“Living on Vancouver Island we are lucky to have so many great outdoor adventures. We wanted to share our experiences with friends and family who couldn’t join us so we bought a video camera and we take it on every camping trip. Through our videos we hope to inspire fellow weekend warriors that with the right gear and knowledge you too can plan your own west coast adventure.” Brad Armstrong owner/guide Kelp Reef Adventures
Three miles east of Oak Bay on Vancouver Island lies Discovery Island, a 61 hectare provincial marine park named after Captain Vancouver's ship the HMS Discovery that navigated the coastline of British Columbia between 1792 and 1794. In 1886 a lighthouse was built on Pandora Hill, the highest point on the island. The lighthouse marks the junction between two straits: Haro and the Juan De Fuca Strait that form the border between Canada and the US. Manned for 110 years, the lighthouse was eventually de-staffed in 1997 when it became fully automated. Discovery Island Marine Park offers several campsites in an open field shared by a flock of Canada Geese. Basic facilities include a pit toilet, and picnic tables but bring your own water as the island has no potable water.
Crossing from Oak Bay to the Chain Islets archipelago is best made at slack tide as the waters in Plumper Passage and Baynes Channel can be treacherous. Strong currents and frequent winds create dangerous conditions, including rip tides. Visitors are not allowed to land on the Chain Islets as they are a sensitive seabird nesting area and ecological reserve. It is home to harbour seals, pelagic cormorants, pigeon guillemots and black oystercatchers, often bald eagles visit the Chain Islets.
In 1961 D’arcy Island was established as a marine park and in 2003, a national park. Before that D’arcy was used as a leper colony for 33 years. It was 1894 and the Canadian Northern Railway was expanding toward the Pacific. Even though medical officials knew that leprosy is not seriously contagious, any Chinese railway labourer who was thought to have leprosy was sent to live out the rest of his days on D’arcy Island. Many tried to escape but few survived, in total, 49 lepers were quarantined to the 83 hectare island. A supply ship came every 3 months bringing food, clothing, opium and coffins. In 1924, the federal government shut it down and moved the remaining residents to Bentinck Island near Race Rocks. The park offers 7 wilderness campsites, picnic tables and a pit toilet but no water. There is a plaque commemorating those that lived and died on D’Arcy Island.
Three nights, three beautiful Southern Gulf Islands. With its 12 miles of sand and pebble beaches, Sidney Island is said to be the jewel of the gulf. There is a lagoon, and long sand spit on the north end where Sidney Spit Marine Park can be found. Isle-de-Lis provincial marine park is located on Rum Island less than a mile from the US/Canada border. It’s a five hectare parkland that in the 1920’s was used by rum runners as a base to smuggle liquor bought from Canadian distilleries into Stuart Island during prohibition. It is said that fishermen could make more money running one load of booze than a year on the fishing boats. Enroute to our favorite marine park on D’arcy, we take a break to watch and listen to the birds on Mandarte Island. There were rhinoceros aucklets, both pelagic and double crested cormorants, pigeon guillemots and of course, oystercatchers.
Nootka Sound is located on the west coast of North Vancouver Island, the Gold River Highway 28 takes you past Gold River on logging roads to Tuta campground. From there we cross Hanna Channel and paddle along the western shore of Bligh Island, to camp our first night on Charlie’ s Beach. Be sure to bring your own water as it is not easily found in Spanish Pilot Group Islands. The following day we cross Cook Channel and visit Friendly Cove on Nootka Island. Friendly Cove is the location of Yuquot, and the reserve of the Mowachaht people. This area is unique for being fairly protected from the open water of Nootka Sound and it is a haven for marine life with a thriving sea otter population. There is a lighthouse, cemetery, and Catholic Church to visit. The church also serves as a museum with stained glass windows depicting the history of the area, and replicas of Mowachaht house posts. During the summer the MV Uchuck III operates tours every Wednesday and Saturday.
In Barkley Sound the Broken Group Islands offer some of the best west coast ocean kayaking and wildlife viewing among countless reefs and islands of long sandy beaches. We depart from Toquart Bay and paddle south past the virgin forests of the Stopper Islands, across Loudoun and David Channels toward Hand Island. Look to the light on Lyall point for reference, these channels can be affected by westerlies, but make for great humpback encounters. Taking advantage of the light wind and calm seas we continue past the Brabant Islands, Dodd and Willis Island and across Thiepval Channel toward Turret Island. Finally we land on the south facing beach and climb the midden to camp on the northwest end. At low tide a gravel bar links Turret to Tricket Island where there is lots of shoreline to hike. The following day we enter Coaster Channel paddling the east side of Owen island and we drift past the calm sandy beach on the north side of Clarke Island. After searching for seastacks on the exposed southwest coast of Clarke Island, we land on Benson Island and hike through an orchard and site of a 19th century hotel to have lunch in a cove on the east side of the island. On the return to our base camp on Turret Island, we watch sea lions chase fish in Coaster Channel. The following day we explore between Willis and Dodd Islands, stopping for lunch in a lagoon sometimes called ‘Joe’s Bay’ on Turtle Island. ‘Salal Joe’ settled here in the 1960’s and for 20 years collected salal to ship to florist via the MV Lady Rose.