The Sunshine Coast is British Columbia’s nearest faraway place. It’s easy to access via ferries from Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay; you can be on the water in well under a day of travel. Yet it’s remote enough and replete with the jaw-dropping sea-meets-sky scenery that makes the west coast famous. Regardless of your paddling skill and ambitions, you’ll find plenty of options.
Here’s the definitive list of the best places to kayak on the Sunshine Coast.
[This article is part of the The Outdoor Adventurer’s Guide To Vancouver. Find all the resources you need to plan an adventure-filled trip to the city of Vancouver.]
Best places to kayak on the Sunshine Coast
Kayaking Desolation Sound
Sea kayaking in Desolation Sound is all about stunning Pacific Northwest scenery (think: soaring coastal mountains, rocky islands and rugged shores) and the warmest summer water temperatures north of California (seriously: sea temps hit 21 degrees Celsius). Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park is British Columbia’s largest marine park, spanning 60 km of coast with 11 designated backcountry camping areas, many set on pristine islands.
Popular launch sites for Desolation Sound kayaking include the town of Lund (located at the north end of the Sunshine Coast, on Highway 101) and nearby Okeover Arm. Day trips are plentiful. Touring kayakers will also find wilderness paddling routes up to one week in length. Guided trips are available.
Desolation Sound camping
Desolation Sound, Copeland Islands and Malaspina Marine provincial parks provide 11 backcountry camping options for paddlers. Launching from Lund, you’ll find outstanding backcountry camping at the Copeland Islands, on the Salish Sea. The best camping is on the west shore of the Middle Copeland, on a beach lined with arbutus trees.
If you start from Okeover Arm, paddle out to the rocky Curme Islands (three sites), Hare Point or Grace Harbour. All designated sites include pit toilets; campfires are not allowed. Reservations are not accepted but you can pay for your campsite online. If you’d prefer to do Desolation Sound kayak day trips from a drive-in campground, check out Okeover Arm Provincial Park (14 vehicle campsites).
Desolation Sound map
BC Parks provides an overview map and detailed backcountry campsite map for Desolation Sound online. Rely on Canadian Hydrographic Service nautical chart #3538 for navigation; you can order a waterproof chart online.
Desolation Sound kayak rentals and guided trips
Spirit of the West Adventures
One of British Columbia’s preeminent sea kayak tour operators, Spirit of the West Adventures (Quadra Island, B.C., 250-285-2121) offers a five-day, all-inclusive guided sea kayak trip in Desolation Sound, starting from Cortes Island. The tour is rated as “easy and comfortable” and suitable for all levels of paddlers, ages 12 and up.
Wildcoast’s (Quadra Island, B.C., 250-285-9453) six-day Desolation Sound guided sea kayak tour explores much of Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park, providing paddlers with an intimate, all-inclusive paddling experience, with departures in June and September.
Terracentric Coastal Adventures
Based on Highway 101 in Lund, Terracentric Coastal Adventures (604-483-7900) provides Desolation Sound kayak rentals and guided tours. Experienced paddlers can pick up their fully equipped rental single or tandem kayak and launch to explore destinations like the Copeland Islands or Okeover Arm. Guided half-day, full-day and multi-day tours are available with expert local guides.
Powell River Sea Kayak
Stop in Powell River to pick up your rental kayaks on your way to Desolation Sound. Powell River Sea Kayak (604-483-2160) provides Sunshine Coast kayak rentals and guided trips to a variety of destinations, including Desolation Sound. The company has a seasonal location in Okeover Arm for greater convenience.
Based in Powell River (604-414-4607), Mitchell’s rents sea kayaks, canoes and standup paddleboards for all your Sunshine Coast paddling adventures, including Desolation Sound.
Footprint BC (Powell River, B.C., 604-414-6884) specializes in guided sea kayak tours to the Copeland Islands and Desolation Sound, with day trips and wilderness tours up to six days in length. Unique theme trips include birding by kayak and certified Paddle Canada courses. Desolation Sound kayak rentals are also available for experienced paddlers.
Coast Mountain Expeditions
Coast Mountain Expeditions (Quadra Island, B.C., 250-285-2823) provides an all-inclusive, weeklong guided Desolation Sound sea kayak tour in late June. Anticipate sheltered paddling conditions and a breathtakingly rugged shoreline, with the potential of encountering a variety of marine life, including dolphins and humpback whales.
Powell River kayaking
Powell River is an often overlooked paddling destination, but well worth it for kayakers and canoeists. Launch at Gibsons Beach to sea kayak Powell River’s waterfront as a day trip (three-hour guided day trips are available from Footprint BC).
Meanwhile, Powell River is one of B.C.’s finest destinations for wilderness canoeing, with a five- to seven-day route heading inland through eight freshwater lakes on the Powell Forest Canoe Route. A shorter 13-km option is available for a great weekend canoe trip. Both are accessed via the Loubert Road at the community of Stillwater.
Powell River camping
The Powell Forest Canoe Route includes many options for backcountry camping, including a drive-in site at the starting point on Lois Lake. You’ll find waterfront backcountry campsites along the way, set on jewel-like lakes amid old-growth west coast forests.
Drive-in campers will find 81 oceanfront campsites at Powell River’s Willingdon Beach Campground. Meanwhile, the Haywire Bay Campground with 48 RV and tent campsites on Powell Lake is located 7 km from Powell River.
Powell River map
Powell River kayak rentals and guided trips
Based in Powell River (604-414-4607), Mitchell’s rents sea kayaks, canoes and standup paddleboards for all your Sunshine Coast paddling adventures, specializing in outfitting paddlers for the Powell Forest Canoe Route.
Footprint BC (Powell River, B.C., 604-414-6884) specializes in guided sea kayak day tours on the Powell River waterfront.
Powell River Sea Kayak
Powell River Sea Kayak (604-483-2160) provides Sunshine Coast kayak rentals and guided trips to a variety of destinations.
Sechelt Inlet kayaking
Sechelt Inlet is the heart of the Sunshine Coast, about as close to a Mediterranean climate you’ll find in British Columbia (or all of Canada, for that matter). Sechelt Inlet kayaking is characterized by a wide range of options for all levels of paddlers. This is some of the best kayaking in southern B.C.
The main launch site is Porpoise Bay Provincial Park, located minutes from the town of Sechelt. The town also offers a launch site and vehicle parking at the public wharf. Thrill-seeking whitewater paddlers and advanced rough water sea kayakers often target Skookumchuck Narrows, located at the north end of Sechelt Inlet, via the town of Egmont. You’ll find several Sechelt kayaking outfitters and camping options.
Sechelt Inlet camping
Porpoise Bay Provincial Park is located a short 45-minute ferry ride and easy half-hour drive from Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay. You’ll discover a fantastic beach with great opportunities to explore the sheltered waters of Sechelt Inlet by sea kayak.
There are two options for camping: a full-service, drive-in campground (make a reservation online), or a more rustic walk-in area specifically for paddlers and cyclists. For backcountry camping, paddle north from Porpoise Bay. You’ll find six backcountry camping options in Sechelt Inlet, mostly on beaches and all part of Sechelt Inlets Marine Provincial Park. Camping is free.
Sechelt Inlet map
Sechelt Inlet kayak rentals and guided trips
Pedals and Paddles
Sechelt kayak outfitter Pedals and Paddles (604-885-6440) is located on the waterfront of Sechelt Inlet, north of Porpoise Bay Provincial Park. The company offers Sunshine Coast kayak rentals and guided trips, specializing in two-hour, family-friendly tours.
Halfmoon Sea Kayaks
Located on the water in Sechelt, Halfmoon Sea Kayaks (604-885-2948) rents single and double fiberglass sea kayaks by the half-day, full-day and multi-day. Standup paddleboard rentals are also available. The company offers guided day trips and all-inclusive guided multi-day tours in Sechelt Inlet and throughout the Sunshine Coast, as well as Paddle Canada-certified instruction.
Sea to Sky Marine Trail
Explore the Sea to Sky Marine Trail from launches located at Hopkins Landing in Langdale (near the BC Ferries terminal) and the community of Gibsons. Another launch is available at Bowen Island. All options require a short ferry ride from Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay. Another launch is available at Porteau Cove Provincial Park, located barely 30 minutes north of downtown Vancouver on the Sea to Sky Highway.
Any way you get there you’ll find unique Sea to Sky Marine Trail kayaking opportunities throughout the western end of Howe Sound, with good day trips and overnight tours. Backcountry camping is available in several locations. Beware of boat and ferry traffic while paddling in this area.
Sea to Sky Marine Trail camping
From Gibsons, it’s less than an hour’s paddle to Plumper Cove Marine Provincial Park on Keats Island, where you’ll find established campsites, pit toilets and a freshwater pump (no reservations). For a longer tour suitable for advanced sea kayakers, make several open water crossings from either Gibsons or Porteau Cove Provincial Park to Gambier Island, which features campsites at Douglas, Brigade and Halkett bays—the latter is a provincial marine park with designated, non-reservable sites. Launch from Port Mellon for a shorter paddle.
If you’re looking to take Sea to Sky Marine Trail kayak day trips, check out Porteau Cove Provincial Park, with 60 drive-in campsites near the ocean. Make a reservation online.
Sea to Sky Marine Trail map
Sea to Sky Marine Trail kayak rentals and guided trips
Bowen Island Sea Kayaking
Bowen Island is a world apart on the Sea to Sky Marine Trail—yet only a short ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay on Vancouver’s North Shore—and Bowen Island Sea Kayaking (located at Bowen Island Marina, 604-947-9266) is your go-to outfitter. You can rent single and double sea kayaks as well as SUPs from this nearby Vancouver outfitter to explore the waters of Howe Sound, or sign up for a guided tour or lesson. Kids kayaks and overnight rentals are also available.
Sea to Sky Adventure Company
Located a short drive north of Vancouver, Sea to Sky Adventure Company in Squamish (38551 Loggers Lane, 888-284-2453) is a great Vancouver area kayak and paddleboard rental outlet with convenient access to the Sea to Sky Marine Trail. SUPs, canoes, recreational kayaks and sea kayaks are available to rent for two hours (walk-ins only), four hours or full days.
Strait of Georgia
Also known as the Salish Sea, the Strait of Georgia divides mainland British Columbia from Vancouver Island. This is big, tidal water—best for experienced sea kayakers. However, good Strait of Georgia paddling opportunities exist north of the town of Sechelt, with launch sites available at Halfmoon Bay, Secret Cove and Pender Harbour, all accessible via Highway 101.
It’s a short crossing to North and South Thormanby islands, which are wonderful to explore and offer backcountry camping. From there, expert paddlers can cross moderate channels to access the wild shores of Texada Island.
Strait of Georgia camping
Backcountry camping is available at Buccaneer Bay Provincial Park on North Thormanby Island and Simson Provincial Park on South Thormanby Island. Camping areas are rustic with no services provided, available for free on a first-come, first-served basis. Located just off the southwest tip of Texada Island across the Sabine Channel, Jedediah Island Marine Provincial Park features camping (at Home Bay) and hiking trails.
Strait of Georgia map
Rely on a detailed nautical chart from the Canadian Hydrographic Service for kayaking the Strait of Georgia. Order chart #3512 online.
Strait of Georgia kayak rentals and guided trips
Pedals and Paddles
Pedals and Paddles (604-885-6440) is located on the waterfront of Sechelt Inlet, north of Porpoise Bay Provincial Park. You can rent single and tandem kayaks here for paddling trips on the Strait of Georgia.
Halfmoon Sea Kayaks
Sechelt’s Halfmoon Sea Kayaks (604-885-2948) services the southern portion of the Sunshine Coast, with single and double rental kayaks, guided day trips and all-inclusive guided multi-day tours to popular destinations, including Texada Island, Sabine Channel and Jedediah Island.
More top Sunshine Coast kayak rentals
Alpha Adventures in Gibsons (604-885-8838), located at the south end of the Sunshine Coast near the Langdale ferry terminal, offers single and double rental sea kayaks from Seaward, Wilderness Systems and Perception. The company also provides guided trips, instruction and retail sales.
Natural West Coast Adventures
Located in the community of Garden Bay, in the heart of the Sunshine Coast, Natural West Coast Adventures (604-535-7985) offers Sunshine Coast kayak rentals and guided trips. They specialize in kayak fishing tours, targeting species like ling cod and salmon on the ocean and cutthroat trout in freshwater lakes. Instructional courses tailored specifically for kayak anglers are also available.
Kayak kishing Sunshine Coast
The best time to kayak fish on the Sunshine Coast is anytime, with abundant ling cod, rockfish and flounder available to kayak anglers over rocky shoals and a variety of salmon species to be targeted year-round. If the ocean is rough or you’d prefer a more sheltered, inland kayak fishing experience, most freshwater lakes on the Sunshine Coast are home to feisty cutthroat trout.
In particular, Sakinaw Lake and Waugh Lake are great Sunshine Coast kayaking fishing destinations in the early spring.
Exploring the misty waters of Desolation Sound. | Photo courtesy of: Destination BC // Andrew Strain