With over 2,138 miles of coastline, Vancouver Island has a plethora of stunning beaches. The most accessible beach with the greatest scenery and opportunities for serenity and solitude is French Beach. French Beach, and the park it is located in, French Beach Provincial Park are named for James French, a nineteenth century Canadian explorer and pioneer who walked across the entirety of Canada over a two year period. The Provincial Park bearing his name was established in 1974, and encompasses fifty-nine hectares. As the name implies, the signature feature of the park is the beach, which is located near where James French ultimately resided. From the beach, travelers can view the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and on a clear day, can see across it to America, and Olympic National Park.
While the beach is the primary attraction of the park, and is popular for day use and overnight use, and lends itself to exploration, the park also features a number of short hiking trails that travel alongside the beach, to and from the park’s campground, and through the second growth forest of Sitka spruce and Douglas firs. Most of these trails are quite flat, and are accessible to all levels of hikers. The park also has sixty-nine spacious campground sites that are located in the forest, which are well-maintained and have a high level of privacy. These sites can be reserved in advance through the park’s website, or can also be obtained on a first-come, first served basis.
Directions: The Park is located twenty kilometers (12 miles) to the West of Sooke, off of Highway 14, and is well-signed in both directions. From downtown Victoria, the largest city on Vancouver Island, French Beach is located sixty kilometers (37 miles) to the Northwest, which translates to about an hour drive.
Tips: French Beach is an excellent spot to see Grey Whales migrating from shore during the spring and fall; and is also a great spot to potentially see other marine wildlife such as Killer Whales, Otters, Seals, and Sea Lions year-round. Irrespective of wildlife viewing, French Beach itself is very accessible, and a great spot that allows travelers to Vancouver Island to experience the wilderness and coastal views of the island with little effort. For those travelers who have time constraints, French Beach is definitely worth a short partial day trip; and for travelers that have more time, French Beach is a great overnight destination along the coast before heading on toward the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Mystic Beach or other destinations further North.
It is worth noting that although this park is located near Victoria, even during the summer months it is not that busy. When I visited during the summer of 2016, I found the campground partially empty, and the trails and the beach mostly empty over a two day period. For travelers looking for an easy wilderness escape, such features are priceless. Finally, even though it should be obvious, visitors to the area should be aware that due to its location, the area remains cool even in the middle of summer, and the ocean water off of French Beach is always cold. A map of the park displaying the park’s hiking trails and campground sites can be found here.