The First Nations people once ranged up and down the coast in cedar canoes, whaling, fishing and moving to and from their winter and summer homes. In the same water borne way, a growing number of kayakers now absorb this rich aboriginal history, as they visit the coastal communities, the abandoned villages and remote islands of the “Land of Maquinna”, indeed one of the world’s finest sea kayaking areas. Seek out a kayak tour company for all-inclusive packages or, if competent, go with friends - going alone can be dangerous because of the changeable weather and adverse conditions.
Bring your own kayaks or rent one from Get West Adventure Cruises right at the dock in Gold River. Many kayakers load their vessels onto the MV Uchuck III at Gold River and sail on her out to the outer coast where, using a pallet attached to the ship’s boom and winch, the crew lowers them in their kayaks into the water. Arrange with the Uchuck III for return pick-up. An absolutely splendid wild wilderness awaits paddlers: uninhabited beaches; dense old growth rainforests populated by wolves and bears; waterfalls; deep fjords, and coves, secluded and sheltered. For those looking for a guided kayak tour click here.
Supernatural wildlife galore: orca and gray whales, sea lions, black bears, cougars, and bald eagles. Most kayakers want to view the sea otters and rafts with a hundred of them not a rarity here. In all about 1500 of these adorable creatures live here, descendants of 89 sea otters re-located from Alaska between 1969 and 1972, and ranging from Brooks Peninsula south to the Broken Islands. Paddle Kyuguot Sound, sheltered Esperanza Inlet or Nuchatlitz Inlet and Nuchatlitz Marine Park, Nootka Sound and Bligh Island Marine Park in between. Unparalleled!
Something even more challenging: whitewater kayaking on some of the many rivers cascading down from the nearby mountains.
With the famed West Coast Trail becoming so crowded that people planning to hike it need reservations, the Nootka Island Trail offers a 35-kilometre hike through the same kind of wild, pristine wilderness, but without the crowds. Most start at the north end of the trail, arriving there by seaplane, or having a boat or water-taxi drop them off at Louie Bay, just south of the Nuchatlitz Inlet.
Consisting almost exclusively of beach walking the hike allows for seeing black bears, wolves, cougars, eagles, sea otters, whales and sea lions. Take a much needed shower under Calvin Creek waterfall; swim and body surf in the ocean; explore ancient middens and mounds where once stood bighouses; investigate the life in tidal pools, and beachcomb for treasures. Eventually, tired but happy, arrive four or five days later at Yuquot (Friendly Cove) where the Uchuck III makes bi-weekly pick-ups. Challenging, not a trek for the unfit or faint hearted, the Nootka Island Trail offers immense satisfaction for those who hike it.
Strathcona Provincial Park offers numerous improved trails to explore. These trails are suitable for all ages and fitness levels. This is a great place to get out with the family and experience the beauty of this wilderness.
Vancouver Island’s West Coast holds a reputation as one of the finest fishing areas in the world, salt water or fresh. From mighty salmon to gigantic halibut in the Pacific, cutthroat, rainbow, and steelhead trout in the local pristine rivers, anglers here catch their limit. A number of fishing charter companies in Gold River, Tahsis, Zeballos and Kyuquot offer expert guides, fishing charters and resort accommodation.
Tackle the west coast any time of year, but summer sees most people trying their luck at catching the transient runs of Pacific Coho, Sockeye and Spring salmon, also know as Chinook, or Tyee if weighing over 30 pounds. For variety, try bottom fishing for ling-cod, rock-cod, snapper and gigantic halibut, some up to 175 pounds.
Former Campbell River judge and writer Roderick Haig-Brown enthused about the joys and serenity of fly-fishing on Vancouver Island. His writings have lured people from around the world to come to enjoy the thrill of hauling a steelhead, Dolly Vardon, or cutthroat from one of the many rivers dotting the Island.
The ultimate in sport’s fishing is to hire a floatplane or a helicopter and fish secluded lakes and rivers. No matter your choice, Vancouver Island’s west coast offers fantastic scenery and abundant wildlife as well as superb fishing!
Sometimes referred to as the “Island of Caves”, Vancouver Island comes riddled with over 1,000 caves - more than any other area in Canada - with the Upana Caves near Gold River being among the most spectacular. So spectacular in fact that Gold River, with more than fifty caves nearby, serves as home to the B.C. Speleological Federation for the scientific study of natural caves.
With fifteen known entrances, the Upana Caves, about 10 miles from Gold River, contain nearly 1500 feet of passages and requires approximately an hour to complete a self-guided tour. Pathways and steps allow amateur spelunkers ~ those who explore caves ~ to visit the fifteen known semi-developed ones.
Once underground watch for the Upana River as it emerges for a 90-foot stretch through the Main cave before disappearing, but it reappears later in Resurgence Cave, the walls of which have been transformed by heat and pressure into smooth, white marble. Film producers used the caves when filming scenes for the television series “Huckleberry Finn and His Friends”.
The Artlish River Caves and the Black Hole north of Zeballos can only be visited on guided tours. These feature some of the largest entrances, interior chambers and passages of any on the Island.
Spelunkers must bring warm, water-proof clothes, sturdy boots and flashlights. Helmets optional, but recommended.
Scuba magazine ranks Barkley Sound (Pacific Rim) the number one winter dive destination and number two for year-round diving. The temperate waters offer incredible visibility, up to 50 feet. See Pacific octopus - the largest of all octopi - wolf eels, unlimited numbers of rockfish, fish eating anemones, sponges, sea cucumbers, sea pens, and sunstars.
What is renowned for the area is the Gorgonian Corals. This is a rarity in North America. The corals are found throughout the Tahsis Narrows, particularly at Mozino Point. The abundance of life and color makes this some of the best diving on the island. With over two hundred shipwrecks, Vancouver’s Island’s Nootka Sound and Esperanza Inlet are a “must see” for divers world wide.
The giant rollers and pounding Pacific surf attacking Vancouver Island’s west coast makes the ‘killer’ waves beloved by surfers and windsurfers. Often up to 25’ in height, these waves have turned this coast into a surfer’s paradise. At Long Beach, in Pacific Rim Park near Tofino, now the ‘Malibu of the North’ and the ‘Surf Capital of Canada’, the offshore winds make any part of the coast, and a number of lakes, perfect for windsurfing.
A company operating on Nootka Island offers accomplished surfers and wind-surfers the opportunity to ride waves in the least crowded of circumstances. Guests live in tree houses and are transported by rugged Zodiac watercraft to empty surf where they become absolutely “stoked” while carving and jumping waves to their heart’s content.
Viewing wildlife is one of the fastest growing activities in North America. British Columbia is the most biologically diverse province with over 95 million hectares that are home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, providing some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in Canada.
Most popular on the west coast is whale and grizzly bear viewing. Vancouver Island is home to many adventure tour companies that treat guests to the wonders of Grey Whales breaching on the open Pacific, Killer Whales migrating in search of food and Grizzly Bear feeding on salmon in the river deltas.
Wildlife viewing is included on your trip aboard the MV Uchuck III. Guests can expect to see an abundance of wildlife including sea otters, harbour seals and bald eagles. Watch the shorelines for an appearance of elk, deer and black bear. On some cruises guests are treated to sightings of Humpback Whales and Killer Whales.