Secret Beach Camping: Authentic Island Experience
As we launch our kayaks from the Toquaht First Nation shore at their Secret Beach Campground and Kayak Launch, the rising sun pierces through a thick wall of cloud. A pillar of radiant light illuminates the side of a nearby mountain, and the reflection causes the water to shimmer magnificently. It is as if, having made our journey here, the earth has chosen to reward us for venturing out to a little known gem on the bustling, popular tourism destination of Vancouver Island.
Vancouver Island has, in recent years, become one of the province's most sought after travel destinations. Rich in culture, topographically rugged, and ecologically diverse, it's easy to see why. However, with the rapidly increasing influx of visitors, the breadth of land that remains experientially true to the Island's initial draw as being a space of serene calm away from the unbridled chaos of frenetic urban life is also rapidly diminishing. For those looking for an authentic experience, away from the masses, there’s Secret Beach Campground, home to a perfect kayak launch.
Located between Port Alberni and Ucluelet, and accessed via a road on Kennedy Lake, (approximately 20 minutes’ drive), the Secret Beach Campground and Kayak Launch sees visitors to the mouth of Barkley Sound, deeply situated within the territory of the Toquaht Nation, who have occupied and watched over the region for thousands of years.
In 2013, over the course of sixty days, the campground was built from the ground up. Recent additions - an impressive new marina and kayak launch - opened in 2021.
On a summer 2021 visit to the campground, the site was bustling with life. Bookings are now open for the 2022 camping season at Secret Beach, which runs from May 18 - Sept 30, 2022.
Noah Plonka, head of operations at the campground, practically glows. "The campground has a whole new feel." That feeling continues to grow into 2022 as Plonka and his team build out an exclusive kayaker's section to the campground, right next to the kayak launch with oceanfront paddler dedicated sites, for those looking to use Secret Beach as an ideal basecamp.
After establishing camp, I set out alongside Ucluelet locals Nicole Gerbrandt and Nora O'Malley on a trip with Majestic Ocean Kayaking guide Christy McHarg. Our destination: the Broken Group Islands, regarded by many people as one of the world's premier spots for sea kayaking.
It was here, as the tidewater orchestrally trickled back from the shore, that the illuminating rays of the sun broke through to bless our journey. Though it soon retracted and made no subsequent appearance that day, this hardly took away from the experience. The morning saw us gliding awestruck across green, mirror-like water and weaving in between myriad small islands, eagles soaring above.
"That was a gift to get up super early like that and glide across the pure glassy sea into the first light," says O'Malley.
The possibilities at Secret Beach are "limitless," Plonka says. "I'm striving to add new features to the site annually in the form of additional sites, trails and bike tracks. We are at half capacity at the marina currently, with 48 boat slips, and plan to double that in the future with the addition of a commercial loading and unloading dock. Accommodation in the form of a lodge (or cabins) is coming soon."
Roasting marshmallows over the campfire, drinking hot chocolate and looking out over the marina, it quickly dawns upon me just how rejuvenating it feels to be back out on the land exploring new places amidst good company. Looking forward into the future, the Secret Beach Campground is perfectly poised to serve as a basecamp for many adventures to come.
WHEN YOU GO
- Secret Beach Campground and kayak launch is approximately 1.5 hours from Port Alberni and only 45 mins from Ucluelet on BC’s west coast of Vancouver Island.
- To book a stay, visit the Campground’s website and plan your trip today.
- Basecamp out of Secret Beach for a Broken Group Islands kayak tour with Majestic Ocean Kayaking.
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