Destination paddles, lessons, rentals and multi-day adventures

From the blog: Trail Islands sunset kayak cruise

Kayaking at the Merry Island Lighthouse, Welcome Passage
Kayaking at the Merry Island Lighthouse, Welcome Passage

Guided tours are available year-round, activity-dependent. Guides are certified and experienced, and will ensure you get the most out of your tour, whether it's on land, on the ocean, or in the galleries and museums (and sometimes, the businesses) of the Sunshine Coast.

Getting out on the water

You can rent kayaks (safety gear and orientation comes with the boats), buy boats and gear, take introductory or intermediate lessons, or go on tours that encompass it all.
Kayak and gear rentalskayak lessonsKayak tours, can include lessons, includes kayak & gear

Coast Kayaking Overview

Contrary to popular belief, the Sunshine Coast is not an island. However, it is indeed true that we are surrounded on many sides by a heck of a lot of water.

Vancouver Island is perfectly placed to protect our Georgia Strait coastline from the most vigorous Pacific weather conditions, which means you can launch a canoe or kayak anywhere from Gibsons to Pender Harbour and paddle it in relatively safe and calm waters most days of the year.

Sechelt Inlet, also known as the Inland Sea, offers miles of protected sea kayaking including two large inlets reaching back into the BC mainland (Narrows and Salmon Inlets). There are a number of kayaking companies operating out of the Inlet, offering rentals, excursions and great lessons for beginners. New paddlers will enjoy Porpoise Bay paddles, Tuwanek/Sandy Hook explorations, the marinas and foreshore around Gibsons Harbour, and the inside of Pender Harbour - which is miles of water to play in.

While the Inlet and the Coast in general has always drawn experienced kayakers looking for day trips or longer excursions utilizing our fabulous marine park system, the recreational kayaks offer safe fun and easy adventure for armchair athletes.

No athletic ability is required, and a couple of lessons will give you a great grounding in kayaking so that you can rent a boat with confidence in your skills and safety. Recreational kayaks are very stable, less finicky than excursion craft and highly suited to people looking for few hours out on the water learning something new. Plus they're a lot of fun!

For experienced whitewater kayakers, if you want adrenalin-pumping white water, we've also got The Skook - a tidal rapids at the head of Sechelt Inlet called Skookumchuck Narrows. It's a Native shishalh word meaning 'powerful waters' - strong enough to swallow an entire boat. This is very advanced kayaking and should only be undertaken by whitewater paddlers with Class 3+ experience.

For canoeists who prefer to have a destination, the Ruby Lake, Sakinaw Lake, Agamemnon Channel circle route comes highly recommended. You start at the top of Ruby Lake and head down the west side for the southwest corner (4.5 km). There is a 870 m portage to Sakinaw Lake, where it's best to stick to the east shore for a couple of klicks, than hug the west shore for the last 9 km. The portage to the Agamemnon Channel is about 200 m across Sechelt Indian Band land. Paddle up the eastern shore of the spectacular Agamemnon for 14.5 km, past the ferry terminal to Agamemnon Bay and Jervis Marina. You're about 1 km from where you started (and, presumably, where you left the car).

A second long-route canoe trip is available on the Powell River side, via the Powell Forest Canoe Route, a 5-day, canoe and portage expedition that encompasses 8 lakes, 48 miles of canoeing, and 6+ miles of portaging. 20 recreational campsites are located along this route, and each campsite has a picnic table, outhouse, fire pit, and sometimes firewood, except when campfires are not permitted (inquire at the Visitor Info Centre before departing). Cooking on stoves is recommended, and the best time to go is between June and October. Download the route map here.

Paddleboarding: a growing sport on the Coast

Alpha Adventures started the paddleboarding craze a few years back and all of the major kayak outfitters have them. Part sport, part recreation, part just-plain-leisurely floating around, paddleboarding is very different from kayaking, and a lot of fun. We've got a page just for paddleboarding, so head on over if you're curious!

Introduction & Locations for great Paddling

Exciting, awesome and at times challenging, the Sunshine Coast guarantees the sea kayaker unlimited explorations of magnificent bays, inlets and off shore islands. Where else in the world do we find a major city like Vancouver where the paddler can rise from their bed in the morning, enjoy a fabulous ferry ride, paddle all day in a wilderness setting returning to snuggle back into their own beds that evening! The adventure begins at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. Take the Langdale ferry with your car or bike or even on the bus to get you to Gibsons, the gateway to the Sunshine Coast. The kayaking possibilities are numerous and varied, ranging from quiet shoreline excursions ideal for the novice to longer trips on more challenging waters for the more experienced paddler.

If you are interested in bringing your family paddling, Sechelt Inlet is one of the best places for lessons and learning. Winds are usually much milder in the Inlet, and there are sandy beaches with long slopes - no sudden dropoffs - for practicing getting in and out. For more information about family-friendly paddling in Sechelt Inlet, click here.

Howe Sound

The first of the many inlets along the Sunshine Coast is Howe Sound. Dotted with islands and surrounded by the towering coastal mountains, the islands of Howe Sound offers many exciting paddles. Bowen, Keats, Gambier and the Pasleys Islands provide opportunities for day paddles or stay in the many camping spots in the region for a longer exploration. Each of these islands can be accessed from the marina in the village of Gibsons.

Wildlife viewing by kayak or paddleboard

Love to see some wild life during your outings? A wide variety of sea birds make their home in the Sound, especially during the winter months. Expect to see Harlequin ducks, Scoters, Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, Mergansers, Loons, Bald Eagles and others in their seasons as well as the occasional rare Marbled Murrelet. The local seal colonies will delight you, whether lazing on their haulouts or poking up out of the water. Add a couple of comical river otters and those pesky little coons and your day is complete. Deer, mink and even the occasional Orca Whale may be encountered in the region.

Sechelt Inlet, Narrows Inlet and Salmon Inlet.

And this is just the beginning. The Sechelt Inlet is one of the favourite destinations on the coast. This long, narrow inland sea offers nine marine parks for great camping as one moves up towards Narrows Inlet and Tzoonie Narrows Marine Park. Download the official Sechelt Inlet Marine Park map.

Talaysay Tours is a First Nations Kayak Cultural Adventures company, offering guided tours in Sechelt Inlet, Hotham Sound and to Princess Louisa Inlet. Tours range from 2 hours to multi-day excursions, and a popular tour in 2013 is the Guided Kayak Tour with Traditional Salmon Barbecue.

Off-shore islands of Georgia Strait/Salish Sea

The off shore islands of Georgia Strait give the more experienced paddler a taste of something different. These more challenging waters will extend your paddling experience by confronting you with more choices. Striking out onto Georgia Strait, the paddler should feel confident about their rescues and braces. That special thrill awaits when you venture far enough from land that a sense of disassociation occurs! Play in the waves on the outside coast, experience the heighten state that occurs as the big ones wash over one's deck or stay in the lee of the islands, it's your choice. These islands include Gambier, Keats, North & South Thormanby, Jedediah, Lasqueti, and Savary Islands.

The Pasley Islands

The Pasley Island group at the mouth of Howe Sound is a wonderful place to start. Leaving from Gibsons Harbour, out through the gap and across Barfleur Passage and you are in the middle of a lovely archipelago, five islands to explore. Remember to keep back 300 feet when you pass the seal haulout, especially in spring when the pups are young. Relax on the beach or have a refreshing swim before coming back. Pasley Island information on the Howe Sound Recovery site.

Further up the Coast

The Trail Islands in Trail Bay at Sechelt, the Thormanbys with their splendid sandy beaches by Secret Cove, the Hodgson Islets by Pender Harbour all offer something different and interesting. Other inlets along the coast, Pender Harbour, Jervis Inlet and Hotham Sound all offer the paddler unique and exciting paddling opportunities.

Some words of caution

Some words of caution for the paddler in any of these regions. Winds are generated in all the inland waters by the sun and the topography of the area. Generally, there will be thermal winds blowing up the inlets beginning at about 10am and continuing til late afternoon. The state of the tide will also affect the wave height. If you ride the wind and tide going, remember it will be a challenge to return. Bears and other pests should be considered when camping here. Bring enough rope to hang your food away from your camp and take all your garbage home with you to minimize the risks for both you and the animals. For more detailed information about the hazards and about all the many trips available, refer to our book, "Paddling the Sunshine Coast" available in local paddling shops and, of course from Sunshine Kayaking in Gibsons.

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