Abby and I went to Canada
This was Abby’s 4th country (she’s a well-traveled little beast), and I got to explore some of Vancouver Island’s iconic dive sites.
The ferry from Port Angeles is about $150 roundtrip with a van. I paid for a one-way ticket and booked everything in person on the day of the trip. If you reserve your trip online, you may get through customs more quickly when you arrive in Canada. Remember, before you cross the border, you need to eat any fruits or veggies you have and leave the firewood behind. For those traveling with dogs, there are no special requirements for taking dogs into the country except for the rabies vaccination paperwork.
Ogden Point, Victoria, BC
My first dive destination was Ogden Point, which is the breakwater in Victoria harbor. A breakwater is an offshore wall protecting a harbor or beach from the force of waves. When the breakwater is protecting a harbor, it is important to stay on the outer side of the harbor, away from boat traffic. As such, depending on the wind, there can be some pretty gnarly waves. Choose the conditions appropriate for the dive site and your experience level because waves and large rock walls are a terrible combination for scuba divers.
Navigating a Breakwater Dive
To make a breakwater dive more interesting, I usually start the dive by swimming at the surface a bit away from shore following the breakwater. I skip the shallow part of the dive at the beginning, and instead, explore that area on my way back as a nice way to off-gas.
I drop down and explore the deeper part of the breakwater while keeping the wall on one side of my body. When I need to start my return (because of air, bottom time, or nearing the end of the breakwater), I turn around, keeping the wall on the opposite side of my body. At this point, I go shallower to see what I can find at the different depths.
Navigating breakwater dives is super easy and perfect training if you are starting to lead your own dives with a buddy. The main safety issue is boat traffic. Pay attention to the sounds of boats, which will tell you how close you are to the end of the breakwater.
All in all, the dive site is worthwhile and seems to be great for smaller macro creatures like nudibranchs, crabs, and smaller kelpfish. However, it is a decent walk from the car, and the steps down to the water are large, so if you have knee or hip issues, it could be a challenge to get in.
Breakwaters can be a place where you are protected from some currents, but tide exchanges are still a consideration. Plan to do this dive around high tide for the most comfortable and clear dive.
Next Stop: The Saanich Inlet
My next diving destination was just outside of Victoria… the beautiful and remote Saanich Inlet.
The Saanich Inlet is located only about 30 minutes outside of downtown Victoria, and it’s a popular spot when conditions on the coastline are not ideal. The topography creates spectacular, deep dive sites. I couldn’t believe the insane walls and marine life located a short swim off the shore.
First Dive Site: Willis Point
There is very little parking and no bathroom facilities at the dive site. The walk to the water is easy, and the dive site is located in the buoyed area straight out from shore. I swam away from the shore, and dropped down the wall. I kept the wall on one side of my body until I reached the boater area and turned around to explore the other direction. During the dive I encountered dogfish sharks, coldwater reef fish, and many varied invertebrates.
After this dive, you can stop at a trailhead parking lot about 2 miles away for a pit toilet stop. Then, make your way to McKenzie Bight.
Second Dive Site: McKenzie Bight
Again, there is very little parking at this dive site. Once you park, check out the walk before you gear up. It’s not super far, but take a look before deciding to get in the water. About 5 minutes down the path, you’ll see another trail leading down to the water. There was no other good spot to get to the water before this trail. At the time when I visited (Summer 2022), there was a bike lock on a couple of trees marking the path.
Once you get to the water, the dive site is very easy to navigate. Head away from the shore and drop down to explore the wall. There is a lot of dive site here! You could very easily spend an entire dive day here, going in different directions and depths for each dive. During the dive, I saw a lions mane jellyfish, lingcod, rock rish, and different species of crabs. This was my favorite dive of my trip to Vancouver Island, and I’ve heard that the diving gets even more spectacular as you get further away from Victoria. I plan on going back one of these days.
Camping on Vancouver Island
As for camping, there are tons of campsites in and around Victoria. You’ll notice a lot of van dwellers hanging around the outskirts of town as well. I personally loved hanging out at Clover Point Park (but you can’t sleep there). Abby enjoyed the huge dog park that goes all along the coast from that area.
As you get into the wilderness and head north, there are tons of options for boondocking. Check out iOverlander for specific spots and ask locals for their favorite areas.