At the north end of the Comox Valley, at the mouth of the Oyster River, Saratoga Beach may be the ultimate stretch of shimmering sand on the sheltered east coast of Vancouver Island.
The tide along this stretch of the shoreline goes out for over a quarter of a mile, creating a hard-packed oceanfront playground perfect for children. The gently sloping beach continues for well over a mile into the calm waters of the Strait of Georgia, creating warm, shallow and safe swimming conditions, free from powerboat traffic, deep water or strong currents.
Saratoga Beach is flanked by popular camping and recreational sites at Miracle Beach Provincial Park and Oyster River Regional Park.
Location: Saratoga Beach is located at the north end of the Comox Valley. Highways 19 and 19A link the Comox Valley with southern Vancouver Island. Approaching from the north, Island Highway 19 links the Comox Valley and Campbell River with the northern half of Vancouver Island. The Comox Valley is a two-and-a-half hour drive north from Victoria, or a 75-minute drive from the ferry terminals of Departure Bay and Duke Point near Nanaimo.
BC Ferries operates a ferry route between Comox and Powell River on the British Columbia mainland. The Comox Valley Regional Airport is served by three major airlines, with 12 daily flights between Vancouver and Comox and direct flights from Calgary. Small aircraft and floatplanes land at the Courtenay Airpark near downtown Courtenay. Daily coach lines connect all parts of Vancouver Island with the Mainland, and local bus service is also available in Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland.
Beachcombing is a must at Saratoga Beach, where you can discover the life at low tide – a seashore profusion of sand dollars, crabs and starfish! Saratoga Beach is a wonderful refuge from the outside world, a place to find a sturdy piece of driftwood for a backrest while you relax and contemplate life.
Campers and resort visitors can get their supplies – and mail – from nearby rural Black Creek, which beckons to visitors passing through the rolling farmlands set off the Island Highway. The Black Creek Country Market signals your arrival in Black Creek.
Visit the nearby Saratoga Speedway, located on the scenic Island Highway. The 3/8 mile Baby “D” shaped track was designed from the Daytona track. Saratoga celebrated its 30th year last year and is ranked as one of the finest tracks in the province. The pit area inside the racing surface allows spectators to view their favourites preparing their cars for the next event. Bracket Drag Racing every other weekend, staged by the Island Drag Racing Association. Outdoor Concerts have become commonplace, with spectators enjoying an up-close view and fantastic acoustics.
The Miracle Beach Adventure Mini Golf, with its distinctive designs is a delight for children and adults alike! Located at the junction of Highway 19 and Miracle Beach Road.
Golf: Saratoga Beach Golf Course offers a 9-hole par 32 course. Nearby golf courses include Storey Creek Golf Course and Sequoia Springs Golf Club in Campbell River, and Crown Isle Golf and Country Club in Courtenay. Vancouver Island Golf Vacations.
Storm watching is stirring for children and adults alike, whether snug in a room with a view or out to watch nature’s fury. When the storm has passed, you’ll be rewarded with a peaceful stroll along a cool deserted beach.
Outdoor Adventure: Saratoga Beach is a summer hot spot for watersports like windsurfing and skim boarding. Kite flyers will love this oceanfront playground.
Weddings: The beaches along this gorgeous stretch of Vancouver Island coastline are a perfect setting for your dream wedding.
Don’t miss the Polar Bear Swim celebration held annually on 1st January.
Miracle Beach Provincial Park is one of the most popular parks on Vancouver Island, located immediately south of Saratoga Beach beside Hwy 19. It’s a 10-minute walk from the campsites to the extravagant expanse of cobblestone beach that gives way to hard-packed sand flats at low tide where herons stalk, seals bark, and ravens and eagles call. What a chorus! The beach seems to stretch forever in each direction. From the covered picnic shelter (featuring two gas barbeques) visitors look east out onto Elma Bay. Watch for harbour porpoises, Steller sea lions, California sea lions (much smaller), harbour seals, and killer whales. The campsites are located in a second-growth forest of gnarly Douglas fir, western red cedar, and western hemlock. Wildflowers bloom throughout the park from early spring to the end of summer. Black Creek flows through the park and past the Miracle Beach Nature House, which has natural-history displays. Beachcombers will find a tide chart posted here daily from late May to September. Pick up a brochure here and take a self-guided nature walk through the park.
Hiking: Hike to Woodhus Slough, where over 150 bird species and over 200 plant species have been recorded in the slough and adjacent marsh, fields, beach and gravel flats habitats. You’ll find exceptional birding in Woodhus Slough, with viewing trails leading out into the slough from the parking lot in Oyster River Regional Park. To reach the park, turn east on Glenora as it follows the north side of the Oyster River.
Fishing: Some of the best saltwater fishing on the island, particularly for salmon, can be found in the waters of the Strait of Georgia north of the Puntledge River Estuary between Courtenay and Comox, and off of Cape Lazo, King Coho, and Bates Beach, south of Saratoga Beach. Because of its sheltered location and an absence of dangerous currents, the shoreline around Comox is well suited for rod fishing in a small boat. If the weather does change, you can see it coming and quickly make for shore.
Shore angling for salmon is popular in Comox Bay from August to November. The closer you get to Campbell River, the better the salmon fishing becomes. Tidal flows in Discovery Passage churn up clouds of nutrients that sustain a complex food chain, which includes, near the top, tasty salmon. You’ll find a boat launch at the marina at Pacific Playgrounds Resort at Saratoga Beach, and another at aptly named Salmon Point in Black Creek. Fly-fish for coho in September at the mouth of Black Creek, which flows through Miracle Beach Provincial Park into the Strait of Georgia, as well as farther north at Oyster River on Hwy 19.
Mountain Biking: South of Saratoga Beach, Seal Bay Nature Park doesn’t have a lot of downhill, but then, it doesn’t have a lot of uphill, either. This is a nature park, but if you’re trying to find some easy cranking and some peace of mind, you could do a whole lot worse than the multiuse trails here. All trails are well marked and begin from the park’s main trailhead on Bates Road.
Oyster Bay Shoreline Regional Park: As you pass north of Saratoga Beach, it’s hard not to notice strollers and cyclists meandering along Oyster Bay Shoreline Regional Park, a shoreline bike-and-walking trail with gravel beaches and great views across to Quadra Island. Pulverized oyster shells speckle the gravel with a bright, white hue. The trail winds for much of the distance from Campbell River’s southern perimeter to the central harbour, passing the new museum on the hillside above the beach. The occasional picnic table and park bench invite travellers to pull over and join the fun.
Seal Bay Regional Nature Park on Bates Road south of Saratoga Beach is a BC Wildlife Watch viewing site where California and Steller sea lions, seals, and migratory birds hang out at this sunny stretch of coastline. Spring is a time of increased activity, when the sea lions arrive as they follow the annual herring and eulachon migration. (Eulachon are a small, sardine-sized fish.) Trails begin from the north end of the road and lead to a staircase that descends to the beach.
Mitlenatch Island Nature Provincial Park: If you can arrange a boat charter to journey by boat to Mitlenatch Island Provincial Park, you’ll find a bird-watching and wildflower paradise 8 miles (13 km) northeast of Saratoga Beach. Mitlenatch is home to the largest seabird colony on the Strait of Georgia, principally 3,000 pairs of glaucous-winged gulls. Other nesting species include pelagic cormorants, pigeon guillemots, and black oystercatchers. Specially designed trails for wildlife viewing lead across the middle of the island between Northwest and Camp Bays to an observation blind. This area is characterized by open meadows carpeted with wildflowers from April through August. Access is restricted to other parts of the island where rocky uplands are forested with trembling aspen, a species more frequently seen in the BC Interior. Their presence, along with prickly pear cactus, are a result of the semi-arid conditions here in the rain shadow cast by the Vancouver Island Mountains.
Mt. Washington Ski Resort: Saratoga Beach is a great place to return to and relax in after a day of skiing at Mt. Washington Ski Resort, located 19 miles (31 km) west of Hwy 19 at Courtenay. Mt. Washington (elevation 5,216 feet/1590 m) has long been known for having good snow conditions from early in winter to well past Easter, despite the fact that the top of the mountain isn’t as high as the peaks of Blackcomb or Whistler Mountains. The snow here is often deeper than anywhere else in British Columbia, and occasionally anywhere else in the world! In 1995, Mount Washington had more snow than any other ski resort in the world. This accounts, in part, for Mount Washington being the second-busiest winter recreation destination in British Columbia, behind Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. Mount Washington also provides excellent hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding in summer, or you can simply make the 40-minute trip to Mount Washington to ride the chair lift and enjoy the wonderful views of the surrounding area.
South of Saratoga Beach is the rural community of Black Creek that beckons to visitors passing through the rolling farmlands set off the Island Highway.
North of Saratoga Beach is the young and vibrant community of Campbell River, a metropolitan town located on the frontier of a BC wilderness that is inhabited by few people but many animals. Long known as the Salmon Capital of the World, Campbell River is a natural destination, in more ways than one.