Dreamy and rugged, camping along Port Alberni’s shores


Through 2018, ZenSeekers is teaming up with partners the Port Alberni region. Our correspondents will bring you exceptional video, photos and stories to inspire you to #ExploreBC and have your very own #ExplorePortAlberni adventures.   

Rebecca Bollwitt (aka Miss604)

“That used to be my hotspot over there,” said Captain Mike Halvorsen, pointing across the Alberni Inlet to a cove where Douglas Firs covered a mountainside and stood branch-to-branch at the edge of a pebble-covered beach.

“Word must have gotten out though, the last time I went by there were like 20 floats in the water!”

We were on the hunt for crab, after departing from the Port Alberni Marina that morning. But that was just the first leg of our mission. Mike runs Action Packed Charters, with two boats that cater to those who want to fish, crab, or run up to Bamfield. He’s used to ferrying hikers to and from the West Coast Trail, and all others who want to experience this 25-km inlet, that stretches in from Barkley Sound. He stops at all points in between, and he would soon get me to my destination that day – China Creek Campground.

#ExplorePortAlberni, start by checking into Alberni Valley Tourism's website.

Watch #ExplorePortAlberni China Creek Campground on YouTube.

We had some luck at the next lines that Mike had sunk the day before. After sizing up the crab to make sure we could legally take them from the waters, they went in a bucket that became our lunch pail. Next stop: China Creek Marina.

The Alberni Inlet has that epic west coast Vancouver Island ruggedness, but there are signs of civilization poking out from the trees if you squint your eyes when you pass by on the water. RVs and campers line beaches and make you think, man, ‘wouldn’t that be nice, to wake up with the beach at your backdoor every morning’? Not to mention the odd whale sighting that Mike said isn’t uncommon.

China Creek
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

Book Action Packed Charters and cruise down Alberni Inlet out to Barkley Sound.

The rest of the China Creek Campground came into sight just as Alicia Larue from Wind Ryder Windsurfing School took to the water in a stand-up paddleboard, followed by Mike Carter who oversees China Creek Campground & Marina’s operations in his role with facility operator, the Port Alberni Port Authority. Windsurfing, kiteboarding, SUP, and SCUBA - with a great artificial reef nearby at Underwood Cove - are all available at China Creek

The pair followed us into the marina and we went ashore with our bucket full of crabs. Mike and his team had set up a campsite for us and soon the pot was boiling with our fresh haul from the sea.

China Creek
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

At a campground with all the amenities, you can still tuck your tent away in your wooded site and enjoy the peacefulness of camping outdoors.

China Creek Campground is just a 20-minute drive from downtown Port Alberni and 10 minutes by boat. It’s got all the amenities you might look for in a campground, along with the rugged beauty and nature of a wild west coast getaway.

There are 250 campsites at China Creek with either ocean or forest views. And by ocean views I mean you have the Alberni Inlet’s waves lapping at a beach just steps away from your tent. It’s stunning. Some of the forest sites are along the creek itself, which offers a freshwater option for dipping in on those hot summer days, or even gold panning. Be sure see great staff in the campground office about that!

China Creek
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

Stories, songs, and quality family time around the fire at China Creek Campground. 

“We have 115 seasonal campers that come up here for five months on end,” Mike told me over our Dungeness crab lunch. No bibs, no nutcrackers, just our hands, teeth, and a spot around the campfire next to the creek. It was a dream for a Pacific Northwesterner such as myself.

“The number one driver has been fishing in the past. The sockeye, Coho and spring salmon, that’s been the biggest for us; it’s what China Creek was built on,” Mike said. Alicia, who had replaced her paddle board with an acoustic guitar, strummed by the fire with her daughter.

The new focus of China Creek is that it’s a destination for families. Disconnecting and getting away to the wilderness spells quality family time to me, and on top of that, China Creek has plenty of water recreation options, acres of beachfront, a playground, the trailhead for the Alberni Inlet Trail, and those perfectly smooth stones down at the creek that are just right for skipping.

China Creek
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

You can’t beat these seaside campsite views at China Creek Campground. There is an entire row of campsites that look right out onto Alberni Inlet.

Mike says that when the campsite is full, they can accommodate 500 people at China Creek. “We become a small community.”

You can be as disconnected or connected as you want, meeting up with others on the beach, at the marina, on the hiking trails, at the community fire pit and picnic tables, or at the playground.

I enjoyed meeting the dedicated staff at China Creek hiking the Alberni Inlet Trail to a panoramic lookout and scouting campsites by the beach bordered by sun-bleached driftwood.

For the record, #55 is on my bucket list. My visit was all too quick, including the speedy transfer thanks to Action Packed Charters, but you can pack a tent or a camper, and book your spot for your next getaway this summer - and beyond.

If You Go

Search #ExplorePortAlberni for more travel inspiration. Be sure to tag #ExplorePortAlberni while checking out the region. You might just be featured on our social media channels!

Start planning your adventures in Port Alberni at Alberni Valley Tourism. 

Start exploring your Port Alberni region options with Destination BC.

Find out more at the City of Port Alberni’s website.

Uncover more about what the Port Alberni region offers for adventure. Check out ZenSeekers' #ExplorePortAlberni Expedition page to see how you can have an adventure like this.

Rebecca Bollwitt is a Seekers' correspondent and award-winning blogger based in Vancouver. Follow her travels on Instagram and Twitter @Miss604.

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