Located in Cape Scott Provincial Park and touted as the most beautiful beach on Vancouver Island, San Josef Bay has garnered much attention from visitors. The road to get there is long and winding, but it will be worth every minute you spend there when you see this gem for yourself.
The journey is half the fun! Why do things feel more satisfying after a challenge? 6-hour drive to northern Vancouver Island, hop onto a gravel road for another two hours, get out of your truck and hike for 45 min to finally reach gorgeous beaches, sea caves and beautiful sea stacks. If it was a 15 min stop, would it become a bucket list goal? I’m unsure, but San Josef Bay makes the trip worth your time. When you make it to your final destination, it becomes something you look back on as a fantastic trip to reminisce about for years to come.
Located along the southern edge of Cape Scott Provincial Park, San Josef Bay is one of the most picturesque beaches on Vancouver Island, with soft white sand that you can picture being straight out of your favourite movie. The sea stacks left standing from storms and tides are also striking features in this area, making for perfect photo opportunities when exploring San Josef’s shores!
Drive: 2-hour drive from Port Hardy mix of gravel public and logging roads. *NOTE: If you have a rental car, they may not allow driving on logging roads.
Restrooms: Toilets at the parking lot and the beach. No running water.
Camping: Wilderness tent camping is allowed at San Josef Bay. Bear Cache, pit toilets and creek water are all available along the beach. Leave the cash at the parking lot drop box or book at Camping.bcparks.ca > Click Backcountry> Backcountry Registration > Cape Scott
The drive from Port Hardy to Cape Scott Provincial Parks’ only access point is mostly gravel. Although well maintained, it can be a rough ride on the mix of public and active logging roads. Expect the journey to take over 2 hours.
The parking lot is small and is the primary access for all hikes for Cape Scott Provincial Park. There is a washroom in the parking lot and another at the beach. Follow the well-marked trail down to San Josef Bay. The path is wide, well-maintained and relatively easy for all ages. You will see some great old-growth Sitka Spruce and Western Cedar trees. Once you hit the beach, head to the right, follow it until you see the famous sea stacks and look for caves. Keep going, and you will reach Second Beach.
Watch out for high tide, a section of beach is not passable during high tide, don’t worry. There’s a high tide bypass. It’s best to download a trail map just in case. All Trails San Josef Bay and watch the tide charts for the best experience. The trail is marked with hanging buoys and just before the Sea Stacks.
When the tide is entirely out, you get the full effect of what San Josef Bay has to offer. There is so much sand it seems to never end. While the tide is out, the best place to find tide pools filled with sea life, broken coral and unique rock formations is at the very end of Second Beach.
If you’re looking to extend your visit, camping is a great option. You can find cleared-out sites in the trees along both beaches to set up camp. On the second beach, there is a stream to access water for drinking (make sure you treat or filter before drinking). There are two more camping options on your drive-in just before reaching the parking lot.
San Josef Bay is one of the most beautiful places on Vancouver Island, so it’s no surprise why people would add San Josef Bay to their Vancouver Island Bucket List.
Just before Port Hardy on Highway 19 the road to San Josef Bay and Holberg is well marked. It starts off as pavement but it doesn’t last long, quickly turning into gravel.
The road beyond that point is quite dusty and seems to go on forever. It’s narrow in some parts and serves as the primary artery for logging roads in the area. The truck drivers are considerate of the tourism industry and coordinate with each other during heavy traffic, and take weekends off.
There are all types of vehicles and driving skills along the logging road, from small cars to rugged 4×4’s and everyone has their own speed they feel comfortable with. Pull over to let people pass when it’s safe to do so and always be careful around tight corners.
If you aren’t planning to stop in Holberg there is a short bypass road following the truck route sign just before the town.
Yep, a tree full of shoes. Some websites give credit to the tree starting in the ’80s but the tradition started long before that in the early ’70s.
There is a noticeable landmark that you can’t miss, situated almost precisely at the midpoint between Port Hardy and Holberg. You’ll know you’ve found it when you see a large yellow sign that warns you about the potential dangers on the road ahead but does so with a bit of humour.
The ‘Be prepared for the unexpected’ car on your way to San Josef Bay has had both the sign and the car have had upgrades over the years, it’s no longer the original car under the tree.
Touted as Vancouver Islands’ most remote pub, and I believe it. After driving 4okm on a logging road with nothing in sight, it’s hard to believe it when you drive into Holberg, with a population of just 35, the Scarlet Ibis Pub has small-town charm with a taste of British pub and is worth the visit.
HOW DO I GET TO SAN JOSEF BAY?
To get to the Cape Scott Trailhead, start by driving Highway 19 north. Just before the highway enters Port Hardy, turn left onto Holberg Road. The road quickly turns to gravel.
The remaining 60+km is on rough gravel and active logging roads, so small cars are often seen but not always recommended and be prepared for large logging trucks.
Directions – Google Maps
ARE DOGS ALLOWED?
Dogs are permitted in San Josef Bay area only and must be leashed at all times. Dogs are prohibited in all other areas of the provincial park, including the North Coast Trail.
HOW DIFFICULT IS THE TRAIL IN?
For such a remote location, the trail is wide and well-maintained—an easy hike.
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We love Vancouver Island and want to keep the natural beauty. Please respect the places you visit and pack out what you pack in and leave the area better than when you arrived. We all know how much trash can spoil an experience and the environment, so please help us keep it clean!
Tide and Seasonal Safety:
Changing seasons and tides can have a drastic effect on most locations on Vancouver Island. Please be cautious as the information in this post may vary depending on the time of year and weather. Make sure to check for current weather and tide information before you make your journey!
When visiting the beach, it’s essential to pay attention and stay safe! Please be cautious walking on the shore during high tide. At this time, some areas may not be accessible. Click here for the tides in your area. Be aware of ocean currents before swimming, paddle boarding or kayaking.
We would like to acknowledge the land we appreciate daily within the 50 First Nations that make up the traditional territories of the Coast Salish, Nuu chah nulth, and Kwakiutl–the first peoples of Vancouver Island .
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