Best and Worst Anchorages of Southern British Columbia

Scream has spent a couple years cruising the BC coast. While we have no means conducted an exhaustive search of the many hundred anchorages, we do feel qualified enough to offer some suggestions:

Best

  1. Hot Springs Cove (49.24.0 N 126.15.3W )
    Roomy, well sheltered, reasonable depth, great holding, and the best off the water recreation. Hot Springs Cove is any easy choice for the best anchorage. Anchor close to the park docks and take the board walk to the hot springs.
  2. Tenedos Bay (50.07.2 N 124.42.4 W)
    The cove in the Northwest of Tenedos Bay is wonderful. The entrance is somewhat shallow, but not enough to be dangerous. The secluded cove has room for one or maybe two boats to swing. We love it.
  3. Montague Harbour (48.53 N 123.23 W)
    Montague is enormous, with room for hundreds of boats in 50 feet depth. The holding is good and the Harbour is sheltered from all directions. The park, small marina, and pub bus are all worth a visit.
  4. Nanaimo ( 49.10.3 N 123.55.2 W)
    A year ago I would never have thought that Nanaimo would make this sort of list. But the harbour city has an excellent anchorage and has many services for boaters. The dinghy dock pub, Newcastle Island Park, and the Harbour authority all offer free dock space for dinghies. A whole city’s worth of services are within a short walk of the harbour authority docks. Anyone who has tried to anchor in Vancouver or Victoria/Oak Bay will appreciate the warm reception that Nanaimo gives to boats at anchor.

Worst

  1. Port Renfrew/Port San Juan (48.34 N 124.24 W)
    Sailing Directions makes it clear that Port Renfrew is a dangerous place to anchor in a storm. It’s also an uncomfortable place to anchor in most conditions. Port Renfrew is a large, hazard-free bay which looks like it ought to be sheltered from the wind and swell of Juan De Fuca, but somehow isn’t. I’ve been in Port Renfrew four times, and every time the wind strength in the bay has been greater than what I encountered outside. If there were anywhere else to stop in the 80 miles between Bamfield and Sooke I’m sure that no one would anchor in Port Renfrew. On the plus side there is room for a thousand boats and the bottom shallows gradually so you can pick any depth you like. The docks in Renfrew are a disaster, but that doesn’t matter as the local sport fishing charters have them fully occupied.
  2. Cadboro Bay (48.27.1 N 123.17.3 W)
    On the border of Oak Bay and Saanich, Cadboro Bay is home to a large sandy beach, a small commercial “village” and the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. The bottom shallows gradually and the holding is good. Unfortunately the bay is wide and therefore provides little shelter from the winds and more fetch than desirable.
  3. False Bay, Lasqueti Island ( 49.29.3 N 124.21.2 W)
    False Bay is scenic and has a very interesting settlement. However, false bay is open to the Qualicum winds, so unless a south easterly wind is blowing False Bay will develop strong to gale force westerlies in the evening. This isn’t pleasant when it happens on an otherwise quiet day.
  4. Cullen Harbour (50.45.8N 126.44.4W)
    This seems like it ought to be a nice place, but the wind funnels through the gaps between the islets gusting from one direction and then another. The prevailing northwest swell is only partially abated.

We haven’t been north of Bull Harbour (which we also recommend), which is why this list is for southern BC.
Any comments?

One Comment

  1. Oh, how could I forget Smuggler’s Cove (49.30.9N 123.58.3W)? A narrow, shallow maze littered with rocks and shoals, Smuggler’s Cove is IMHO a threat to life and vessel. If you have to go there, make sure to enter and exit near high tide. As Smuggler’s Cove is literally surrounded by better anchorages, I will not return. Try Secret Cove (49.31.6N 123.58.2W) or Water Bay (49.29.6N 123.59.1W).