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Beaches, Pacific Northwest

Pacheehaht Beach, Port Renfrew
Pacheehaht Beach, Port Renfrew, Photo By Bud Logan

The Pacific Northwest has some incredible beaches! Most beaches in the coastal region are remote, and hardly visited, but they are as awesome as any beach in the world.

Where I live on Vancouver Island, we have beaches of world-class status, yet quite often, you are the only souls there.

These beaches are pristine. Please leave these remote areas just as you found them so that others can enjoy them as much as you have. Leave only footprints and take only photos.

Grant Bay Beach
Grant Bay Beach, Photo By Bud Logan

Cape Palmerston and San Josef Bay at the northwestern edge of the Island, are two of my favorite beaches, and then there is Grant Bay with its awesome sandy beach. These beaches have been carved out of the landscape by thousands of years of winter storms. I have always enjoyed hiking in these areas and will continue to do so.

Some of the beaches on Haida Gwaii are supreme, people will travel from around the world to see them.

There is North Beach at Tow Hill where there is some awesome surfing possibility. Here you can hike up past the blowhole and head up Tow Hill trail where you can get views of the north beach from the first platform, and from the top of the hill, you can see Agate beach and Yakan point. Balance rock beach is another of the awesome beaches in Haida Gwaii, here you will see balance rock, left from the last ice age, balanced on a very small point, it has defied the winter storms for 10 000 years.

There are so many beaches on our coast, that it would take a lifetime to visit them all, our Pacific Northwest region is a remote, isolated paradise, we need to protect it at all costs.

Brady's Beach
Brady’s Beach, Photo By Bud Logan

So many people depend on it staying pristine for employment through the tourist trades. We must not let it suffer the damage that will come from oil and gas exploration and transport. Our government of today seems to not care a wit about this, but when you talk to the people who live and work here, you find that they do care, care enough to fight for its beauty, now and into the future.

Botanical Beach Trail
Botanical Beach, Photo By Bud Logan
The west coast and in particular, Botanical Beach and the adjoining Botany Bay are quite beautiful. It is part of a much larger park.  The two beaches are incredible.

The San Juan Park covers a large portion of southwest Vancouver Island. The area became a provincial park in 1989. Juan de Fuca Provincial Park on the west coast of Vancouver Island is a wonderful park, it offers some incredible hiking along the 47 km trail that runs between Botanical Beach and China Beach.  You can hike into some of the beaches that have day trails to them where you can view the roaring surf and just possible, see whales just offshore. Juan de Fuca Provincial Park gives an opportunity to view these large marine mammals. The best time to see Grey whales is during their migration along our coast in March and April. Seals and sea lions can also often be seen playing offshore.

There are four main areas to the park: the China Beach Campground, the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, the China Beach day-use area and Botanical Beach. All these beaches are just incredible.

Botanical Beach
Botanical Beach, Photo By Bud Logan
The beaches at both botany bay and botanical beach are full of a wide variety of sea life. Both plant and animal life is in abundance, and each has adapted to contend with the variable conditions found here. Please just look, do not disturb sea life or take any from the beach.

Black bears and cougars can also be present at any time. Black bears can become used to feeding on garbage, so to avoid teaching bears about trash, please pack out what you pack in. Cougars normally avoid people and are rarely seen, but please leave pets at home if possible and watch over young children. Do not feed the bears, remember, a fed bear quite often becomes a dead bear when they learn that humans mean food. A bear becomes a problem when they get accustomed to human food and garbage and problem bears are quite often put down to avoid problems.

The trail between Botany Bay and Botanical beach is an incredible walk through a forest of windswept and twisted trees, its a beautiful place, a place of wonder. This trail is typical of most west coast beach locations, the trees are formed into contorted shapes by the winds. Every time l walk through this trail, l am amazed at its beauty, it is a fascinating hike. A hike that all should do at least once in a lifetime.

Botanical Beach
Botanical Beach, Photo By Bud Logan

Visit here in the winter for some incredible winter storm vistas but dress warm and wear rain gear as this is a rain forest. The winter storms on the west coast are something to see, winds can blow so hard that you can barely stand up and this is when you see the most daring of the surfers, out in the huge waves, grinning like cats chewing bumble bees, having the time of their lives.

Brady's Beach
Brady’s Beach, Photo By Bud Logan
Brady’s Beach is located a short hike from West Bamfield, the town of Bamfield is one of those wondrous places that the Pacific Northwest seems to have in abundance. It’s like a community right out of a storybook. The beach is a short distance over the peninsula where West Bamfield is located. Bamfield has no paved road leading to it, you must travel to Port Alberni and then head west on a rough logging road for 90 km. Be sure to gas up and eat in Port before heading out as you will not see a gas station or store until you reach Bamfield. It is possible to take a paved road to Ucluelet where you can take a boat trip to Bamfield or sign up for a float plane journey over, you can also get on freighter that runs for over 800 km on a return trip that takes you through the broken group islands making various stops along the way to delivery freight. It’s a great trip but I like to drive so that I have a truck to visit the other wonderful sights like Pachena beach where the west coast trail begins.

When driving, you will end up in East Bamfield where there some great places to stay or eat and you can take in the Marine Science Center, it is home to many biologists from 5 different universities. Giving Bamfield the distinction of being a community with more Ph.D.’s per capita than any other town in BC.

Bamfield, Photo By Bud Logan
The community of Bamfield was named after a carpenter, Eddy Banfield who moved to the area in the late 1850s and took up trading with the first peoples. In 1860, Banfield established a permanent trading post at the entrance to Barkley Sound, which came to be named after him. Eddy died two years later, they are not sure about how he died, but there are rumors that he was murdered. Eddy may have died, but his trading post did not and it was the start of a great little coastal community.

In 1902, when a post office was opened in Bamfield, a mistake was made in the spelling of its name and instead of Banfield, it was called Bamfield. The name stuck and that’s what it is called now.

There is much to do here, the village economy is based on tourism with a little fishing and logging, it is a great place to go sea kayaking, hiking or just beach combing. It is the last village before the start of the west coast trail. The Bamfield Marine Sciences opened in 1972, it is a research center, but also has tours in the summer. Parking is difficult though, so be prepared to walk a ways to reach the center on busy days. It is a great place to visit.

We took the water taxi across to on West Bamfield and after walking the boardwalk to the outer end, we stopped at the general store, great store, ice cream, and coffee, the locals gather here to chat while sitting on the benches provided. I had a great conservation with one of the locals, a Lars B Mogensen, and he told me an awesome story about how the boardwalk was built. The stories go like this.

Bamfield Water Taxi
Bamfield Water Taxi, Photo By Bud Logan
There used to be a fellow who worked for the highways department whose job was to maintain the local trails, repair the bridges and just general upkeep. Apparently, he had ordered some cedar planking to use for this purpose. When it arrived, there had been a mistake in the number of board feet ordered and instead of the 1000 board feet ordered, there was a lot more, I believe he said to me that it was 100,000 board feet and it was unloaded from a barge on west Bamfield. Instead of sending it back, he decided to build the west Bamfield boardwalk, it runs from one end of the village right through to the other end and is quite beautiful.

The best part of the story is that because it was built by the highways department, this boardwalk is maintained by them, so every couple of years a couple of workers come to walk the boardwalk with one on top and the other under, they mark planks that need replacing and then a crew comes after to do the repairs. So this is one of the nicest boardwalks you will ever see on our coast and it should remain like that for years to come.

While you are over in West Bamfield, you can walk across to Brady’s Beach on a well marked out trail. This an incredible area to hike along. There are many sea stacks and shore formations that are quite impressive. We spent a few hours here exploring and were fascinated with the scenery and wildlife. It’s an easy hike to reach the beach. You will not regret visiting here. It is a very impressive place to see.

Brady's Beach
Brady’s Beach, Photo By Bud Logan
Well we were walking along the beach, taking in the sights, a small dog came out of nowhere and spent the rest of our time there, he was such a sweet little pup, when we were ready to leave, a man came wandering up to us, he lived down the beach in a beautiful house on the beach. The dog was his and he told us how his pup always goes out to meet those who visit, he said he was almost like the beach ambassador, he was a great little companion during our visit.

Brady’s Beach is named after Percy Brady, a Coast Guard coxswain in the 1920s. He and his wife, Maud, were long-time residents who lived near the beach. There are a number of old homesteads here and at the entrance to the beach is a most awesome compost toilet that really is a thing of beauty. So come on over to the beautiful village of Bamfield and take a hike to Brady’s Beach and spend a few hours or perhaps a few days and relax in the wonder of the west coast of Vancouver Island.

San Josef Bay Beach
San Josef Beach, Photo By Bud Logan
The Cape Scott Provincial Park is located at the northwest end of Vancouver Island and contains many fascinating bays and beaches. One of my favorite bays is the San Josef with its sea stacks. Many people visit the bay just to see these formations. The beach is stunning, the first time l came into the bay was incredible, l was very impressed with the sandy beaches that seemed to go on forever. The trail is very good, wheelchair accessible and gentle enough for both little ones and the elderly to easily travel on.

Middens and other remains of settlements serve as evidence that local First Nations have been present in the area for thousands of years. The first European settlers first began arriving in 1897 and began to settle, attempting to build farms in what is now the provincial park. They had a difficult time trying to work the land and left after a few years. They left behind cleared patches and fields that are now semi-wild as well as many place names, including Hansen Lagoon, and Nissen Bight.

San Josef Bay Beach
San Josef Beach, Photo By Bud Logan
The sea stacks at San Josef Bay Beach are beautiful. Water surging through the sandy passages at high tide has slowly eroded the softer outer rock, leaving behind only the harder formations. Sea stacks typically form when wave action eats away the surrounding soft rock. They can only be found in San Josef Bay on Vancouver Island.

As part of Cape Scott Provincial Park, San Josef Bay is easily accessible on well-maintained trails and boardwalks. From the nearest parking lot and trail-head, there is a three km, fairly easy hike that takes you to the bay.

The road in from port hardy is long but fairly well maintained, but please drive with caution as these roads are active logging roads.

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