Sea Kayaking
 
   

British Columbia

The province is a world renown destination for sea kayakers. With the endless fiords, inlets, islands and reaches that make up the coast scape, kayakers have countless areas to explore. Rugged untouched wild areas are still waiting for you to explore or more civilized routes with B&B's along route can be had. The province has secured dozens of shorelines for use as marine parks.

 
 

Vancouver Island

Often ranked as the best sea kayaking location in the world, Vancouver Island lives up to the title with aplomb. Just to the northeast of Victoria, you'll find exceptional paddling in the Gulf Islands along with an array of marine campsites scattered throughout the island group. You'll also find a large number of Oceanside Inn's and B&B's which welcome paddlers. There are several towns and villages located along the Gulf Islands shoreline where you can get supplies, equipment and local information to support you're trip.

Further north along Vancouver Islands east coast, you'll find one of the world's best areas for whale watching, Johnstone Strait, just off Telegraph Cove. Orca's are the main stay here, but other species along with a wide variety of marine life can be observed. There are a number of Provincial Marine Parks in the area which can be accessed by expert paddlers. If you go, make it a point of carefully following the guidelines for observing the wildlife in the area.

On the west coast the Broken Group, in Pacific Rim National Park, has become the destination of choice for kayakers. The areas waters are for the most part protected from the broader Pacific and the sounds islands have a number of campsites accessible to paddlers. Just north of Tofino Clayoquot Sound is beginning to rival the Broken Group as a kayak destination for expert kayakers (for those with lesser skills make a point of hiring a guide). Along with the marine park campsites the sound has a number of exceptional resorts which will cater to your every whim.

The Broken Group - Barkley Sound

Barkley Sound is considered as one of the world's premiere paddling destinations and the most popular areas in the sound is the Broken Group Islands. The Broken Group make up a part of Pacific Rim National Park (along with the Long Beach Area and the West Coast Trail) and consist of over a hundred islands forming an archipeligo which provides shelter from the broad pacific. Kayakers have a number of islands with campsite to choose from with basic facilities such as outhouses

Note: Marine charts and tide tables are essential as are a good knowledge of map and compass. Paddling to the outer islands should only be attempted by more experienced kayakers. Bring your own drinking water and ensure you have a good backpacking stove for cooking. Remember everything packed-in must be packed-out.

 

Gulf Islands

Without a doubt the Gulf Islands are best know to adventurers for their exceptional sea kayaking. Located on the east side of Vancouver Island and well protected from the broad Pacific, they present paddlers with an exceptional area to explore. Long reaches, channels, bays, spits, cliffs, beaches and more await your investigation.

For the kayaker the best initial launches (depending on your route) are often nearby the ferry terminals and the islands villages, where you'll also find supplies, guides, shops and of course local knowledge, which is key to staying safe and getting the most out of you're experience. Dozens of marine parks, along with the newly established Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, provide perfect places to pitch your tent. There are extended beach walks which can take you right around some of the smaller islands as well as a good number of interesting trails up to the peaks and bluffs of the main islands. For the birder, you'll also find trails which really mix it up, taking you through a variety of habitat, ensuring that you'll encounter a wide variety of bird species.

The Gulf Islands present some of the best and most accessible sea kayaking for intermediate and expert paddlers on the west coast. Each of the major islands has a guiding and/or retail company, which are without a doubt, the best souce of information on the area. Most of the staff have been paddling the islands for a long time and know the areas intricacies, as well as the best campsites, picnic and nature viewing spots.

If you're planning more than a day out, you'll find endless areas to explore and just as important a wealth of options for overnight stays. The islands are dotted with provincial and national park campsites, both primitive and with a variety of services. In addition you'll find a good number of B&B's along with inns and resorts which are accessible from the water and welcome kayakers with open arms. Regardless of your comfort requirements you'll find enough options to suit almost any itinerary. For extended trips supplies are available on all of the islands and are usually easily accessible from a public dock, ferry terminus or put-in.

Beaumont Park - Gulf Islands National Park Reserve - Bedwell Harbour off South Pender, Water Access Only

The park has 11 walk-in campsites, drinking water, picnick areas, toilets, an anchorage and a Canadian Customs office in the high season. Supplies are available at nearby Bedwell Harbour Village.

Cabbage Island - Gulf Islands National Park Reserve - North east of Tumbo Island, Water Access Only.

The park has 8 walk-in campsites, a beach, a picnick area and toilets. There are also a number of bouys for moorage off shore. Tumbo island is just off of Saturna Island. The east side of Tumbo is exposed to the waters of the broader straight.

D'Arcy Island - Gulf Islands National Park Reserve - East of the Saanich Peninsula and south of Sidney Island in Haro Strait, Water Access Only

There are several buoys for mooring and a small beach. The park has rustic campsites for overnight stays.

Discovery Island Marine Park - East of Victoria off of Oak Bay where Haro meets Juan du Fuca Straight, Water Access Only

There are no designated campsites but their is an area for camping. Vault toilets are available. No moorage for boaters. While this is a popular kayaking desitination the open water crossing from the mainland can be trecherous - best bet hire a guide.

Sidney Spit - Gulf Islands National Park Reserve - East of the Saanich Peninsula on at the north end of Sidney Island, Paddle out or take the ferry from Sidney in the summer.

The park is known for its exceptional sandy beaches. There are 35 bouys for moorage along the shores of the park and 24 walk-in campsites, vault toilets and picnic areas.

Isle-de-lis - Between Stuart and Sidney Island, Water Access Only

The park has a few walk-in campsites as well as some walking trails.

 

While the islands are located in an area protected from the broad Pacific Ocean their are still some key elements which you should keep in mind. The surrounding body of water, the Georgia Staight is very large and can quickly become feroucious if the weather changes, particulary on the more exposed side of the islands. The channels between islands can have exceptionally strong tidal currents, which may not be paddled against during tidal rushes (slack tide may present an opportunity but check with local authorities and paddlers before attemping any channel crossing - or better still hire a good guide). The areas waters are cold and hypothermia is a real factor even in the summer months. Finally there are numerous ferry routes within the islands (the main ferrry route between Vancouver and Victoria runs cuts right through the islands) and pleasure boat traffic in many areas is extensive' particulary in high season. Remember the larger boats are difficult to maneauver, take forever to come to a stop and be keenly aware, they are travelling a lot faster than they appear to be.

Note to Paddlers: The area is best suited to intermediate and expert kayakers - if you lack the requisite skills, hire a good guide from one of the islands many shops and schools.

Location Map for Gabriola Island Parks
Location Map for Galiano Island Parks

Location Map for Mayne Island Parks
Location Map for Pender Islands Parks
Location Map for Salt Spring Island Parks
Location Map for Saturna Island Parks


 

Kayaking Solo from Tofino to Port Hardy - 500km, 28 Days - Darrin Rockliffe

Tofino to Hotsprings Cove - Day 1 & 2
 
Hotsprings Cove to Estavan Point - Day 3
 
Estavan to Nootka - Days 3 & 4

 

 

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