Best Swimming Locations on Vancouver Island

When temperatures start to soar, tourists and locals alike seek out the best places to cool off. Whether you prefer fresh water frolicks or salty ocean waves, Vancouver Island has some amazing swimming locations.

While many of the following spots have already been mentioned in a recently published article entitled, “Best Sandy Beaches“, there are several more great places to explore.

Due to the vast array of swimming holes located around Vancouver Island, this particular post focusses on the Mid-Island area.

Listed south to north, here are some of the best places to swim.

Best Swimming Locations on Vancouver Island

Transfer Beach

This large park is a major gathering spot for summer activities, including many of Ladysmith’s festivals and community events. However, it is also a fantastic location to swim, picnic, kayak, and play. For the kiddo’s, there is a great playground and a water spray park, as well as a sandbox with a climbing apparatus and a play boat.

Getting There

Head to the town of Ladysmith via the Trans Canada Highway. As you approach the village there is a large sign identifying Transfer Beach. Follow the short paved access road to a large parking lot.

Nanaimo River

The Nanaimo River offers deep swimming holes of cool clean water. It’s many access points provide locals with some of the best freshwater pools around.

While there are several entry points into the Nanaimo River, one of the easiest to access is at the Nanaimo River Regional Park. A developed trail network provides walkers, cyclists, swimmers and nature lovers with lots of room to recreate in the woods and along the river.

Getting There

Park entrances are located on Fry Rd (off Nanaimo River Rd, off Hwy 1) and Frey Rd (off Emblem Rd, off Thatcher Rd, off Main Rd, off Morden Rd, off Hwy 1).

Another popular access point to the Nanaimo River is the Cedar Bridge, on your way into Cedar (although parking is atrocious).

Westwood Lake

Offering Nanaimo’s only lifeguarded freshwater swimming spot (June-August), it’s no wonder Westwood Lake is a popular place to be in the summer. Enjoy the sandy beach, small playground, washrooms and change rooms, plus a well-groomed 5 km trail that circumnavigates the entire lake.

Getting There

Park entrance is located at 381 Westwood Road, off of Jingle Pot Road.

Englishman River

Parksville locals head to the beautiful Englishman River when they are looking for freshwater swimming. Deep crystal-clear pools can be found at Top Bridge as well as at the base of the lower Englishman River Falls.

Getting There

Top Bridge is found at the end of Chattell Rd (off Kaye Rd, off Hwy 19A by the truck scales).

Englishman River Falls Provincial Park is located 13 km southwest of Parksville. Take Errington Road off Highway 4, toward Port Alberni. Directional signs are posted on main highways.

Rathtrevor Beach

This 2 km long stretch of sandy beach is a famous Parksville landmark. The shallow, and ultimately warm, waters at Rathtrevor make for the best swimming opportunities for young children. At low tide, that same shallow water area becomes nearly a kilometre long stretch of soft sand leading out into the Strait of Georgia.

Getting There

Rathtrevor Beach fronts many of Parksville’s resorts along Resort Drive, as well as the Provincial Park. The easiest and most convenient access point is found at the Rathtrevor Provincial Park (off Hwy 19A).

Parksville Beach

During those warm summer days, the ocean water temperature at Parksville Beach can be as high as 20°C in the shallow areas. Even at high tide, this flat beach is a safe spot to play or stroll. The Community Park is a perfect access point to Parksville Beach. With a huge (albeit fantastic) play park, a water spray park, and sandy shores perfect for building sandcastles, this park will surely keep those little ones happy for hours!

Beach Access

The Community Park is located at 193 Beachside Drive (off Hwy 19A).

Cameron Lake

For a refreshing freshwater dip surrounded by beautiful forested mountains, head to Cameron Lake. It’s an ideal spot for picnics, fishing, windsurfing and swimming, It’s conveniently located just off the highway between Parksville and Port Alberni.

Getting There

Located off of Hwy #4 on your way to Port Alberni. Watch for signs for ‘Cameron Lake Day Use Area’.

Spider Lake

Don’t let the name of this lake keep you away, for it’s a glorious place to cool off in the summer, as well as one of the best picnic sites in the area. Spider Lake features a small sandy beach and warm water perfect for all ages. With its many legs of winding inlets (the reason for its name), the lake is also popular for canoeing and kayaking.

Getting There

Spider Lake Provincial Park is located16 km west of Qualicum Beach. The park can be accessed via the Horne Lake exit off Hwy #19 or Hwy #19a. Follow signs for 5 km to Spider Lake.

Kye Bay

The incoming tide at Kye Bay gently washes over the hot sand making the ocean water an ideal temperature to swim in. And with its many shallow tidal pools filled with marine life, and soft sand perfect for building sandcastles, it’s no wonder Kye Bay is known as one of the best beaches for kids. Kye Bay beach is also dog-friendly, and a popular picnic spot for Comox locals.

Getting There
From Hwy 19A follow Ryan Road to almost the very end and turn right on Military Row (right by the Comox Airforce Museum). At the roundabout take the Knight Road exit. Continue along Knight Road until you find Kye Bay Road, and follow until the very end.

Saratoga Beach

Located between Courtenay to the south and Campbell River to the North, Saratoga Beach is considered one of the best stretches of soft shimmering sand on the sheltered east coast of Vancouver Island. The mile-long gently sloping stretch of beach is the perfect oceanfront playground for children. With the tide extending almost a quarter of a mile out, this area offers warm, shallow and safe swimming conditions, free from powerboat traffic, deep water or strong currents.

Getting There

From the community of Courtenay travel north on the Inland Hwy (Oceanside Route) approximately 25 kilometres (16 Miles) to Saratoga Beach. The turnoff to Saratoga Beach is exit #144.


Have I missed any of your favourite swimming holes? Let us know in the comments below.

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Whether you are looking for fresh water or salty ocean waves, here are the best places to swim on Vancouver Island.
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About the Author

on Jun 15, 2018

Comments (2)

  • Connie Peters

    Qualicum Beach! The bay keeps it calm most of the time, endless sand, awesome ice cream/coffee shop right on beach, SUP rentals right st beach also! and shallow for long ways out… edge of paradise🌅

    • Kim

      Oooh, yes, thank you, Connie! Great suggestion!

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