My love affair with Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park stretches back more than 40 years to when I first landed on the Island as a newly-minted journalist, straight out of college. Rathtrevor was one of the very first places I discovered after arriving here, and perhaps that is why it has always held such a special place in my heart – the peace, tranquility and wide-open spaces were nirvana for one who wanted nothing more than to slip the bonds of the big city where she had grown up.
Things have changed to some small degree at the park over the past four decades. When I first discovered it the shoreline abutting its far-flung boundaries was mostly occupied by wildlife and a few scattered small cottages – summer places, mostly. These days some of the Oceanside region’s most prestigious resorts dominate the shoreline but not, I am happy to report, particularly to the detriment of the park itself.
The Rathtrevor lands were originally a farm operated by pioneer William Rath, who settled in the area with his family in 1886. When he died in 1903 his wife, left with five children to support, developed the land into a campsite. The property became a provincial park in 1967, so by the time I first saw it in 1971 it was still in a pretty natural – but no less enchanting, to a city-weary soul – state. Various structures and additions have appeared at the park over the years. Attractive low split rail fencing has been installed to help protect the fragile eco-system, wheelchair-friendly trails are in place, there are picnic tables, two adventure playgrounds, a nature house, some wonderful interpretive signs, picnic shelters and, off the beach but within very easy walking distance, 174 serviced camping spots and 25 walk-in camp sites.
While all the ‘improvements’ to the park are proving a wonderful asset, for me (and thousands of others over the years) the real attraction of this most lovely of places is the huge sweep of pristine beach, which stretches for more than 2 kilometres (or 1 ¼ miles). At low tide the beach also extends outward for almost a full kilometre (or ¾ of a mile), providing a wonderful venue for kite flying, picnics, beach fun or just having a perfectly lazy, quiet and totally tranquil day of doing nothing at all. When the tide does eventually roll in the water is pleasantly warm, making for a happy swimming experience for all ages.
To be sure, Rathtrevor is at its glorious best during the warm weather months, but winter and early spring can also be great times to visit. While the beach and park, which totals 347 hectares, or 857 acres, never really feels crowded, the ‘off season’ months offer up a special solitude. An afternoon spent there bird watching – particularly good in the spring and fall when the migratory birds are in evidence – can be an uplifting experience. There is also plenty of other wildlife that you may encounter during a wander along the 5.5 kilometres (3 ½ miles) of trails, which wend their way along seashore and through old-growth forest. Whether you have only an hour or an entire day to while away, Rathtrevor is sure to provide you with plenty to enjoy, and memories to last a lifetime.
For further information on Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park go to http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/rathtrevor/
The entrance to the park is located off Highway 19A by taking Exit 51.
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 49.32031078542433 Long. -124.26841735839844
N 49 19.219 W 124 16.105