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An off-the-grid vacation is considered by many to be the ultimate path to unplugging from a busy life. Depending on the level of comfort and convenience you prefer, there are a number of options on Vancouver Island, from wilderness camping to retreats to solar-powered cottages. Here are a five suggestions for off-the-grid vacations on Vancouver Island.
Based out of northern Vancouver Island, Kingfisher Wilderness Adventuresoffers a variety of tours. The four-day orca waters base camp kayak tour is one of the most popular options, with participants accommodated in raised tents set up on a small island overlooking Johnstone Strait. Kingfisher supplies everything needed to spend an inspiring four days kayaking among orca and humpback whales, enjoying the spectacular beauty and serenity of northern Vancouver Island. Gourmet meals, French press organic coffee and comfortable beds are all part of the package, along with the opportunity to meet travelers from far and wide. And if you have never kayaked before, not to worry – Kingfisher recently hosted an 82-year-old woman who had the time of her life.
Part of the Pacific Marine Circle Route, Sombrio Beach is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, between Sooke and Port Renfrew. Although there are other wilderness campsites along this route, which is part of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Sombrio is a favourite as much for its history as its wild beauty. For many years, a fully-functional hippie commune lived along the beach, raising families and surfing. There is very little evidence left of those days, but surfers and campers continue to flock to Sombrio. And every once in a while, you may find yourself in conversation with one of those original ‘settlers’, gaining some insight in to the romance and difficulty of living off-the-grid on a full-time basis. The long cobble beach and surrounding woodland provide many hiking opportunities. Or you can just sit on a log and be entranced by the song of the ever-pounding waves. There is no better way to unplug.
Jedediah Island Marine Provincial Park is tucked in between Texada and Lasqueti Islands in the Salish Sea off central Vancouver Island. It is accessible only by boat, and attracts large contingents of sailing and kayaking enthusiasts. At 243 ha (600 ac), the island offers several pretty shoreline sites for wilderness camping. There is a lot of history here, too – some of which may come to visit you in the form of feral sheep and goats. Originally homesteaded in the late 1800s, Jedediah was privately owned until 1995. A couple of homestead sites remain to this day, harkening back to the era when people actually lived full-time on the island. If you are looking for total tranquility, consider camping at the small bays along the east side of the island at the height of the camping season – this is a popular destination for the boating community, and Long Bay can become somewhat congested.
As proven by all the residents of Lasqueti Island, living off-the-grid on a full-time basis is certainly possible. So for those who perhaps prefer a few more amenities than most off-the-grid experiences, there is Squitty Bay Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast. Powered by alternative energy sources that include a windmill, solar and a water wheel, this bed and breakfast perches on the edge of a rocky outcrop and is encompassed by the 53 ha (130 ac) Squitty Bay Provincial Marine Park. The tiny self-contained cottage with outdoor shower offers ‘ pristine beauty, no frills’. Unless, of course, you count a sauna on the beach below a ‘frill’, which most of us certainly would. Access to Lasqueti is by private boat or a foot passenger ferry from French Creek marina, near the central Vancouver Island town of Parksville. There are no paved roads on the island, and the main mode of transportation is bicycle
Sechart Lodge is another off-the-grid vacation option that offers the comforts of home. The lodge is located in Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Originally a whaling station (1905-1917), the location now serves as a jumping-off point for kayakers enthusiastic about paddling the magnificent Broken Group Islands and Pinkerton Islands/Sechart Channel area of Barkley Sound. There are kayak rentals available through the lodge, or visitors can transport their own kayaks and camping gear from Port Alberni on the MV Frances Barkley, a packet freighter that services remote communities along the Alberni Inlet and on the west coast. For those who want to rough it, there is wilderness camping in the Broken Group. Or, you can explore by kayak during the day and after an exhilarating outing, return to Sechart for a hot meal, shower and a comfy bed.
Do you have a favourite off-the-grid vacation spot on Vancouver Island? Share in the comments below.
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