“We’re the closest hot tub to the Broken Islands,” says Nancy, one of the managers at the Sechart Lodge on Vancouver Island’s Barkley Sound. That’s music to the ear for anyone who has kayaked through the frigid waters and often fog-laden air of this magnificent archipelago. Until recently, I had no idea that you could kayak the Broken Group Islands, part of Pacific Rim National Park, in warm, dry comfort. Last weekend, we had the pleasure of staying at Sechart Lodge. It’s the only viable non-camping option for kayaking the Broken Islands, and a haven for nature lovers and relaxation seekers.
Part of the fun of staying at the water-accessible-only Sechart Lodge is getting there. We travelled on the M.W. Frances Barkley, a passenger ship operated by Lady Rose Marine Services, which also owns the lodge. It’s a scenic 3 hour journey from Port Alberni to Sechart Lodge (the ship then continues on to Ucluelet through the Broken Islands). If you’re a map junkie like me, zoom in and check out the incredible route that takes you down the long Alberni Inlet and along the convoluted Barkley Sound coastline.
The Sechart Lodge sits on the site of the Pacific Whaling Company, which operated a whaling station from 1905-1917. One hundred years later, eco-friendly activities are the draw. The property includes the main lodge and the day lodge for non-guests who can use it to stage kayaking expeditions.
Guests can expect comfortable, clean, no-frills lodging. There’s lots of indoor and outdoor communal space to socialize or curl up with a good book. The lodge serves up delicious comfort-food. My heaping plate of Chicken Cordon Bleu, scalloped potatoes, and perfectly cooked veggies was immensely satisfying after a day on the water.
Nancy, co-manager Gord, and all the staff are wonderful hosts. After dinner, Gord often plays his guitar. Singing is encouraged, and he’s got extra instruments for anyone who wants to join in. Apparently, some evenings, it becomes quite the musical extravaganza. We were a pretty reserved bunch, not willing to put our musical “talents” out there. But, there’s nary a hint of summer-camp-style pressure, and we enjoyed a mellow evening of Neil Young and other old favourites around the roaring fire.
Like us, many folks come to Sechart Lodge for the superb kayaking. From the lodge, it’s only a 30-40 minute paddle to the Pacific Rim National Park boundary and gateway to the Broken Islands. Gord offers a great service with his water taxi, Carry Em, transporting kayakers and their crafts to further reaches of the archipelago. One day, he dropped us at Benson Island, from where we leisurely paddled the 4ish hours back to the lodge, stopping along the way at gorgeous white sand beaches and ancient First Nations settlements. Our route is shown in red on the map below.
In addition to the Broken Islands, we did some wonderful paddling right next to the lodge in the Pinkerton Islands (circled in green on map). This is a particularly good option if you’re short on time or energy, and if the wind/waves/fog make crossing to the Broken Group undesirable. The Pinkertons are extremely sheltered and their tiny channels and islands are fun to explore.
We also paddled the other direction from the lodge (purple line), along the rugged outer coastline of the Alma Russell Islands and back through the long, calm Julia Passage that is dotted with eclectic float houses. There’s no shortage of paddling options when you’re based at the Sechart Lodge.
After an amazing day on the water, soaking in the Sechart Lodge hot tub is icing on the cake. With a glass of wine in hand, a stunning view over the ocean, and promise of a mouth-watering dinner and cosy bed, it doesn’t get any better…or does it? Well, how about watching a beautiful black bear foraging for his dinner on the beach just below the lodge.
This is a gem of a place and my highlight (so far) of summer 2017.
Thinking about visiting?
- For Frances Barkley sailing schedule, and rates/reservations (transport and lodge), go to http://www.ladyrosemarine.com. Be warned, the site is a bit confusing and doesn’t do the place justice.
- Included in the lodging price are three meals a day (a packed-lunch provided for kayaking).
- The lodge is licensed but guests are welcome to bring their own beverages (no corkage fees).
- Guests rooms are equipped with a small sink but shower/toilet facilities are shared.
- Kayaks can be rented at the resort but should be reserved in advance.
- Not into kayaking? The lodge is also a great place for beachcombing, wildlife viewing, and relaxing.
- No pets or kids under 14.
- Yes, there’s Wi-Fi in the wilderness!
For more adventures in and around Pacific Rim National Park, check out my other posts: