Paddling BC’s Gulf Islands
Sea kayaking in the Gulf Islands in British Columbia, Canada, provides kayakers with a sheltered, Mediterranean climate (averaging less than 30 inches of rain per year) in which to explore over 200 islands. Easily accessible from Vancouver, Seattle, and Victoria, they boast the warmest, driest, mildest climate in Canada.
Kayakers are drawn to this area, located just above Washington State’s San Juan Islands, due to its reputation for warm weather, vast and varied scenery and easy access.
Located off the south east coast of Vancouver Island in the Strait of Georgia between the west coast of mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island, there are six main islands, Gabriola, Salt Spring, Galiano, Pender, Mayne and Saturna.
Each island has its own charm and character. Many of the islands are inhabited/private property, but campsites are available in the many provincial marine parks amongst the islands
Easy access and close proximity to Sidney and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island make the Gulf Islands a great destination for kayaking day trips and for multi-day expeditions alike. Due to the mild climate the Gulf Islands can be paddled year ’round.
Sea kayakers can look forward to varied landscapes as one kayaks among the Gulf Islands, including miles of beaches rich with intertidal marine life, rolling meadows, richly forested lands, scatterings of development (homes and marinas), rocky shorelines and generally safe paddling environments. However, kayakers should note that there are some island passages, which experience very strong tidal currents (as high as 8 knots) when the tide rushes in and out of the Strait of Georgia.
Early summer coincides with the blooming of wild flowers. The sculptured sandstone cliffs of the shorelines were created to show off the pinks, blues, and yellows, draped over them. Their shelves and crevices are home to many nesting birds, including Cliff swallows, Pigeon guillemots, and Peregrine falcons. The gnarled Garry oak and the twisted Arbutus trees provide a framework for rolling meadows of Douglas Fir, one of the rarest ecosystems in the world.