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Vargas Island Provincial Park
About This Park
Due to its close proximity to Tofino, Vargas Island Provincial Park in Clayoquot Sound is a very popular paddling and wilderness camping destination. Visitors also come here for the exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities offered, including the chance to see Gray whales in the area around Ahous Bay. Naturalists are drawn to this area every spring as the Gray whales pass by the island on their way to summer feeding grounds in the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea.
Vargas Island Provincial Park protects the rugged western portion of Vargas Island, Blunden Island and the tiny La Croix Group of islands immediately northwest of Tofino. Much of the island is relatively flat and its interior features a number of bogs.
Marine features including exposed rocky coast, sandy beaches, sheltered channels and bays, an intertidal lagoon and mudflats are all protected within the park’s boundaries. The park is also home to ancient sand berms – rows of crescent-shaped sand mounds that indicate earlier sea levels.
The park area also includes the Cleland Island Ecological Reserve, home to a great diversity of nesting sea bird colonies including the Rhinoceros auklet, Cassin’s auklet, Pigeon guillemot and the Black oystercatcher. Access to the Ecological Reserve is prohibited, as the breeding seabirds are very sensitive to disturbances.
Established Date: July 12, 1995
Park Size: 5,805 hectares (1,543 hectares upland and 4,262 hectares foreshore)
Know Before You Go
- Wolf advisory for Vargas Island Provincial Park
It is imperative that park visitors going to Vargas Island:
- Be extremely mindful about how they store their food as wolves have learned how to get into kayak hatches;
- Have equipment available to hang food in the event food caches are full.
- Due to high frequency of wolves coming into campsites during the night, BC Parks is advising against campers sleeping outside their tents.
- Park visitors are advised to not bring pets to Vargas Island or Flores Island. Dogs are a high level attractant to wolves and other large carnivores. Protect your pet – keep them at home.
- Please do your part when recreating in wolf country and help keep wolves wild. Please click the links for specific information on how to avoid wolf encounters and to practice proper backcountry etiquette.
- If you encounter an aggressive wild animal, report it by calling the Conservation Officer Service 24-hour hotline toll free at 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) or #7277 on the Telus Mobility Network.
- The historic 3-km telegraph route that runs East to West is not maintained and some bridges are out. The rough route passes through various jurisdictions including some private property.
- Numerous kayak companies under Park Use Permits offer day and multi-day kayak tours to Vargas Island Park. For water taxi service to the park, contact Clayoquot Connections at 250 726-8789 or Tofino Water Taxi at 250 725-8844.
Guiding in Parks
- In provincial parks, any person acting as a guide or offering guiding services, including vessel drop-offs, must hold a valid Park Use Permit (Park, Conservancy and Recreation Area Regulation, Section 4). Please ensure the company you hire is legally operating in the park.
- Tsunamis are a series of unusually big waves caused by a large-scale disturbance of a body of water. If you are on the beach and feel strong shaking from an earthquake or if the water suddenly recedes, move immediately to higher ground (greater than 15 metres or 45 feet above the tide line). There is no way to be certain how high a tsunami is going to be. The first wave to arrive at the coast is often not the largest, and each wave may be separated by up to an hour or more. Waves may continue for up to twelve hours, so you must stay on high ground until advised otherwise. Do not go to the beach to watch.
Location and Maps
Maps and Brochures
Nature and Culture
- Cultural Heritage: A number of Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations heritage sites are located within the park.
- Conservation: The park protects the rugged, outer coast of Vargas Island, Blunden Island and the marine environment. Many marine features are represented in the park, including exposed rocky coast, sand beaches, sheltered channels and bays, a lagoon and mudflats. Gray whales migrate through the off-shore waters. The park also encompasses ancient dune berms, rows of crescent shaped sand mounds that indicate earlier sea levels. Vargas Island Provincial Park includes the Cleland Island Ecological Reserve, which is home to a variety of nesting sea birds including the Rhinoceros auklet, Cassin’s auklet, Pigeon guillemot and the Black oystercatcher. Access to the Ecological Reserve is prohibited.
Activities Available at this Park
NOTE: Please abide to current DFO Marine Viewing Guidelines when viewing marine wildlife in BC Parks.