British Columbia question again

-- Last Updated: Dec-07-12 8:54 AM EST --

On Oct 7 String asked about BC paddling destinations and got good answers. I bookmarked the thread. I'm planning a trip out there in July to paddle the Bowron Lakes. After that, my canoe partner and I would like to go out to Vancouver Island, rent a little cabin, poke around the coast and also do some kayak day trips. We will have to rent kayaks, of course. So here's the question: where should we be looking to do paddling day trips in relatively calm waters? (The calmness versus wildness of the water was not addressed in answers to String -- only the scenic beauty.) My emphasis is on protected waters because my canoe partner is not very comfortable in a kayak (prefers a double with me in it), though she's a highly competent canoeist on lakes (learned in Minnesota). We don't need a lot of excitement -- just a beautiful place and the opportunity to paddle out on quiet waters. Thanks for any suggestions you can give me.
This will be our first trip out there and I don't know a thing about the coastal paddling. I did check out some trip reports on PNet and need to go back and look at those again. Some useful ones on Bowron Lakes.

Broken Island Group

Thanks, Roller
I’ve talked to a friend about the Broken Islands. On her chart they looked great.

G in NC

procedure at Bowron
If you are planning a morning departure to start the first portage at the Bowron Lakes loop, try to watch the mandatory movie and do the weight check-in the evening before. That way you can get a nice early start the next morning, and have the hard work done before it gets too hot.

Borken Island option
The only “cabin” that I know of in the Broken Group would be Sechart Lodge. You can stay there quite comfortably and be able to cover the entire Broken Group in day trips if you decide not to go camping. To get there one normally takes the ferry from Port Alberni.

And one follow-up to my comment about the Bowron - be sure you have reservations!

Paddling in BC
Here’s a link to a trip that my two kids and I did on the Bowron’s a few years ago – it’s a fabulous trip that I’m sure you’ll enjoy:

With regard to other places to paddle in BC you can find more information about several destinations here:

You might also want to post your question in the WestCoastPaddler forums (in the Community section)as there are many, many people there who can offer you advice on possible destinations.


Broughton Archipelago and Broken Group
If you’re looking for cabin-based trips in an area that is fairly sheltered, I’d suggest the Broughton Archipelago, and specifically The Paddlers Inn – it’s a fantastic place that I’ve stayed on several occasions that makes a great base for exploring the area. You can expect calm flat waters for the most part in the summer months in the Broughton.

Paddlers’ Inn

A recent trip report from the Broughton:

And another Broughton trip from a couple summers ago:

As far as the Broken Group goes – it’s like a theme park for paddlers. I’ve done a few trips there and highly recommend it as it has something for every level of paddler – and it’s absolutely gorgeous. As has been mentioned, there are no cabins there but the Sechart Lodge offers some accommodation nearby. Here’s a couple of Broken Group trip reports:

A trip with my daughter:

And another trip with a couple of friends:

Hope this helps,


2nd the above
Plus you might want to check out Paddler’s Inn in the Broughton Islands - sounds like it meets all your criteria. Again check out westcoast paddler for more info.

Another Broughton trip report

– Last Updated: Dec-07-12 4:01 PM EST –

PS: regardless of where you paddle in BC, you’re going to have a memorable trip.


Check out Telegraph Cove
In Johnston Straight.

You can paddle with the Orcas

They rent kayaks there, and might possibly do tours.

We did our own thing, and it was awesome.

If you are interested, let me know and I’ll send you that portion of our four month long trip report.

Jack L

PNetters, you are wonderful! Thanks!
Great info and advice, and I will take it all re Bowron Lakes, West Coast Paddlers and destinations on the coast. You have given me a place to focus my research, which I really needed. Thank you, each and every one, so much! PNetters always come through.

G in NC

Sechelt Inlet
Sechelt is nice and protected…with boat only provincial campgrounds (its on the mainland north of Vancouver). Also, check your tides and currents. Pacific Northwest tides can be quite irregular compared to other places (the two highs or lows can be very different). There are tidal rapids in places (the Sechelt rapids is a big boat sinker, FYI), and currents that you will want to time. You can get the current charts at most any marine store when you figure out where you are going.

Paddling with whales
While you may see orcas at any time in and around Johnstone Strait the very best time to see them there is from the end of July and through August and September.

This past summer I spent 3 months in the Broughton Archipelago and sighted lots of humpbacks, several orcas, a few grey whales, and a very impressive number of dolphins. While I didn’t personally see it myself, there was a pod of 1000-1200 dolphins reported near the entrance to Johnstone Strait.

I can’t adequately express with words how exciting it is to be paddling near these amazing creatures.


southern gulf island
Saltspring island, portland island, russell island, off of Vancouver island such as maple bay, cowichan bay. Check out Provincial Marine Parks which includes Gulf Island, some of which have camping:

Renting on Vancouver Island

– Last Updated: Dec-10-12 6:34 PM EST –

We were down on the Island last summer and rented from a few places. Sealegs kayaking in Ladysmith was great with an easy launch and beginner friendly Delta boats, they did require certification for longer rentals though. Kayak Utopia in Comox was great too and has an amazing selection as well. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend either.

Great advice written above but I felt good service was worth mentioning.

Thanks for specific tips where to rent
Kayaks. And to see orcas. Appreciate all suggestions.


salt water
Aren’t the Broken Is on the nwest coast of Van IS? That is hardly protected. Maybe the Gulf Islands would be a better bet. The big challenges in my experience on salt water in the San Juan Is, WA are the tidal rips between islands that can have velocities much higher than you can paddle against and standing waves. Bring a tide table. There is also barge and ferry traffic with very large wakes and cables to worry about. There is a lot of fog. I would avoid anyplace with the name “Straight” after it. That usually means a lot of fetch and wind driven waves. It is a very “dynamic” paddling environment and shuld be approached with some caution especailly given the water temp. Dress for immersion.

More protected than you might think

– Last Updated: Dec-13-12 2:04 AM EST –

The Broken Group is indeed on the west coast of Vancouver Island (more south than north) but if one stays within the inner island areas, the outer islands offer a substantial amount of protection from weather, waves, and swell. I’ve paddled there several times and have found that the vast majority of paddlers are rank beginners – most of them are surprisingly on their first kayak trip. This is not to say that you can’t get big conditions – you certainly can if you’re playing around the outer islands and especially when the weather kicks up a bit. Obviously conditions in the summer months are much more sedate than in the winter and shoulder seasons.

I’ve also paddled extensively in the Gulf Islands and would say that they perhaps require more skill as there are more currents to deal with.

Like anywhere, you need good judgment with respect to weather and area and not paddle beyond your abilities. It’s certainly possible to paddle in the Brokens or the Gulf Islands safely with novice level experience – if you’re careful.


Re : kayak rentals
Hello…i was just on VI in Oct …I believe there is a place on Rt 4 ( Alberni HWY ) heading west towards Coombs & Cameroon Lake and the tall pines of Cathedral Grove state park area (recommended) . I forget the name unfortunately, of the business that rents them but they are on your left as you head west on 4. Cameroon Lake is beautiful. Google other places for rentals. no shortage of water on VI .

paddling in the salt

Thanks for the update. It seems like a lot of newbie paddlers have the idea that the ocean is a lot like their sit-on-top adventures at home on local lakes.

This seems like a good place to point out that they can be quite different.

Dressing for immersion saves a lot of lives every year in the PNW, and unfortunatley those that don’t heed the 55 degree water temps sometimes don’t make it home.