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5 Great Sea Kayaking Adventures on Canada’s West Coast

June to August is the most popular time for sea kayaking in Canada, especially if you’re heading for the west coast and the waters around Vancouver Island. With luck the weather will be dry or drier and summer like. The big question is where you should go when there are so many fantastic spots around Vancouver Island to paddle.

Here are 5 sea kayaking trips on Canada’s West coast that I can personally recommend.

Johnston Strait from Vancouver Island

"Looking out across Johnston Strait"

Looking out across Johnston Strait

Highlights: The largest concentration of Orca whales on the west coast; interesting island paddling around West Cracroft Island all the way to Mamalilaculla

Hazards: Be prepared for strong tidal currents, wind and boat wake. The weather system here is colder and rainier than the area south of Campbell River. The water is freezing cold and I recommend a wet suit for this trip. Johnstone Strait is two miles across. It can be very choppy and currents can be a problem for novice kayakers.

***Kayak Weynton Passage and Blackney Passage at slack tide only.***

Camping: Spots can be hard to come by. Try the Blinkhorn Peninsula or Kaikash Creek (it can get busy with groups). On the other side of the strait try Pig Ranch, Growler Cove or Weynton Island.

Number of Days Needed: 3 or more depending if you include the Broughton Archipelago

Launch: At Telegraph Cove. You’ll likely have to pay a fee to launch and to leave your car. You can pick up last minute supplies in Telegraph Cove.

Desolation Sound accessed via the Sunshine Coast

Looking up Desolation Sound

Highlights: Spectacular mountain scenery, warm water, warmer weather than most of the other kayaking options, swimming possibilities, pretty islands, oysters

Hazards: Boat traffic and wake

Camping: In prime time camping spots can be very hard to find, and some campsites require negotiation of sharp oyster beds to get your kayak above the high tide mark. Try the Copeland Islands (beautiful), Curme Islands (outstanding), Martin Island (lots of room here), Kinghorn Island (a tough place), Forbes Bay, Roscoe Bay

Number of Days Needed: Three to 10 depending on whether you do a loop up to Toba Inlet and around East or West Redonda Islands

Launch: From the town of Lund on the Sunshine Coast. There’s a great bakery here if you want to stock up on goodies before you head out. You could launch from Cortes Island too if you were coming from Vancouver Island.


The view from the Copeland Islands

Tofino and the Clayoquot Sound Area

Boardwalk into Hot Springs Cove

Highlights: Beautiful beaches, virgin rain forest, Hot Springs Cove (the hot spring is beside the ocean), lots of bird-life, grey whales, excellent fishing

Hazards: Boat traffic, swells, heavy surf, shoals, fog

Camping: Lots of choice though the outer beaches are accessible only via a surf landing – unless you want to hump your gear across the islands

Number of Days Needed: 3 to 10 depending on how far you want to paddle and how many lazy days you want to enjoy

Other: You can easily do a week’s kayaking trip on the calmer inside passage. In fact we kayaked all the way up to Hot Springs Cove and had a beautiful white sand beach about a mile from the cove to ourselves for a few days. You should be a competent paddler to attempt the outside route.

Launch: Right from the wharf in Tofino

Kyuquot Sound, the Bunsby Islands, the Mission Group all the way up to the Brooks Peninsula

"Camping in the Mission Islands"

Camping in the Mission Islands

Highlights: Fantastic variety and amount of wildlife, large seabird colonies, remote coast of the Brooks Peninsula with its beautiful beaches and freshwater streams, beautiful islands, majestic scenery, fewer people, excellent fishing

Hazards: Challenging, exposed coast paddling, fog, heavy seas

Camping: Camping near Spring Island, on the Bunsbys (I’ve never been able to get a spot there), Mission Group and the brooks Peninsula

Number of Days Needed: 7-10 ideally, especially considering the difficulty of just getting to Zeballos and Fair Harbour

Other: This area ranks right up there as one on my all-time favourite places to paddle. Fortunately the two times I kayaked to the Brooks Peninsula the seas were calm. It’s not a place you want to be caught out in! Island paddling is delightful and there are is a ton of exploring to do. Some people get a boat ride out to the Brooks Peninsula from Kyuquot and just use it as a base. My brother tells me there’s a paddle up espresso bar in Kyuquot now.

Launch: Launch from Fair Harbour if you want an uninteresting one day paddle out to Kyuquot Sound. Otherwise get a boat taxi and start in Kyuquot or on Union Island.


Looking out into Kyuquot Sound

The Broken Group, Pacific Rim National Park

Highlights: Beautiful scenery, sand beaches, west coast experience in sheltered water, the ride on the boat to the launch, coastal rainforests, eagles, tide pools

Hazards: Swells on the outer islands can be a problem, fog

Camping: Concessionares collect fees at each campsite. It costs $9.80 per person per night plus the National Park entrance fee. The maximum length of time you can camp at any one spot is four nights and you can’t camp any more than 14 days in total on the Broken Group. Summer is VERY busy here and you can expect to share campsites. There are eight official campsites. If you stay at Gilbert, Benson, Clarke or Turret Islands you will have easy access to the open ocean.

Number of Days Needed: 3-14 depending on how much exploring you’d like to do

Outfitters: There are loads of companies offering tours of the Broken Group. Going with a tour is certainly a good introduction to sea kayaking. Some you could consider are – Majestic Ocean Kayaking, Batstar Adventure Tours and Vancouver Island Kayak.

Launch: Park your car in Port Alberni and take the boat out the Alberni Inlet to launch. Contact the Lady Rose Marine Services to book your three hour boat ride.

"Fog banks can be a problem"

Fog banks can be a problem on the west coast of Vancouver Island

What’s your favourite area to kayak in Canada?

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Leigh McAdam

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Photo credits: Boardwalk

Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Courtney Mroch says:

    Holy smokes, I never considered doing a kayaking trip. Your post just really opened my eyes. I only ever thought of it as a day trip activity. But I would LOVE to combine it with camping. Such amazing sights you have to see in Canada too. (I’m enchanted with that country for some reason. Any chance I get to go, I do.) I need to start getting my arms in shape. I now want to go kayaking!!! (Luckily there are some places here I can start my training. ;)

    • @Courtney It’s a lot of work to get ready for a long weekend or week long kayaking trip but the rewards are so worthwhile – major time for R&R and I find it’s its how I unwind best. If you’ve never done it before I highly recommend going with a kayak company the first time.

  • Courtney Mroch says:

    Holy smokes, I never considered doing a kayaking trip. Your post just really opened my eyes. I only ever thought of it as a day trip activity. But I would LOVE to combine it with camping. Such amazing sights you have to see in Canada too. (I’m enchanted with that country for some reason. Any chance I get to go, I do.) I need to start getting my arms in shape. I now want to go kayaking!!! (Luckily there are some places here I can start my training. ;)

    • @Courtney It’s a lot of work to get ready for a long weekend or week long kayaking trip but the rewards are so worthwhile – major time for R&R and I find it’s its how I unwind best. If you’ve never done it before I highly recommend going with a kayak company the first time.

  • Murray Atherton says:

    Don’t forget Vancouver’s backyard, Bowen Island. Martin Clark has some amazing trips thru Bowen Island Sea Kayaking…..www.bowenislandkayaking.com

  • Murray Atherton says:

    Don’t forget Vancouver’s backyard, Bowen Island. Martin Clark has some amazing trips thru Bowen Island Sea Kayaking…..www.bowenislandkayaking.com

  • Great list. I’m counting the days until my kids are big enough to go on an extended, ocean kayaking trip…

  • Great list. I’m counting the days until my kids are big enough to go on an extended, ocean kayaking trip…

  • AnitaMac says:

    I have not done any self touring in BC – but I had a fabulous time on a multi day trip off of Salt Spring Island a number of years ago. We slept on small island, paddled and swam in the water. It was brilliant. Would do that trip again for sure! The region is so amazing. For now – I am living and paddling in the Ottawa/Gatineau area – having some great days out on the water, but would love to spend more time exploring out in BC.

  • AnitaMac says:

    I have not done any self touring in BC – but I had a fabulous time on a multi day trip off of Salt Spring Island a number of years ago. We slept on small island, paddled and swam in the water. It was brilliant. Would do that trip again for sure! The region is so amazing. For now – I am living and paddling in the Ottawa/Gatineau area – having some great days out on the water, but would love to spend more time exploring out in BC.

    • @Anita I definitely miss the proximity to the BC coast though I understand it’s been quite a miserable spring so I probably wouldn’t be out kayaking. Looking forward to exploring Maligne Lake near Jasper – and even the Glenmore Reservoir in Calgary. Sometimes you just have to take advantage of what’s in front of you.

  • Kristina Blacke says:

    This is my all time favourite trail (I grew up in the area): Start in the beautiful little town of Deep Cove and paddle north along the marina. You will enter Indian Arm all the way to Lone Rock Point where you enter the channel to Raccoon Island. After about 2 km you should be able to see the Twin Island. Now the best part! There is a beautiful lagoon between the islands and you will discover a large cliff on the east side from which you can jump into the water!

  • Kristina Blacke says:

    This is my all time favourite trail (I grew up in the area): Start in the beautiful little town of Deep Cove and paddle north along the marina. You will enter Indian Arm all the way to Lone Rock Point where you enter the channel to Raccoon Island. After about 2 km you should be able to see the Twin Island. Now the best part! There is a beautiful lagoon between the islands and you will discover a large cliff on the east side from which you can jump into the water!

  • Mellissa Ruryk, president 12-13 STC Canada West Coast says:

    Lovely pictures, could I have permission to use one as an image for our letterhead? I would like to crop the Johnstone Strait one to show just the centre strip with the mountains and sea. We’ve been using a Vancouver skyline image and it’s too narrow for our purposes – we represent technical communicators across the province and from the US border to the Arctic circle. Your image is lovely.
    thanks

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