While it may not be quite as famous as its historic Middle Eastern namesake on the border between Israel and Jordan, Jordan River BC is still pretty well known locally as one of the top surfing destinations on Vancouver Island. Sure, maybe it can’t brag that it’s where Jesus had his head dunked by John the Baptist, but every day bold surfers dip themselves in the frigid Pacific waters in search of great waves. That has to count for something. Not to mention the closest this Jordan River (also commonly called the River Jordan) ever comes to being the front line of a devastating war is when the Vancouver surfing scene shows up and starts dropping in on the local waves.

Of course, it isn’t just a surf spot, it is also a small logging town, is designated as a regional park and also has just the second hydroelectric plant on Vancouver Island. There is also a nice little picnic area and a popular campground. The beach extends for over 3 km and the water can be incredibly calm at low tide, making for some great sunset reflections (like the day we were returning from Mystic Beach). And if you’re lucky you may even spot seals or whales. And definitely gulls, lots and lots of gulls.

Check out: The Ultimate Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary

Jordan River Map

Jordan River Surfing

The surf breaks here are pretty spectacular, especially in the winter, when you will often see dozens of surfers out there jockeying for position despite the near-zero temperatures (that’s the air temperature, not the water, thankfully). Not surprisingly, local surfers are very protective of these waves and can be pretty strict about just where outsiders should rank in the queue. Luckily, though, the area is pretty extensive, so most of the time there are plenty of waves to go around, ranging from small beginner whitewash to average 1-metre right breaks just off the point to 3-metre monster rights that can be as treacherous as some of the names suggest (i.e. Sewers, Rock Piles).

Rocky beach with Jordan River surfing in the waves

The best waves can be found between September and March when, obviously, you need not just a good wetsuit but also a hood, gloves and booties, not to mention a pretty strong constitution to truly take advantage of this underrated spot.

As good as the waves can be where the Jordan River empties into the Juan de Fuca Strait, they are pretty inconsistent, requiring just the right combination of waves, tide and swell.  When you combine the hit and miss nature with the competition for waves, the rocky bottom and nasty currents, it isn’t necessarily the best spot for beginners. Anyone considering a visit should always check the Jordan River surf report ahead of time and then do their best to be courteous and respectful toward the local surfers.

While Tofino is still the most popular surf destination on Vancouver Island, there are many that prefer the River Jordan, sometimes with a pretty fierce territorialism. It has even earned the prestigious honour of housing the West Coast Surfing Association, also known as the Jordan River Surf Club.

Jordan River Regional Park

A small, 187-hectare slice of beach and mixed coastal forest centred on the river is designated as a regional park on Vancouver Island’s west coast road. Views of the Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic Mountains across in Washington are stunning on a clear day. Around 4 kilometres east you’ll find the Sandcut Beach parking lot, where you can follow a nice trail through the forest down to a long, scenic beach. The best part, though, is that if you head left (east) when you reach the water, after a couple hundred metres you’ll find a waterfall that empties directly onto the beach. If you don’t mind getting a little damp you can even crouch/crawl in behind the waterfall for an even more unique perspective.

Woman crouching behind waterfall

Jordan River Campground

Another feature of the Jordan River Regional Park is the Jordan River Campground, a small collection of tent and vehicle sites located right on the point next to the mouth of the river. There are just 15 drive-in sites and 7 tent-only sites that require you to walk in, and the location is pretty tough to beat, both for views and proximity to the waves, so it tends to fill up pretty fast. It is open first-come, first-served all year-round but you’ll need to either be very sly or very lucky to get a spot on the weekend or in mid-summer. In order to give more people a chance to stay at this little gem, there is a maximum stay limit of 14 days per calendar year.

Picnic bench and driftwood at the Jordan River Campground with ocean and mountains in the distance

Downsides: The beach isn’t that great, more rocks than sand, it can get kind of windy on the point and the sites are all pretty close together, so privacy isn’t really their strong suit. But, hey, the waves are literally right there, and most of the sites are within view of the water.

Jordan River Camping Facilities

Pit toilets (no showers)

Potable water station

Garbage bins

Picnic areas

Individual fire pits

There is no electricity and no dumping station, although nearby French Beach (10 km east) has a place where you can empty your septic tank.

Generators can be used from 9-11 am and 6-8 pm.

Maximum capacity is 4 adults per site, and 7 people in total.

It is pet friendly and dogs are allowed as long as they are on a leash.

Fees

Apr 1 – Oct 31 $15/night. Additional vehicle $5/night

Nov 1 – Mar 31 $10/night. Additional vehicle $5/night

Fees must be paid with cash only using the envelopes provided (someone will come around to pick it up eventually).

Booking.com

See also:

Port Renfrew Camping: Choosing the Best Campground for You

Where to Eat

Hardly a booming metropolis, yet Jordan River does have one handy and extremely popular restaurant if you want a break from the burnt hot dogs and industrial-sized bags of chips at your campsite. The Cold Shoulder Café is known for its coffee, baked goods, paninis and breakfast sandwiches. It is conveniently located just across the road from the beach, making it handy for both campers and surfers.

The Cold Shoulder Cafe sign and building with picnic tables out front the Jordan River restaurant

Another great spot is Shirley Delicious, 13km east toward Victoria, famous for its snacks and desserts.

How far is Jordan River from Victoria?

This iconic surf spot is only about 70 km west of Victoria on the way to Port Renfrew on southern Vancouver Island. To get there, just follow the Trans-Canada Highway from Victoria to the Sooke exit, then take Highway 14 (Juan De Fuca Hwy / West Coast Rd) and follow this winding, scenic road until it suddenly gets very close to the beach and you see a Jordan River sign. You really can’t miss it. Altogether, considering the slow nature of this “highway”, expect it to take close to 1.5 hours from downtown Victoria. Also, keep in mind that cell service in Jordan River Vancouver Island and area varies from weak (at best) to non-existent (normally).

Places to See Nearby

There are some great beaches in Victoria, and on the way towards Jordan River BC, you can stop off at a pair of fascinating and scenic bird sanctuaries, Esquimalt Lagoon (hikes, birds, driftwood sculptures and even a castle) and Witty’s Lagoon (views, birds, beach and a waterfall).

East Sooke Park has some of the best hiking trails in British Columbia, ranging from short easy viewpoint walks to all-day coastal extravaganzas. Next up is the charming city of Sooke, which is worth a wander with many things to do, and you should also check out the Sooke Potholes, an interesting set of rapids, pools and small waterfalls on the Sooke River, and nearby Mary Vine Creek waterfall.

There are also many more terrific beaches between Sooke and Port Renfrew. Along with Sandcut Beach and its small beach waterfall there is isolated Mystic Beach and its even larger beach waterfall, surfer favourite Sombrio Beach and its spectacular hidden waterfall, plus popular China Beach all in the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park and family-friendly French Beach. All offering a scenic view of the Olympic Peninsula.

Sombrio Beach’s hidden waterfall

You can visit the amazing tide pools of Botanical Beach just outside Port Renfrew, and just north of there you’ll find the fascinating little “bonsai tree” on Fairy Lake, as well as the impressive big trees of Avatar Grove and Big Lonely Doug, the second-largest Douglas fir in BC.

Conclusion

While Tofino gets most of the press, Jordan River surfing can be every bit as good if you catch it on the right day. With its handy little campground, popular hangout restaurant, spectacular views and loads of great nearby beaches, this is an outstanding place to experience the best of Vancouver Island. Just be sure to tread lightly on the local waves (and maybe spring for a round at the end of the day).

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Other useful articles you may want to check out:

Cumberland BC: Hiking, Biking and Baked Goods

13 Amazing Things to Do on Hornby Island

Hornby Island Camping and Glamping: Breaking Down All the Options

Comox Lake: A Vancouver Island Gem

Road Tripping by the Numbers: A Pacific Northwest Road Trip

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