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The Ultimate Jordan River, Vancouver Island Weekend Itinerary

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Jordan River Weekend Itinerary for Adventurers!

Jordan River on Vancouver Island is truly a magical and wild part of the world! It is an extremely underrated and undiscovered part of Vancouver Island in terms of tourism.

Jordan River is located on the South West coast of Vancouver Island, just over a 1 hr drive from Victoria. If you are looking for somewhere on Vancouver Island to go for outdoor adventures, this is the place!

Jordan River is a great place for a weekend getaway from Vancouver! We went to Jordan River with the expectation that there wouldn’t be much to do or see but we couldn’t have been more wrong! We actually didn’t even get to see all of the things we wanted to so will need to make a return trip!

This Jordan River Weekend Itinerary will provide you with the best places to stay, eat at and explore in and around Jordan River, including gorgeous beaches, magical ocean waterfalls and the best pizza you have ever tried!

couple outside a Cabin in the forest in Jordan River

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📍 Where is Jordan River

Jordan River is located in British Columbia on Vancouver Island on the South West Coast. It is a little over an hours drive (69km) to get to Jordan River from Victoria.

How to get to Jordan River by Car

You can rent a car from either Victoria Airport, Vancouver Airport or Downtown Vancouver, depending on where you are coming from.

If you are coming from Victoria, you will need to take Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Hwy) until you reach Langford where you will then need to turn off onto the W SHR Parkway. Follow the parkway all the way to the Juan De Fuca Highway / Sooke Road which will then take you the rest of the way to Jordan River.

To get to Jordan River from Vancouver, you will need to take a ferry over and the total trip might take you around 3.5 – 4 hours. The fastest way to get from Downtown Vancouver to Jordan is to take the ferry from Tsawwassen to Victoria (Swartz Bay). Below are the travel times using each of the ferry options from Vancouver.

Ferry Route 1 – Preferred Route from Downtown Vancouver
Vancouver to Tsawwassen (Driving time): 40 minutes
Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay (Ferry Trip): 1 hour 35 mins
Swartz Bay to Sooke (Driving time): 1 hour

Ferry Route 2
Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay (Driving time):
25 minutes
Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo (Ferry Trip): 1 hour 40 mins
Nanaimo to Sooke (Driving time): 1.5 hours

From Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, the drive to Jordan River is 1.5 hours. You will need to take Patricia Bay Hwy/BC-17 for about 25km and then take exit 7 towards Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1/Nanaimo/BC-14/Sooke.

Take the Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 N all of the way to Goldstream, where you will turn left onto W SHR Parkway.

Couple standing looking up at Niagara Falls in Goldstream Provincial Park on Vancouver Island

If you have time on the way or the way back from Jordan River, one of Vancouver Island’s most beautiful waterfalls is located about 10 minutes out of the way called Niagara Falls, located in Goldstream Provincial Park.

In about 3km, the road will force you onto Juan De Fuca Hwy/Sooke Rd/BC-14 W. Make sure you take a right here and keep driving for about 50km.

Getting to Jordan River using public transport

The easiest way to get to Jordan River is by car, however, it is also possible to get there via public transport.

From Victoria, you can catch the West Coast Trail Express, which is a shuttle bus service running from May 1 to September 30.

If you are coming from Vancouver and catching the ferry to Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, unfortunately, you will need to catch bus 70, 71 or 72 too Victoria and then get the West Coast Trail Express.

Click here to open the map in Google Maps!

📆 When is the Best Time to Visit Jordan River

One of the things we love most about Jordan River is its abundance of insane and beautiful waterfalls!

The best time to see waterfalls in all their glory is during Spring as they will be raging much more than any other time of the year. It is for this reason that we (personally) think that Spring is the best time to visit Jordan River, although if you are not too fussed about waterfalls, it is equally beautiful at any other time of the year.

It does not usually snow in Jordan River during the Winter as it is located on the coast, however, every so often there is an unusual couple of days in Winter, where they could get snow there.

couple standing at waterfall on beach at sunset

ℹ Things to Know Before Booking

  1. There is no cell service in Jordan River. The last place to get cell service and gas is in Sooke.
  2. Restaurants close early. Pre-plan your meals so that you don’t have to rush at the last minute.
  3. Beware of Thieves – Thieves have been known to operate in the Juan de Fuca area. Secure/remove all valuables if leaving your vehicle unattended. This is something that you should be aware of at any hiking trailhead or tourist parking lot anywhere in BC.
  4. This is a wild part of Vancouver Island, meaning there is lots of wildlife. Be up to date with wildlife safety and know what to do if you spot a bear or mountain lion. Check out this source on BC Parks for more information.

🎒 What to Pack for your Weekend Trip

  • Hiking Boots – Hiking boots are great for muddy, slippery hikes and Jordan River is a very wet part of the world! Kerry’s loves the Oboz Bridger Mid B-Dry Boots and Dave’s favourite boots are his Scarpa Kailash Plus Gore-Tex Backpacking Boots.
  • Hiking Socks – Good hiking socks are important to make your boots as comfortable as possible! Our favourites for hiking in Spring when the weather is a little colder are the Smartwool Hike Classic Edition Full Cushion Crew and the Darn Tough Hiker Midweight with Cushion Micro Crew socks.
  • Micro Spikes – For Winter and late Spring if it is still icy. Our micro spikes slip onto the bottom of our boots and have come in really useful on some of our adventures! Ours are from Black Diamond and Kahtoola.
  • Merino Top / Tee – Merino is a great material to hike in so we use Merino tops to hike.
  • Fleece – When hiking in Winter, Spring and Fall, we like to layer up because when you stop to admire the view, it usually gets pretty cold.
  • Puffer Jacket – We love our puffer jackets to keep warm at the beginning of a walk and then once we are at the viewpoint. Dave’s favourite puffer jacket is the Arcteryx Cerium LT Hoody and Kerry’s favourite is her Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket.
  • Rain Jacket – Because Spring weather is pretty unpredictable, we recommend bringing along a raincoat as they come in handy a lot of the time!
  • Beanie – We never go anywhere in Winter, Spring and Fall without our beanies! Some of our favourites are from Dakine and Eddie Bauer.
  • Kerry’s Leggings – Kerry wears leggings on every adventure!
  • Day Backpack – Our favourite backpack for day hikes is the Osprey Tempest 20 Backpack.
  • Your Camera Gear! We never go anywhere without ours!

For a full guide containing all of the things we take hiking, check out our hiking gear guide!

Couple standing at the hidden waterfall at Sombrio Beach Vancouver Island
Sombrio Beach’s Hidden Waterfall

🛌 Where to stay

Another amazing thing about Jordan River is that it is home to the most beautiful cabins that you can stay in!

We stayed at Fern Gully Cabins which we absolutely loved and have listed some alternative accommodation options below.

Pro Tip: The prettiest cabins tend to book out really far in advance. Planning far in advance will help you a lot.

Cabins

  • Fern Gully Cabins – We absolutely loved this cabin and wished we could have stayed longer! There are a few cabins to choose from. The cabins have a small kitchenette, an outdoor shower, a loft style bedroom, indoor fireplace and an outdoor fire pit. Something to be aware of before staying is that the toilet is a pit toilet outside the cabin. The shower is also outdoors which made us feeling like we were on a real adventure!
  • Handsome Dan’s at Otter Point – this cabin is actually located in Sooke which is a 30min drive from Jordan River.
  • East Sooke Treehouse – We have stayed here when visiting Sooke, Jordan River’s next door neighbour and were blown away by the detail in this cabin!
  • Owl’s Perch Treehouse Private Treetop Escape – Another incredible looking treehouse cabin which is on our list!

Camping

Couple in car camping with Luno matress
Jordan River Campground
  • Jordan River Campground – We drove past this campground a few times during our stay in Jordan River and we will definitely stay there in the future. The campground is right on the beach front with views looking out across the ocean to Washington State. The campground operates year round on a first-come, first-served basis. No online or phone registration. More information on fees can be found here.
  • China Beach Campground – There are 78 drive-in campsites available at this campground which is located in Juan De Fuca Provincial Park. You can pre-book the campground online here and there are also some first-come first-served sites available.
  • French Beach Provincial Park Campground – Campsite reservations are required during Spring and Summer and can be booked through the BC Parks website. During the rest of the year, this campsite operates on a first-come first-serve basis.
Sombrio Beach
Sombrio Beach

🍴 Best Restaurants in / near Jordan River

We only ate out once while we were in Jordan River because we brought all our own food but it was the most delicious pizza ever!

We went to a woodfire pizza restaurant called Stoked. It is mainly takeaway pizza but you can sit outside and enjoy a beer whilst waiting for your pizza to be ready. You can also eat there if you prefer which is what we did. Check out their website for their opening hours as they do close earlier than you would expect. I cannot recommend this restaurant more!

Update: Jan 2023 – Can confirm the pizza is still as amazing as it was the first time!

man with pizza
Stoked Woodfire Pizza

Some other restaurants and cafes that we have heard are great are:

  • Shirley Delicious – We have heard nothing but amazing things about this Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch Cafe! The cafe is located about a 10 minute drive from Jordan River back towards Sooke. Their menu includes an amazing choice of hot breakfast options, Focaccias and of course coffee.
  • Bridgemans West Coast Eatery – Located in Port Renfrew, about a 40 minute drive from Jordan River, Bridgemans serves bistro-type food. We haven’t been to this restaurant but their menu looks yummy and they are located right on the water. Their opening hours are more catered to lunch or a really early dinner. If you were exploring Botanical Beach in the morning, Bridgemans might be a great choice to have lunch at after your adventures.

🥾 Adventurous Activities in Jordan River

This is probably the section of this guide that you have been looking forward to the most. There are some REALLY awesome places to see in Jordan River.

Mystic Beach

couple standing at waterfall on beach at sunset

Mystic Beach is a dream! It’s a muddy walk from the carpark to a smallish beach with a waterfall running into the ocean.

The walk is 4km roundtrip from the China Beach carpark. The hike down to the beach will take you around 1 hr. The trail was extremely muddy when we went and we have heard from others that this is pretty normal so don’t wear your favourite white shoes!

The Trail from China Beach/Mystic Beach Carpark to Mystic Beach

To stay on the trail, you really have to follow the markers on the trees and navigate your way over the roots without falling in the mud.

The trail kind of weaves up and around the trees for a while, crossing a suspension bridge at one stage, before slowly starting to descend down a steep staircase to the beach. The beach is well worth the trek but make sure you go after there has been lots of rain to see the beautiful waterfall into the ocean!

When we arrived at the beach, we were welcomed by a “Beware Juvenile Elephant Seal” sign. So just watch out for Elephant Seals when you are there. We didn’t see any, but it doesn’t hurt to be careful.

Beach with waterfall flowing into the sea at sunset on Vancouver Island
Camping at Mystic Beach

Surprise! You can camp on Mystic Beach! To camp, you will need to obtain a Backcountry Camping Permit from the BC Parks website.

Sombrio Beach and its Hidden Waterfall

Sombrio Beach is another special place along the Juan De Fuca Trail. It is a beautiful and wild looking beach but it is also home to its own special “Hidden Waterfall.”

The hidden waterfall was sooo much better than we were expecting it to be! It was like we had stepped off the beach into another world!

The beach is a mix of sand and pebbles and isn’t the easiest to walk on.

To reach Sombrio Beach, you will drive along the West Coast Road towards Port Renfrew. You will reach the Sombrio Beach Trail Road which is a dirt road off the West Coast Road. There are no specific signs noted at the turnoff, however there is a sign 400m leading up to it.

The Trail to Sombrio Beach

The trail from the parking lot to the beach is about a 10 minute walk (650m). You will start your walk on the trail that leads down to the beach. You will walk through a forested area that is mossy and beautiful.

From the parking lot to the beach, it is about a 10 minute walk (650m). Shortly after starting your hike, you will come to an intersection with the options of going to East or West Sombrio. Go East because this is also the way to Sombrio Beach’s Hidden Waterfall.

If you would like instructions to find the Hidden Waterfall, check out our blog post.

Note: The waterfall is a little hard to find and was much further down the beach than we thought it was going to be.

Sombrio Beach Hidden Waterfall
Sombrio Beach’s Hidden Waterfall
Camping on Sombrio Beach

You can also camp on Sombrio Beach, however it does get busy in the Summertime. There are three designated campgrounds to choose from, East, West, and Main. West Sombrio campground has wooden platforms and East and Main have dirt patches.

Please note that there are no toilets or showers at Sombrio Beach. There are however, some Pitt toilets along the trail where the intersection is for East Sombrio and West Sombrio. There are bear boxes provided so that you can store your food safely.

You cannot book a campsite, but you can reserve a backcountry permit online before you go.

Botanical Beach

Botanical Beach

Botanical Beach is most famous for its beautiful tide pools where you can admire all varieties of marine life!

When visiting Botanical Beach, please look in the tide pools only and do not touch the marine life. Do not remove anything from the pools or put anything in. Don’t even put your hands into the pools as touching the water in a tide pool with sunscreen on your hands can kill the creatures living there.

There is no camping allowed on Botanical Beach.

man looking at rockpools on Botanical Beach
Botanical Beach
How long is the hike to Botanical Beach?

The hike to Botanical Beach is 3km return, or you can choose to do the Loop Trail which is only 2.5km. We chose to do the return walk as we heard that the loop was a lot more muddy.

The walk is through a pretty old and interesting forest and is just beautiful! Parts of the trail are pictured below.

Sandcut Beach

Sandcut Beach carpark has a toilet and a rubbish bin so if you need to go, go now as the beach has no toilet facilities. Sandcut beach is about a 10 minute hike (400 metres) from the carpark.

It is a pebble beach and the trail to reach the beach has quite a few stairs going downhill on the way to the beach and uphill on the way back. The trail also involves a lot of tree roots, as most British Columbia trails do.

The beach itself is quite similar to Mystic Beach in that it has a set of waterfalls running into the ocean!

Sandcut Beach is a little less popular than the other beaches in the area and so you may find that it is much more peaceful.

Finding the Waterfall

If you are going to Sandcut Beach, you are probably planning on checking out the waterfalls on the beach. This will double your walking time from the carpark to about 20 mins each way.

Once you reach the beach, you need to turn left (East), and continue walking for around 500metres. The walk along the beach will be a bit harder on your feet due to the pebbles. If it is low tide, you can walk closer to the water which is more sand than pebbles. This will make the walk easier.

Camping Rules for Sandcut Beach

Unlike Mystic and Sombrio Beaches, camping is not allowed on Sandcut Beach.

💭 Our Thoughts

Couple standing at sunset at Mystic Beach

For Dave and I, our weekend trip to Jordan River is one that we will never forget! We went from having quite low expectations to now recommending Jordan River on Vancouver Island to anyone and everyone we meet! It is truly an absolutely stunning part of the world and extremely underrated!

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