Broken Group Gambol - a trip report

A few of you here know that I do a paddling trip with my kids each summer. This year, my son had other things that he wanted to do so it was just my daughter and I. Our adventure this year was a nine day kayaking trip around the Broken Group Islands in Barkley Sound (on the west coast of Vancouver Island). To say that it was a good time would be an understatement. We had a fantastic time, paddling around nearly all the islands, meeting lots of really cool people (and a few um, interesting ones), cooking and eating great meals, and simply having a really, really fun time together.

We didn’t see any whales on this trip but we did get lots of time playing around in rock gardens and exploring shorelines, arches, and caves.

Anyway, we got back from our trip a month ago and it’s taken me this long to finish writing the trip report (it’s a long one with lots of photos).

For those of you who kayak and have never been to the Broken Group, you need to go – it’s a fabulous and magical place. For those of you have been there already, you know what I’m talking about.

You can read the full trip report and view the photos at this link:

Hope you enjoy it.



good report
Great photos and report. What a venue! Looks like a canoe might make this trip. What do you think?

Canoes are OK
We saw a few canoes when we were there and I know quite a few people who have paddled the Broken’s in a canoe. Of course, you probably would stay inside the islands when conditions aren’t so favorable.


How crowded does it get?
Just wondering if there is some perfect stretch in which the crowds aren’t bad and the weather/water are still pleasant.

Awesome trip!
Thanks for the great report, Dan! Almost makes me wish I lived on the coast…

early October!
Also winter months are wonderful out there. I also like Barkley Sound in early Spring…actually all times!!!

More crowds in summer, but the area takes people well, and it’s always fun to see folk out enjoying such a great spot.


– Last Updated: Jul-31-08 4:31 PM EST –

Great report and photo's! Your lovely daughter will remember the trip all her life. What an awesome looking place to paddle.


Great report,
awesome photos. Your kids are lucky.

July and August are worse
We didn’t find it too bad – on the water, we hardly saw anyone paddling, we saw most people when we were in campsites.

While we were there, attandance ranged from a high of 126 people in the park camping to a low of 60 people for the entire park. There are 8 campsites, some of them can accomodate a LOT of people.

As has been mentioned, the off-season months would be best if you’re looking for some solitude but you won’t find it from June to September – during those months (when the weather is best), it’s probably best to accept that part of your trip will be social.

Regardless of whether people are there or not, it’s a beautiful place.


Just found this page.
I poured over your trip report, Dan because I am heading that way next week. By the way, thanks for the great info offline, too.

A couple of questions (for anyone): how exposed to the open ocean is this area?


If you launch at Toquart Bay
which I recommend, it’s relatively protected around the stoppers until Loudon Channel. If you cross past Lyle Point toward Hand Island the distance is short and usually seas not bad. Afternoons in summer are when the winds kick uo. Once at Hand you can snake your way through the islands in relative calm right through the pasage between Trickett and Lovett islands. From there it’s a bit lumpy in afternoons out to Clark and Benson, but still not bad typically.

Outer coast of Bensen, Wouwer, etc. are rough in afternoons and fun. Coaster Channel can get lumpy as well.

Rule for beginners on west coast is early rise and paddle to camp before afternoon winds.

If skill levels are lower this is a terrific area that provodes lot’s of band for the buck so to speak. Easy access, short drive, protected waters, enough room for all.

Darn Just Darn!!!
Excellent trip and report. Great bonding session both of you will never forget. Your son missed out on a bunch.

Broken Group Gambol
I decided today would be a lazy Sunday at home. With rain off and on since early morning it was the perfect time to read your trip report and view your enticing pictures, both content and quality. Read, snack, back to reading . . . I enjoyed your writing style and viewed wildlife I’ve not seen myself. I love receiving the type of organic education Maddie received! There is such a sense of pleasure, awareness and respect which comes through the logs. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ll return to researching tents :slight_smile:

Thanks to all for your comments
Thanks to everyone for your comments. I feel that I’m the lucky one here in that I’ve got a young daughter who really likes paddling. I’ve got a few friends who would like nothing more than for their kids to join them paddling but there is no interest there.

My kids have been into paddling since a very early age and I’ve always done everything that I can to ensure that it’s fun for them (I think this is key). We’ve been on some spectacular trips together (Bowron Lakes, the Deer Group, and many others) and to be completely honest, paddling with the kids has been just as good for me as it has been for them. But I also know that they’re growing and developing and that they can change their minds about paddling too – my 16 year old son this year said that he didn’t want to go on a big trip – and it’s no problem, I’m not about to force him to go. It’s nice knowing that the outdoor bug is in him and that although he doesn’t want to hang out with his Dad right now, that he’ll always enjoy the outdoors – most likely in two or three years, he’ll say “Dad, lets go on a camping trip again”.

It was a terrific experience paddling in the Broken Group with just my daughter – the close time that we had together was fantastic and I know that it’s a time that we’ll both remember fondly for a long, long time.

For sure it’s a special relationship for me, but even without kids, the Broken Group is a fabulous place to paddle. If you haven’t been and you get the chance, do go.

And thanks again for all the comments, it’s fun putting these trip reports together.


Great report and even better photos
I paddled the broken group about 8 times over the last ten years. I can honestly say that I will never go there again anytime between early June and late September. While you may get a taste of NW wilderness while on the water, the campgrounds are just too crowded. It really started going downhill once a local outfitter started providing kayak transit to any of the camp islands with a craft that can beach and drop off kayaks. The outer islands used to be used by only those with the skills to paddle exposed water and wider channels in wind. Now you can have a group dropped off, set up in the limited camp spots, and sit all day in camp if wind and waves are up.

I do believe the outfitter now has to drop off groups on an adjacnent island than the ones with campsites. This way at least you don’t get the car camping setups I saw there a few years ago. For a little more privacy and wilderness feel, I sugest a trip out of Tofino. It’s just a little further up the coast.

Thanks Roller
for the advice. Since I have never been there before, I don’t really know what I am missing and can hopefully be awed by going any of a number of places. I know the frustration you describe about outfitters. Where I ski here in Utah, you used to have to work very hard to ‘earn your turns’ in some of the greatest backcountry ski areas in the lower 48. Now, if you have enough money, you can just be dropped off by a snowcat or helicopter. Gone are the days of solitude gained by fortitude… Maybe with our lousy economy it will again keep the gumbies away…

Yellowstone Lake, too
The last time we went paddle-camping there (2005), we were shocked to find that the prime campsites were booked much of the time, by an outfitter(s). They would powerboat the kayaks and people out, then set up camp. Meanwhile, those of us who actually paddled to that point were out of a campsite.

We had made reservations and wondered why we could not get most of our first-choice campsites, even though we booked well in advance. Turns out that on April 1 the outfitters just grab-book these sites.

The really pathetic part was that even though supposedly almost all sites were reserved during our stay, we only saw ONE family camping, besides this large outfitter group. I guess all the other ones were no-shows (either private or commercial).