Jordan River is one of Canada’s only road-accessible surf breaks, making it a popular place for local cold water surfers to make the drive up and take in an afternoon of surfing. Stop in at the cafe and enjoy the skills of cold water surfing all year round.
Tucked away on Vancouver Island along Route 14, between Sooke and Port Renfrew, is a quaint little stop known as Jordan River. Once a busy little town populated by the power station, mining and the lumber industry. Now a surfing cove with a cute coffee stop, a couple of campgrounds and Air BnBs.
When heading to one of the coastal beaches or just out for a drive, Jordan River is a wonderful stopping point for coffee and to watch surfing.
Jordan River might not be a destination spot like Tofino, but it still has much to offer the surfing community. Its close proximity to Victoria gives easy access to the road and is one of the few places to surf on South Vancouver Island. It provides easy access to surfing all year round for the local community.
Surfing in Jordan requires a wetsuit all year long as the water temperature ranges from 6°C to 14°C. The most consistent and most significant swells are during the cooler seasons, from October to April. During the winter months, The air temperature drops, so neoprene boots, gloves, and hoods are a must.
Jordan River is not necessarily the best spot for beginners due to the rocky bottom and strong currents. It’s a small local area that has seen more tourist and visitor traffic over the last few years; respect for other surfers is a must, and be prepared by checking the local surf report.
If you are looking for a camping spot, Jordan River offers two options. Jordan River Regional Park Campground and the Ledge Campground.
There are two more campgrounds further up the highway at French Beach and China Beach. These campgrounds offer larger and more private options, but the sites prebook very quickly and are often not an option during the summer months unless booked ahead of time.
The only campground on South Vancouver Island that offers vehicle sites located right on the Ocean. Operating all year round on a first-come, first-served basis, it tends to fill up pretty fast with 15 drive-in sites and 7 walk-in tent only sites. The drive-in sites are pretty close together, each with a fire ring and no hookups. But you can’t beat the proximity to the sounds of the waves.
Just past the Cold Shoulder Cafe, you will find the new tent campground, A comfortable camping experience with open and private spots. They also have ice available.
The 187-hectare Regional Park has two favourite stops for locals: the day-use area around the campground at the west tip and the popular hike on Route 14 before Jordan River. The 2km hike takes you through a beautiful forest down to Sandcut Beach and across to a unique waterfall.
For more on the beautiful hike and waterfall at Sandcut Beach, you can find maps, photos and more here.
Once a small town of over 1000, this little community of around 100 people has more history than most areas on Vancouver Island. From the indigenous tribes’ fishing villages to the destruction of the river over the last 100 years by mining and other industries.
The river banks of the Jordan River once housed a seasonal fishing village where the Pacheedahat, Ditidaht and the T’sou-ke people would fish the river for salmon and trout. The river was once so active it was said you could kick the salmon out of the water.
Jordan River got its current name in 1790 by the passing Spanish as they mapped out the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Sub Lieutenant Manuel Quimper named it Jordan Rio in memory of chaplain Alexandro Jordan who accompanied Fransico Eliza to Nootka.
As South Vancouver Island started to see settlements by the British, industry began to grow. Over the last century, the area has seen the forest industry rise and fall, a mine that produced over 1.4 million tones of copper, gold and silver. And in 1911, one of Canada’s largest dams was built to become Victoria’s primary source of power.
Unfortunately, contaminants from the years of mining, and the changes in the river’s flow from the dams have caused devastation for the salmon. Once supporting thousand of fish, now considered a dead river as only a few dozen salmon no venture upstream. The Sunro Copper mine closed in 1977, but the remanence of the mine still causes trouble to this day.
For an in-depth article, visit Capital Daily on the current situation and health of the Jordan River.
The original power station was decommissioned, and in 1971 BC, hydro built the Elliott Dam and diverted much of the river volume to a new power station on the west side of the river. The new station generates power on a peak load system when energy demands are high for greater Victoria.
There has not been any new development around the mouth of the river due to a 2014 study that was released revealing that the Jordan River Diversion Dam may be a seismic hazard in an extreme earthquake event. BC Hydro bought up most of the land and installed an early warning earthquake system, just in case the dam upstream collapsed from a magnitude 8.0 or higher earthquake.
Beaches along Juan de Fuca
Did we miss something? Have more to add?
Yes, you can, but the beaches are not that great for walking, and there are some currents you want to be aware of. It’s a better surfing beach than a swimming beach.
Yes, there are two campgrounds. Jordan River Campground and The Ledge Tenting Campground. They run as first come, first serve and have fire pits. Beach camping is not allowed.
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