Just a 40-minute drive from Vancouver, Porteau Cove Provincial Park boasts remarkable oceanfront camping and stargazing. It’s also a popular favourite among divers.
Camping at Porteau Cove Park
Given its proximity to ~2.5 million people in Greater Vancouver, Porteau Cove Park is very busy—especially during peak season. The park features 44 vehicle-accessible sites (5 double sites; 2 pull-through) that are somewhat closely spaced. Many of these are waterfront campsites.
16 walk-in campsites are within 5 minutes of the parking lot. Most of these are small, ocean-front sites. As such, no more than 4 people can occupy any one of these sites at a time. 2 Olympic Legacy Cabins (max. 4 people per cabin) are available for rent but are commonly sold out.
There’s also a day-use area with picnic sites and a grassy area near the shore. A mooring float at the park’s south end allows water access to the park. Porteau Cove Park remains open year-round; however, in the winter months services (and fees) are reduced.
The campground has electrical hookups. Cold water can be found in the campground and day-use area. An outdoor shower is available, as are flush and pit toilets. Although it may be shut off due to weather conditions, the park also has a year-round sani-station/dump.
This park doesn’t have dedicated sites for those with disabilities. That said, the light gravel found in these sites does accommodate wheelchairs.
There are 2 double-wide boat launches in the park. BC Ferries maintains an emergency pier on-site, in case of obstruction on the adjacent highway. Mostly, this provides a sightseeing opportunity for park visitors.
Firewood is available for sale on the grounds, or you can bring your own. Just be sure to keep your campfire within your designated fire ring. You can also rent a portable propane campfire from park attendants.
Activities at Porteau Cove Park
Porteau Cove Provincial Park is most renowned for its scuba diving (more on that in a moment). Other water-based activities at the park include swimming, paddling (canoeing and kayaking), windsurfing, and boating. You can also fish in the area (outside the park’s boundary), however, you must hold a licence and adhere to the park’s fishing regulations.
On dry land, you can walk the park’s short trail (~300m) and take in the view from the pier. Or, you might ride your bike on the park’s paths and trails (no e-Bikes on trails). Many stop for a picnic in the park. There are also many other outdoor sports and recreation activities to be within driving distance.
Location, geography, and history
You’ll find Porteau Cove Provincial Park on the eastern shore of Howe Sound. This park is accessed via the Sea-to-Sky Highway, a short ~44 kilometers from the city of Vancouver. Other notable communities in the region include Brackendale, Britannia Beach, Lions Bay, Squamish, and Whistler.
Situated on one of North America’s most southerly fjords, Porteau Cove Provincial Park measures 56 hectares. The park is found the land of indigenous inhabitants: the Squamish people. BC Parks is undertaking efforts to better reflect this population’s culture, history, and connection to this place.
Porteau Cove translates from French to “Water’s Gate”. The name dates back to 1908, At that time, John Deeks started to mine gravel and sand for use in Vancouver. A community of employees lived in the area, which necessitated housing, a school, and a ferry service. The park was established in the summer of 1981.
Features, wildlife, and vegetation
Porteau Cove Park is one of the easiest to access marine-oriented parks in British Columbia. Its gently-sloped beaches are made up of pebble, rock, and sand. These make for nice for ocean swimming. (On low-tide summer days, this water can get quite warm.)
Divers flock to Porteau Cove for the diversity of marine life attracted to the area’s constructed reefs. These artificial reefs are made up of tire chains, concrete piles and blocks, steel beams, and 2 sunken vessels. These waters reach depths of 6 – 18 meters (20' – 60').
Many animals and plants can be found on the shore and underwater. During your stay, you might spot harbour seals/porpoises, marine waterfowl, or river otters. Between spring and fall, orcas and whales (gray and humpback) are seen in these waters.
The park’s mixed forest cover is comprised of Sitka Spruce trees and Stunted Shore Pine trees. Coyotes, mink, and some raccoons are also found in this area.
Risks, cautions, and notes
Take care in and on the water. The Howe Sound sees changing tides and strong winds (inflow and outflow). There are no lifeguards on duty. Although Porteau Cove is close to Vancouver, it still sees bears, cougars, and wolves. Be prepared and take adequate measures to avoid risk.
Porteau Cove is a sensitive environment that’s visited by many people. This makes it essential that you leave no trace. Do not handle or collect marine life within the park’s boundary. Do not gather or burn driftwood (no beach fires). Avoid stepping off trails, in order to prevent damage to plants and soil. Read park signs and obey the rules. Use biodegradable soap. Be sure to keep your pets leashed and away from the beach—where they are not permitted.
Also: This park is noisy at times. It’s adjacent to a highway and active train tracks. Prepare for an early wake-up call—that’ll rattle your bones—when the train passes by. 😳
This part of British Columbia is breathtakingly beautiful, so, plan to spend a little extra time in the region. Drive the winding Sea-to-Sky Highway and stop at viewpoints to take in the dramatic vistas that span the ocean and towering mountains.
You might consider taking in the Britannia Mine Museum (a short 10-minute drive from the park). Also, check the park’s gatehouse for schedules and information on events and interpretive demonstrations.
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Contact Porteau Cove Park
- BC Provincial Parks
- Booking site: https://discovercamping.ca/BCCWeb
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