Rich tidal pools, a shoreline full of life, and fantastic geological features attract visitors to Botanical Beach, offering one of the best opportunities to view intertidal marine creatures and plants on Vancouver Island.
Located near Port Renfrew on southern Vancouver Island, Botanical Beach is one of the most amazing places on the entire West Coast of British Columbia, particularly at low tide, when visitors can walk a long way out across flat sandstone and granite outcroppings to view tide pools filled like jewelry boxes with brightly coloured marine animals.
Purple, red and orange starfish and sea urchins, blue mussel shells, white gooseneck barnacles, and green sea anemones and sea cucumbers only begin to hint at the spectrum of intertidal life that thrives here. So significant is this location that a research station was first established here in 1900 by a team from the University of Minnesota.
The organisms that live here must be able to handle a wide range of conditions. When the tide is out, there are significant changes in temperature, predators, food sources and salinity, and each creature has adapted to contend with these variable conditions.
Organisms that cannot cope with drying out will survive in the tide pools or in shaded crevices. There you will find congregations of seastars, chitons and anemones; the seastars often piled together to reduce moisture loss. Barnacles, snails and mussels are able to survive by closing up tightly with a small amount of water inside their shells. Purple sea urchins have established a particular niche in the soft sandstone. Their sharp, hard spines help to wear away the indentations in which they live.
Botanical Beach in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park has 251 hectares of upland habitat, but it is best known for its abundance of intertidal life.