Combining the majestic beauty of the Broughton Archipelago Marine Provincial Park with thrilling wildlife sightings in the Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound, our Islets & Humpbacks kayaking expedition offers an immersive wilderness experience. Enjoy secluded paddling through remote archipelagos while learning about the First Nations culture and natural environment, then spot humpback whales, Steller sea lions and porpoises from the comfort of our scenic wilderness campsites. Take advantage of the opportunity to go hiking through magnificent old growth forests and explore pristine intertidal habitats, offering the Canadian sea kayaking experience of a lifetime.
Journey to places that few others have the privilege to experience on this 6-day itinerary, which accesses intricate channels and shallow waters that motorized boats cannot. Enjoy the quiet solitude of paddling through secluded bays and crystal clear waters that reveal a fascinating marine life below or look overhead into the treetops where bald eagles perch. In addition to the stunning wildlife and natural landscapes, the area is rich in indigenous culture and intertwined in the history of remote British Columbia.
After reaching the southern boundary of the Broughtons, we’ll paddle into Blackfish Sound and the Johnstone Strait where humpback whales can be seen on their annual migration. Watch as these majestic creatures breach just meters away and spurt water into the air or glimpse the fins of Pacific white-sided dolphins as the cruise past your campsite.
The meeting point for this adventure is Vancouver Island’s northern town of Port McNeill. From here we’ll embark on a spectacular water taxi journey into the straits and channels of the Broughtons, backed by the snow-capped mountains of mainland British Columbia. This expedition is enhanced by the knowledge of our naturalist guides and gourmet meals, together with high-quality equipment to create an adventure 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.
Note: While we do our best to follow the schedule, approximate paddling distances listed below may change according to unpredictable weather conditions, wind & waves, and group size. The itinerary is also flexible to factors out of our control such as inclement weather and campsite availability. Further, while it is very likely that we’ll see whales throughout the trip, the quality, frequency and proximity of the whale sightings varies according to the whales’ travel patterns.
On the evening before the kayaking trip begins, your trip leader will host an orientation meeting in the lobby of the Haida Way Motor Inn in Port McNeill at 7:00 PM. 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 for your feet. If you are late arriving, we’ll leave these items at the front desk, together with instructions regarding our meeting location and time 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.
Water Taxi into Broughton Marine Provincial Park, Paddling Orientation and Kayak Launch
You’ll be picked up early in the morning from the Haida Way Motor Inn and transported to Telegraph Cove to board a water taxi for an unforgettable one to two-hour journey into the Broughton Archipelago Marine Provincial Park. After arriving at our wilderness camp, we’ll unload the gear and your guides will conduct a comprehensive kayaking orientation session. Following lunch, we’ll head off on an afternoon paddle through the islets and coves of the Fox Group, Eden Island and Tracey Island, then return to the camp to relax during happy hour while your guides prepare a gourmet dinner.
Paddle Distance: 5 – 8 miles
Sea Kayaking, Hiking, Whale Watching, First Nations Culture, Tidepooling
Following breakfast at the camp each morning, pack your personal gear into the kayak and head out paddling through the Broughtons and into Blackfish Sound and the Johnstone Strait. Explore 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 while hiking through magnificent old growth forests, then jump back in the kayak for another two to three hours of paddling in the afternoon. Soak up the breathtaking scenery, spot wildlife along the way and learn about the region’s First Nations culture from your naturalist guide.
Each evening, you’ll settle into our private campsite to enjoy happy hour drinks and snacks, followed by a delicious dinner accompanied by exceptional views. We plan to stay at our base camp on Swanson Island overlooking Blackfish Sound on nights 3 and 4 (which is an exceptional location for humpback whale viewing), although we may spend night 3 at a wilderness camp in the Broughtons, depending on weather, wildlife patterns and group interests. We’ll then complete an open-water crossing to arrive at our base camp on the northern shores of Vancouver Island for the final night of your trip.
Paddle Distance: 7-10 miles per day
Sea Kayaking and Whale Museum
Wake up to spectacular views of the Johnstone Strait, with the opportunity to see humpbacks, dolphins and porpoises cruising through these wildlife-rich waters as you enjoy your morning coffee. After breakfast, pack up your gear and head west to Telegraph Cove, with a stop for lunch along the way and a short hike to a lighthouse overlooking Johnstone Strait (weather permitting). Once we arrive back in Telegraph Cove, we’ll unpack the kayaks and you’ll have time to explore the Whale Interpretive Center before your transfer back to Port McNeill in the late afternoon. We highly recommend you stay here overnight and join your fellow kayakers for an (optional) farewell dinner to relive your adventure.
Paddle Distance: 7-8 miles
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FAQ & More
Our tours are suitable for novices. However, this particular tour is more-kayak focused than our standard Baja and BC tours, and therefore best suited to those with some prior kayaking experience or a regular fitness program. We're happy to discuss your suitability for the tour.
Humpback whales are commonly seen in the Johnstone, and northern resident orcas (killer whales) are generally in the area from mid-July into September. The Johnstone Strait is considered the best place to see orcas in the wild, and this tour includes 2 nights camping in one of the prime orca-viewing locations in the area. That being said, location and behavior of the whales cannot be predicted precisely at any time, and therefore we can neither guarantee nor estimate the likelihood of wildlife sightings while on tour.
Skilled professional guide services, dry bags, neoprene shoes, camping equipment including tents, sleeping bags, liners, and sleeping pads are included in your trip cost. Our camping trips include all meals from lunch on the first day to lunch on the last day. The one-way water taxi ride out to Broughton Archipelago Marine Provinical Park is also included on this tour, during which you may see a variety of wildlife.
The easiest way to get to Port McNeill by air, is to fly through Vancouver International Airport (airport code YVR) to Port Hardy, BC (airport code YZT). From Vancouver International's South Terminal you can catch a flight on Pacific Coastal Airlines direct to Port Hardy. Once in Port Hardy, it's a 35-40 minute taxi ride to Port McNeill. If arriving from outside of Canada, be sure to give yourself 1.5-2 hours between your arriving flight at Vancouver International and your departing flight from the South Terminal to Port Hardy, as you will have to clear customs and take a 15 minute shuttle from the International Terminal to the South Terminal (there are signs to guide you). Port McNeill is also accessible by car, via a beautiful drive following BC Route 19 from Nanaimo to Port McNeill. Vancouver Island can be reached from the Canadian or U.S. mainlands by utilizing one of multiple ferry crossings from the Vancouver metro or greater Seattle areas. The BC Ferries and Washington State DOT Ferry websites are very helpful resources if you are planning to drive to Northern Vancouver Island.
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). It's best to bring cash to pay the driver.
We recommend making arrangements at the Haida Way Motor Inn in Port McNeill, BC, particularly if you do not have a car, as this is the site of the orientation meeting, as well as the pickup point for your transport to the launch site on the first day of the tour. The hotel is very basic, but clean and well-kept. Their in-house Northern Lights Restaurant has the best seafood in town. Indicate you are traveling with ROW Sea Kayak Adventures. We also recommend the Black Bear Resort, which is directly across the street from the Haida Way, and also features basic but comfortable accommodations. All hotels on northern Vancouver Island fill well in advance for summer, so wherever you choose to stay, we recommend making reservations early. Please note, hotel nights before and after the tour are not included in your tour cost.
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.
We recommend that you bring (2) pairs of shoes on your BC trip. Packing light for your adventure in the Johnstone Straight is highly recommended and from our experience you really only need 2 good pairs of footwear for your tour. We will supply you with a pair of neoprene booties for the duration of your kayaking tour. In addition to those booties we recommend you bring:
-One pair sturdy trail shoes, or running shoes, to use for hiking and around camp
-One pair sandals with ankle straps to wear while kayaking, on the beaches, walking around camp, etc. (Chaco, Keens or Crocs are preferred but there are many other brands that are suitable)