A Weekend Camping on Thormanby Island
Thormanby Island: White sand, hot sun, blue water, and one of the best getaways you’ll find near the city of Vancouver.
The weather was shaping up to be perfect, I had zero plans already in place, and one of my favourite summertime activities is beach camping, so inevitably, when my friend Sophie texted me and asked whether or not I would be down to go camping for a weekend on Thormanby Island, of course I said yes. The one thing she forgot to mention at first, however, was that there would be 26 other people going. No, that was not a typo. Twenty-six of my friends (old, new, and somewhere in between) made the trek to this isolated island last weekend, and the result was nothing short of epic.
The journey to Thormanby Island is not short, but it’s honestly not too long either (especially when compared to Savary Island). The route is simple, but there can be a few hiccups along the way if you don’t know what to expect.
The first step is to drive to Horseshoe Bay and take the ferry to Langdale. Now, this ferry can fill up very fast, and even faster when it’s a sunny, hot weekend and it’s after 5pm. My boyfriend and I knew very well that we needed to catch the 5:50pm ferry on Friday, since the next ferry would not be until 8pm and the water taxi we needed to catch in Secret Cove stopped running after 8:30pm.
We devised a very complex plan and actually ended up walking on the ferry and picking up his parents car in Langdale with all of our stuff in it already (long story short, his parents were heading to Keats Island that morning so they took the car over to Langdale for us).
If you’re like me and you get off work at 5pm on Fridays, it’s highly advisable that you purchase a reservation for your ferry to avoid any uncertainty of whether or not you’ll make it on. Oh the joys of water travel in BC.
After the ferry, which takes 45 minutes, you will follow the hoards of traffic and end up driving northeast along on the Sunshine Coast Highway. Eventually, you will reach secret cove, where you will load all of your stuff onto a Buccaneer Marina water taxi. The pricing for this leg of the journey is not outrageous, but it is cheaper the more people you go with (up to 12 per ride, with $13 each person or $156 total being the cheapest cost). The costs are round trip.
Tell the water taxi driver that you want to go to the campground on Thormanby Island. He will drop you off on the beach on the thin strip of land at the end of the island. If you arrive at low tide (in the morning) you will have to carry your stuff in the water for a few seconds (bring sandals!), so ensure that all of your belongings are neatly packed and organized. The fewer trips you have to make to the beach, the better; trust me on this one. Once out of the water, you will have to walk over some barnacle laden rocks, and then finally, the soft, white sand (the walk is only 1 min in total). If you arrive in the evening like I did, you will get dropped off right on the sand.
There are roughly 5 legitimate camping spots close to the water with picnic tables. If you’re a smaller group, take one or more of these. If you’re like me, and you end up going with a group of 26 people, then five spots probably won’t cut it, and you’ll have to make do with camping on the beach.
The only thing to consider if you do decide to “free camp”, as I like to call it, is that this is technically not allowed (as indicated by the numerous signs posted on the beach). That being said, however, if you’re desperate for more room and all of the camping spots are filled, you will likely be able to get away with it (we did, and there were 27 of us).
Things to Do
Like any other camping trip, this trip will be an awesome opportunity to unwind, relax, read a book, swim, play sports, and explore the surrounding area. Nothing fancy or complicated. This is your chance to spend time outdoors with friends and family, catching up or sitting around a fire, and most importantly, this is a time to disconnect from your phone. You may have service there (I did), but good luck keeping your battery alive for more than one day. So it’s my personal advice that anyone who visits this island should put their phone away for the weekend, and unplug completely. You will not regret it.
From the campsite (when you’re facing the outhouses) you can head either left or right toward the beach and walk the entire perimeter of the island. It’s a stunning, quiet walk, and you can do it in bare feet, too. I do recommend bringing sandals though, as there are a few spots where you have to walk over sharp barnacles. The walk will take you an hour and a half to two hours.
It’s also good idea to bring a skim board for the evening when the tide is going out. Be careful of the sand fleas, though, they do bite. Additionally, you can bring any kind of sports ball or a frisbee and set up a game on the beach.
If you’re lucky and there’s no fire ban at the time, you can have a campfire at night to stay warm. Tip: Bring bug spray for the evening, or you may very well be eaten alive if the mosquitoes love your blood type.
- Camping spots have picnic tables
- There are two outhouses, but they are not super well kept, not stocked with toilet paper, and one has a broken door (aka you may have to resort to the sand at times)
- There are many ideal places to hang a camping hammoc
- There is no water, so bring your own (minimum of 2 gallons for two nights for two people, or more if it’s hot)
This trip was by far one of the most action packed weekends I’ve ever had. To say there was never a dull moment is a simply an understatement. I would recommend Thormanby Island to anyone looking for a relaxing, affordable, and adventurous getaway close to Vancouver, for both large and small groups alike.
There are very few other places so close to the city which also offer white sand and free camping. In other words, this location is certainly win win despite the journey it takes to get there.
Side note: If you do make the trip to Thormanby, do your very best to leave the island cleaner than you found it. It is easy to leave many traces of your visit, especially because you are camping on sand, which hides garbage. Camp responsibly and keep the island clean!
Suggested Items to Bring:
- Swiss army knife
- Block ice AND crushed ice for your cooler
- Beer 🙂
- Frisbee or soccer ball
- Bathing suit
- SPF 30 sunscreen and lip chap with sunscreen
- A hat
- Hand sanitizer
- Sandals and runners
- A light jacket for the evening
- Bug spray
- A table (if not camping at one of the designated sights)
- Head lamp
- Dish soap and dish cloth
- Wash bucket
- Lots of water and a water bottle
- Speakers for music
- A lighter
- Wipes (yay for no showers!)
- Garbage bags (you will have to take ALL of your garbage with you)
- Pants for the evening (for bugs)