Port Renfrew was inaccessible except by boat until 1957. Even today, the community—home to the Pacheedaht First Nation—feels remote and undeniably special. Eagles, seals, and sea stars flourish on this Southwest Coastland of Vancouver Island.
If heading there for the first time, a great place to stay is the Wild Renfrew Seaside Cottages, which were built on the community dock overlooking Port San Juan bay. The log cabin accommodations were recently renovated, and are ideal for those seeking to enjoy the rugged and breathtakingly beautiful “graveyard of the Pacific” (the site of over 135 shipwrecks) in rustic comfort. Studios, two-bedroom beachfronts, and a private penthouse cabin that is nestled above the bay all have kitchenettes, fireplaces, king beds, and nautical decor.
Western red cedars, Douglas firs (the world’s largest one is here, standing 242 feet high and being an estimated 750 to 1,000 years old), Sitka spruces, and Western hemlocks thrive in the temperate rainforests here. Visitors take pilgrimages to Avatar Grove (home of the gnarliest tree in the world), the West Coast Trail, and Fairy Lake, in which the Ancient Forest Alliance works to preserve these arboreal wonders.
On the 110-kilometre route from Victoria, Juan de Fuca Marine Provincial Park flows along Highway 14 with many lookout points and beaches to explore. At the north end, Botanical Beach trail is worth visiting at low tide for its colourful pools filled with sea urchins and anemones, and hidden granite and sandstone caves. Lucky explorers may even spy a sea otter dozing in the kelp beds.
Port Renfrew is home to the Renfrew Pub (where fishers can BYOC—bring your own catch) and Coastal Kitchen, both of which are worth a visit for delicious takes on comfort food. Also consider bringing a cooler with some treats from home, because the Port Renfrew General Store offers a very limited selection, and the nearest grocery store is 70 kilometres away in Sooke.
Whale watching, salmon and halibut fishing (some of the best in Canada), canoeing, and kayaking are available to water enthusiasts. For those with a hint of outdoor adventure in their souls, Port Renfrew is an undeniably unique and natural national treasure.
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