Come kayak Vancouver Island on our Whales & Wildlife expedition that combines the beauty of Broughton Archipelago Marine Provincial Park with the opportunity for adventure and incredible wildlife encounters in the Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound off of Northern Vancouver Island. This tour delivers outstanding and secluded paddling in a remote island archipelago off Vancouver Island. Enjoy scenic wilderness campsites and a high likelihood of humpback whales, Steller sea lions, porpoises and more, all in the midst of pristine intertidal and old growth forest. With water taxi service to our launch point in the Broughtons and a fantastic expeditionary Vancouver kayaking itinerary through unparalleled nature and wilderness, this Canada sea kayaking tour is a must!
Many places in the maze of islands and intricate channels that make up Broughton Archipelago can only be reached by water - and many are too shallow for motorized boats. The shrill call of a bald eagle perched in a treetop, the quiet solitude of paddling into tucked away bays and coves, and vibrant sea stars below the waterline are all frequent spectacles in this magical area. In addition to wildlife and pristine islets, the islands are rich in native history and indigenous culture as well as that of remote British Columbia. Once we reach the southern boundary of the Broughtons, you will paddle into Blackfish Sound and then Johnstone Strait, realms of the humpback whale as well as many other species of wildlife. Here you may experience a Humpback blows and breaches visible from your campsite and kayaks, Pacific white-sided dolphins cruising down the strait, and several species of birds in the treetops and on the shorelines.
The meeting point for our six days of adventure is the northern Vancouver Island town of Port McNeill. The snow-capped mountains of mainland British Columbia create a stunning backdrop as we water taxi into the straits and channels of the Broughtons to island-hop. We know this is more than just a vacation - that you’re looking for an escape that stimulates and enriches your life. With naturalist guides, gourmet meals, high quality equipment, superb whale watching and all the special details we're known for, our Islets & Humpbacks expedition is sure to deliver.
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Arrive in Port McNeill, Evening Orientation Meeting
On the evening before the trip, there will be an orientation meeting with your trip leader at the Haida Way Motor Inn lobby in Port McNeill at 7:00 PM located on Vancouver Island. At this time, we will go over any questions, issue neoprene wetsuit booties for your feet and hand out the dry bags in which to pack your personal gear. If you are a late arrival, we’ll leave your bags at the front desk along with a welcome letter and instructions for meeting the next morning. The hotel has a restaurant where you can eat dinner and breakfast, with a few other dinner options nearby as well.
Water Taxi into Broughton Marine Provincial Park, Paddling Orientation, & Kayak Launch
Early in the morning, you’ll be picked up at Haida Way Motor Inn and transported to Telegraph Cove where you’ll board a water taxi for an incredible 1-2 hour journey into Broughton Archipelago Marine Provincial Park. After unloading gear and settling into your first wilderness camp, your guides will provide a comprehensive kayak orientation and safety discussion. Lunch and an afternoon paddle among the islets and coves of the Fox Group, Eden Island, Tracey Island, or others in the area will follow. In the evening, enjoy a relaxing happy hour while your guides prepare your first gourmet camp dinner. Take in the views, the stars, and the solitude after a day well spent kayaking Vancouver Island.
Sea Kayaking, Hiking, Whale Watching, First Nations Culture, Tidepooling
After breakfast each morning, you’ll pack the kayaks with personal and group gear and continue your expedition south through the Broughtons, then into Blackfish Sound and the Johnstone Strait. For four full days, you will kayak and camp in this pristine and well-protected marine landscape, as well as complete two open-water crossings to arrive at our prized basecamp on Vancouver Island for your final night of the trip. On an average day, you will paddle for 2 – 3 hours in the morning, take an hour or two for lunch – a chance to rest and stretch your legs or possibly hike the island trails through old-growth forest – and then spend another 2 – 3 hours kayaking in the afternoon. Arrive each evening to your next private campsite to enjoy happy hour drinks and snacks, then dinner with a view. Each day you’ll have time to take in the scenery and wildlife along the way, and learn about the area, its history, and First Nations culture from your naturalist guides. Note: we plan to stay at our basecamp on Swanson Island and overlooking Blackfish Sound on nights 3 & 4 (a fantastic location for Humpback viewing). It is possible that we’ll spend night 3 at a wilderness campsite in the Broughtons however, depending on weather, wildlife patterns, group interest, and most importantly our guides’ discretion.
Paddle Distance: 7-10 miles per day
Accommodations: Wilderness Camping
Sea Kayaking & Whale Museum at Telegraph Cove
Your final night will be spent at our phenomenal basecamp on the northern shore of Vancouver Island, a great location from which to enjoy one more evening and morning in the BC wild. Here your campsite faces the Johnstone Strait and waters routinely traveled by marine wildlife, offering the chance for sightings of Humpbacks, dolphins, porpoises, and more, all while sipping your happy hour wine or enjoying your morning coffee. After breakfast, you’ll pack your gear and head west to Telegraph Cove. If time and weather allows, lunch along the way will be followed by a short hike to a lighthouse overlooking Johnstone Strait. Back in Telegraph Cove, after unpacking the kayaks you’ll have time to visit the famous Whale Interpretive Center. We return you to Port McNeill by late afternoon, where we strongly recommend that you overnight. Join your guides and fellow adventurers for an optional farewell dinner and recap the highlights from the week.
Paddle Distance: 7-8 miles
Note on Itinerary: Approximate paddling distances listed and can vary depending on group size and weather. We will do our best to adhere to the schedule listed below. However, the itinerary may change due to reasons beyond our control such as campsite availability, wind, waves or inclement weather. Although there is a very good chance we'll see whales during the week, the frequency, proximity, and quality of sightings will ultimately be determined by the whales' travel patterns.
Dates & Rates
Looking to kayak Vancouver in July and August, find dates on these other amazing kayak tours in the same region:
- All meals while on tour
- Transportation to and from the launch site
- Kayaking instruction
- All kayaking and camping equipment
- Dry bags for your gear
- Neoprene booties
- Service of our certificied professional Guides
- Full service of our Adventure Consultants
TOUR DOES NOT INCLUDE:
- Transportation to and from Port McNeill
- Hotel before and after the tour
- Meals before or after the tour
- Gratuity for guides
- Items of a personal nature
ALL PRICES IN US DOLLARS. We will do our best to adhere to the itineraries and trip descriptions listed on our website. However, tour itineraries or sub contractors (such as taxi, cruise boats or hotels) may change slightly due to reasons beyond our control including but not limited to Acts of God, wind, waves, inclement weather or other. We always welcome you to call us to clarify any item - often this is the best way to fully clarify expectations - call us collect or on our toll-free number. You will be sent pre-trip email with latest details within a month of your tour - it is your responsibility to check in with us prior to your trip to see if you have all the information you need. We will always do our best to provide you with the best possible tour and to fully meet your expectations to the best of our ability.
FAQ & More
Our tours are suitable for novices. However, this particular tour is more-kayak focused than our standard Baja and BC tours, and therefore best suited to those with some prior kayaking experience or a regular fitness program. We're happy to discuss your suitability for the tour.
Humpback whales are commonly seen in the Johnstone, and northern resident orcas (killer whales) are generally in the area from mid-July into September. The Johnstone Strait is considered the best place to see orcas in the wild, and this tour includes 2 nights camping in one of the prime orca-viewing locations in the area. That being said, location and behavior of the whales cannot be predicted precisely at any time, and therefore we can neither guarantee nor estimate the likelihood of wildlife sightings while on tour.
Skilled professional guide services, dry bags, neoprene shoes, camping equipment including tents, sleeping bags, liners, and sleeping pads are included in your trip cost. Our camping trips include all meals from lunch on the first day to lunch on the last day. The one-way water taxi ride out to Broughton Archipelago Marine Provinical Park is also included on this tour, during which you may see a variety of wildlife.
The easiest way to get to Port McNeill by air, is to fly through Vancouver International Airport (airport code YVR) to Port Hardy, BC (airport code YZT). From Vancouver International's South Terminal you can catch a flight on Pacific Coastal Airlines direct to Port Hardy. Once in Port Hardy, it's a 35-40 minute taxi ride to Port McNeill. If arriving from outside of Canada, be sure to give yourself 1.5-2 hours between your arriving flight at Vancouver International and your departing flight from the South Terminal to Port Hardy, as you will have to clear customs and take a 15 minute shuttle from the International Terminal to the South Terminal (there are signs to guide you). Port McNeill is also accessible by car, via a beautiful drive following BC Route 19 from Nanaimo to Port McNeill. Vancouver Island can be reached from the Canadian or U.S. mainlands by utilizing one of multiple ferry crossings from the Vancouver metro or greater Seattle areas. The BC Ferries and Washington State DOT Ferry websites are very helpful resources if you are planning to drive to Northern Vancouver Island.
We recommend making arrangements at the Haida Way Motor Inn in Port McNeill, BC, particularly if you do not have a car, as this is the site of the orientation meeting, as well as the pickup point for your transport to the launch site on the first day of the tour. The hotel is very basic, but clean and well-kept. Their in-house Northern Lights Restaurant has the best seafood in town. Indicate you are traveling with ROW Sea Kayak Adventures. We also recommend the Black Bear Resort, which is directly across the street from the Haida Way, and also features basic but comfortable accommodations. All hotels on northern Vancouver Island fill well in advance for summer, so wherever you choose to stay, we recommend making reservations early. Please note, hotel nights before and after the tour are not included in your tour cost.
If you fly into Port Hardy, you will need to arrange a taxi for the 35-minute drive South to Port McNeill. You can expect to pay about $45-60 CAD for the one-way fare, however rates do vary. We recommend sharing the ride with other members of the tour if you meet one another on the plane (or are on the same flight when departing). Please bring cash to pay the driver. The taxi companies change regularly, but we recommend Waivin Flags Taxi, 1-250-230-7655 and Town Taxi 1-250-949-7877 on the North Island.
We recommend that you bring (2) pairs of shoes on your BC trip. Packing light for your adventure in the Johnstone Straight is highly recommended and from our experience you really only need 2 good pairs of footwear for your tour. We will supply you with a pair of neoprene booties for the duration of your kayaking tour. In addition to those booties we recommend you bring:
-One pair sturdy trail shoes, or running shoes, to use for hiking and around camp
-One pair sandals with ankle straps to wear while kayaking, on the beaches, walking around camp, etc. (Chaco, Keens or Crocs are preferred but there are many other brands that are suitable)