to go outside and read a book. Colin and I both love reading and need to make time for it more often.
Porteau Cove also has a look out point on the top of a little hill. Colin was telling me it was a hike at first, and then he downgraded it to a walk. But he was saying it would take half an hour! I looked at the hill, which had a pretty steep incline, and couldn’t imagine it would take 30 minutes. Nervously, we set out on the trail and reached the top….in about two minutes! It was a little steep but definitely nothing strenuous. And the views were more of the gorgeous ones we had become accustomed to at Porteau Cove.
We had turkey and chicken skewers with corn on the cob for dinner and played some more card games before bed. In the morning, it was time to pack up and get going. We had a few moments to sit on the beach and take in one last view of Porteau Cove before heading out.
I absolutely loved our little camping trip to Porteau Cove and would love to do it again next year. If you’re looking for a campsite near Vancouver, I highly recommend it. Check out some of my tips below!
Tips for camping at Porteau Cove
- If you’re doing a walk-in campsite, make sure you get one that is right on the water. There’s a back row of sites too but then you don’t have water views and easy beach access. We did some scoping and think the best sites would be W5 or W11.
- The walk-in sites have a large area with picnic tables, sinks and even an outlet. So there’s no need to pack two folding tables like some idiots (us) did…
- You also need to keep all of your food in your car when you’re not eating it. So don’t bother walking your huge cooler and three bags of food to your campsite (again, like some idiots I know did…) because you’ll just have to bring it right back to your car. Leave it in your car and bring it to the picnic table area when you need it.
- Good news: the outhouses at Porteau Cove are surprisingly nice and clean! They even smelled pretty good and had a huge supply of toilet paper. I was very impressed!
- If you can, aim to go mid-week once the kids are back in school. We went the Tuesday after Labour Day and the campground felt much quieter. There were many empty sites and only a few very young kids running around.
- And if you happen to have some pull with Mother Nature, you should also try to go when there’s no wildfire smoke so you can see the stars and mountain views. Bonus points if you are able to have a campfire and don’t get any rain. We lucked out in that the rain started pouring the day after we got home.
- The night before you are leaving, start to bring things back to your car. For example, when you’re heading to your car to get your dinner, bring back your camping chairs or something else you won’t need anymore. That way, you won’t have to do multiple trips in the morning. And make sure you claim a good wheel barrow or wagon right away!
Porteau Cove is a great camping spot. It’s quiet, beautiful, close by, with great amenities and even better views. I’m so glad we had a chance to camp there this year and I hope we can again next year. With our plan to move to the UK next year, I’m starting to feel like we need to tick more things off of our BC bucket list. Of course, we’ll be coming back to BC. But I’m realizing there’s so many things I haven’t done in the eight years that I’ve been living here. We are so lucky to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it’s about time we take advantage of it!
What’s your favourite place to go camping?