Paddling the Broken Group Islands in Comfort at the Sechart Lodge


Relaxing in Sechart’s hot tub after a day of paddling—C.Helbig

“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 Frances Barkley arriving at Sechart Lodge—C.Helbig


Sechart main lodge on left and day lodge on right—C.Helbig

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.


Comfy and peaceful outdoor space at Sechart Lodge—C.Helbig

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.


Nancy (center) and Gord are great hosts—C.Helbig

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.

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Our kayaking routes from the Sechart Lodge—C.Helbig


Exploring beautiful Benson Island—C.Helbig


The perfect lunch stop in the Tiny Group—C.Helbig


Ancient Tseshaht First Nations site, Benson Island—C.Helbig


Calm, narrow channels in the Pinkerton Islands—C.Helbig


Gorgeous craggy coastline along Alma Russell Islands—C.Helbig

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.


Mike and Trish enjoying a post-paddle soak—C.Helbig


Every low tide we saw this beautiful guy on the Sechart Lodge beach—C.Helbig

Thinking about visiting?

  • For Frances Barkley sailing schedule, and rates/reservations (transport and lodge), go to 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:

Hiking the West Coast Trail

Ucluelet and The Wild Pacific Trail

Categories: Activities, British Columbia, Canada, Kayaking, Places | Tags: , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “Paddling the Broken Group Islands in Comfort at the Sechart Lodge

  1. We have booked 4 days there in August, 2022. We’re thinking of taxiing out to Effingham Island to explore and paddle back. Any info on that? Benson Island does look interesting too.
    Thanks, Marion


  2. Benson Island seems so outstanding and I would love to explore it, Caroline! When’s the best time of the year to explore this place?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Benson is both physically beautiful and historically interesting. The Broken Group are best visited in summer (July-August and perhaps the start of September) but even then it can be chilly and mornings are often foggy. Don’t be put off by the weather; this is a great place!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful! So glad that I stumbled onto your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This looks absolutely fabulous. A trip like this is on my bucket list one day. Did the kayaking ever get rough? That’s the only part that makes me nervous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a real gem. We were lucky and had super calm water. That’s definitely not always the case according to friends who have braved the swells at other times. The beauty of the Sechart Lodge is that there’s some very nice kayaking close by without crossing any big channels.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This looks like so much fun, Caroline and the views are extraordinary! Such lovely photos. We had kayaks at our place on Padre Island off the coast of Texas and I loved paddling around the canals and wetlands as well as taking them out on the Gulf of Mexico. The quiet glide through the water and being surrounded by beauty plus watching the birds really do feed the spirit. And what an enjoyable way to get your exercise. We have got to visit Canada! Anita

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your lovely comments Anita. I couldn’t agree more about how kayaking through beautiful nature feeds the soul (and if you’re not in a rush it doesn’t even feel like exercise!). I’m sure the canals and wetlands around Padre Island are gorgeous (and a lot warmer than here). Cheers, Caroline

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This looks so wonderful! I have another friend who recently paddled the Broken islands. Until she mentioned them I’d never heard of them. Perhaps it’s a sign 🙂 Gorgeous photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Alison. The Broken Group has been on my radar for sometime but I was a bit leery about going due to issues of potentially big swells while paddling across a significant amount of open ocean from Toquart Bay (where many kayaking expeditions start). When I recently found out about Sechart Lodge with its smaller crossing, water taxi service, and always calm options just minutes away (Pinkertons), paddling the Broken Group became more appealing. It’s a really lovely place! I think you’d like it. Cheers, Caroline

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You have such awesome adventures! I had never heard of the Pacific Rim NP – it looks incredible, especially your pictures of paddling around the islands. Pacific NW at its finest..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ashley! Pacific Rim National Park is amazing and actually covers three areas—The Broken Group, the West Coast Trail (I recently posted on this), and Long Beach (near Tofino). Long Beach is very popular (for good reason). Washington’s Olympic NP shares similarities with Pacific Rim NP. I love both of these parks. Cheers, Caroline.


  8. Looks quite heavenly! I ALMOST pulled the trigger on a kayaking trip in the Apostle Islands way north in Wisconsin (which somehow reminded me of these islands you paddled through) last summer, and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. Maybe what held me back was the lack of a hot tub … seriously, that is a pretty enticing little add-on after a chilly and tiring day out on the water! (I’m a map geek, too, and enjoyed yours here!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Yup, now that I’ve been spoiled with a hot tub it will be a challenge doing the “roughing it” style kayaking. Even though we’ve had a warm summer, that region gets so much moisture (usually fog in mid-summer) and I find it very chilling…plus nothing dries. Glad you liked the maps…I’m still learning all the intricacies of google maps. I’ll have to check out the Apostle Islands. Cheers, Caroline

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Mike Hohmann

    A great place to visit, Caroline. It looks amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Caroline, what a wonderfully fun weekend this looks like! You really got me with this ~ kayaking, and a hot tub! Great combo. I love kayaking, but have really only been kayaking in the heat, mostly the tropical climate of Nicaragua and before that, the Midwest summer. So I really get that after the fog and icy waters, a hot tub has to be even more welcome than usual.

    Love the map of the archipelago of clusters of islands. Quite remarkable. The photo of the lunch stop one can really see how clear and clean the water is. I also love the photo of navigating the calm narrow channels. And then add in some wildlife… sounds like a perfect weekend getaway. Terrific post!

    If I ever get to your part of the world, this is exactly where I would want to go!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Peta! Kayaking is a wonderful activity. I find it very soothing, especially when slowly paddling along the intertidal zone looking at all the interesting marine creatures. As you pointed out, the water is very clear, so it’s extra special. We were lucky that we had such calm water; it can get very rough in these parts.
      The Sechart Lodge was a real find for us…very close to home (as the crow flies) but very much a wilderness experience (with the comforts of the hot tub,…). I couldn’t believe how relaxed I felt after just a few days away. Watching the bears on the beaches around the lodge at low tide was amazing. And we saw a wolf (first sighting for me), lots of eagles, and a humpback whale in the distance—unfortunately no good photos.
      I hope you get there sometime! cheers, Caroline


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