The Chilkoot Trail, which begins on tidewater in Alaska and climbs up over mountains in…
A boat tour up Princess Louisa Inlet from the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia is something you never forget. The inlet is one of British Columbia’s gems and the only true example of fjordland on the Pacific Coast.
Princess Louisa Inlet is accessed via a two hour boat ride from Egmont, the most northerly community on the Lower Sunshine Coast, or via float-plane. It turns out it’s only twenty miles from Whistler – but that’s if you’re a crow – flying.
A visit to the inlet to see its world-class scenery was on my wish list when I moved to Vancouver. When I finally got the chance to go with my husband as a guest of Sunshine Coast Tours I wasn’t disappointed.
Princess Louisa Inlet location
The inlet is located near the head of Jervis Inlet. It was overlooked by Captain George Vancouver on his 1791-95 expedition when he mistakenly thought it was a river – likely because the current at the entrance to Princess Louisa can reach nine knots. The Princess Louisa area is gorgeous – an 8 km body of water framed by 5,000 foot cliffs with loads of waterfalls, especially as the snow starts to melt.
At the end of the inlet sits the very atmospheric Princess Louisa Marine Park – a place you can camp, tie up your boat or enjoy a picnic with the nearby Chatterbox Falls taking the role as a stunning focal point. But that’s only part of the day.
How to get to the start of the boat tour
The boat tour starts at 10:30 AM which is perfect if you’re going to do it as a long day trip from Vancouver. You can take the 7:20 AM ferry from Horseshoe Bay (make reservations in the summer if it’s a weekend) and 40 minutes later arrive on the Sunshine Coast.
Then it’s a winding and oftentimes slow – up to 90 minute – drive to the marina in Egmont. But you have time to pick up a coffee and muffin at Wheatberries Bakery in Sechelt. Also grab lunch fixings along the way because you’ll have an hour in Princess Louisa Park to explore and eat.
What to wear on the boat trip
Dress in layers. Morning temperatures started at 10°C in late April, though as the day went on, it warmed. Fortunately too, the boat has plenty of indoor seating so being cold was never an issue. Views are also great both inside and outside the boat.
Be warned that there are no washrooms on board. Bring cameras and binoculars. Don’t bring young kids. They’ll be bored.
How the boat tour unfolds
There’s much more to the boat tour than just the visit to Chatterbox Falls at the end of the inlet. Bryce, our guide and the owner of the operation, provides ongoing and interesting facts for most of the ride up the inlet.
His wealth of knowledge about the history – including native history and the natural environment is outstanding. Plus he had a sense of humour and was easy company – a useful trait when you’re spending five hours in a boat with a stranger.
The boat ride started with a quick run by Miller Island – a favourite haul out for seals. Few were visible in the morning but plenty were seen lounging in the sun at the end of the day. Three hundred metres is as close as you’re allowed to get to the seals.
Then it was down the channels with stops to admire waterfalls and pictographs. No one knows for sure the meaning of the pictographs but according to Bruce, a native woman has suggested that they mean that the area is a great place to fish, especially at a certain time of the tide.
We continue – stopping a few more times to hear about the geology or the history of logging operations. Or the oyster industry. Or the commercial fisheries. You get the picture. It’s not just the immediate area but all of the Sunshine Coast that Bryce is able to speak about with some authority.
Here are a set of photos to give you a sense of what to expect on the boat tour.
The entrance to the inlet
Guarding the entrance to Princess Louisa is Young Life Camp – a non-denominational camp that has been run for teenagers since 1954. And what a place for a camp. The volleyball court frames views up the inlet while a giant swimming pool sits alongside the ocean waters.
On the boat tour you have a chance to get out and tour the camp. It will have you wishing you were a teenager. Look out for the numerous totem poles – on both sides of the inlet.
The walk to Chatterbox Falls takes you through a forest draped in moss – actually almost smothered in moss. It lends a surreal feel to the area. On the walk to the Chatterbox Falls you can’t help but admire spring flowers that have just recently burst into bloom and ferns just past the fiddlehead stage.
There isn’t too much wildlife to be seen on this trip, though there are plenty of birds. Surf scoters are still in great numbers and plenty of gulls and eagles are visible. At low tide you’ll see starfish and batfish. To me this trip is about the grandeur of the scenery – where ocean meets mountain. And it’s definitely worth the boat ride.
Tips for your trip
The boat tour begins at 10:30 AM and is back at 3:30 PM. There is a full hour allotted for wandering the park at Chatterbox Falls and eating lunch. The ride back tends to be much bouncier – especially in the summer when outflow winds due to heating occur. If you have a bad back then consider a winter trip when it tends to be calmer.
Bring a picnic lunch and a warm set of clothes.
Dogs cannot join you on the tour. Leave your young children at home too.
The full day price for a ticket including taxes is about $155. Book directly with Sunshine Coast Tours. Trips can be chartered in winter.
Where to stay on the Sunshine Coast before the tour
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In Madeira Park the Painted Boat Resort would be a wonderful upscale choice. The Sunshine Coast Resort is another excellent choice with ocean views from every guest room. If it’s a holiday home that has appeal check out Moon Dance Cabin.
In Halfmoon Bay the Rockwater Secret Cove Resort offers some beautiful cliff-side rooms.
Other trips in BC worth investigating
- A Spectacular Long Weekend at Great Bear Lodge
- The Sea Safari – One of Vancouver’s Top Day Trips
- A Day Trip to Bowen Island from Vancouver
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