Ahhh…the iconic swimming hole. Each one of us, especially those fortunate enough to grow up along Coastal BC, have fond memories of childhoods spent with the rising sun and know that these days were best spent near the water. For those of us fortunate enough to be indigenous to the Comox Valley, the options for “beating the heat” were endless. Needless to say that among the endless options, us locals have our favourite ‘go to’ spots. A few of these rad swimming holes we are happy to share with you and a few spots we aren’t—you will have to put us six feet under before we were to give up such sacred secrets—well that, or a seasonal growler. For now, finding, exploring and enjoying these spots will keep you busy and blissful.
COMOX LAKE & DEVILS LADDER
A mere five kilometres west of the athletic and artsy Village of Cumberland you will discover the glacial fed drinking water supply for the Comox Valley, commonly known as Comox Lake. Comox Lake boasts fifty seven acres of recreation paradise and is quite the bustling scene come summertime. A boating, climbing, hiking, swimming and fishing friendly recreational paradise also accommodates the brave cliff jumpers that wish to take on plunges ranging from forty to ninety feet (don’t forget your gumboots). Access to Devil’s Ladder is through the large gravel pit parking area and along the gravel road into the trail network. For those of you crazy enough to risk your life for an epic GoPro selfie, my only hope is that your jumps look and sound prettier than the popular Devil’s Ladder rock climbing routes of “Humping Newt”, “Make Shift”, and “Lucky”.
Locals tip: It’s always good to have a friend with a boat. It will come in handy when you find the rope swings half way across the lake.
Nymph, located a short distance downstream from Comox Lake on the Puntledge River, is a series of cascading waterfalls that showcase some of the best sights the CV has to offer.
Nymph is a unique swimming spot because most of the volume of the Puntledge River has been diverted for hydroelectric generation above the falls, reducing the volume of the river significantly during the summer months. In addition to this, a fish ladder has been blasted into the bedrock up the middle of the falls, altering the flow of the river during the summer such that very little water flows over the natural bedrock formation making it the perfect place to take a dip or take in the sights, which often includes adventurous river wake surfers!
Your summer route could include a trip upstream to Barber’s and a short drive down to Stotan for a day of rad riverside relaxation.
Locals tip: Check out the underwater “grotto” style caves… bring a snorkel!
A locals freshwater favourite! A short ride on the Comox logging road, Duncan Bay Main, will find you in the pipeline parking lot of a Valley gem, Stotan Falls. Stotan holds an adventure for all ages as there are many potholes of varying depths to take a dip. The friendly atmosphere and large landmass has families, teenagers and the elderly flocking to the falls looking to cool off. You will find the young, wild and free of the CV (and there are many) jumping off the Puntledge River’s largest waterfall, across the fish ladders from the popular bedrock hangout.
Locals Tip: Exploring the hidden hangout underneath the falls beats the popular plunge and don’t be surprised if you hear the locals slang, “stokum,” for the infamous spot.
TUBING THE PUNTLEDGE
There are few summer activities that are more iconic than floating down a river, cold beer in hand. The Valley provides a river float that rivals the best of them, starting from the fish hatchery on Powerhouse Road down the Puntledge River to Lewis Park in a couple of hours round trip. Infamous ‘Indian’ Rock is a great spot to catch your breath or lose it by leaping from the giant boulder into the rapids below. The countless wildlife along the ride—seals, eagles, beavers and fish, to name a few—add to the experience. The only thing that rivals the cliff jumps, the majestic wildlife sightings, and the lazy floating is the party animal that you choose to spend the day with.
Locals tip: “River Run” tubes with the mesh bottom work best for hanging onto your sandals and those damn empties; it is beautiful BC after all.
TRIBUNE BAY, HORNBY ISLAND
The list would not be complete without an honourable mention, and hopefully a visit, to ‘Little Hawaii’ or, as the locals call it, ‘Big Trib’. A couple of short ferry rides away, scenic gulf island views and a short walk through fields of beach grass, red huckleberries and wildflowers bring you to the water’s edge. Here, white sand meets aquamarine and salty shallow waters meet near tropical temperatures. If you seek shade throughout your stay, eclectic ‘downtown’ Hornby is a short stroll away with many funky shops, tasty treats and friendly faces.
Locals tip: A short walk around the point will have you sans tan lines and fitting in with the locals.
These spots made the shortlist or the ‘share with the general public list’ but there are many other ideal spots to explore throughout the Valley. If you find yourself up for some explorin’, check out the medicine bowls up Forbidden Plateau Road, the cliff jumping rivals that of devils ladder. Strong swimmers only! If Nymph proves to be too busy for you on Saturday afternoon, head upriver to Barbers Hole to beat the crowds and the current. The options are endless but the summer days are limited, so, get outside!