Club Locarno Windsurfing Trip Guide:

Nitinaht Lake - Vancouver Island, BC.

The Club Locarno windsurfing fleet would like to acknowledge that Nitinaht lake lies within the traditional territory of the Ditidaht First Nation.

ClubLocarno Member Windsurifng on Nitinat Lake

Trip video 2014, courtesy of club member, Daniele Cotellessa,

Page Updated:

  • May 9, 2015
  • July 28, 2014
  • Jan 31, 2019


Nitinaht lake is a 23 km long lake / salt water inlet that lies partially inside the Pacific Rim Park reserve on Vancouver Island. During the summer months, strong winds are created through a combination of the temperature differential between the warm Vancouver Island land mass and the cooler Pacific ocean and the funnelling effect of the mountains.

General Directions

To get to Nitinaht, you can take the Horseshoe Bay ferry to Nanaimo. Then it’s a 3 hour drive from Nanaimo to Nitnaht Lake. A large part of this drive is on a logging road that takes you across Vancouver Island. The condition of the road is always changing, and there are some very large pot-holes along the way. Having extra fluids (oil, coolant, etc.) as well as a fully inflated spare tire, is a must.

“Nitinaht Lake is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is about a 200 km drive from Nanaimo, B.C. which takes about 2 to 3 hours. The first 100 kilometers is main highway which takes a little over an hour. If your driving from Nanaimo then take Highway 1 to Duncan, then take a right onto the highway to Lake Cowichan. (Highway 18)

When you reach Lake Cowichan you have a choice of which side of Lake Cowichan to drive. I usually take the North (right side) road to Youbou which is where the pavement ends. The last 50 kilometres is dirt logging road and takes about another hour to drive depending on how fast you go. From experience I’ve found that the best speed to drive the logging road is at 50 to 60 km/hr. If you drive faster than that make sure you have really good tires or else there is a good chance that you’ll get a flat tire. Also make sure your spare tire is in good shape and it’s inflated. Also by aware the road is an ACTIVE LOGGING ROAD !! The logging trucks that use this road are HUGE and take up over half the width of the road. A couple of windsurfers have had there vehicles “totaled” by one of these logging trucks and were lucky to live about it. If you encounter a logging truck on this road then pull over as far as you can to the side of the road and STOP. Wait for the dust to settle before you continue because it is not unusual for other vehicles to be following the logging truck. Once you’re on the logging road follow the (little signs with arrows) to Nitinaht. First follow the road to the end of Lake Cowichan (Heather campsite) then make a right (or left if you came along the south side). Follow this road until you get to a major T-Junction. If you take the right you’ll end up in either Bamfield or Port Alberni. Take the left road and in about 10 minutes you’ll be at the village of Nitinaht. Drive through the village SLOWLY passing the motel, store (gas station). Soon after you will come to a sign indicating the Macmillan Bloedel Forest Service campsite road on the right. Take this road down to the campsite. If it’s a sunny weekend, then you’ll have camp where you park, which is the tradition here. " [1]

Also, if you don’t know how to get to Nitnat consider renting a GPS. Your smartphone (iphone/blackberry/etc) GPS displays its map using cellular network map data, which means that when you are out of range of the cellular signal, it will no longer work. Cell phones do not work at Nitinaht.

Specific Directions

Wind and Weather Conditions

The weather during the summer can be anywhere from 10 to 30 degrees, so you should certainly bring warm clothes in case the common fog banks make everything cold and damp in the morning / evening hours. Typically the mornings are cool and foggy, followed by a slow burning off of the fog, then about 4-5 hours of 20+ knot winds, then the fog rolls back in for the evening. There is usually about an hour before the high wind period that is suitable for beginners to go out and sail on the big boards, but once the wind picks up I recommend only those who can water-start to be out on the water. The chop that the wind picks up makes it near difficult to up-haul once the wind has filled in. The lake is a fairly safe spot to windsurf at. If you don’t make it back to the beach you drift down to the village when you can make the long hike back to the campsite. Please don’t go out beyond your ability as there is no rescue crafts that will bring you back. The water is usually around 15-17 degrees so a 3mm or thicker wetsuit is a must to stay warm on the water.


During peak summer season, the lake is a very popular destination for wind sports enthusiasts. Club Locarno’s common practice is to camp on the beach. Camp site management is minimal so there is no way to reserve a site in advance. Generally, the first person to arrive tries to grab a larger site (usually right on the lake shore / beach) and hold it for the rest of us as we arrive. The camping conditions at Nitinaht are “primitive” meaning there are no showers, no electricity, no cell coverage and sometimes no toilet paper at the pit toilets. The fee is $10-$15 per night for a vehicle. There is a motel (was $60-80 per night, may have changed) that has pay showers ($3) as well as food. This motel is in the village about a 15-20 minute walk from the camp. Everyone should expect to bring their own shelter, food, water, some toilet paper, and cooking supplies. The campsite is a British Columbia Provincial Campground, but operated by the Ditidaht people.


If you haven’t made a reservation for the ferries you may have to wait serveral sailing to get to and back from Vancouver Island.

Weather Forecasts

Randy Kashino’s web page and weekly forecast (updates every Thursday)

Other Information

The Nitinaht Motel is a small motel adjacent to the single all-in-one gas station, convenience store, Internet cafe in the Ditidaht First Nation village.

Remember to get water when you buy groceries in Lake Cowichan or YouBou. You might consume about 2L of drinking water per day.

There is no cellular phone signal in this area, but there is a signal in the nearby town of Youbou and other towns that are larger than Youbou.

Exchange cell phone numbers with other drivers.

This is a camping trip. It can be cold at night, and you should have decent cool-weather clothes. It's best to bring layers.

You should have a full wetsuit and booties (as the beach is covered with pebbles and there are some sharp rocks).

More to Read

  1. From Randy Kashino’s website.

  2. Misc videos

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