Kennedy Lake is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, just a short drive from the charming town of Tofino. Stretching over 25 kilometres in length, this picturesque lake is the largest body of freshwater on the island.
Surrounded by dense forests and towering mountains, Kennedy Lake offers a mesmerizing blend of natural beauty. The lake’s crystal-clear waters result from the pristine springs and rivers that feed into it, making it a haven for various fish species.
The lake’s shoreline is dotted with secluded beaches and rocky outcrops, providing the perfect spot to relax and take in the breathtaking surroundings.
Whether you explore the lake by boat or enjoy its beauty from the shore, Kennedy Lake will surely leave you captivated.
Things to Know About Kennedy Lake
Kennedy Lake is located adjacent to Clayoquot Sound, a magnificent, biologically rich, mainly wilderness area on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It encompasses 350,000 hectares of land and ocean.
The lake is formed primarily by the confluence of the Clayoquot and Kennedy Rivers, and it flows out into the Tofino Inlet via the Kennedy River.
In the summertime, if there is a fog in Ucluelet or Tofino, Kennedy Lake is a perfect getaway for catching sun rays.
Best Time to Visit Kennedy Lake
While Kennedy Lake is a destination you can enjoy year-round, the best time to visit is during summer. The weather is generally warm and dry from June to September, making it ideal for outdoor activities. The lake’s calm waters are perfect for swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
Fall brings a breathtaking display of autumn colours as the leaves transform into a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, and yellows. The crisp air and cooler temperatures make it the perfect time for exploring the shoreline and for photography enthusiasts to capture the beauty of Kennedy Lake.
Winter brings a different kind of beauty to Kennedy Lake, with snow-capped mountains offering a serene and peaceful atmosphere.
How to Get to Kennedy Lake
Kennedy Lake is located en route to Tofino and Ucluelet. It is easily accessible from Pacific Rim Highway 4, which runs alongside the shoreline of this beautiful lake. There are several day-use areas and scenic beaches on Kennedy Lake.
If you are driving from Vancouver, take a ferry to Nanaimo. From Nanaimo, it is about 1 hour and 45 minutes (120 km) drive to Kennedy Lake. Alternatively, you can fly into Tofino’s Long Beach Airport and drive to Kennedy Lake.
From Nanaimo, take the Alberni Hwy 4. You will drive through impressive Cathedral Grove. In Port Alberni, turn right onto Victoria Quay. Then, go for about 76 kilometres on the Pacific Rim Highway 4 until you reach Kennedy Lake.
From Tofino, take the Pacific Rim Highway 4 to Kennedy Lake. From Ucluelet, drive on the Tofino-Ucluelet Hwy for about 7.8 kilometres and turn right onto Pacific Rim Highway 4. Keep going until you see the lake. It will be on your left.
Things to Do at Kennedy Lake
Nestled amidst the lush rainforests of Vancouver Island, Kennedy Lake has enchanting beauty that will captivate your soul. Its untouched landscapes and pristine waters offer a unique experience that is hard to find elsewhere.
You can immerse yourself in the enchanting sounds of nature, embark on a kayaking adventure, or relax on the lovely shores as the sun sets in a blaze of vibrant colours.
Kennedy Lake Lookout
Located on the lake’s northeast side, the Kennedy Lake Lookout is easily accessible from the Pacific Rim Highway 4. You can make a short stop at the lookout on your way to Tofino and enjoy the panoramic vistas.
Kennedy Lake offers an opportunity to reconnect with nature and provides a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This picturesque destination is a nature lover’s paradise, surrounded by lush forests and majestic mountains.
Kennedy Lake Provincial Park
Kennedy Lake Provincial Park is located along the south shore of Kennedy Lake, adjacent to Pacific Rim National Park. It is a popular day-use destination with a beautiful sandy beach and stunning scenery.
The park spans 258 hectares and is an excellent spot for swimming, picnicking, kayaking and fishing. You can explore short trails that lead to stunning viewpoints and soak in the panoramic vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see.
To get to Kennedy Lake Provincial Park, exit from the Pacific Rim Highway 4, just south of the lake, onto a gravel road. We recommend checking Google Maps for directions. You will drive on a gravel road through a lovely forest for about 2.5 kilometres.
There is a small parking area at the end of the road. Parking is free, and pit toilets are located inside the forest.
If you want easier access to the lake, a larger day-use picnic site is on the southeast side, just off the Pacific Rim Highway 4. It includes a sandy beach, picnic tables, pit toilets and a boat launch.
Clayoquot Arm Provincial Park
Clayoquot Sound is an area of spectacular beauty with pristine old-growth forests, untouched shores, secluded sandy beaches and uninhabited islands. Access to the Clayoquot Arm Provincial Park is by boat, canoe, or kayak.
The park offers wilderness camping along the shores of Kennedy Lake with majestic mountain views and a tranquil ambiance. It is a beautiful destination for those seeking solace in nature’s embrace.
Activities in the Clayoquot Arm Provincial Park include swimming, canoeing or kayaking along the scenic shoreline, observing wildlife in its natural habitat and fishing. You can also witness an unusual phenomenon in the park when Sockeye Salmon spawns 20 metres below the water’s surface.
Canoeing and Kayaking
For those looking to get out on the water, Kennedy Lake is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Rent a kayak in Tofino, or bring your own and explore the pristine waters at your own pace.
Glide across the lake’s surface, taking in the breathtaking scenery surrounding you. Have fun exploring bays, coves, islands and waterways connecting to the Clayoquot Sound.
Just be aware that Kennedy Lake is known for high winds, which generally pick up in the afternoon during the summer, so it’s best to get out on the water early in the day.
If you prefer to explore the lake by boat, the boat launch is located next to the Pacific Rim Hwy, about 4.8 kilometres past the Kennedy Lake Lookout. Rent a motorboat or bring your own and spend the day cruising the pristine waters.
As you explore the lake, you will be surrounded by the beauty of nature, with the towering mountains and dense forests serving as a stunning backdrop. Keep in mind that boating regulations apply, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules before setting sail.
With its crystal-clear waters, old-growth forests, and majestic mountains, this picturesque lake is a fantastic place for swimming. Just be aware that the water is cold but definitely warmer than the ocean.
There is no designated swimming area around the lake. However, the sandy shores along the Pacific Rim Highway 4 and the Kennedy Lake Provincial Park beach are the best places for swimming.
After the refreshing dip, you can sit by the shore, soak in the tranquillity and enjoy the stunning scenery.
With its stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and ever-changing light, Kennedy Lake is a lovely place for photographers.
Whether you are a professional with top-of-the-line equipment or simply enjoy capturing memories with your smartphone, there is no shortage of photo-worthy moments waiting to be immortalized.
Catch the vibrant colours of a sunset reflecting off the lake’s calm surface or the misty morning fog as it blankets the surrounding mountains. Keep your camera ready, as you never know what wildlife you may encounter along the way.
Kennedy Lake is teeming with wildlife and biodiversity, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts. The surrounding forests are home to abundant wildlife, including black bears, wolves, cougars, deer, and various bird species.
Keep your eyes peeled as you explore the area; you may be lucky enough to spot a majestic bald eagle soaring through the sky or a playful otter swimming in the lake.
We have seen black bears along the Pacific Rim Highway near the lake. On a different occasion, we watched eagles in the Kennedy Lake Provincial Park gliding over the lake, looking for food and landing on branches high up in the trees.
While wildlife encounters can be thrilling, maintain a safe distance and do not approach or attempt to feed any animals.
Watch the Sunset
As the sun begins its descent over Kennedy Lake, a spectacular display of colours takes over the sky.
To fully immerse yourself in the enchanting sunset experience, timing is the key. The best time to capture the sunset varies throughout the year, as it depends on the sun’s position in relation to the lake.
Summer evenings offer longer and more vibrant sunsets, while winter sunsets are characterized by their serene and peaceful ambiance.
If you plan to do sunset photography, as a general guideline, aim to arrive at least 30 minutes before the scheduled sunset to allow ample time to find the perfect spot.
Let the mesmerizing colours and serene surroundings transport you to a world of tranquillity and wonder. Soak in the breathtaking views and let the gentle whispers of nature rejuvenate your soul.
Glide across Kennedy Lake, taking in the beauty of the surrounding landscape from a different perspective. If you are seeking an exhilarating adventure that combines the thrill of sailing with the excitement of surfing, windsurfing is the perfect sport.
Kennedy Lake offers an opportunity for windsurfing enthusiasts of all levels. Whether you are a seasoned pro or a beginner looking to learn, this expansive lake provides the perfect opportunity to hone your skills.
Feel the power of the wind in your sails as you navigate the waves, and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. Remember, the winds can stir up across Kennedy Lake with little warning.
Kennedy Lake is known for its excellent fishing opportunities, with various fish species, including rainbow trout and cutthroat trout, calling the lake their home.
Whether you are an experienced angler or a beginner hoping to cast your line for the first time, the lake provides the perfect setting for a day of fishing.
All anglers should check the current regulations issued by Fisheries and Oceans Canada before fishing. Also, make sure you have the appropriate license.
Camping at Kennedy Lake
With its towering ancient trees and picturesque surroundings, Kennedy Lake offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. One of the best ways to experience the tranquillity of the lake is by camping along its shore.
Camping is available in the Clayoquot Arm Provincial Park, but you need a kayak or boat to get there. There are no designated campsites at the park; however, random wilderness camping is allowed. Camping is free, and there are no facilities.
To preserve the natural beauty, please respect the places you visit and pack out what you pack in. Camping and overnight parking is not allowed at Kennedy Lake Provincial Park.
If camping isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Tofino offers a wide range of accommodations, from cozy bed and breakfasts to luxurious resorts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Kennedy Lake is part of the ancestral lands of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations. It was named after Sir Arthur Kennedy, the last governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island.
How Large is Kennedy Lake?
Kennedy Lake is much larger than you think. When you drive along the Pacific Rim Highway 4, you will only see a small part of the lake. It is not until you view a map that you realize how large it is!
Kennedy Lake has a surface area of 6,475 hectares (16,000 acres), making it the largest lake on Vancouver Island. The lake sits 12 metres (39 ft) above sea level, and the deepest part of the lake reaches 145 metres (476 ft).
What Are the Facilities at Kennedy Lake?
The larger day-use picnic site on the lake’s southeast side offers picnic tables, pit toilets and a boat launch. The smaller day-use area on the south side of the lake has pit toilets.
If you plan to spend the day at Kennedy Lake, bring a lunch and enjoy a picnic on the beach surrounded by breathtaking views. The lake is perfect for relaxing, unwinding and reconnecting with nature.
Are Dogs Allowed at Kennedy Lake?
Dogs and other domestic animals are allowed at Kennedy Lake but not in some beach areas. They should be on a leash at all times. The backcountry areas are not suitable for dogs or other pets due to wildlife issues and the potential for problems with bears.
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Read More Travel Guides
We hope you enjoyed our guide on visiting Kennedy Lake. Let us know in the comments below what is your favourite beach in Tofino. Here are a few of our articles to inspire your travels on Vancouver Island.
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