Exploring the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail: Discovering China and Botanical Beach

Although I’ve lived in Victoria off and on for the last three years, I’ve never had many chances to explore the rest of the island. Sure, there was a drive up to Jordan River once, a romantic getaway to Nanaimo, but by and large, I hadn’t seen much of Vancouver Island. I haven’t even seen Tofino in 17 years.

So when the suggestion came from good friends of ours to do an excursion to check out the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail and China Beach, my partner and I jumped at the chance. Living in Victoria means a definite lack of sandy and warm beaches and I’d heard great things about China Beach, so it was a great idea.  We made the trek out to Juan de Fuca Provincial Park early one weekend and walked down a short trail to get to Botanical Beach.

Although Botanical Beach wasn’t our first choice, it was beautiful, like stepping into another world. Growing up in a big city, I have a tendency to categorize beaches into two different types: rocky and hard or sandy and warm. Botanical Beach turned out to be neither of those, but it was still gorgeous and it also supports many smaller ecosystems.

We could walk on the rocks during low tide and although they were covered with various types of seaweed, you could still see that the rocks had been polished, made smooth by the tides crashing in. The waves had even carved cliffs out of the rock overhangs on the beach, with trees majestically overlooking the beach.

Walking just a few feet away from the entrance to the trail led us to a completely different world. Although the rocks were also smooth as though they were carved and sculpted by the waves, the rocks had a porous quality to them. Instead of the dark rocks we saw when we first left the trail, the rock in this section of the beach was sandstone; layers upon layers of rock grains that were compressed to form slabs.

The sandstone rocks also contained several depressions, some of them quite deep, filled with water that the ongoing tide couldn’t displace. These tidal pools are home to some of the most unique ecosystems I’ve ever seen up close and personal. Filled with mussels and other shells, hermit crabs and plant life, it was one of the most unique things I’ve ever had the opportunity to take a photo of.

China Beach, our second stop, was different from Botanical Beach, almost like night and day. Though the water was cold, China Beach was home to the soft sandy beaches and white driftwood that everyone associates with the perfect beach. It was the kind of beach I’d like to set up a clambake and evening bonfire on with a few good friends.

It was a great trip to see some of Vancouver Island’s best beaches and next time, I’d like to go back to China Beach and if possible, have a nice picnic meal with friends and watch the waves crash against the shoreline.

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