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British Columbia

Sea kayaking on Vancouver Island's wild West Coast Add to ...

I steer our big double into the swell. Soon, a fresh sea breeze blows across our bow. The waves passing beneath build to two metres in height, lifting us gently up and down as mountains of water pass beneath. There is the distant roar of breaking waves along the rocky coast. Gulls wheel overhead and a sea otter pops up to have a closer peek at our strange boats. This relatively calm summer day offers only a quick peek at the wonders of the outer coast, but that is all it takes.

Dave paddles close and snaps a picture of Isabelle atop a wave.

"I need to get a copy of that," she whispers after he paddles off. "My friends will never believe me otherwise."

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If you go...

  • The journey to the remote northwest corner of Vancouver Island is an adventure in itself. From either the Campbell River or Comox Valley airports (serviced by Air Canada, WestJet and Pacific Coastal), you can rent a car or, if you have a group, book a shuttle (www.conashuttle.com; or Campbell River Airporter, 1-250-286-3000) to Fair Harbour where a water taxi ( voyagerwatertaxi.com) will pick you up.
  • Alternatively, book passage on the historic MV Uchuck (www.mvuchuck.com) - originally a minesweeper that has been retrofitted to carry 100 passengers and delivers freight to remote communities along the outer coast.
  • Or, Air Nootka (www.airnootka.com) offers a spectacular, 45-minute scenic coastal flight from Gold River (89 kilometres west of Campbell River on Vancouver Island).
  • West Coast Expedition runs trips for paddlers (and non-paddlers) of all abilities from a fully catered base camp on Spring Island. Rates start at $1,339 for four-day base camp trips. For more information, visit www.westcoastexpeditions.com.


Kayaking with kids?

  • Safety is paramount. Everyone should wear life jackets at all times. Try to find a model that fits your child comfortably - otherwise, he or she will want to take it off. Carry extra warm clothing, and exercise extreme caution in judgment. If you have any concerns about conditions or your ability to handle them, stay on shore until things improve.
  • Make sure your child is wearing a wide-brimmed hat, even on cloudy days, and slather on lots of sunscreen. Sunblock clothing is also great for kids.
  • Snacks can be a lifesaver, or at least a "frustration-saver." Since you can't always pull over when kids get fussy, the distraction of nibbles often helps. You may also want to bring a boat on a string, or a piece of kelp, to drag in the water and play with.
  • A blanket is also good to have along in case your child decides to bunker down for a nap.
  • Infants can be carried in the lap of the front passenger of a double. Toddlers and children will do better in their own centre hatch. Give them half a paddle so they can be involved in paddling if they choose.
  • Older or bigger children can do well in their own front cockpit with an adult behind. There are smaller double kayaks available that make this less strenuous for the adult.
  • Use the kayaks as a vehicle for getting to fun destinations for exploring on shore. Spend plenty of time wandering, both onshore and through the intertidal zone.
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