A Mystic Beach camping trip should be high up on your Vancouver Island bucket list. Spending a night or two under the stars, camping on a remote and beautiful beach on the west coast of the Island is a special experience. We’ve camped at countless places across British Columbia but Mystic Beach, Vancouver Island, has to be up there with the best (followed closely by nearby Sombrio Beach).
A short hike through the dense old-growth forests that Vancouver Island is famous for will take you to this short stretch of sand and rocks, where you’ll find Mystic Beach campground, a waterfall that falls right onto the beach and some cool caves that have been cut into the rocks after thousands of years of being pummelled by the Pacific Ocean.
Below you’ll find everything you need to know about this amazing place, including camping fees, reservations, information on the hike as well as some of the unique features of one of the most popular beaches along the famed Juan de Fuca Trail.
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How to Get to Mystic Beach, BC
It’s a pretty drive out to Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, where Mystic Beach is located, from Victoria and the Mystic Beach map above will show you exactly where to find it. The drive should take around 1 hour 20 minutes from downtown Victoria and the Mystic Beach directions are fairly easy to follow. Unfortunately, there is no public transit available to this beach.
This also makes for a good weekend trip from Vancouver and should take around 4.5 hours to reach from downtown Vancouver.
You will need to head north out of the city and then turn off towards Sooke. Most of the drive is along the picturesque winding roads of Highway 14. The parking lot for the beach is only 6.4 kilometres and a 7-minute drive past Jordan River. You’ll see plenty of signs as you approach the entrance making it very hard to miss. Follow the signs for the China Beach day-use area and then park on the right-hand side of the parking lot which is signposted for Juan de Fuca.
If you are coming to Mystic Beach from Port Renfrew, it is a 37-kilometre drive that should take around 40 minutes. If you are visiting from further afield then we highly recommend including a visit here as part of a longer trip to the island and you can find our road trip itinerary for Vancouver Island here.
The parking lot can get busy here on sunny weekends in the summer, but you should be able to find parking somewhere as it is quite a large parking lot. It is advised to not leave valuables in the car if you are staying overnight as there have been some break-ins here over the years. There is an information sign at the trailhead which includes a Mystic Beach trail map to help guide you there.
Mystic Beach Hike
The hike to the beach from the parking lot is 2 kilometres and should take around 35 minutes. It is a pretty hike through the moss-covered forest and on a hot day you’ll appreciate the protection from the sun for the entire hike.
The first kilometre is mostly flat, with some slight undulation as you walk amongst these giant trees. Slightly after the 1-kilometre mark, the trail begins to descend and it changes from beaten earth to a wider path made up of small rocks, similar to a creek bed. This section lasts for about 5 minutes before returning to a beaten earth trail.
Continue through the forest, navigating around tall trees and avoid the numerous exposed tree roots. There are several small sets of stairs and a wooden boardwalk on this section of the trail until you head into a small ravine, before climbing a short set of stairs on the other side.
The last few minutes of the trail become a little muddier as you get closer to the ocean and there are more wooden stepping stones and boardwalks to keep you out of some of the muddiest parts. After about 30 minutes you will arrive at the top of a large staircase and you get your first glimpse down to the water. Climb down this staircase and it will lead you right onto the beach.
Once you step onto the sand you’ll get to appreciate just how amazing this beach is. It feels like you are a million miles away from civilization as all you can see is the beach, trees and the ocean. A special combination!
It’s worth noting that you can hike to Mystic Beach as part of the multi-day trip along the Juan de Fuca trail which will take you right along the coastline. The description above is for shorter overnight or day trips.
Mystic Beach Camping
An important note for those that are camping is that before you actually step onto the beach, stop and pay very close attention to the sign. There is some general camping information that is good to know (although it is all included here), but more importantly, there should be an up-to-date chart on the latest Mystic Beach tides for you to read. You can also find a tide chart here so you can know before you go.
It is extremely important that you read this to see how high the tide will be the night or nights that you are staying. The tide comes much further up the beach than you would expect and you could easily get caught in the middle of the night by some icy cold water if you don’t pitch your tent high enough up the beach. Ideally, you will want to put your tent up where the forest meets the beach.
There is a sign that will direct you to only camp on the right-hand side of the beach (if you are facing the water) as the left side of the beach is extremely low and often gets fully covered on a high tide. Even though we camped to the right and were quite high up the beach, the water still almost reached the spot where we pitched our tent.
You can pitch your tent anywhere along the right-hand side of the beach and no matter where you set up for the night, you’ll only be a few steps from the ocean with spectacular views. There are some nicer flat spots with large pieces of driftwood for you to sit on, but this is genuinely a place where there are no bad spots.
We camped here on one of the nicest weekends of the entire summer and there were around 20 tents set up along with us. While not particularly busy, you would still want to get here early if you want your pick of the spots.
Reservations and Amenities
Reservations are made through Discover Camping, in the Backcountry Permits section of their website. You will then need to select Juan De Fuca and choose China Beach as your entry and exit point (unless you are completing a larger section of the Juan De Fuca trail). The camping fees are $10 per adult, per night and $5 per child, per night. You can book your permit here through Discover Camping.
There are no designated sites here but you should have no issues getting a backcountry permit to camp here, even on the busiest days of summer. As this is a backcountry area there isn’t much in terms of amenities. You will find very basic facilities which consist of a pit toilet (bring your own toilet paper) and a bear cache to store your food.
There is no potable water here, so you will need to either boil or filter your water. We recommend using a filter and always carry the Sawyer Mini Water Filter with us whenever we are camping. While you won’t find a shower here, you can cool off by taking a swim in the ocean or a natural shower under the waterfall that flows right onto the beach (more on this below).
A backcountry site means that you need to pack out all of your rubbish as well. Please leave this beautiful place in the same condition that you found it. Beach fires are usually allowed here, but you should check to see if there are any local fire bans in effect. You will need to bring your own firewood as scavenging firewood is harmful to the local ecosystem.
Mystic Beach Cave and Waterfall
Once you have set up camp you can go and explore the beach. On the left-hand side of the beach (when facing the water) is probably our favourite feature, the waterfall that flows off the cliffs and onto the sand below.
It’s not too often that you see a waterfall falling right onto the beach and the setting here is simply spectacular. The stream of water is fairly small but it is still a unique attraction and if you are feeling brave you can cool off under the cold water.
Waves can come right up to where the water falls onto the beach so you may want to visit on a lower tide if you want to walk right around the waterfall without getting your feet wet. We were mesmerized by this waterfall and enjoyed watching the sunset as we stood next to it, listening to the sound of the crashing water from the falls mixed in with the waves.
At the other end of the beach, on the far right-hand side, there are some cool caves that have been carved into the rock from years of being pounded by the ocean. At the highest point, the cave is about 10-feet tall so you can easily stand and walk through it and you can crouch down and walk into the slightly smaller cave that is slightly further along the beach.
From this point, you get stunning views back along the bay and you can see everyone’s tents lining the beach. The Mystic Beach rope swing that was located at the edge of the cave was no longer there on our trip in the summer of 2021.
If you have been more recently and the swing is back then we would love to know about it in the comments. When we visited several years ago it was still here and made for a fun experience so hopefully, some kind soul builds another one soon.
This is yet another beautiful spot tucked away on the west coast of Vancouver Island for you to explore. We hope our guide for Mystic Beach camping and hiking convinces you to visit and includes all the details you need to have an awesome trip to this incredible place.
If you have any questions or feel like we missed something, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Planning a trip to Vancouver Island? Check out some of our other guides here:
- SOMBRIO BEACH WATERFALL
- SANDCUT BEACH WATERFALL
- EPIC VANCOUVER ISLAND ROAD TRIP
- 15 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN VICTORIA, BC
- FAIRY LAKE BONSAI TREE | Port Renfrew
hello I plan on camping here next weekend. considering my hammock system but the tree line looks rather thick like it would be tough to pull of a hammock hang. what do you think is it possible or should I plan to ground dwell
Hi Jeff. To be totally honest I’m not sure if it would be possible to string a hammock. We never really considered it as we just camped on the beach. I know some people do the Juan de Fuca trail with just a hammock but I would always advise bringing a tent when not 100% certain what your options will be! Sorry we couldn’t be more help!