I am an avid hiker with a focus on easy to moderate trails in natural settings. I occasionally do harder trails.
Vancouver Island and Summertime Freshwater Swimming
Vancouver Island has a lot of amazing spots. For freshwater swimming, you can only really do it comfortably from June to September. Here are my top five recommendations for lake swimming on Vancouver Island, counting down from number five to my outright personal favorite.
My 5 Favorite Lakes on Vancouver Island
- Westwood Lake
- Peden Lake
- Heart Lake
- Kennedy Lake
- Hoomak Lake
5. Westwood Lake in Nanaimo
Westwood Lake is an easily accessible lake. It is in Nanaimo, near Jingle Pot Road off of the Nanaimo Parkway on the small city's southside. This lake features a decently lengthy trail (Westwood Lake Trail), one that connects to a broader network of trails in Nanaimo.
For swimming, there are two beaches that are next to one another. The change rooms and facilities at this lake are not impressive. Furthermore, there can be issues with parking.
However, the water is clean, there is a dock, the swimming area is large, and while swimming here you are not bothered by fishermen or powerboats. For a lake that's directly in Nanaimo and a beach that can be driven to, you can't go wrong with Westwood Lake during the hot summer months on Vancouver Island.
4. Hike to Peden Lake Near Sooke
Peden Lake requires partaking in a difficult hike. If you go to Sooke Potholes Provincial Park (greater Victoria area) and use parking lot number two, then you can take a tough and elevating trail to Peden Lake. The hike will require at least one hour of solid effort and perhaps that is a knock against this lake as it is difficult to get to. Furthermore, there is not that much of a beach area at Peden Lake.
But at the height of summer, when the temperatures soar, you'll find that a lot of lakes on Vancouver Island that only require driving in order to access it will be packed. That's true of Thetis Lake and Shawnigan Lake.
If you put the effort into hiking to Peden Lake, not only will you build up some body heat that a dip in the lake will cure. But you'll find yourself at a beautiful lake that you will likely only be sharing with a handful of people—even on a Saturday in July when it's 30C outside.
A Quick Video of Peden Lake Where I Swam
3. Hike to Heart Lake Near Ladysmith
Heart Lake is a small lake that you can hike to from Ladysmith, British Columbia. Just like Peden Lake, the hike will eliminate sharing space with others. The hike is difficult and elevates but that is the reason that you likely have this lake to yourself. When I went in the summer of 2020, I came across a few people on the trail, however, I had the lake entirely to myself.
To get to this lake, go to the RCMP detachment near Holland Creek and find a public parking spot nearby. You'll find the Holland Creek Trail which you can use to connect to the Heart Lake Trail.
One recommendation I have if you visit this lake is to bring swimming shoes. There wasn't a proper beach but rather I entered the water off of a sloping rock. There were a lot of logs and sticks in the water so swimming shoes will help protect your feet. Furthermore, getting into the lake off of the rock can be painful if you are barefooted.
Heart Lake Near Ladysmith, BC
2. Kennedy Lake Near Tofino
Kennedy Lake is the largest lake on Vancouver Island. It's located near the intersection where you can turn either right to go to Tofino or left to go to Ucluelet.
As a large lake, there are many swimming spots. What Kennedy Lake offers to the tourists and swimming enthusiasts in the area is warm water in the summer that doesn't require a wetsuit. Lengthy swimming in Tofino, on the other hand, will require wearing a wetsuit and you have to watch for surfers in the Pacific Ocean.
My tip for Kennedy Lake is to go to the following coordinates on Google Maps: 49.04093812319143, -125.52385541474847. There are some highway-side parking spots there and you can cross the street to find a path to an unmarked beach. The water at this beach is really warm in the summer, it's shallow enough that you can walk into the lake for a long way, and I've only ever seen other people here a couple of times.
The shallow water offers an extra charm in that you'll be able to take in a lot of the nearby scenery. For instance, when you get out into the lake, you'll escape the trees that block your views of the nearby mountains when you are set in the midst of them. There's nothing like being 40 yards into a lake when it comes to getting panoramic mountain views.
This is one of my favorite spots on Vancouver Island and my second favorite spot for freshwater swimming due to t the accessibility, the lack of a large public presence, clean and shallow water, and amazing scenery.
Kennedy Lake on Vancouver Island
1. Hoomak Lake Near Woss
Hoomak Lake will probably be tough for most tourists to Vancouver Island to get to. It is on the highway to Port Hardy near the town of Woss, British Columbia. This lake is accessible via the Hoomak Lake Reststop on the side of the highway. For Google Map coordinates, use 50.20864307250282, -126.52015960684982.
To get to this lake, park at the rest stop. There is a change room/bathroom there. Behind this, there is a large wooden staircase that leads down to the lake.
There isn't much of a beach but rather there is just a path that leads into the water. I remember it being very clean, very calm and peaceful, and very warm. There is nowhere that I would rather be on Vancouver Island and I lament that this location is well out of the way in relation to a lot of other tourist spots on the island.