Several provincial marine parks are located along the Sunshine Coast, most with undeveloped facilities. Boaters may find freshwater at the occasional one, but should always bring their own. Much of the coastline is sheltered, which provides good protection for those in small paddlecraft or motorboats.
Marine parks along the Sechelt Peninsula include Simson, Buccaneer Bay, Smuggler Cove, and Garden Bay. Simson Provincial Park enjoys a particularly pretty location on South Thormanby Island, with a blend of sandy beaches, forested slopes, and tranquil coves. Spyglass Hill at the north end of the island is a prominent landmark to watch for after launching from Halfmoon Bay north of Sechelt. Marine parks around Malaspina Peninsula include Desolation Sound (British Columbia’s largest marine park, and which now includes the Curme Islands), the Copeland Islands, Roscoe Bay, Walsh Cove, and Teakerne Arm.
Warm waters and wildlife! Desolation Sound with its unusually warm Pacific waters (74F), prolific marine wildlife and spectacular scenery provides some of the best sea kayaking opportunities in the world. Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park possesses a magical magnetism that draws boaters and paddlers from distant shores. Most of those who arrive aboard ‘stinkpots’ tend to congregate in popular anchorages, such as Prideaux Haven, Tenedos Bay, and Grace Harbour, much as ‘fifth-wheelers’ converge on RV parks. Be a little more imaginative and you’ll find plenty of isolated bays and campsites throughout Desolation Sound’s more than 37 miles (60 km) of coastline. One of the prime attractions of these waters is their warmth in summer months, which makes them ideal for swimming and snorkeling.
The scenery is less severe than many of the other sheer-sided waterways along the central coast, although just as majestic. Snowcapped peaks of the Coast Mountains soar from the tideline to heights of 7,875 feet (2400 m). Boaters and paddlers will discover an environment nearer in spirit to the protected waters of the southern Strait of Georgia. What Desolation Sound provides that the southern Gulf Islands don’t is an astonishing breeding ground for shellfish, principally oysters. Whoever penned the time-honoured expression ‘When the tide is out, the table is spread’ must have been inspired by these nutrient-rich waters.
There are two approaches to Desolation Sound, either from Lund or nearby Okeover Arm Provincial Park at the head of the inlet. A boat ramp is located at each location. From Lund, paddlers can explore Savary Island, with its endless sandy beaches and shallow waters extending out for miles from shore. Copeland Islands Marine Provincial Park is just a short paddle away, and offers many islands to meander amongst and view the wonderful intertidal marine life.
Since it was completed in 1983, the Powell Forest Canoe Route has come to be recognized as one of the more significant paddle routes in the province, right up there with the Bowron Lakes Canoe Route in the Cariboos. Whereas the Bowron Lakes presents an extended 7 to 10 day, 72-mile (116-km) canoe and kayak route through six major lakes linked by portages, and requires reservations, the Powell Forest route can be done in small or big bites. There’s room for everyone on this eight-lake journey, and paddlers can attempt it whenever the feeling moves them.
The full-on, 48-mile (80-km) trip requires five to seven days to complete and includes almost 7 miles (11 km) of portages. A shorter 7.75-mile (12.5-km) route takes three days and includes about 3 miles (5 km) of portages. You can avoid the portage between Lois and Horseshoe Lakes by putting in at Nanton Lake, but then you’d miss one of the most scenic stretches of original forest in this region that has been so methodically flooded and stripped of coastal old-growth. Canoe racks are provided in many places along the portages, which not only gives paddlers a chance to rest their shoulders but also provides an opportunity to look around the interior of the forest where remnants of old logging activity persist in many places. It’s important to acquaint yourself with the lakes in advance of setting out. Each has its own characteristics: some are deep, others are exposed to strong winds. Altogether, there are 20 campsites sprinkled along the route, good places to hold up while waiting out a blow.
Other lakes well worth paddling in this extensive network include Inland Lake and newly protected Confederation Lake, which, along with Haslan Lake, comprises a complete watershed with extensive recreation values. Confederation Lake lies north of Inland Lake and can be reached by following Inland Lake Forest Road. (Note: Access to Haslam Lake, part of the municipal watershed, is restricted.)
If it weren’t for a small neck of land less than a half mile wide, a large portion of the peninsula north of Sechelt would be an island, cut off from the mainland. This wedge of sand backs ocean water, which flows from the northwestern entrance to the inlet near Egmont, into three inlets: Sechelt Inlet (the largest), and Salmon and Narrows Inlets, which branch east from Sechelt Inlet. Sechelt Inlets Marine Provincial Park is a narrow, fjordlike environment where old-growth forest plummets down the sides of the Caren Range mountains to the ocean. Beaches are limited, and where they do occur you’ll find small park sites suited for rest stops or overnighting. Given the rocky shoreline of much of the Sechelt Inlet and its two branches – Salmon and Narrows Inlets – you’ll be relieved to reach one of the sites when the wind rises and makes paddling extremely difficult.
It takes the better part of a day to paddle the 22 miles (35 km) from the federal dock in Sechelt to Egmont at the north end of the inlet via Skookumchuk Narrows. You can reduce the paddle time by launching at Porpoise Bay Provincial Park or private Tillicum Bay Marina, a good place to leave your car if you’re going on an overnight paddle. Both the park and the marina are located on East Porpoise Bay Road (Sechelt Inlet Road) in Sechelt. It’s only about a 2-mile (3-km) paddle from the marina to the first marine-park site at Tuwanek Point. Two of the trickiest sections involve crossing the mouth of Salmon Inlet, where strong winds can quickly turn a leisurely paddle into a maddening fight, and navigating Tzoonie Narrows in Narrows Inlet where, unless you enter the narrows at a favourable tide, you’re in for a battle against the current.
There are 8 marine-park campsites located on both sides of Sechelt Inlet and along Narrows Inlet in Sechelt Inlets Marine Provincial Recreation Area. Wilderness sites with basic amenities are located at Halfway, Tuwanek Point, Nine Mile Point, Kunechin Point, and Piper Point. Undeveloped sites are located at Tzoonie Narrows, Thornhill, and Skaiakos Point. Most sites are located within a mile or two (2 to 3 km) of each other and provide welcome resting places, particularly when strong winds funnel through the inlets on summer days. Note that there is no access to these sites from the community of Tuwanek.
Simson Provincial Park enjoys a particularly pretty location and occupies much of South Thormanby Island. It’s only a 2-mile (3-km) paddle from the public boat ramp in Halfmoon Bay across Welcome Passage to the east side of South Thormanby, the larger of two similarly named islands. Paddlers can not only explore Simson but also Buccaneer Bay Provincial Park, on the west side of North Thormanby Island, as well as many bays and headlands around Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park, just north of Halfmoon Bay.
There’s lovely freshwater paddling on Ruby Lake, which most folks only get to admire from their vehicle as they pass by. Stop at Dan Bosch Regional Park on Ruby Lake, where you’ll find just the place to launch, as well as picnic and swim. Ruby Lake Lagoon provides a safe home to over 80 species of birds, including a growing abundance of North America’s most beautiful waterfowl, the Wood Duck. Other wildlife at Ruby Lake includes painted turtles, beavers, otters, Roosevelt elk, deer and bears.
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