Cool Off At These 5 Sunshine Coast Paddling Hot Spots

From half-day to multi-night, these waters are a paddler's playground

Credit: Annie Schroeder

Tree-carpeted mountains rise up out of the deep blue inlets and sounds of the Sunshine Coast, casting their gaze on sailboats and seals, small towns and artist studios. On a clear summer day, it is easy to feel as if you’ve entered a portal to somewhere magical – perhaps the shimmering sapphire edge of Narnia. And there is no more magical way to explore all the nooks and crannies of the Sunshine Coast than by canoe or kayak.

Because the hard part is deciding where to go first, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite paddling spots to help get you started.

Happy water trails!


Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park

What you need to know

With the “warmest water north of California,” and stunning West Coast scenery, Desolation Sound is truly spectacular. Come prepared to enjoy coastal swimming spots, shade-covered hiking trails and the many coves, bays and islands waiting to be explored along the 60-km of shoreline that make up B.C.’s largest marine park. There are 11 designated backcountry campsites throughout the park, so you can plan to stay awhile.

Where to put-in

Desolation Sound is located north of the town of Lund which, itself, is north of Powell River. The best places to launch are Lund Harbour or Okeover Government Wharf located in Okeover Arm Provincial Park.


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Pick up a B.C. Tidal Waters Sport Fishing License online and harvest your own shellfish for a fresh, delicious meal. Just be sure that there are no red tide warnings before you partake. If you’re after a meal you don’t have to catch, paddle over to the Refuge Cove Gallery and Restaurant. Refuel with tasty food and check out work from local artisans.

The Copeland Islands offer one of the best kayak experiences when staying in the Powell River and Lund area. This fantastic group of islands and islets is located just north of Lund and often ‘forgotten’ by the majority of kayakers as they rush towards Desolation Sound.



Sechelt Inlets Marine Provincial Park

What you need to know

Located 20 km north of the town of Sechelt, this quiet spot is only accessible by boat or floatplane, making it a tranquil escape. The three protected inlets of Sechelt, Narrows, and Salmon Inlet make up the park, and feature stunning old growth forest, sandy beaches, seabird colonies and paddle-in campsites.

Where to put-in

Public access to the park is located at Porpoise Bay Provincial Park, north on Sechelt Inlet road from downtown Sechelt. Further up Inlet road, Tuwanek has public beach access for launching in Lamb’s Bay, which is also next to Pedals & Paddles for those who need rental gear, tours, or lessons.

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With the wreck of the HMCS Chaudiere, underwater cliffs and abundant sea life, SCUBA diving in the park is world-class. There are several dive outfitters on the Sunshine Coast that offer rentals, lessons and boat charters. If you’re interested in land-based discovery, look for petroglyphs that can be found at Thornhill Creek and Nine Mile Point.


Powell Forest Canoe Route

What you need to know

Take a break from the salty sea and paddle all or part of this 57-km route that winds through eight different lakes and showcases the stunning natural landscape that B.C. is known for. Green forested mountains, flat, quiet paddling and wildlife ranging from black bears to deer to bald eagles all add up to the perfect paddling trip.

Where to put-in

From the Saltery Bay ferry terminal in Powell River, head north until you reach the community of Stillwater. Turn right, and the road will lead you straight to the put-in for the beginning of the Powell Forest Canoe Route. All lakes along the route are accessible by logging roads, and there are several rustic campsites.

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If you have time to spend in the town of Powell River, don’t miss the exceptional community events taking place throughout the year.

In July, the Sea Fair boasts carnival rides, highland dancers and boat races, among other fun family activities.

August brings the week-long Blackberry Festival — an event that celebrates the ripening fruit with musical performances, fireworks and blackberry-themed activities.

Every Saturday and Sunday during the summer, the Powell River farmers’ market features wares from local farmers and artisans, along with delicious food and entertainment. The market turns 30 this year.


Pender Harbour

What you need to know

Calm, protected waters and countless islands and bays to explore make Pender Harbour the perfect destination for a day trip. Rent a kayak from the local shop, or bring your own. Watch the sea life in the clear water below as you glide past, and find your own secret spot in one of the many small island coves in the Harbour. When it’s time for a break, enjoy a meal and a drink in Garden Bay.

Where to put-in

Pender Harbour can be accessed from both the north and south ends of the Sunshine Coast. If you are travelling from Powell River it is located south of the ferry terminal in Earls Cove: (Sechelt Peninsula), and if you are travelling from Vancouver it is north of the ferry terminal in Langdale (Gibsons). A jaunt along the Sunshine Coast highway either way and you’re there! The government docks are going to be your prime put-in location if you are bringing your own kayak.

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If whitewater is more your speed, or you just like to watch, take a hike to Skookumchuck Narrows where Canada’s largest tidal rapids create impressive standing waves. Watch boats, surfers and SUP surfers ride the waves from the North Point or Roland Point viewpoints.


Howe Sound: Sea to Sky Marine Trail

What you need to know

The Sea to Sky Marine Trail is a series of paddling routes that connect the Sea to Sky Trail in Squamish with the Trans-Canada Trail in West Vancouver. The route criss-crosses sections of Howe Sound, alighting on various islands and beaches along the Sunshine Coast, Gambier, and Keats Island. With a large selection of campsites and the stunning ocean-to-summit views that have made Howe Sound famous, this is a must-paddle route.

Where to put-in

There are many ways to paddle this route, as it features a number of different legs and launch points. From Vancouver, the closest put-in is at Horseshoe Bay, where pay parking is available. Or better yet, ferry over to the Sunshine Coast first and launch from Gibsons Harbour.

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Stay the night: The islands of Gambier and Keats are two rustic islands where paddlers can camp or spend the night at a B&B. The larger island of Gambier offers great hiking trails and plenty of beach to explore.


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