Seaside Camping in the Alberni Valley, Vancouver Island

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!

Somewhere different

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.

Logging truck near Port Alberni

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!

Arden Creek Rec Site view
Arden Creek Rec Site

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.

campfire steak at Arden Creek
Alberni Valley moon
Alberni Valley Moon
Arden Creek beach
Nahmint Lake
Waterfalls near Nahmint Lake

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.

nahmint waterfall pool
Nahmint Lake views
Black bears near Nahmint Lake


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! 😉

mother bear and cubs nahmint
nahmint views

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.

Check out these other posts about Vancouver Island

9 thoughts on “Seaside Camping in the Alberni Valley, Vancouver Island”

  1. Great write up Gemma! When I first moved to Vancouver Island I kept commenting on the beautiful lakes… only to be corrected that it was the ocean! I have been perfecting my campfire cooked ribs since JR’s master class on our canoe trip all those months ago!


  2. Hi Gemma

    Thanks for the write up. We have been a few times to Nahmint Lake and spotted a number of bears just off the camp site road. Planning a trip to Arden Creek this weekend and looking forward to it. Stay safe and keep writing about your adventures.

    • Hi Ryan,

      I’m really not sure to be honest. There are other lakes in the area that are known for being exceptionally windy like Nitinat Lake, but you probably already know about that one.

      • ok thanks for the info. ya i know about nitnat nimpkish.Ive just seen alot of windy pictures of Nahmint.Also blogs about windy days in summer.Im guessing it gets a thermal wind there in summer. i will just have to check it out. for myself.That river delta on the sw looks perfect for launching a kite.cheers.

  3. Really liked your write up! I’m curious how the road up to Arden creek was? Was it quite steep and bumpy? Do you recommend 4 wheel drive?
    Thanks 🙂

    • Hi Jen,

      The logging road leading south of Port Alberni to Arden Creek was well maintained, I imagine because there is a large RV park just ten minutes south of Arden Creek itself. Once we turned off from the main logging road, the road to Arden Creek is steep and more bumpy, but it is really a very short piece of road. No 4WD needed at least when we were there.


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