Botanical Beach offers a plethora of aquatic flora and fauna

Hiker on boardwalk to Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew, Vancouver Island

Hiking in to Botany Bay

What a scramble!  But boy, was it worth it.  When we headed to Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew recently we tried to time our visit with low tide.  The beach is named for the teeming sea life found in the tidal pools which are, of course, only visible when the tide is out.

Hiker at botanical Beach near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island

Botanical Beach is at its’ most intriguing best at low tide

The trip to this spot dictated a bit of a change in plans in order to accommodate the tide schedule, but we felt it was worth that for the opportunity to experience one of Vancouver Island’s most interesting  seashore locations.

Botanical Beach is so named after being chosen as a University of Minnesota

Botany Bay near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island

Botany Bay – a little wilder, with crashing surf

Marine Station in 1900.  For seven years students and researchers from around the world travelled to what was then a very remote location to study marine life.  Access was by steamship from Victoria, followed by a very muddy and rough hike from Port Renfrew.  When the promised improved access failed to materialize the university abandoned the site, leaving it to the wild creatures that had been the attraction in the first place.

Bull kelp at Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew, Vancouver Island

There is plenty of marine life to find and enjoy at both locations

The scramble for us came with getting to the beach.  Signage indicated that there was a 2.5 kilometre (1 ½ mile) loop trail connecting Botany Bay and Botanical Beach and, although we started out just fine we did find ourselves traversing some pretty rough trails, ending up at Botany Bay rather than Botanical Beach, which had been our intention.  We weren’t sure if we had somehow lost the trail and ended up off the proverbial ‘beaten path’, but we persevered and were rewarded with views of crashing surf and dramatic foreshore at Botany Bay.

Waves at Botany Bay near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island

Waves crash through and around sandstone rock formations at Botany Bay

Following some exploration of the wild side at Botany Bay, we found a short  linking trail that led us to the more serene Botanical Beach, home of the former marine station.  The plethora of sea life, both plant and animal, was striking and intriguing and we spent a good hour peering into the sandstone tide pools and wandering along the seaweed-strewn shoreline.

Trail to Botany Bay near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island The hike back wasn’t overly difficult, but it would have been great if the loop trail had been properly posted. Botanical Beach is a provincial park, so it would be nice if the government would spend a few bucks to make sure folks don’t get lost or off-track as we obviously did.

A word of warning here – at low tide the beaches are very slippery, so good footwear is advised.  And keep an eye on the tide and the waves – it wouldn’t be difficult to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.  This is, after all, the wild Pacific.

            Further information about Botanical Beach and Botany Bay can be found on the website:

Botanical Beach and Botany Bay are located near Port Renfrew.

GPS co-ordinates for the parking lot are:

Lat. 48.532786418930684  Long. -124.44397460225423

N 48 31.967  E 48 31.967



About Shirley

More years ago than I like to remember, I completed the Journalism program at Vancouver Community College and launched straight into a career as a newspaper reporter (thanks to my journalism professor Nick Russell and an opening at the venerable daily Alberni Valley Times.) My work as a news reporter/feature writer/columnist and ultimately, newspaper and magazine editor, took me to many interesting places and introduced me to hundreds of interesting characters over the years. I loved every minute of it, but burnout caught up with me while I was trying to juggle the simultaneous editing of five trade magazines, and for 27 years I abandoned my keyboard (on a professional basis, at least) and followed my heart in a variety of other careers. In 2010 I returned to the journalistic fold, thanks to the encouragement (nay – nagging!) of my husband. I feel no regret – only great joy to be back at the keyboard, and to be spending time interviewing interesting folks and discovering great places.
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