Boating, Sailing & Cruising in Greater Vancouver
The coastal waters of British Columbia are considered to be amongst the finest boating destinations in the world, with over 27,000 kilometres of ocean coastline harbouring over 6,000 idyllic islands and islets, deep fjords and a plethora of sheltered and unspoilt bays and pocket beaches. The Strait of Georgia, between the mainland and Vancouver Island, is protected from the mighty Pacific Ocean by the 450-kilometre Vancouver Island, providing wonderfully sheltered waters for anchoring, sailing and boating.
The Gulf Islands, the majority of which lie in the rain-shadow of Vancouver Island, are exceptional cruising destinations with a near Mediterranean climate. The northern and Southern Gulf Islands offer protected anchorages, marine parks, marinas, and meandering channels.
A magnificent and unique network of over 80 provincial marine parks protect the scenic coastline and marine ecosystems, stretching from Discovery Island at the junction of Haro and Juan de Fuca Straits in the south, to Kitson Island off Prince Rupert in the North. These pristine parks provide a chain of sheltered havens and secluded, cozy anchorages for all boaters cruising the west coast of British Columbia. Mooring buoys are provided, government floats are available for transient moorage, park dinghy floats are provided, and a number of the parks have rings installed for stern lines where swinging room is limited. Camping ashore is permitted in designated locations in most marine parks.
In some places along the coastline, like Gambier Island on the Sunshine Coast, log booms are stored along the shoreline in logboom storage areas. Small craft are permitted to moor alongside the log booms for short periods of time. If you elect to stay overnight, be ready for the tug’s horn to jerk you out of the land of nod at any time of the night!
Off the coastal mainland, Desolation Sound north of Powell River, Princess Louisa Inlet, Jervis Inlet and Howe Sound complete the list of the region’s best. Smuggler’s Cove, with it’s fascinating history, is considered to be the most popular anchorage on the Sunshine Coast. The sailing season in BC is year-round, with coastal waters boasting an abundance of marine life, including sea lions, porpoises and orcas (killer whales), which provide great wildlife viewing and excitement under sail.
Once securely anchored in your tranquil little haven, the crew can plunge overboard and swim, snorkel or dive in the warm waters, or dinghy ashore to dig for clams or beachcomb along the extensive tidal flats and pools. Many of the coastal areas and marine parks protect ancient middens, pictographs, petroglyphs and historical sites in areas steeped in First Nation culture.
If you are on vacation to escape the grind of work, and you want to be pampered, then book a skippered sailing cruise in the Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound or Haidia Gwaii, formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands. Relax and enjoy a real west coast sailing adventure on a charter that meets your needs, allowing you to experience the beauty of the Gulf Islands or explore the coastline and shores of Vancouver Island. The more adventurous can accompany a naturalist guide and embark on an outdoor adventure package combined with sailing or boating. The less adventurous can concentrate on the marine pubs and interesting shops located near the docks in each port.
Vancouver is a gateway to great sailing adventures and magnificent cruising grounds. The winds and waves at Jericho Beach have been familiar to local Native people for a mighty long time. Thick middens of clamshells on the nearby hills testify to where the Musqueam people once maintained a seasonal residence. Now wild bunnies and coyotes cavort among the brambles, while on the beach windsurfers and kayakers get their kicks being blown around. Jericho Beach is easily reached from Fourth Avenue west of Alma Street in the Point Grey neighbourhood. The Jericho Sailing Centre Association maintains an old Royal Canadian Air Force office building as a staging area; located at 1300 Discovery Street, off NW Marine Drive.
Sailing in Howe Sound is a delightful experience, with so much to see and explore – a fabulous weekend getaway from Vancouver. A great place to learn to sail, the protected waters of the Sound provide exciting circumnavigations of Bowen Island and Gambier Island, with the Coast Mountain Range as a stunning backdrop.
So strong is the force of the breeze that carries across Howe Sound that unwary windsurfers in the waters off Squamish Spit often can’t right themselves if they get dunked. An emergency rescue service is on standby to pluck such hapless types from the water.
Snug Cove on emerald Bowen Island is a ‘must-do’ stop, with an array of attractions, historic old turn-of-the-century buildings, quaint boutiques, and boardwalks.
Sparsely populated Gambier Island is a great place to go ashore and explore. The southwest coast of Gambier Island is deeply indented by a series of secluded bays, providing good anchorages in West Bay, Centre Bay and Port Graves. The easternmost of the three finger-like bays, Port Graves is the most picturesque of the anchorages, enclosed by high, soaring hills and magnificent scenery.
The charming seaside village of Gibsons Landing overlooks a sheltered harbour on the west shoreline of Howe Sound. The unique scenic seaside village of Gibsons acts as the gateway to the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. The harbour is everything it should be, chock full of boats, with an atmosphere as thick as fog on a fall morning.
Sunshine Coast and Desolation Sound
The Sunshine Coast, between Desolation Sound to the north and Howe Sound to the south, is prime exploring and cruising territory. This seaside paradise offers something special for everyone, with unspoiled wilderness, marine life, and a beautiful scenic coastline stretching past Gibsons, Sechelt, Pender Harbour and Powell River.
Desolation Sound sits at the northern end of British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. The tiny hamlet of Lund is an ideal staging area for Desolation Sound. Although Lund is located only 95 miles (153 km) north of Vancouver, it takes five hours (including two BC Ferries’ rides) to get there.
Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park possesses a magical magnetism that draws boaters and paddlers from distant shores. Cruising boats tend to congregate in popular anchorages, such as Prideaux Haven, Tenedos Bay, and Grace Harbour, but there are plenty of isolated bays and campsites throughout Desolation Sound’s more than 37 miles (60 km) of coastline.
Marine Parks on the Sunshine Coast and Howe Sound of BC
- Buccaneer Bay Provincial Park
- Copeland Islands Marine Provincial Park
- Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park
- Garden Bay Marine Provincial Park
- Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park
- Hardy Island Marine Provincial Park
- Harmony Islands Marine Provincial Park
- Plumper Cove Marine Provincial Park
- Princess Louisa Marine Provincial Park
- Roscoe Bay Provincial Park
- Sechelt Inlets Marine Provincial Park
- Simson Provincial Park
- Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park
- Teakerne Arm Provincial Park
- Walsh Cove Provincial Park
Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands
Information on Boating, Sailing & Cruising around Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
- January sees good strong winds out of the southeast
- Spring (March/April) – good blows and great sailing
- Summer is flat – great for power boating or running the motor to charge the batteries!
- Fall (September) – time to hoist sail again
- Van Isle 360 Degree International Yacht Race. A sailing race of 580 nautical miles circumnavigating wild and rugged Vancouver Island.
- Swiftsure International Yacht Race. A sailing weekend held in Victoria in May, hosted by the Royal Victoria Yacht Club.