Encounter the breathtaking beauty and fascinating wildlife of British Columbia on this 4-day itinerary, which accesses remote regions that few have the privilege to experience. Enjoy the tranquility of paddling through secluded bays and hiking through old-growth forests while learning about the area’s rich indigenous culture and human history.
See humpback whales on their annual migration and sea eagles soaring above, as well as Pacific white-sided dolphins and seals playing near your campsite. After exploring the Broughton Archipelago Marine Provincial Park, you may choose to extend your tour to Knight Inlet for the rare opportunity to get up close to wild black and grizzly bears feeding in the grasslands.
The meeting point for this adventure is Vancouver Island’s northern town of Port McNeill from where we’ll travel by water taxi journey into the straits and channels of the Broughtons. You’ll be accompanied by highly-knowledgeable naturalist guides and treated to gourmet meals and local wines, creating a journey you’ll never forget.
Note: Paddling distances listed are approximate and may vary depending on the group size and weather conditions. While we do our best to adhere to the itinerary outlined, it may change due to reasons outside of our control, such as campsite availability, sea conditions or inclement weather. There is a very high chance that we will encounter whales during the tour but the frequency, proximity and quality of sightings are determined by their travel patterns.
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Arrive in Port McNeill, Evening Orientation Meeting
Your adventure begins on the stunning north coast of Vancouver Island in the town of Port McNeill, a quaint fishing village that lies around 30 minutes’ drive south of the Port Hardy Airport. We recommend you overnight at the Haida Way Motor Inn where your guides will hold an orientation session on the evening before your trip starts. You’ll have the opportunity to ask any questions and will be issued with dry bags to pack your personal gear and neoprene wetsuit booties. If you are late arriving, these items will be left for you at the front desk, together with instructions regarding our meeting location the following morning. The Haida Way Motor Inn has its own restaurant that’s open for both dinner and breakfast or there are a few other eateries available nearby.
Telegraph Cove, Transport to Swanson Island Base Camp
You’ll be picked up early in the morning from the Haida Way Motor Inn and transported to the Port McNeill harbor where you’ll board a water taxi for 1.5-hour scenic cruise to our base camp on Swanson Island. Cruise past the remote coastal community of Alert Bay and keep your eyes peeled for your first glimpses of local wildlife.
On arrival at Swanson Island, your guides will conduct an orientation of the base camp, which is equipped with pre-assembled, full-height canvas tents and sleeping cots. Enjoy lunch in this beautiful wilderness setting before your kayaking safety and orientation lesson. Then it’s time to launch the kayaks for an afternoon paddle through Blackfish Sound or to explore one of nearby protected islands groups.
In the late afternoon, we’ll return to the camp for happy hour, with the opportunity to sample local wines and hors d’oeuvres while your guides prepare a gourmet dinner and freshly-baked dessert. Relive the day's highlights with your fellow kayakers around a crackling campfire and gaze up at the starlit sky or maybe even experience the glowing bioluminescence of the ocean before settling into your tent for the night.
Sea Kayaking, Whale Watching and Hiking
Wake to the smell of freshly brewed coffee as the day’s first rays illuminate the surrounding rainforest, with your guides hard at work in the kitchen preparing a warm breakfast. Take time to fossick in the tide pools or watch seals playing nearby before launching the kayaks to explore the channels, inlets and island groups of the southern Broughton Archipelago. Humpback whales are often seen migrating through Blackfish Sound, together with dolphins, seals and porpoises while eagles can be seen soaring above.
Cruise through the pristine wilderness and protected marine environments, with an average day seeing us paddling for two to three hours in the morning before taking a couple of hours to rest and relax on the islands. Stretch your legs on a short hike, then jump back in the kayak for another two to three hours of paddling in the afternoon.
Evenings will be spent relaxing around the campfire while listening to your guides spin tales and recount local folklore. Enjoy happy hour drinks and snacks with your fellow kayakers, followed by a delicious dinner accompanied by breathtaking views.
Telegraph Cove, Whale Museum, Return to Port McNeill
Following an early breakfast, we’ll break camp and prepare to be picked up by a water taxi for a scenic cruise back to Telegraph Cove.
We’ll return to Telegraph Cove by around 4 pm where a taxi will transport you back to Port McNeill. You’ll have time to freshen up with a hot shower before joining your group for an optional farewell dinner at a local restaurant. We highly recommend you stay here overnight to ensure you meet your outbound flight.
Note on Itinerary: We will do our best to adhere to the schedule listed above; visiting our base camps on each island. However, the itinerary may change due to reasons outside our control such as wind, waves or inclement weather. Please Note: Although there is a good possibility we'll see Whales throughout the week, the frequency and proximity of these sightings will ultimately be determined by the Whales' and their travel patterns. Rest assured, our guides know the best places to see these magnificent creatures as they roam their natural habitat.
Begin your journey home from Port McNeill at your leisure or choose to extend your stay in this charming coastal community. If you would like to extend your tour to include a day of Grizzly viewing in Knight Inlet please inquire about availability with an adventure consultant!
Dates & Rates
- All meals as indicated on the itinerary
- Transportation to and from the launch site
- All kayaking instruction
- All kayaking and camping equipment
- Full service of our certified professional Guides
- Full service of our Adventure Consultants
- Water taxi to and from basecamp
- 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
Humpback whales return from their breeding grounds in Hawaii early summer, and remain through autumn feeding on the local schools of fish. Our trips are scheduled only during the times when the whales have historically populated the area. Though once hunted to extinction from the area, humpbacks have returned to the area as a tremendous success story, and are sighted often!
All whales are acutely aware of their surroundings, and can use echolocation to track objects in the water. During our many years in Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound and hundreds of close encounters with humpbacks, we feel very safe being in their presence.
While we have a 98% success rate for seeing humpbacks, they are wild animals that roam at will and thus, sightings are not guaranteed. To increase your opportunities for seeing the humpbacks, or simply to enjoy even more whale watching, you may want to add an extra day to your vacation to participate in a Stubb's Island Whale Watching trip. Their motorized boat allows them to cover more area in search of sealife and and humpbacks throughout the waterways near Telegraph Cove.
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.