Kayaking is one of the top things to do in Ucluelet, B.C. and its neighbour Tofino. Whether you’re trying it out for the first time, or are an old pro, there’s plenty to know about kayaking on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Find out the things you need to know, learn about tour options and take in some tips for your time out on Ucluelet’s waters.
Things to Know
Barkley Sound is where your paddling adventures will take you when you depart from Ucluelet, B.C. Located between the Broken Group and Deer Group Islands, there are over 100 islands and islets to hop between and explore. If the islands are too far away for an enjoyable paddle, the stunning harbour and closer waters make for a perfect day. Another launch point is Toquart Bay, which is just outside of the small town.
If you prefer to depart from Tofino, Clayoquot Sound is also an enjoyable paddle. There are tons of beaches that dot the islands and islets of the area, and even a quick paddle around the harbour can be fun.
A multitude of west coast creatures exist within the waters of Barkley Sound. During your paddle, you’ll have the chance to see eagles and plenty of other seabirds, along with seals, sea lions, jelly fish, sea stars, otters and, if you’re lucky, whales and porpoises! You are also likely to see a healthy amount of seafoam. While the green tinged fluffy stuff might look a bit concerning, it’s actually a great sign! Seafoam occurs in agitated seawater that has a lot of dissolved organic matter in it.
There are plenty of outfitters in Ucluelet that will rent single and double kayaks for half days and overnight journeys! Many of them also rent extra gear you may need such as VHF radios, and have other fun water equipment like canoes and SUP boards.
Before heading out on any paddle, be sure to check out the tides, the weather forecast and ask about currents. Even on a sunny day, unexpected currents can pull the strongest paddlers off course.
Ucluelet and Tofino both have some great kayak companies with organized tours. Sunset and day trips around the harbour are perfect for those a bit timid about their paddling skills. On the other hand, overnight expeditions into the Broken Group provide adventurers with a true taste of the rugged west coast. Some tours even provide a shore lunch – it’s important to keep up your energy out on the water!
SKGABC certified guides will ensure that guests of all skill levels are safe out on the water. Most outfitters do not require any previous experience for their trips. Guides are also typically equipped with CPR and have VHF radios on board!
Kayaking guides are also incredibly knowledgeable about the area, and the wildlife! Trips will be both fun and informative, giving paddlers insight into life on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Be sure to pick the length of tour best suited to your needs. Paddlers bringing along young children might want to consider shorter, half day trips, rather than full on expeditions to the islands. If considering an overnighter, be prepared for the kind of camping and paddling you’ll be undertaking and what the adventure entails.
- Be prepared for the weather! Sunscreen, hats, dry bags and rain gear should all be on board! Even on a sunny day, fog and rain can set in and be quite chilly.
- Camp in designated camping sites.
- Bring along a GPS and be sure to consult charts before departure – having a waterproofed chart with you is never a bad idea.
- Bring all your safety gear. This includes a life jacket, whistle and water pump for your boat.
- Be aware of where the Indian Reserves are (marked IR on charts) and do not beach a kayak in those areas without permission from the band office.
- If camping, be sure to remove all garbage and be careful with food – there are plenty of bears and wolves in the area.
- If booking a tour, make sure the guides are certified, the equipment and standards are safe and that you know what to expect from your tour! Book something that meets your needs.
- Be aware of other boat traffic and rules, especially near the Ucluelet Harbour and in the main waterways.
Kayaking is a fun way to explore and partake in life in Ucluelet. Once you have the basics covered to ensure you have a safe paddle, the ocean is your oyster! Whether you’re taking on a trip yourself, or want the stories and knowledge of a seasoned guide, there’s a kayaking expedition waiting for you on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.
Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk