Kayaking in British Columbia’s Broughton Archipelago: The Sequel


Paddling in the Broughton Archipelago—C.Helbig

Some of you may remember a post from a year ago where I raved about a guided sea kayaking expedition in the Johnstone Strait/Broughton Archipelago (near the northern tip of Vancouver Island, British Columbia). Mike wasn’t able to come with me because of an injured shoulder. We decided to book the trip again with our friends Trish and Steve. I was a bit apprehensive. Could this trip possibly be as good as my first experience? It was! Six days of spectacular ocean kayaking and wilderness camping, awesome wildlife encounters, a dream group, and extraordinary guiding provided by Spirit of the West Adventures (SOW).

In this post, I’ve focussed on some of my fondest memories from the trip (mid-August, 2016). For more details about the itinerary and logistics, and some really great whale photos, please read my post from last year. Check out the maps at the end for Broughton location.

Beauty and Tranquility

We were lucky—six days of glassy seas. On some days, clear skies showcased the wilderness islands and snow-capped peaks beyond. On others, moisture-laden air highlighted the Pacific Northwest rainforest in all its wet glory. Yes, it would have been nice to have a tad more sun and warmth, but even in the fog and drizzle, it was smooth paddling all the way—and that was incredibly soothing.


Glassy sea in the Broughton Archipelago


Sunsets, Porpoises, Humpbacks…

You’ll have to trust me on the humpbacks and porpoises, I was not camera ready. The porpoises put on a beautiful show in front of the small island that is illuminated in the photo below. A massive humpback, on cue for sunset, made a spectacular appearance just beyond our makeshift clothesline (sadly the clothes didn’t dry). All night, from our fabulous campsite on Swanson Island, we heard the blow of the whales in Blackfish Sound.

While the big ocean mammals are the stars of these trips, I loved our daily eagle sightings. I also enjoyed our slow, shore-hugging paddles where anemones, urchins, sea stars, chitons, and all sorts of other interesting creatures make their home in the intertidal zone.


Late afternoon on Swanson Island—C.Helbig


Didn’t capture the whale, but sunset was awesome—C.Helbig


As tranquil as it gets over Blackfish Sound—C.Helbig

Dream Group and Guides

One of the worries on organized tours is whether you’ll end up with a nice group of people. We won the lottery! I could not imagine a kinder, more considerate, easy-going and interesting group of people. They may not say the same about me, the one who has a habit of ordering around her hubby (note to self: request single kayaks).


Our Broughton Archipelago group, minus me—C.Helbig

I wish the photo above included our guides Robin and Tyrone, because we won the lottery with them too. They’re the two whipping up a fabulous meal under the yellow tarp in the photo montage below. These guys worked non-stop from dawn until well after all of us were tucked into our sleeping bags. They guided us expertly; they taught us about flora, fauna, and history; they prepared exquisite meals; they even transported a box of our bodily wastes on the back of their kayaks. On top of it all, they were nice..really nice.

Gourmet Wilderness Dining

Salmon roll appetizers, Thai chicken curry, chocolate fondue…how do they do it! There is no support boat and all the ingredients and cooking supplies for six days get schlepped in the kayaks. I’ve been on two of these trips now and I still can’t get over the taste, variety, freshness, and presentation of the meals.

Paddler’s Inn

The Paddler’s Inn, a really cool floating lodge just north of Echo Bay, is an awesome place to start or end a SOW Johnstone Strait/Broughton Expedition. Tours run back to back and the travel direction reverses each time, so the first or last night is always spent at the Paddler’s Inn. It’s rustic and charming, and comfortable and dry! Bruce, one of the owners, runs a water taxi service that shuttles the groups to and from Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island. He’s also a professional massage therapist (great work combo!). Trust me, having a massage is a really nice way to end (or start) the trip!


Mike and me at the Paddler’s Inn

Maps and Info

  • The Broughton Archipelago is located near the north end of Vancouver Island.
  • Spirit of the West provides van transportation from Quadra Island/Campbell River to Telegraph Cove where a water taxi transports groups to their first night’s accommodation—either the Paddler’s Inn, if trip is running north to south, or a campsite in Johnstone Strait if trip is going south to north.


  • The map below shows our route (roughly) and the islands we camped on. The route and sites change from trip to trip depending on weather, site availability, currents, etc.
  • Spirit of the West offer trips of different durations, locations, and “comfort” levels. I totally loved the wilderness camping but for those who aren’t as keen on this, I’ve heard rave reviews about the Johnstone Strait base camp trip.

After our kayaking trip we spent a few days exploring Quadra Island—check out my post.

Categories: Activities, British Columbia, Kayaking, Places, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “Kayaking in British Columbia’s Broughton Archipelago: The Sequel

  1. Great post and beautiful pictures. We were not so lucky with the weather in September this year but we had our share of whale and porpoise watching. We were with a guide as well and he definitely gave us peace of mind. If you are interested, we wrote about it on our blog: https://beactivelikev.wordpress.com/2020/09/20/broughton-archipelago/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Adrien! Too bad about the weather but at least you had some whale and porpoise sightings. It’s an awesome region. I will definitely take a look at your post. We kayaked in the Discovery Islands this past August (I did a post on it). It’s also a beautiful place for paddling but not known for its whale sightings.


  2. Pingback: Kayaking with the Whales: Broughton Archipelago, British Columbia | Writes of Passage

  3. I plan to reblog your post in my blog https://hellocreativestimes.com. Since you have enabled reblogging on your post, I am assuming that you are allowing others to reblog this post. However, if you have any objection to reblogging your post, please let us know as soon as possible. Thank you.


  4. Reblogged this on Hello Creatives Times.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That looks like an epic trip! I hear you about the single kayaks- Tom and I have done 3 different days in doubles and it’s always an uh, experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh good, glad it’s not just me! It was an epic trip and we are both stoked to do more multi-day kayak trips. We’re not usually into tours but the water/currents can be really tricky around there, and wow was it nice to have someone else make dinner (and not dehydrated stuff)!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think it’s wise to do a guided trip when you’re unfamiliar with the currents and they’re tricky at best. We’re not into guided stuff either but we absolutely do it when it’s a matter of safety!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. petakaplan

    This looks like so much fun! And having good food along no doubt makes a huge difference. (Woukd to me!) your photos are stunning. I am envious.



  7. This looks so idyllic. I love our PNW. Gorgeous photos.


  8. I kayak in my area a bit but not regularly. For this trip it helps to be in decent shape but no special training is needed. They get guests who have had little or no kayaking experience. The first day, the guides go through a thorough briefing and provide instruction on paddling. I was surprised that my arms/shoulders weren’t sore.


  9. Hi Caroline, I can’t believe how still the water is, like a mirror. It looks idyllic. How many hours a day would you paddle? Louise


    • Hi Louise, the water isn’t always like this (the week before was very windy), but I’ve had good luck both times, with this last trip being unbelievably calm. We did about 4-5 hours/day. It was a really pleasant pace with breaks, lunch, and lots of stopping for photos.


  10. Pingback: Discovering the Hiking Trails of Quadra Island, British Columbia | Writes of Passage

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