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The Best Paddling On The Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast is a paddler’s paradise with options for everyone, including single and multi-day trips that explore coastal bays, saltwater fjords, offshore islands, and freshwater lakes. The freshwater lakes are the perfect place to paddle amidst the picturesque rainforests growing beneath BC’s epic Coastal Mountain Range. With Vancouver Island serving as a buffer from the open ocean, the saltwater paddling accessed via the Sunshine Coast is the perfect place to explore the Pacific marine ecosystem. This article will highlight five unique paddling options along the Sunshine Coast, including the Powell Forest Canoe Route, Desolation Sound, Skookumchuk Narrows, Keats Island, and Roberts Creek.

If you are new to paddling in the area, check out Outdoor Adventures for Canoe, Kayak and SUP rentals as well as a variety of Kayak and SUP tours offered throughout the Sunshine Coast.

Powell Forest Canoe Circuit

The breathtaking Powell Forest Canoe Route is located 25km east of Powell River.  The route travels through fjord-like waters nestled amidst the Coastal Mountains. Enveloped by lush cedar, fir, and spruce forests, this route is a hotspot for wildlife, offering glimpses of bald eagles, black bears and more. Spanning 57 kilometres, the route encompasses eight lakes and requires five portages, ranging from 0.7 to 2.8 kilometres. With 17 camping areas dotting the landscape, there are plenty of options to set up your shelter at the end of a day of paddling. Best of all, there are no required fees to paddle this route, with camping operating on a first-come, first-served basis. There are multiple options for where to launch your expedition, including Lois Lake, Powell Lake, or Windsor Lake. While paddling the whole circuit is a highly recommended experience, many of these lakes, including Lois Lake and Powell Lake, can be equally enjoyed as a location for a day paddle.

Skookumchuck Narrows

The Skookumchuk Narrows is a world-famous paddle destination where twice daily, as the tide changes directions, nature provides paddlers with unique saltwater rapids consisting of waves and whirlpools. The difference in water levels on each side of the rapids can exceed 1 metre as upwards of 750 billion litres of water flow in and out of the Sechelt Inlet through the Narrows. While the rapids are an exciting paddling destination for thrill-seeking kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders, they come with high risk and are best left to more experienced paddlers as the fast-moving water rushes through the narrows and whirlpools are known to hold paddlers underwater. The rapids are best accessed by a 4 km hike into Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park in Egmont.

Desolation Sound

Desolation Sound is British Columbia’s largest marine park, with 60km of coast and 11 backcountry camping areas, most of which are located on remote islands scattered throughout the Sound, making it the ultimate destination for a multi-day sea kayaking trip. Paddle through the sheltered waters where the giant snow-capped Coastal Mountain Range rises from the sea. Paddlers should keep their eyes open for the humpback whales, orcas, and harbour porpoises known to frequent Desolation Sound. The water in Desolation Sound is some of the warmest ocean water on the BC coast, making it a perfect place to take a relaxing saltwater swim after a long day of paddling. While Desolation Sound is known for its relatively calm waters, some areas of the Sound can still produce large swells, and all paddlers should be prepared to navigate unpredictable weather on the ocean.

Robert’s Creek

Best enjoyed in the evening as the sun sets behind Vancouver Island, the shoreline at Robert’s Creek is the perfect place for a short paddle while travelling through the Sunshine Coast. Roberts Creek is a funky artist community of about 3,553 people, located between Gibsons and Sechelt, with options for camping at Roberts Creek Provincial Park.

Gibsons to Keats Island

The 3-hour return trip from Gibsons, BC, to Plumper Cove Provincial Park on Keats Island is the perfect day trip or first-time overnight sea-kayak trip within the Howe Sound. Gibsons, BC, is the quintessential beach town with one of the easiest launching sites on the Sunshine Coast at the end of Headlands Road. While the Harbour at Gibsons and the Shoal Channel are well-protected, the Strait of Georgia is nearby, potentially bringing heavy winds. So, it is essential to be aware of wind conditions and plan your trip accordingly. Plumper Cove has all the amenities you’d expect from a provincial park making it an excellent spot for those not yet prepared to be entirely self-sufficient on an overnight paddle trip or who would like a little extra comfort. For those looking for a more extended trip in Howe Sound should check out the multi-day Sea-to-Sky Marine Trail that expands beyond Keats Island and navigates the Sound to Squamish.

From gentle lake paddles to white water ocean rapids and scenic overnight and multi-day sea kayak trips, the Sunshine Coast has something for every paddler. Just a brief day’s travel from the City of Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast is as accessible as it gets. Head on the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Gibsons, BC and check out one of the many places to stay in Gibsons, Sechelt, Roberts Creek, Egmont, and Powell River, ranging from budget-friendly to high-end luxury. With its diverse paddling opportunities and convenient accessibility, the Sunshine Coast promises unforgettable adventures on the water.

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