If you are looking for the perfect coastal getaway, look no further than Port Renfrew. Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, this quiet town is a peaceful escape from bustling city life.
Maria and I had driven through Port Renfrew a few years ago and promised ourselves that we would come back, book accommodations and stay the weekend. The town is about a 2 hour drive from Victoria and can easily be reached on an early Friday afternoon departure from Vancouver.
For such a remote area, there are quite a number of things to see and do around Port Renfrew. Known for its old growth forests and breathtaking beaches, you won't be short of natural wonder to take in. Below are some of our highlights and recommendations from our time there.
Built in 2015, these seaside cottages offer quiet, snug and modern accommodations directly situated on Port San Juan. The rooms come equipped with everything you need to enjoy your stay, including an outdoor propane fire pit. A great time to visit is late winter to early spring while the winter rates are still in effect and the tourism season hasn't really begun. This is the type of place that can be enjoyed rain or shine. Keep in mind cellphone service is limited here. There is WiFi, but we would encourage you to leave your phones on airplane mode and take in the cottage and the natural beauty around it.
What to See
Big Lonely Doug
From photos, it's hard to fully appreciate just how big and lonely this over 1000 year old Douglas Fir is. Doug stands nearly 70 m tall and 4 m wide and weighs in as the second largest Douglas Fir in Canada. The tree was slated to be cut down as part of cutblock 7190 back in 2011. However, one logger by the name of Dennis Cronin fought to save it and it still stands tall to this day. The tree is located about a 25 minutes drive from Port Renfrew. To reach it, be sure you have a vehicle capable of 4 wheel drive.
Home to "Canada's Gnarliest Tree", Avatar Grove is another old-growth forest preservation. The grove was declared off-limits to logging in 2012 by the Ancient Forest Alliance. Located just 10 minutes away from Big Lonely Doug, there is no reason not to see both of these places in one day. The upper trail takes you on a brisk 10 minute hike through magnificent, lush landscape until you reach the main attraction. The tree itself is a Red Cedar with unique burl growths and it measures over 12 m at its widest point.
Sombrio Beach is located at kilometer 29 of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. It is one of the most easily accessible beaches along the trail as it is just a short 10 minute walk from the parking lot. The west and east soft pebble beaches are a popular camping spot for locals and travelers alike as well as a great surfing location. Be sure to go when the tide is out so you can walk all the way to the eastern side of the beach to check out the hidden caves and waterfall! Fun fact: there was also a low budget Canadian horror movie filmed here called Dark Cove.
Located about a 45 minute hike from the eastern Juan de Fuca Marine Trail trailhead, Mystic Beach was one of our favorite stops of our trip. The well-maintained trail takes you down to the water through stunning ancient forests. Near the end of the hike, you will emerge from the trees and be greeted with white sand, ocean-carved cliffs and a stunning waterfall. This is truly one of the most spectacular sites along the trail.
Be sure to check this beach out if you are in the area in the late fall, winter or early spring to see the majestic waterfalls cutting into the rock that give the beach its name. The beach is a brief hike away from the highway pullout through more spectacular ancient forest. It's a great place for a picnic so be sure to bring plenty of food and snacks along with a blanket.
If you are looking for the perfect place to catch the sunset, look no further than Botanical Beach Provincial Park. Getting there is a short 5 minute drive from Port Renfrew followed by a 15 minute hike down to the water. The beach here offers a unique geological landscape of shale, quartz and black basalt to explore. When the tide is out, you will see countless tide pools with some offering perfect viewing platforms into the countless species of marine life in the area. If you get lucky you may even catch an Orca or two surfacing as the sun sets.
Where to Eat
Shirley Delicious - This cute, A-frame style coffee house is one of the best breakfast/brunch spots on the island.
Coastal Kitchen Cafe - A local cafe offering fresh, locally sourced ingredients with great sandwich and burger options in the heart of Port Renfrew.
The Renfrew Pub - This cozy, mountain-style lodge is located directly beside Wild Renfrew. Perfect for a relaxing (and delicious) meal before heading back to your cottage.
To sum it up, Port Renfrew is the perfect place to relax, unplug and enjoy nature. The places listed above offer just a glimpse of the innate wonder and beauty Vancouver Island has to offer. You could easily spend much more time here. If you have any questions or want to let us know your favorite places to see near Port Renfrew, let us know in the comments section below.