Long Beach on Vancouver Island, BC
Long Beach's expanse of sand stretches the mind's boundaries of what a beach walk should feel like.
Decades before Tofino was full of fancy restaurants and hip surf shops, summers on the West Coast of Vancouver Island were all about camping on Long Beach. Before the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve was established, hordes of visitors would make the arduous drive on the long dirt road leading to Long Beach. Even Pierre Trudeau made an appearance there!
Many things have changed since the days of drag racing on the beach’s hard-pack sand, but we think it’s for the better: Now the beach is a long stretch of isolated coastline, practically begging for adventure.
Two parking lots access Long Beach. These spots are fairly close to the northern end of the beach.
The more northerly parking lot, at the Incinerator Rock sign, is usually full in the summer months, as it has the quickest access to the surf. This parking lot can be hectic with surfers stopping by to check the surf. If you have your heart set on parking here, arrive early and stake your claim. Be prepared for the occasional bare bum as many harmless surfers change here into their wetsuits.
The larger Long Beach parking area is just down the highway another 500 metres south. Turn at the Long Beach sign. Here you can almost always find vacant parking spaces and the short trails leading down to the beach are easy to walk and wheelchair accessible. If you are going to the beach to picnic, it is generally not worth fighting for a parking spot at Incinerator Rock. This Long Beach parking area is a lovely spot in itself and the landscaped areas adjacent to the pavement can provide a nice respite from the summer sun. Fewer surfers come here to park, preferring the more immediate beach access at Incinerator Rock.
Now that you have found a parking spot, get ready for the longest beach hike of your life. From the beach access at Incinerator Rock you can hike more than 10 km one way, along the open sandy beach. If you are feeling fit, have a partner drop you and a hiking partner off at the Schooner Cove Trail and pick you up at the Kwisitis Interpretive Centre, about 18 km total. Please note that there is a rocky section about 8 km south of the Long Beach parking areas that separates Long Beach from Wickaninnish Beach. It is possible to scramble around these rocks at high tides, but it is much easier and more pleasant to hike around them at a low tide.
16.5 or 17 km south of the Post Office, depending which parking area you choose.
How long is Long Beach?
According to Parks Canada the official length of Long Beach is 16 km. True, but only if the total distance includes Schooner Cove, Long Beach, Wickaninnish Beach and Combers Beach. Each of these beaches is separated by rocky headlands, but at a very low tide the sand beaches are referred to collectively as Long Beach. The classic stretch of Long Beach between Schooner Cove and the headland at the north end of Wickaninnish Beach is about 6.5 km.