Camp-to-Camp Paddling Destinations on BC's Coast

Camp-to-Camp Paddling Destinations on BC's Coast

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What is better than glassy water and the peace of a paddle silently cutting the surface of the ocean as you glide along the shore’s edge? Camping while you do it. Exploring British Columbia’s coast is arguably best experienced with a kayak, canoe, or standup paddleboard (SUP). The advantages to travelling slowly on the water pay out in the subtlest of ways: animals come closer, the crowds stay away, and the options for camping in solitude open up considerably. Here are seven paddling destinations on BC’s coast where you can camp along the way.

1. Broken Group Islands

Floating docks act as a launchpad for kayakers.

Sechart Lodge is a popular launch area for kayakers exploring the Broken Group Islands. Photo: Chris Wheeler

Tofino has long attracted tourists looking for surf but nearby Ucluelet has been bringing kayakers to town for way longer. With over 100 islands located in Pacific Rim National Park, this route is easily one of Canada’s most iconic water destinations. Tour operators here can help you navigate the islands, allowing for non-expert paddlers to experience the desolate islands safely and comfortably.

2. Desolation Sound

A kayaker paddles along a rocky coastline.

Kayaker paddles along the coastline of Desolation Sound at low tide. Photo: Andrew Strain

There’s nothing to fear in the dauntingly-named Desolation Sound. Set deep in the Coast Mountains, the marine campsites in Desolation Sound are often set on small islands surrounded by huge peaks. Powell River Sea Kayak offers trips with options for a “glamping” experience at Cabana Desolation Eco Resort. Paddle fearlessly, explorer.

3. Northern Vancouver Island

Two breaching orca whales.

Paddling beside orcas in BC’s Johnstone Strait. Photo: @jordangatto

Viewing sea otters, orca, and humpback whales in their natural environment is awe-inspiring. Witnessing it from water level while in your own human-powered vessel adds an element of thrill you can’t get from a motorized boat. A kayak trip from Telegraph Cove and through the Johnstone Strait will have you paddling past orcas on a multi-day tour, all while you camp beside the ocean and wake to the sound of whales on the water. If you’re looking to get a little more remote, West Coast Expeditions offers a five-day Sea Otter Kayak Tour from Vancouver Island’s northwest coast.

4. Deep Cove

One of Vancouver’s best kept secrets is the hidden seaside hamlet of Deep Cove. Twenty minutes from downtown, this charming spot is also a launch point for all water sports. The protected waters here are often calmer, making for easy paddling and peaceful adventure. Campsites here are located on the shores Indian Arm inlet in Say Nuth Khaw Yum Provincial Park.

5. Sea to Sky Marine Trail

Aerial view of a lush island and a floating dock just offshore.

Porteau Cove Provincial Park as seen from above. Photo: @jonbeeotch

Running from Horseshoe Bay (the birthplace of BC’s craft beer movement) through Howe Sound to Gibsons, with a stopover in Squamish, this as the crow flies 40-kilometre (25-mile) route features camping in Porteau Cove, Halkett Bay, and Plumper Cove provincial parks.

6. Sechelt Inlets Marine Provincial Park

BC’s Sunshine Coast is a provincial jewel. Located only a short ferry trip and drive from Vancouver, the Sechelt Inlets offer paddling through classic Coast Range mountain and ocean environments. There are three inlets: Sechelt, Narrows and Salmon. All are ideal for kayaking. Sandy beaches provide safe pull-outs for finding that perfect campsite. Check out Peddles & Paddles or West Coast Wilderness Lodge for rentals and tours of the area. 

7. Haida Gwaii

A hiker pauses to look at intricate carvings on two tall wooden poles.

Exploring Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, one of the many places to explore while kayaking in Haida Gwaii. Photo:@freeluftsliv

This archipelago off the mid coast of BC is a natural and cultural treasure, and almost seems designed for paddle sports. Island hopping with a guide through Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve is a once in a lifetime experience, and a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of SGaang Gwaay Llnagaay will never be forgotten. Check out Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures for expedition options to this remote destination.

Remember the three T’s—trip planning, training, and taking the essentials—before you head out on the water. AdventureSmart is a great resource to get you informed before planning your next water adventure.

Originally published in January of 2018.