Gulf Islands sea-kayak trek

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
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Gulf Islands sea-kayak trek
Question: I am planning a trip to the Gulf Islands in British Columbia for about five days and I'm wondering where the best sites are, and if there are many places to camp. I want to do lots of exploring both in and out of my boat. Any hints on where to go and where to camp? Even hints on what I should bring would really help. Thanks.

Brian J. Young
Abbotsford, BC
[email protected]

Two if by sea: Tandem 'yakking
in Canada's Gulf Islands

Adventure Adviser: If you don't already have your route mapped out, consider spending three of those five days taking a 22-mile loop that starts out of Sidney on Vancouver Island and wraps around the parklands of D'Arcy and Portland Islands.

Say your last good-bye to civilization--for a couple days, at least--at Tulista Park, adjacent to the Sidney ferry terminal and paddle three miles southeast to Sidney Pit Marine Park, a good place to camp if you got off to a late start. From there, it's a straight shot five miles south to the deserted, sand-swept shores of D'Arcy Island Marine Park. Check out the remains of a late 18th century leper colony on D'Arcy's western side, but head over to the eastern end for camping. There are half a dozen secluded sites scattered along the gravel beaches and inland woods and meadows. Good news: Camping is free on a first-come, first-served basis at all marine parks except Sidney Spit.

After breakfast, keep your eyes open for harbor seals as you skirt the north side of Sidney Island and weave your way through islets to Portland Island--known also as Princess Margaret Marine Park--about ten miles northwest of D'Arcy. With more than 450 acres of overgrown orchards, Douglas fir and red madrona woodlands, grassy headlands, and sandstone beaches, Portland is the place to lose your fiberglass friend for a while and enjoy the diversity of dry land. Stop first at Tortoise Bay on the south coast, where you can check out a posted trail map and stretch your legs on a shoreline hike. For the best camping, paddle north to Arbutus Point, with a not-so-foot-friendly (but still beautiful) crushed shell beach and mind-boggling views all the way east to Mount Baker. Finish up the next day with an easy 4.5-mile paddle back to Sidney.

As for what to bring, a Gore-Tex paddling shell, warm clothes, a tent and sleeping bag, and plenty of sunscreen are definites. And, of course, a bathing suit.

Other pertinent info: Washington State Ferry info is available at 206-464-6400 and rental kayaks can be had at Ocean River Sports in Sidney (604-655-2036) for $50 per weekend for a single. If you're still looking for pre-trip researching, pick up a copy of Mary Snowden's Island Paddling: A Paddler's Guide to the Gulf Islands and Barkley Sound (Orca, $11). It's chock-full o' detailed maps and trip descriptions.

And, remember, it's never a bad idea to harass local outfitters (Ocean River Sports; Ecosummer Expeditions, 800-688-8605; and Adventure Spirit Travel Co., 800-667-7799) for helpful hints and pearls of Gulf Islands wisdom. Finally, round out your research binge with a read through "Northwestern Exposure" in the Destinations section of our September 1994 issue.

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