Friday, August 3, 2012

Goldstream Provincial Park

Only a 20 or 30 minute drive from the city of Victoria, Goldstream Provincial Park is a wonderful choice for those wishing to experience the natural offerings of Vancouver Island, those who are out to see the city, or folks on a combination quest.  BC Provincial Parks, the overseeing agency, contracts the running of the park out to a private company.  Locals tell us rain is fairly rare in the southern end of the island during the summer.

Goldstream Provincial Park offers "Jerry's Rangers" programs, following the same notion as Oregon State Parks' Junior Ranger program.  Paved loops are ideal for chalk art, rollerblading, and biking.  Within hiking distance lies a river with suitable places for swimming and toe-dipping.  I'm unsure about Canadian fishing regulations, but I never saw anyone fishing.  If you're interested in fishing, I'd recommend checking out British Columbia's fishing information website.  Just down the road is a visitor's/interpretive center.  Within driving distance is an extensive hiking system, including waterfalls and Mt. Finlayson.  While Mt. Finlayson is certainly not for the faint of heart, it is a great day hike for someone looking for a moderate to strenuous challenge - the view from the top is breathtaking!  (If I can find the photos from our trip, I'll post them right away!)  Finally, within a 20-30 minute drive is the beautiful city of Victoria complete with sightseeing, restaurants, museums, and several others.  My two favorite finds around the city were definitely the Victoria Bug Zoo and Naanwich.  Activities are a 4, as you must drive to get to many of them.

Site Quality
All campsites are visible from the road, but few are directly on it.  There is ample space in all the sites, though there is no secret site that is enormous.  Your privacy in any given site will vary with most being pretty shrubby to provide a bit of a natural wall.  Very tall cedars and Douglas fir dominate the campsite, providing consistent mottled shade.  All sites have a fixed table and fire pit.  All sites in the park are primitive with not a hook up to be found.

Goldstream Provincial Park Campground is huge and offers a long walk to see it all.  Bathrooms and showers are fairly spread out, but there is always an option close enough to your site.  Water spiggots, however, can be a bit of a walk.  Lots of garbage and recycling was available on site, but I was disappointed with the signage.  I was able to ascertain that you could recycle single-serving beverage containers, but I was not sure about other recyclables such as tin cans, cardboard, or paper.  A 4.5 appropriately describes these sites.

Everything was working and clean.  However, the toilet paper was out in one restroom for almost an entire day.  Just another reason to always camp with your own roll!  The park offered a combination of pit toilets and flush toilets, the flush toilets being paired with showers.  I found a fair bit of garbage that was left behind in the showers.

The grounds were very well maintained.  The sites were generally packed dirt with some having a fine grade of gravel.  A few sites had a little sandbox on which to set up tents.  The sites are immaculately cleaned and raked between uses.  Campground hosts don't exist in this park and you will occasionally see a staff member drive by in the park.  They are almost always available from 7am to 11pm in the booth at the entrance to the park.  I found them to generally be responsive to questions, though I never experienced anyone going above and beyond to be extra friendly or helpful.  Particularly for a woman, lack of toilet paper can be rather vexing.  Considering this and other factors, this park earned a 4 in maintenance.

Overall Value
Provincial Parks generally seem to be a bit pricier than many Oregon State Parks.  Currently, you will pay more for a BC Provincial primitive site than you will for an Oregon State full hook up site.  However, the option was far cheaper than a hotel, so the price is relative.  However, for the primary purpose of tent camping and not tourism, I would put the overall value at a 3.  However, if your primary purpose in visiting this park is as an affordable place to stay in BC, the value is much higher!

All sites had a fixed table and fire pit while there was no availability of electricity through hookups.  Water, garbage, (limited?) recycling, and showers were available, though there were not any dumps for waste water.  There were a variety of day use activities.  We saw chipmunks, deer, bald eagles, turkey vultures, songbirds, and banana slugs.

Miscellaneous Notes
Goldstream Provincial Park accepts card, cash, and international checks.  Some sites are able to be reserved and some are on a first come, first served basis.  Ice and wood are available on site and card payments are accepted for both of these things.  We struggled with green wood and wound up purchasing all of our campfire wood at the general store.  Light mosquitoes were present at dawn and dusk.  T-Mobile did have coverage, though my phone did indicate that roaming fees would apply.

How hard is it to find?
We completely missed the sign asking us to turn on Highway 1, but there is good signage the whole way.  Actually getting to the park requires a quick drive through an industrial area and later a residential area, but the signs are correct - you do wind up at the park.

Will you go back?
Certainly!  However, this will definitely be a trip we save a little bit more for.  I don't regret our initial trip, but Victoria is a city that is better when you're not on a strict budget.  Between the cost of ferries, admissions, and any gift giving or eating out one desires, it can rack up the dollars spent pretty quickly.  Vancouver Island is beautiful and one of the only places outside of Oregon to which I could theoretically see myself relocating.  Also, BC remain the only place where I can have Naanwich.  It might be all I eat if/when we return.

Staying at a provincial park really remains, in my opinion, the way to see BC.  Indulge yourself in hiking, river rafting, seeing the sights, and checking out some of the amazing museums and gardens.  It's a good trip to plan fairly thoroughly and bet on at least a week.  Goldstream Provincial Park scored a 3.9 with all factors weighed.

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