With crystal clear skies, temps pushing 20 and the whole family itching for a serious weekend of surf and sun, one of the most relaxing, educational and absolutely fascinating family adventures around these parts has got to be hitting our rocky beaches as the tide heads out to sea.
The receding waters along our coastline are legendary for what they often reveal – from hordes of hermit crabs hunting for the perfect shell of a home to star fish, oysters, geoducks, moon snails, anemones and a startling range of tiny sea life. Any chance to get onto the beach and into the intertidal zones is a treat of the fascinating kind.
Our favourite spots for local tide pooling depend on how much work we want to put in to get to a spot, and what we want to check out.
I recommend starting out with a trip to Laughing Oyster Books in Courtenay to pick up the Lone Pine Field Guide, Seashore of British Columbia well worth every penny. Then, head out to the beach.
For an easy trip, head on over to the Goose Spit and check out a huge crew of hermit crabs, black tegula and periwinkle snails as well as tons of clams, mussel and oyster shells. An occasional anemone is a great site. The Spit is a busy, crowded beach any day that the sun is present. So, prepare for lots of other people.
Seal Bay Beach is by far our favourite tide pooling location. The receding tide along this quiet, absolutely gorgeous stretch of beach is almost guaranteed to reveal starfish, anemone by the dozens, crabs of all shapes and sizes, clams, limpets and, of course, seals in the distance. The mosaic of colour here, the sheltered beach and the general lack of a crowd (as well as a restroom at the trail head on the beach) make this spot near perfect. The only catch – it’s a bit of a hike, through a lush coastal forest, to get down to the beach. So, you have to prepare well, make sure you give yourself about 20 to 30 minutes to get down to and back up from the beach (it’s only about 1K, but, it’s not a flat walk.)
For a VERY quiet, relaxing and lovely day in the tide pools, I also recommend Williams Beach in Merville. This tiny slice of beach opens up into a wide, sandy oasis dotted with easygoing tide pools full of all sorts of tiny creatures including crabs, limpets, snails, anemone and lots of water birds. This spot is easily accessed at the end of Williams Beach Road, very family-friendly and oh-so-peaceful.
Finally, for a real adventure (more like real workout), a truly amazing spot for tide pooling is Air Force Beach. If you are up for a long haul with the kiddos (I’d say at least 2K) down this long, sandy beach is a sand dollar colony that is one of the most amazing sites I have ever seen. Back along the second and third long swath of rocks that you’ll see when heading south are literally thousands of sand dollars (some white, but many purple), that are only visible at low tides (the lower the tide the better, negative tides are really when to hit this beach). This is one of those trips that needs to be done in spurts. Hike down the beach, have lunch, go check the pools, take a break, head back up the beach. So, you’d need to do it on a day that there is a fair length of time between a morning high tide and an afternoon low tide. Planning ahead is a must.
There are a few very important safety considerations to pay heed to when tide pooling. The biggest hazard when hanging out in intertidal zones is getting cut off by a rapidly incoming tide. Learning to read tide charts is a critical piece of having a fun day. You want to get to the beach well before low tide as to follow the receding water out to the low-tide line. So, when looking at a chart that points out Low and High tides, take the time marker for low tide and plan to be out there at least an hour or two before that, then plan to start heading out of the tide pools and sand bars immediately at the low tide time marker as tides can come in fast and furious, stranding you in high water.
I checked the tide charts this morning, and tide pooling will definitely have to be an early morning adventure (sounds fun to me). The low tide this morning was around 9:15 a.m., and it was a decent low. But, tomorrow’s low tide is the low tide for the day at 1.75 meters around 10 a.m. So, pull out the fleece and hit the pools early, then spend the rest of the day hanging out a bit higher up on shore.
And, finally, remember that our beaches are sensitive ecological environments. Collecting shells and sea life along many of our beaches is strictly prohibited and harvesting is heavily regulated. Bring a pail and a magnifying glass to check out all of the cool things in tide pools. But, return everything, gently, to the ocean as that is their home and most creatures will not survive long out of that environment. Not to mention, the next family coming down the beach should be as lucky as you to spot many of the amazing finds you discovered. Most importantly, do not leave waste of any kind (including dog droppings and trash) on any part of the beach. Stewardship means families on Vancouver Island can be fascinated by our incredible oceans for generations to come.
Category: KIDS, NATURE & OUR HERITAGE