Porteau Cove Provincial Park, British Columbia
Earlier this summer, while driving the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Garibaldi Provincial Park for a day hike, I decided to pull the car over at the Porteau Cove exit. My hiking companions sent a text saying they were running late and just about to leave downtown Vancouver, which meant they were about 45 minutes behind me. Rather than sit in my car and wait at the trailhead parking lot, I decided to take a walk on the pier at Porteau Cove instead.
I’ve passed Porteau Cove hundreds of times while driving from Vancouver to Whistler but, surprisingly, I’ve never actually stopped to check it out.
Porteau Cove is a small provincial park in British Columbia (about 50 hectares in size), situated on the most southerly fjord in North America. The park stretches between the shoreline of Howe Sound and the Sea-to-Sky Highway, about 20 minutes south of Squamish.
Aside from its rocky beaches and breathtaking mountain vistas, Porteau Cove’s star attraction the old ferry terminal that’s been converted into a pedestrian pier. It’s also a popular cold water scuba dive spot because it has a series of artificial reefs and two sunken ships.
As I walked along the pier, I noticed smoke floating above the trees in the distance. My eyes followed the smoke trail towards the source, a small campground situated just off the beach.
I had no idea that Porteau Cove was home to a campground, so I decided to let my curiousity take over. I walked to the campground and was instantly blown away by how close some of the campsites are to the beach. Literally a stone’s throw away from the water.
I thought to myself, “this is the perfect campground!”
The campground has 44 drive-in campsites and 16 walk-in sites that are located about 500 meters from the drive-in sites. It was a summer weekend so I wasn’t surprised that all of the campsites were taken.
But this unplanned visit got my wheels turning. I was already thinking about the possibility of camping there the following summer, when our boys are a little bit older (okay, maybe two summers from now – Connor is still sleeping in a crib right now).
As I walked out of the campground, I noticed two log cabins near the entrance. At first, I thought these log cabins were an office for the park rangers or maybe a tourist info kiosk.
But then I noticed there was a family sitting on the front deck.
The sign on the front gate said Olympic Legacy Cabins Guests Only and it had a phone number for reservations. I quickly pulled out my phone and did a search to see if people can rent these cabins for the weekend.
My search results showed that you can book these oceanfront cabins for personal use, but space is limited so you need to book well in advance, especially if you’re looking for a weekend.
Say no more!
Without hesitation, I booked a weekend for early November, which was the earliest opportunity that fit with our unpredictable schedules. This was the perfect opportunity to ‘camp’ with our little ones, without having to actually camp.
I literally stumbled on these log cabins because I was killing some time before my hike, which is a great reminder to pull the car over once in a while – you never know what you’ll find!
The Olympic Legacy Cabins
These beautiful log cabins got their name because they were initially built for the 2010 Winter Olympics and later relocated to Porteau Cove. The cabins themselves are works of art, complete with hand-carvings of bears and beavers.
We arrived at the cabin around 5:00 PM. It was dark already given that the sunsets around 4:30 in mid-November. The drive was only 45 minutes from our house in North Vancouver, which is very convenient. While it’s only a short drive from the city, you feel completely isolated and surrounded by nature.
Because there are only two cabins there is nowhere to “check in” upon arrival. Instead, the key lock system is set-up based on the phone number used at the time of booking.
Below are a few photos of that show the layout of the cabin…
The cabin is quite cozy. This photo was taken from the front door entrance. To the right would be the bathroom door and the small kitchen.
The kitchen is fully stocked with everything you need – mini-fridge, two-burner electric stove, microwave, utensils, plates and bowls, glasses and mugs, dish clothes and even a french press coffee maker.
It also has a BBQ with propane on the patio.
This is the view of the front (and only) entrance. Unobstructed ocean front views.
For perspective, I took this photo while standing in front of the bathroom door. The kitchen is to the left. Unfortunately, I must have forgotten to take a photo of the little kitchen.
The upper loft has a queen sized bed. It’s actually quite spacious. Nicole slept up there with Connor while Cam and Braydon slept in the bunk-beds in the room below.
Connor still sleeps in a crib so we brought his travel crib and set it up beside the bed.
Read more – 15 baby travel items we always travel with
The cabin has a flat-screen satellite TV, so Saturday morning cartoons were still accessible.
The ladder to the loft is quite steep. The boys could not climb on their own. This is important to note if you have physical limitations.
This is the living room, as seen from the upper loft.
The bathroom is a good size. The cabin has all of the plumbing and hot water you would expect from a hotel room. This may be a log cabin, but you are most certainly NOT roughing it.
Glamping would be the appropriate term when used to describe these cabins.
The patio views are outstanding. This photo was taken at high tide when the water is within 20 feet from the patio.
It was so nice to wake up in the morning and have the beach all to ourselves.
We brewed a fresh pot of coffee and took the boys for a walk along the water. The fresh, crisp morning air in these parts is intoxicating.
The beach is quite rocky so it’s not ideal for swimming. It was far too cold for us to even consider taking a dip, but even in the summer I would imagine it’s not great for swimming, especially with little ones.
We saw a few kayakers in the morning and we’re told that it’s a great spot for stand-up paddle boarding and canoeing. There are no equipment rentals, so if you want to kayak, canoe or paddle board you’ll need to bring your own. There is a boat launch ramp beside the pier.
Shannon Falls Provincial Park
The cabins at Porteau Cove make a great base-camp for exploring the Sea to Sky Corridor. In the afternoon, we jumped in the car and visited nearby Shannon Falls Provincial Park. It’s only a 20 minute drive from the cabins, so it’s an ideal day trip.
Shannon Falls rises 335 metres from the ground, making it the third highest falls in British Columbia. The park is not very big, so you only need about an hour.
You can also check out British Columbia’s newest attraction – the Sea to Sky Gondola.
Other nearby attractions include Britannia Beach, Britannia Mine Museum (great for kids), Stawamus Chief Provincial Park (world class rock climbing), Furry Creek Golf Course, West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish and Alice Lake Provincial Park.
When is the best time to visit Porteau Cove?
We visited in the middle November, which has advantages and disadvantages.
November is considered the off season, so the price per night was almost half of what it costs during the summer. At the time of booking, we paid $139 per night, compared to $219 per night in the summer. You can find up-to-date rates here.
The downside to visiting in November (or any winter month) is that it’s quite cold outside and it gets dark very early (around 4:30 PM). That’s the trade off for having late summer sunsets (around 9:30 PM).
The other gamble is the weather. There is a high probability of rain in the Pacific Northwest from November to April. As you can see from our photos, we got lucky with clear skies. That is not the norm for November.
You can rent a propane fire place for the outside patio, but it was still too cold for our little ones to be outside for longer than 30 minutes. Remember, you are right on the water, so it gets quite chilly when the sun goes down.
We had a great time visiting in November, but we would recommend visiting during the summer months. In fact, we’ve already book BOTH cabins for the same weekend in July. We plan to visit with our friends, so each family will have a private cabin.
We can’t wait to return and spend late summer evenings on that patio and beach.
Things to know before you go:
- To learn more, visit the Sea to Sky Parks website.
- Book well in advance. There are only two cabins, so availability is limited. You can make reservations on Booking.com or directly by phone 604-986-9371 or email [email protected]
- Cabin rentals require a minimum two night booking on regular weekends and a minimum three night bookings on long weekends.
- There are no restaurants of grocery stores nearby, so plan ahead. The closest stores are found in the city of Squamish, which is about a 25 minute drive from Porteau Cove. The cabin comes with a small fridge, which is sufficient for basic items like milk and eggs. But if you want to chill your beer it’s best to bring a cooler with ice.
- You can rent a propane fire pit to use on the cabin patio, which essentially gives you a camp fire. This is a great option during the summer months when there is a campfire ban (it’s quite common to have a campfire ban in British Columbia during peak camping season). Propane fires are allowed even during a campfire ban.
- For the fire pit, you must bring your own propane tank or purchase one from the park ranger office for $25. This is in addition to the $14 per night to rent the fire pit equipment. If you live in BC and have a BBQ propane tank at home, bring it with you and use it for the fire pit instead.
- Both cabins have an outside BBQ with propane provided. You cannot use that propane tank for the propane fire pit.
- The ladder to the upper loft is very high and steep. If you have physical limitations you will not be able to use that room. There is a bunk bed on the main floor. The top bunk is a single bed and the bottom bunk is a double bed.
- The cabin is equipped with heaters and blankets. We found the cabin to be very hot the first evening. Whoever set up the room for us turned the heat on full blast because it was expected to be quite cold that weekend. We couldn’t find a thermostat anywhere, so we opened all of the windows to regulate the temperature. We later learned that the temperature control is on the side of each baseboard heater. It’s a small, round dial that you turn left or right. It’s not obvious, but once you find it you’ll understand how to regulate the temperature (I noticed this was a big complaint on TripAdvisor).
- Parking is free. There are 4-5 spots located directly in front of the cabins.
- There’s a train track directly behind the cabins. You have to cross the train track to get to the cabins, which makes a rail crossing. In Canada, train engineers must blow the horn at all rail crossings, regardless of the time of day. Unfortunately, the train passes through Porteau Cove during the middle of the night. The horn blasts will wake you up, so expect it. It only happened once per night during our stay.
Have you visited Porteau Cove in British Columbia?
Share your experiences in the comments section below, we’d love to read about it!