Cullite Cove is a wonderful campsite on the West Coast Trail at the 58 kilometre mark. One of the nicest campsites you will find on the WCT. It has everything, a lovely wooded area with clearings for tents and campfires. Stunning views all around. A terrific, pebble beach, beautifully hemmed in by towering cliffs on either side. 

Cullite Creek pours into the cove, making for a stunning, albeit freezing swim into the surf. Cullite Cove is a close to perfect as a campsite can get. The creek is beautiful, crystal clear, bright green, big and slow moving into Cullite Cove.

A picture perfect beach hemmed in by majestic cliffs on both sides. The forest is a wonderful tangle of trees extending up to some of the most challenging sections of the West Coast Trail

In both direction on the trail you encounter some of the longest ladders on the trail. Very exhilerating, but also a bit bewildering as you can't help but wonder how a trail could develop in such absurdly rugged terrain. With ladders everywhere the trail is still very challenging. Before the ladders, it must have been a nightmare. It is this section of the West Coast Trail that makes people fall in love with it. It is hard. Very hard. And you never quite know what is around the next bend in the trail or at the top of a ladder. Plenty of times you will climb an impossibly long ladder, only to come to a small platform and another ladder as long as the first!

Cullite Cove on the West Coast Trail

Other times you will emerge from deep forest to find yourself at a vertical cliff with a slippery, old wooden ladder disappearing over the edge. As you climb down and try not to imagine falling from such a height, you marvel at how beautiful and wild everything is. At the bottom, you look up the ladder and wonder if that was the longest ladder on the trail. You conclude it must be, only to find another longer and more terrifying ladder a few minutes later! This is what the trail is like in both directions from Cullite Cove. Brutal, exhausting, relentlessly difficult, and unquestionably wonderful. All the time you are carrying 60 pounds on your back.

Cullite Cove on the West Coast Trail

Despite the weight, your pack full of gear is everything you need to camp anywhere in this magnificent wilderness. If you want you can hike down to Cullite Cove and live in this snug little wilderness. So many exhausted hikers don't hike the 15 minute side trail down to the beach and idyllic tent clearings in the cove's perfect little forest. It is always a good idea to plan for hiking the trail a couple days longer than you think you might take as you have to relax and sink into this wonderful wilderness at the edge of the Graveyard of the Pacific. Just off the beach, several campsites are laid out, hidden in the trees. Your first thought on seeing the tent sites in Cullite Cove is to want to stay for a week. The campsite here is often very quiet as everybody seems to camp at Camper Bay just 4 kilometres away and don't even visit Cullite Cove. 

Cullite Cove Campsite on the West Coast Trail

Shipwrecks Near Cullite Cove - West Coast Trail

Shipwrecks Near Cullite Cove on the West Coast TrailThe Puritan was a 4 masted schooner of 614 tons sailing inbound from San Francisco in ballast. She was heading for Port Gamble in Washington to pick up a load of lumber when the crew failed to account for the strong current in the Juan de Fuca Strait. Owing to the thick fog and heavy seas, the Puritan stumbled blindly into the rocks of Bonilla Point. The crew of 10 made the same mistake that hundreds of crews before them made. They didn't reckon their course with the notorious, strong current of the Juan de Fuca StraitThe current pushed them far northwest of their perceived position. Unable to see due to the thick fog, stormy weather and darkness of night the Puritan was pushed into the rocky Bonilla Point. The record shows that she was wrecked at 5am on November 13, 1896. The crew decided to wait for daybreak to figure out their escape. When the morning finally came, a lone Indian found them and battling the surf, managed to run a rope from the ship to the shore. The crew used the life-line to escape the crumbling ship. The Puritan, continuously bashed by the sea until on the following day she was laying her masts in the surf, and quickly began breaking up. The crew made their way to the Carmanah lighthouse and later ferried to Victoria. For his heroic efforts, the Indian was reportedly rewarded. Today hiking the West Coast Trail, you will find some of the ship's remains on the outer reef.

Shipwrecks Near Cullite Cove on the West Coast TrailThe Wempe Brothers was a 4 masted schooner just 70 tons heavier than the Puritan, that wrecked here a century ago. The Wempe Brothers was sailing in from San Pedro, California in ballast. She was heading for Puget Sound to pick up lumber when she was claimed by the Graveyard of the Pacific. The crew of 10 experienced very stormy weather as she neared the Cape Flattery lighthouse and entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait. Light winds and thick fog carried them towards the strait, however the fast current pulled them irresistibly north towards the coast of Vancouver Island. The Wempe Brothers was carried so close to the Carmanah Point that the lighthouse lights were reported to be reflected on the ships sails and hull. The crew had no idea they were so far out of their intended position and the sudden appearance of a lighthouse must have been terrifying. The wind was dead calm so sailing to safety was not an option. The crew managed to drop two anchors in a desperate effort to halt the ship before colliding with the shore. It was too late, however, as the Wempe Brothers was carried onto the beach at 5am on October 28th, 1903.

Shipwrecks Near Cullite Cove on the West Coast TrailThe Duchess of Argyle met her end at the mouth of Cullite Cove back at the 58 kilometre mark of the West Coast Trail. She was a huge, four masted barque with an iron hull and watertight bulkheads. She was sailing in ballast from San Francisco on October 13th, 1887, bound for Vancouver. She would pick up lumber and sail for Melbourne, Australia. Sailing up the coast from San Francisco, the good weather turned bad on October 16th. For almost two weeks a powerful gale hammered the Duchess of Argyle. When the storm finally let up, Cape Flattery was sighted about 20 miles away. The ship, unable to find wind, floated with the current, inching towards Juan de Fuca Strait. Soon a small tug boat arrived to assist the enormous becalmed ship through the strait. They lowered sails and got the hawser aboard to connect the ships. The captain of the tug quickly realized that his vessel was too small to manage such a huge ship rolling in the seas. Cape Flattery was still about 14 miles distant and concealed by fog much of the time. The Duchess of Argyle wallowed in the current until midnight when a strong eastward gale gripped the ship once more. They sailed for Cape Flattery until the wind died again and on November 1st the fog lifted revealing Cape Flattery just 3 miles away. Suddenly the fog returned again, thicker than ever. They crawled forward slowly hoping for the fog to lift again. The fog didn't let up and at 315pm on November 3rd, breakers were heard...

Shipwrecks Near Cullite Cove on the West Coast TrailThe John Marshall shipwreck is located under the waves just outside the mouth of Camper Bay at the 62 kilometre mark of the West Coast Trail. Owing to the great difficulty and slow progress hikers are forced to take on this section of the West Coast Trail, nearly everyone camps at Camper Creek. If you do, you will be sleeping near this shipwreck that occurred here in 1860. The John Marshall was an old eastern built, 3 masted ship of 321 tons. Sailing in from San Francisco with a crew of 10, she was heading to Seabeck, Washington in ballast to pick up a load of lumber. Off Cape Flattery the John Marshall met a raging storm that left her beached in front of Camper Bay. There seem to be few details of this shipwreck, however, local natives reported that two ships came ashore from the storm that night. It had been assumed that she foundered off Cape Flattery with no survivors. So it was quite a surprise to find her ashore at Camper Bay, with her hull visible at low tide and her masts, spars and rigging scattered on the beach. There are no details of deaths from this shipwreck, so it is assumed that there was no loss of life.

Shipwrecks Near Cullite Cove on the West Coast TrailWilliam Tell Shipwreck at 64.2: Less than a kilometre past the John Marshall shipwreck you will pass the William Tell shipwreck. Considerably larger than the John Marshall, the William Tell was a 1153 ton, 3 masted ship that wrecked in the Graveyard of the Pacific on December 23rd, 1865. She sailed straight into the reef in front of what is now the 64 kilometre mark of the West Coast Trail. The William Tell was built in New York in 1850. She sailed in the North Atlantic for a few years before branching out to more distant ports. On her final voyage in 1865, she was inbound from South Africa in ballast, heading to a port in the Puget Sound. She managed to sail into Juan de Fuca Strait, however stormy weather and strong currents moved her considerably far west. Blindly sailing in thick fog and the darkness of night, the William Tell smashed into the reef between Owen Point and Camper Bay. The crew of 22 men managed to scramble safely to shore and made their way to Owen Point where they lit signal fires. Their fires were spotted from the harbour of Port San Juan(Port Renfrew). They were picked up and later brought back to Victoria by a local trading schooner.

Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailPuritan at 48.5k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailWempe Brothers at 49.4k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailDuchess of Argyle at 58k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailJohn Marshall at 62.3k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailWilliam Tell at 64.2

More West Coast Trail Campsites 

Bonilla Creek Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailThe Bonilla Creek campsite is easy to miss, as it looks very unassuming from the beach as most hikers pass by. Bonilla Falls, however is nestled against a small cliff at the edge of a suddenly deep forest. And the forest hides a nice little world, somewhat sheltered from the elements. An outhouse sits up at the far end, and several tent clearings stretch to the beach where you find a wonderful hammock cobbled together over the years out of old fishing nets and ropes. A bit surreal in such a remote feeling place, but it is so elaborate that it makes you look around for permanent residents! You won't find any permanent human residents, however, you will encounter some wildlife as there always seems to be a bear or two walking the shoreline between Bonilla Point and Carmanah Creek in the early morning hours. The campsite at Bonilla Creek has some beautiful characteristics. First the cute, Bonilla Falls have a perfect little pool to swim in and wash off the days hiking grime. Second, the campsite is quite good with lots of varied places to put up a tent as well as some driftwood structures out on the beach. Third, the sunsets are sensational here. Bright orange, with the narrow islands in the distance topped by improbable looking trees. Added to that, you have a relatively quiet campsite compared to other West Coast Trail campsites.

Bonilla Creek Campsite on the West Coast Trail

Walbran Creek Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailWalbran Creek at 53k is home to possibly the best, and most unappreciated campsites on the West Coast Trail. It encapsulates so much that makes the West Coast Trail truly wonderful. The expansive beach which seems purpose built for enjoyability is flanked by scenic cliffs and creek on one side, the pacific ocean on the other, and backed by the emerald coloured Walbran Creek that flows through the jungle valley spanned by a cable car crossing! Of the list of pro's and con's for Walbran Creek, the list is hopelessly lopsided to the pro's. Walbran Creek campsite is reached in the middle of the most challenging, invigorating, stunning, bewildering and breathtaking section of the West Coast Trail. The ladders you encounter heading either direction from the campsite are astounding in size. One after another you ascend and descend the most improbably long and slippery, wooden ladders that always feel solid and safe, despite their obvious age and weathering.Even the cable car crossing is exhilerating. It is a very long one and this one in particular invites you to stop midway and take in the stunning view in either direction. Upstream the view is an emerald coloured creek(though it looks more like a river in size), flanked by a beautifully tangled rainforest jungle on either side. The view in the other direction is of the Pacific Ocean framed by trees on either side. Though this image is pretty, it doesn't reveal the true beauty of the campsite that spills out along the beach, just out of view. For most, this cable car glimpse is the closest they get to the Walbran Creek campsite. Such a shame as they are passing a little piece of West Coast Trail paradise. If you do venture down the short side trail to the campsite, almost entirely on the beach you will be instantly surprised by the beach of weather rounded rocks and maze of driftwood logs. Though a beautiful, sandy beach may be your ideal, a pebble beach is a close second. Clean and tidy, you don't get a sleeping bag full of sand. The driftwood logs are semi permanent and have been adjusted over time to create what might be called bedrooms. Little, marvelously segregated, sandy patches ideal for tents. You could be 10 metres from your neighbour and the wall of driftwood logs blocks the sight and sound you might get from others. So you have privacy, which you may not need as Walbran Creek is one of the less visited campsites on the West Coast Trail and where you may find dozens of tents at Tsusiat Falls or Camper Bay.

Walbran Creek Campsite on the West Coast Trail

At Walbran Creek you may encounter nobody! Added to the serenity, you get the ever-present ocean view in front of you. The United States is easily visibly across Juan de Fuca Strait, and you can imagine the ships just a century ago reaching Cape Flattery, the point of land in the US, across from you extending into the Pacific. Often sailing up from San Francisco in calm weather, only to reach Cape Flattery and get hit by a winter storm that batters your ship and blinds you in fog. You then creep into what you think is Juan de Fuca Strait towards Puget Sound, Victoria or Vancouver, when in fact the strong current has brought you into the teeth of the Graveyard of the Pacific. Hundreds of ships were driven into the rocky flank of Vancouver Island and became victims of this treacherous corner of the world. This sinister past of course necessitated the creation of the West Coast Trail which would go on to save hundreds of shipwreck survivors and in 1970 become an officially defined national park. At the end of a long day hiking the West Coast Trail, having a nice body of water to wash in.. or better yet jump into is always desired. Walbran Creek flows just steps from your tent, crystal clear, and very inviting. You can swim across the the opposite shore where you will find some small sea caves and a narrow, rocky shore. At the mouth of Walbran Creek, where it meets the ocean you will find a shallow area that is the beach route on the West Coast Trail heading north. It does involve crossing water deeper than most feel comfortable with, so you don't often see people use this route. Also, it avoids the very enjoyable cable car crossing. If you are brave and keen to plunge into the wild Pacific Ocean, you are just steps from that too. You walk straight into the ocean and meet some big breakers. Feel what all the shipwreck survivors felt, scrambling to safety after emerging from the Graveyard of the Pacific. You can plunge into the ocean, then plunge into Walbran Creek moments later as they are separated by a narrow section of beach. 

Camper Bay Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailCamper Creek is beautiful, similar to Cullilte Cove there are cliffs on either side. The downside is crowding. It's the first really good campsite from the Port Renfrew(Gordon River trailhead) direction. Still, it's spacious and well laid out with the creek cutting along the edge and around to the ocean. Another downside is the proximity of Port Renfrew.  It's hard to get the wilderness feeling when you can see boats pass every minute and cruise ships in the distance. Camper Bay is often home to quite a number of campers. You always find the campsite lined with tents along the treeline packed so close together as to hear each others conversations. A bit too cozy, but on the other hand, Camper Bay is a great place to socialize with fellow campers. The linear tent site arrangement make it necessary for you and others to walk past several tents to do almost anything. So you get fairly well acquainted with your fellow West Coast Trail hikers. The trail from Camper Bay in both directions is pretty brutal with ladders and erratic terrain, so you and your fellow campers with be exhausted. Cullite Cove is a wonderful campsite on the West Coast Trail at the 58 kilometre mark. One of the nicest campsites you will find on the West Coast Trail. It has everything, a lovely wooded area with clearings for tents and campfires. Stunning views all around. A terrific, rocky beach, beautifully hemmed in by beautiful cliffs on either side. Cullite Creek pours into the cove, making for a stunning, albeit freezing swim into the surf. The campsite here is often very quiet as everybody seems to camp at Camper Creek just 4 kilometres away and doesn't even drop down the short detour off the main trail to Cullite Cove.

Camper Bay Campsite on the West Coast Trail

Thrasher Cove Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailThrasher Cove at 70k has a lot of good aspects as well as some bad. In terms of good, the beach is very pretty and quite interesting. Not a broad and long beach, the beach at Thrasher is quite varied with rock outcrops and constant bends. You can easily keep yourself amused by wandering down the beach, poking your head around every new corner. Back at the campsite, the beach tent sites are backed by an alarmingly abrupt ascent to the main trail. The outhouses at Thrasher Cove are perched up in the trees above the beach and looking around, you feel the embrace of the trees all around giving just narrow glimpses of the ocean. As for bad, Thrasher Cove is generally crowded with fellow campers, and you may find yourselves elbow to elbow with a dozen or more tents in an increasingly confined area. The problem, of course is the narrow beach and abrupt cliff at your back. This does, however, give you a wonderful feeling of how the West Coast Trail truly is. Wild rainforest behind you with ladders attached to the steep terrain and a beautiful ocean in front of you.

Thrasher Cove Campsite on the West Coast Trail

Bonilla Creek at 48k Walbran Creek at 53k Cullite Cove at 58k Camper Bay at 62k Thrasher Cove at 70k

 

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