Adventures on BC’s Coast: Desolation Sound

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Have you ever been to a place so magnificent, so magical – it feels like a dream? Well I am telling you, it exists in real life. I swam with jellyfish, explored natural hidden watering holes, drifted away on deserted islands and watched meteor showers fill the sky. Desolation Sound is known as one of the top places in British Columbia to explore by water, and I now know why.

Desolation Sound

The inlets and mountain views of Desolation Sound. Photo: Leah Adams-Chute

We had four days, one boat, and the best people you could hope for when you embark on a marine exploration: a well-trained sea captain, a chef, a firefighter and an adventurist. We had the unstoppable combination of navigation, food, safety and escapade – a concoction of human greatness that truly made the journey unforgettable.

Prop plane ride to Desolation Sound.

Anders and James boarding our plane to Powell River. Photo: Leah Adams-Chute

Transporting ourselves there was the first of many ‘pinch me’ moments. We set off from the South Terminal at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), the regional hub for all flying aircrafts in the ‘awesome’ category – float planes, helicopters, and tiny prop plane charters. There is something dreamy about walking onto the tarmac in order to board your plane. We walked up a set of drop-down stairs to board our 19-seater Pacific Coastal Airlines prop plane. Two rows, one aisle, ducking room only. We strapped in and took off, gliding over the Pacific Ocean along the coast of BC to Powell River. The flight was only 40 minutes, but long enough for us to be nose-to-window the entire time, gasping at sea below, dotted with islands and inlets. We gazed at the miniature boats, daydreaming about the sea-faring humans aboard with ocean swept hair and bellies full of seafood. We were mesmerized, knowing this too, would be us.

Sunshine Coast from above.

Sunshine Coast from above. Photo: Darren Robinson

After landing, a quick drive transported us to Lund, and we immediately felt as if we had passed through a porthole into another world. You could feel the commotion, people scampering about to load and unload boats and everyone buzzing from adventures just finished and those about to begin. We loaded up what seemed to be an excessive amount of food and libations for five people over four days. I was quickly eased by the captain’s words, “better too much than too little…‘cause we ain’t finding a convenience store out there.” I immediately ran to the General Store in the Historic Lund Hotel and stocked up on a few more provisions.

Cruising north towards Desolation Sound.

James is relaxing as we cruise north towards Desolation Sound. Photo: Leah Adams-Chute

We cruised north from Lund, basking in the late afternoon sun and enjoying the sea breeze on our faces.  We glided around the corner of the most northern point of the Sunshine Coast, where the inlets of Desolation Sound and the iconic mountains that encapsulate the ocean came into view. It was a truly remarkable moment as reality slipped away, cell service dropped and we glided along the sea into the mountains. Five days of coastal adventures had officially begun.

Entrance to Desolation Sound

Desolation Sound coming into view as we round the northern point of the Sunshine Coast. Photo: Sam Trethewey

Here are the magical moments laid out for you (read: what you get to look forward to when you immediately put this on your ever expanding bucket-list):

1. Top Anchorage: Tenedos Bay

Popular, but for good reason. This secluded inlet offers spectacular views and easy access to Unwin Lake (see below). There are also thousands of Moon Jellies (jellyfish) in these waters and they don’t sting!

Anders playing with Moon Jellyfish in Tenedoes Bay

Anders playing with Moon Jellyfish in Tenedoes Bay. Photo: Sam Trethewey.

Sunset from

Watching the sunset from a rocky bluff at entrance to Tenedos Bay. Photo: Sam Trethewey

2. Unwin Lake

A swimmers paradise – a perfect place to rinse the sea-water out of your hair, dive under sunken logs, and laze around on warm rocks. The only other way to get here is via floatplane, so this secluded lake feels like a world away. About half way up the short hiking trail to the lake, look out for a trail on the left that leads to a small freshwater swimming hole hidden in the forest.

Freshwater swimming pools near Unwin Lake.

Freshwater swimming pools near Unwin Lake. Photo: Anders Petersen

3. Bioluminescence and Splashing Seals

The bioluminescence (emission of light by a living organism) in this area is unbelievable. When night falls, make sure you jump in the water and experience the tiny speckles of florescent light illuminating the ocean. The time of year, moon, and tides will affect how much or how little you see – but definitely worth a check every time. Don’t forget to have a listen for the seals as they splash around in the ocean at night and feed on the abundance of fish.

Seals

Seals sunning on rocks can be found everywhere in Desolation Sound! Photo: Sam Trethewey

4. Jump in and cool down

The cliffs and soaring rock walls that plunge into the ocean here offer great opportunities for cool downs on hot summer days. Climb up (plenty of deep water soloing opportunities available) and jump in.

Cliff jumping

Sam and Mike taking a much needed cool down. Photo: Leah Adams-Chute

Rock climbing

Anders scaling the rock walls of Desolation Sound. Photo: Sam Trethewey.

5. Journey Home: Savary Island

A quick stop at Savary Island is a great addition to the trip, since it is just west off the coast from Lund. Dubbed the “Hawaii of the North”, this island is surrounded by white sandy beaches and warm waters. Take a tip from the locals; spend the day wandering the beach, digging for clams and just relaxing.

Savary Island

The white sandy beaches of Savary Island. Photo: Destination BC

What You Should Know

The Journey to Lund


Hop in the car and drive the scenic Sunshine Coast  (keep in mind the two BC Ferry crossings) or fly from YVR to Powell River and make your way to Lund via taxi. If you have money to burn, the quickest way is by floatplane charter direct to Lund.

Choose a Floating Vessel


1. Sea Kayak: Local companies offer 1 day experiences to multi-day excursions. Rentals are available in Powell River or Lund. Check the Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park website for details on camping.
2. Charter a Boat: Whatever your preference, power or sail.
3. Guided Zodiac Tours: For those looking for a quick one-day experience.

Sea kayaking through Desolation Sound

Some of the warmest and clearest waters in BC can be found in Desolation Sound. Photo: Darren Robinson

Our floating vessel of choice

Our floating vessel of choice. Photo: Sam Trethewey

Packing Essentials

1. Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nude Potluck and Other Stories from Desolation Sound (Book worth reading to put the place into perspective).
2. A bathing suit, snorkel and mask – essential for the ‘loumies’ (aka. bioluminescent creatures).
3. Best Friends (if you happen to know a captain, chef, firefighter and an adventurer – bring them!)

The captain, firefighter and chef

The chef, adventurer and firefighter – enjoying the sunset. Photo: Sam Trethewey (the captain)