The title of this post sounds like a bit of any oxymoron, right? Nope, it’s true, we went camping by the ocean in the middle of Vancouver Island. We also went swimming in a lake surrounded by mountains (some still with snow covered peaks!) and ran into four black bears. A good weekend then!
The choice to go south was a bit out of the ordinary for us (it’s not secret how much we love North Vancouver Island), but we decided we couldn’t ignore the ridiculous number of lakes in the area near Port Alberni anymore. The city itself is, after all, just over an hour away. Even more interesting than the nearby lakes (and everyone should know
Even more interesting than the nearby lakes (and everyone should know how much we love lakes too) is the 40km inlet that snakes through the Island from the Pacific to Port Alberni. As soon as I mentioned that we could go to a Rec Site on the edge of the inlet itself, Jean Robert was sold on a southern camping trip – he is definitely an ocean boy at heart.
A well hidden Rec Site
Heading towards Arden Creek Rec Site we realised this area has probably the most active logging roads we’ve ever been on, complete with the biggest logs!
We actually had a bit of trouble finding Arden Creek; it’s a seriously well hidden Rec Site, found just off a tiny and steep side road (see above). We were the only campers there and picked a site right by the river.
The Alberni Valley often has the hottest temperatures on the Island, sometimes reaching 32-33 degrees in the summer (hence there are a few wineries around and about) As soon as we got there, Jean Robert plonked himself in the river with a beer!
By the seaside in the Alberni Valley
It was strange to think that we were actually by the sea rather than just a big lake. It was a surprise every time a big motorboat (or some seaweed) floated past! Arden Creek is a peaceful spot, especially when you look across the inlet and see a gigantic (100+) RV site on the other side.
The inlet itself was sadly too windy for us to canoe on (or swim in) but we enjoyed a campfire dinner by the river and the view of the full moon from the beach. It was a perfectly clear night, and Jean Robert got some great photos.
Nahmint Lake, Vancouver Island
With the inlet’s waves too big for us, we headed inland to Nahmint Lake. The logging road heads higher and higher, but before it turns away from the inlet there’s a great view of a little cove.
The road runs parallel to the lake, but at much higher elevation. On the way, we spotted for a top-up of water, and a paddle in a beautifully coloured pool. Warm it was not! Just after getting back in the car, we were driving along and a black bear suddenly jumped out in front of our car and ran down the slope towards the lake.
Funnily enough, only half an hour before I was complaining about how we’d recently seen a bear just outside of Courtenay, yet we hadn’t seen them while out driving on logging roads. I wasn’t even complaining that loudly or anything I swear…
Nahmint Lake is pretty stunning and the Rec Site of the same name is pretty great too. Alas, the lake was also too windy for us to paddle – and I say this having paddle quite a few lakes in strong winds in my short canoeing experience! Nonetheless, we spent a good few hours here swimming and relaxing on the beach. Definitely, a good place to be, even on a windy day! In some ways, the wind was nice as it was warm, about 27/28 degrees.
Our trip didn’t end when we left the lake though, as we once again saw our new bear friend on the way home, only this time he wasn’t sure where to run so he just kept following the road….crazy thing, he was literally only a few minutes out from the Rec Site, and from the pool where we paddled earlier!
Just when we were thinking how lucky we were seeing the same bear twice in one day, a bit further along the road we surprised another bear on the road. Only, this time it was a mother bear and she had two cubs with her too! Amazing!! A day of experiences I will certainly not forget.
We were actually a little bit lost at this point, as our Backroad Mapbook indicated that the road back to Port Alberni (without having to go all the way via Arden Creek, where we came from) was east from the Rec Site. We could only find a deactivated road, and so drove the long way home.
The real road is actually west of the Rec Site, but without this printing error, we would not have had the chance to see so many bears, so close. Thanks, Backroad Mapbook! 😉
Something different in the Alberni Valley
This was a really fantastic trip, with lots of unexpected highlights (bears!), especially with the lack of canoeing. It was interesting to go camping and not use our canoe at all. Experiencing both fresh and salt water on one trip is pretty cool too, something we’ve done before and will keep aiming to do I think!
Despite all the logging by the inlet, the area is super picturesque and has some great quiet spots to get away from the trucks.