Vancouver Island is regarded as a haven for canoers and kayakers alike, and for good reason. From the expansive ocean coast to serene lake routes and exhilarating river runs, there is a little something for everyone here. And no matter which part of the Island you are exploring, you are bound to be surrounded by incredible scenery and plentiful wildlife, including whales, dolphins and bald eagles. To give you a taste of some of the Island’s best paddles, we’ve put together the following list:.


While the rest of BC tries to make the most of the snow season and bundles up to hit the slopes on the mainland, Vancouver Island becomes a paddler's paradise. Often referred to as the ‘wet coast,’ the island receives tons amounts of rainfall during spring, and we mean literally TONS. Although this may deter beginner paddlers looking for a sunny stroll, the wet weather and teeming waterways are exactly what any seasoned canoeist or kayaker dreams of.


With beautiful spring colours flourishing and waterways still fairly clear of many, or all, tourists, April is the time to hit the island paddling routes. So, grab your dry suit, pogies, wet suit booties, and skullcap and get ready to explore these 10 Paddling Routes you’ll fall in love with on Vancouver Island.


Main Lake Canoe Chain

Situated on the northern end of Quadra Island, the Main Lake Chain Canoe Route is a prime destination for a peaceful paddle. Only about 12 km (7.5 nmi) from Village Bay Lake to the end of Little Main Lake, the route isn’t difficult or extensive, but allow yourself a handful of days to explore the area. The route includes Village Bay, Main, Clear, Little Main and Stramberg Lakes, and boasts wilderness camping on many beaches and islands along the way. Featuring iconic Western Canadian views, this paddling route is the perfect example of not necessarily traveling for the destination, but for the journey along the way.

 

Image via / Canoe & Kayak Vancouver Island


Port Alice / Quatsino Sound

The area around Port Alice is well known for its stunning blue waters surrounded by densely forested mountain slopes, and is an excellent starting point for countless sea kayaking adventures. Paddling Quatsino Sound does require some experience, especially during rough weather, but the rewards of a west coast paddle to the sandy beaches and waterfront campsites of Harvey Cove, Goodling Cove, Side Bay and the very popular Lawn Point Park are all worth the effort.

 

Image via / Vancouver Island GPS Maps


God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park

Lying between the east coast of Vancouver Island and the mainland, God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park offers a wild and rugged shoreline for kayakers to explore. Not only is it a great place to paddle, but the wildlife and sea life in this archipelago of islands is also an exciting sight. Keep your eye out as you paddle through the channels to catch a glimpse of animals that frequent the park such as humpback and gray whales, sea lions, bald eagles and even dolphins and orcas. There is also said to be a Sasquatch-like creature inhabiting the islands, and the entire area is considered haunted by spirits, making for an enchanting paddle.

 

Image via / PADDLING.COM


Denman Island

Nestled in the sheltered coastline on the east side of Vancouver Island, the Denman Islands are a beautiful, smooth ocean paddling route. An 18.5 km (10 nmi) trek from the ferry landing will take you to the cozy shore of Sandy Island Marine Provincial Park, on the northern tip of Denman Island. Though there is no camping at Boyle Point Park, on the South end of the Island, but it is still a great day trip to enjoy while spending time on Denman Island.

 

Image via / Denman Island


Gabriola Island

A quiet island, with numerous bays and beaches to explore, Gabriola is a great place to head out for a spring paddle. It is recommended that you have ocean paddling experience to travel around Gabriola as it’s not an easy feat due to the fast-moving currents through the Gabriola Passage and Dodd Narrows. The Flat Top Islands, off the northeast corner of the island, Sandwell Park and Whale Bone Beach are all great places to visit on your adventure to Gabriola Island.

 

Image via / Vancouver Island Mapbook


Broken Group Islands

Located on the south-west side of Vancouver Island, the Broken Group Islands consists of about 100 islands in Barkley Sound, between Ucluelet and Bamfield. Sea kayakers come from all over the world to paddke the waterways and a view the wildlife within the Broken Group Islands. Experienced kayakers can make the long, dangerous open water crossing from Toquart Bay near Ucluelet and beginners can catch the Lady Rose passenger ferry. Spring also means whale migration and sightings making this a great time to explore the 92 km (50 nmi) of paddling routes this destination has in store. Be prepared for unpredictable weather, fog, strong tides and exposed outer islands on your paddling adventure through the Broken Group Islands.

 

Image via / Parks Canada


Clayoquot Sound

Found close to Tofino in the Pacific Rim National Park, the huge protected area of Clayoquot Sound is full of bays, inlets and channels to explore. Paddle southeast through Browning Passage and down into Grice Bay or take a short trip to Meares Island, or head north for a multi-day adventure. We suggest making a pit stop at one of the area’s most treasured places, Hot Springs Cove. While it may take two or three days to reach the springs, a soak in the soothing pools would be the perfect end to a paddle through Clayoquot Sound.  

 

Image via / Jaime's Whaling Station & Adventure Centres


Cowichan Lake / Cowichan River

Ideal for a lazy paddle, the 34 km (18.4 mi) Cowichan Lake is a route filled with sandy beaches and islands that make great camping spots. Flowing from the southern end of the lake, Cowichan River also boasts several Class II and Class III rapids for a more exhilarating trip for the experienced paddler. The run is 3.9 km (2.4 mi) long and should take about three hours. Whether you head out for an easy cruise or adrenaline filled adventure, Cowichan Lake and Cowichan River give you all the options.

 

Image via / Ocean River Sports


Great Central Lake

The 30 km long Great Central Lake is an incredible wilderness experience. Carved by the last ice age, the lake exposed many minerals including copper and gold. Another treasure found there is Della Falls at the western end of the lake. The challenging 16 km (8.6 mi) trek to Della Falls from the lake is difficult, but the impressive views of the falls will take your breath away in the best way. A paddling adventure on Great Central Lake is sure to satisfy any canoer or kayaker.

 

Image via / Vancouver Island GPS Maps


San Juan River

Between the San Juan Beach Recreation Site and Port Renfrew, paddlers can find an easy route. The toughest water you’ll face is Grade II, but keep a lookout for log jams. The San Juan River divides in two branches — downstream from Fairy Lake, a gigantic log jam blocks the south channel and MUST be portaged. On your trip, be sure to allow time to explore the trail to the Red Creek Fir; a worthwhile 20 minute one-way hike to this incredibly large and captivating tree.

 

Image via / Canoe & Kayak Vancouver Island


Sayward Forest Canoe Route

This is one of the most well known and celebrated canoe routes on Vancouver Island, and this reputation is well-earned. The 47 km (29 mi) loop is usually paddled in a counter clockwise direction, beginning in Gosling Bay on Campbell Lake. The route spans 14 lakes and has numerous campsites along its course, making for the perfect three to four day canoe trip. Many of the portage trails follow old rail grades left over from early logging operations in the area.

 

Image via / Wikipedia


Whether you’re looking for exhilarating river rapids or taking a relaxing cruise around the ocean archipelagos, Vancouver Island is a spring paddler's paradise.

 

Before you head out on your trip, be sure to leave a detailed itinerary with a trusted friend or family member. Bring along extra clothing, food and water in a waterproof container and always wear a properly fitting Personal Floatation Device. And don’t forget to bring along a map, compass and GPS to keep you on track as you enjoy some of Canada’s most breathtaking paddling routes.


If you have a camera that can survive the conditions as well, be sure to share your adventures with the #brmblife community and follow us on Instagram and Facebook to know more about the kind of prizes you can win for being a part of the #brmblife.