HI Jericho Beach, Vancouver
A whiff of military utilitarianism still permeates the basic private rooms of this converted 1930s air force barracks, 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver, set amongst the beachside blackberry bushes. But the imposing white HI Jericho Beach hostel also retains the convivial air that wafted around the decommissioned base when it was squatted by hippies and became the Cool Aid commune in 1970. After the "Battle of Jericho", in which the squatters were evicted, in 1971 it was converted into a 300-bed hostel, the largest in North America. Hippies, students and travellers still frequent the beach and a popular pursuit is sailing off into the sunset on a stand-up paddleboard; heading across English Bay towards the mountain-framed downtown peninsula.
• +1 778 328 2220, hihostels.ca, Private rooms sleeping two from C$67 (£37) low season to $105 (£57) high season; dorms from C$28 (£15). Open May to September
Pacific Sands Beach Resort, Tofino
Squirrelled away among storm-ravaged alder trees on the edge of Pacific Rim national park is the family-run Pacific Sands Beach Resort. When the Pettingers opened the hotel, on Vancouver Island’s most westerly point, 40 years ago, it took six hours on dirt tracks to reach Cox Bay. Now a scenic three-hour drive brings you across from the Nanaimo ferry port. Comb the beach for "sand dollars" (white urchin shells) or take an all-weather surfing lesson. Epic winter waves rush into Cox Bay on to the doorstep of the luxurious beach-houses. Fully decked-out kitchens, cosy fireplaces and sexy hot tubs make them the perfect place to enjoy some storm-watching.
• +1 250 725 3322, pacificsands.com. One-bedroom suites from £90-£165
Mussel Beach Campground, Ucluelet
Mussel Beach Campground is also off-the-beaten track on Vancouver Island’s western coast. Owners Lori and Curtis provide eco-friendly washing facilities and the rest is pure wilderness. Oceanfront camping pitches stretch along the mile-long beach and look out on to Barkley Sound in the Pacific Rim national park. Your neighbours are likely to be black bears, swooping eagles, otters and sea lions. Crunch across the beach’s blue carpet of mussel shells to explore the sea caves and spot the grey whales that migrate here every May until September.
• +1 250 893 2267, musselbeachcampground.com. Private beachfront sites £22, semi-private pitches £16 or £14 off season
Soule Creek Lodge, Port Renfrew
Soule Creek’s upscale cabins and chic yurts stand proud on the forested San Juan ridge, high above Botanical Bay on Vancouver Island. Owned by chefs and brothers Tim and Jon Cash, the lodge’s menu focuses on locally-sourced seafood (dinner is by request) and breakfast is served with a panoramic view from the dining room. Head down to Botanical Beach, part of the Juan de Fuca hiking trail, to explore the other-worldly rock pools. Take a hike to see the 73-metre Red Creek Fir – the world’s tallest Douglas fir –then return to the lodge to soak tired muscles in the outdoor hot-tub.
• +1 866 277 6853, soulecreeklodge.com. Yurts sleep two to four people, from £76-£117
The Beach Club Resort, Parksville
Over on Vancouver Island’s east coast, this four-star resort is bang on Parksville Beach, which takes the crown for having the country’s warmest sea. Enjoy a glass of Island wine on the balcony overlooking expansive Parksville Bay, where the annual Canadian Open Sand Castle Festival and KidFest are both held. High tide brings shallow family-friendly swimming and low tide reveals vast sand flats teeming with bald eagles and herons. For 100 years (1917-2007) Island Hall Resort stood here; now you’ll find a spa, seaside pool and beachfront patio restaurant.
• +1 888 760 2008, beachclubbc.com. From £70 for a studio suite in low season to £261 for a two-bed ocean view suite in high season
North Beach, Haida Gwaii
Formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia’s northern Haida Gwaii Islands were the birthplace of distinctive Haida Gwaii First Nation artwork. At islands’ most northerly tip you’ll find Naikoon provincial park’s wet and wild North Beach: hardy souls can try walk-in wilderness camping (pack wet-weather gear) or head to the oceanfront Agate Beach Campground. Comb the beach for colourful pebbles, agate rocks, crabs, clams and razor shells. This is Haida Nation territory where according to legend creation began when the raven coaxed the first people out of a clam shell.
• no phone, env.gov.bc.ca. Campground is open June until mid-Sept and costs £9 per party per night
Salt Spring Spa, Salt Spring Island
Vancouver’s spa lovers head to small Salt Spring Island in the Strait of Georgia, close to Vancouver Island. A 35-minute ferry ride from Victoria takes you to the island’s natural mineral waters. Salt Spring Spa has seaside chalets with mineral water hot-tubs and roaring fires: have a treatment at the Ayurveda spa or soak in the water that springs up on the spa’s grounds. Salt Spring Island is a creative hub that draws artists, chefs and entrepreneurs. On Saturdays, the weekly "make it, bake it and grow it" market showcases local artisans from cheese and soap makers to artists and coffee roasters.
• +1 800 665 0039, saltspringspa.com. Midweek off season from £60 in a one-bedroom ocean-view room; two-bedroom executive suite £163
Casa Luna, Sechelt
Cape Cod meets Canadiana at this beach cottage, where the shabby-chic white interior includes a bijou bedroom, kitchen/lounge with wood-burning stove and a deck that overlooks the pebbly beach at Sechelt. It’s a 40-minute ferry ride from Vancouver up to BC’s Sunshine Coast – a region of forests and mountains that has been a holiday destination for city folk since the advent of steamships. Cute Casa Luna is a 25-minute drive from Langdale ferry port and is close to the town of Sechelt.
• +1 604 983 0684, mybeachcottage.ca. £68 a night off season, £90 high season
Fort Rodd Hill, Victoria
Parks Canada’s new "oTENTiks" are a part-camping and part-lodge experience on the edge of Victoria Harbour at the Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse (western Canada’s first, built in 1860), close to BC capital Victoria. These tent-like seaside structures have a few creature comforts such as queen/bunk beds and also contain outdoor cooking supplies. Hosts welcome you to the historic site, just inside the fort walls in the place where soldiers’ families would have stayed 50 years ago during summer camp-outs.
• +1 250 478 5849, pc.gc.ca. oTENTiks sleep up to six people and cost £65 a night
Whaler on the Point, Tofino
Clinging on to Tofino’s pretty quayside, this charming oceanfront lodge on Vancouver Island’s western peninsula feels more like a guesthouse than a hostel, with its sauna, barbecue patio and homely private rooms. Summer fog lifts to reveal looming mountains and green islets covered in ancient forests. Grab one of the hostel’s ex-military rain jackets and take a boat trip with Jamie’s Whaling Station to visit hot springs, ancient giant cedar tree trails and watch for whales. Chat to surfers over a taco from Tacofino food truck or warm up with local seafood chowder at chef-run Spotted Bear. Or there’s fine dining at the Pointe Restaurant in The Wickannish Inn; fresh fish and foraged dishes at the newly-opened Wolf in the Fog or imaginative locavore dishes at Shelter.
• +1 250 725 3443, tofinohostel.com. Double rooms from £38 low season or £63 high season