Wildlife rich, one-way expedition through Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago
Johnstone Strait, Broughton Archipelago
Everyone, focus on whales and diverse paddling
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Previously called: 6-day Johnstone Strait Expedition
Want to See the Best of Everything?
Spend the 6-day Whales & Wilderness Expedition paddling one of the most amazing kayak routes in North America. This tour explores the best of the wildlife and culturally rich Broughton Archipelago & Johnstone Strait areas which are world-renowned destinations for scenic paddling and wildlife. We set up our tents in a new campsite each night and spend one night at the remote floating Paddlers’ Inn. The diversity of both paddling, environment, and wildlife, from tiny intertidal life up to humpback and orca whales, makes this a trip not to be missed.
Please note: As an expedition-style tour, the campsites are rustic and we carry all of our gear with us. At each campsite we set up and sleep in backpacking-style tents. This tour does not stay at the Whales & Wilderness Glamping basecamp.
What makes this trip different from the rest?
- A one-way kayaking tour where we explore new territory every day
- Experience the best of both the Johnstone Strait area and the Broughton Archipelago
- One night stay in a remote floating lodge
- Water taxi transport
- Option of both double and single kayaks
- Your opportunity to experience one of the most diverse wildlife and kayaking environments in British Columbia
Get off the Beaten Path
After years of exploring the Broughton Archipelago and Johnstone Strait, we are confident we have put together a great trip allowing you to explore well beyond the reach of the typical sea kayaking circuit. You will thoroughly enjoy this one-way journey through the uncrowded northern Broughton Archipelago, exploring areas off the beaten path and spending a night at the remote Paddlers Inn for an extra special treat. We spend 4 days exploring the Broughton Archipelago and then spend our last two days enjoying world-renowned Blackfish Sound and Johnstone Strait – the realm of whales.
Wildlife we may see on this trip includes:
- Humpback whales
- Killer whales
- Dall’s and harbour porpoises
- Pacific white-sided dolphins
- Minke whales
- Sea lions
- Bald eagles
- River otters and occasionally sea otters
- Black bears
- Rich intertidal life
We will begin our journey from northern Vancouver Island where you will meet your guides and fellow kayakers. These tours alternate traveling North to South and South to North through the islands but all tours cover the same incredible area.
Paddle through the Broughton Archipelago…
“What makes the perfect kayaking destination?” we say……. “Lots of small islands, passageways, protected water, wildlife, and a sense of remoteness.” The Broughton Archipelago has all this and more. There is no question that this is one of the world’s top kayaking destinations.
…into Johnstone Strait and the “Realm of Whales”
Some of the star attractions on this expedition are the Killer and Humpback Whales. Getting a chance to paddle in their habitat is a thrill of a lifetime. Johnstone Strait is quite simply the best place on earth to kayak with orca and humpback whales in the wild. Most of British Columbia’s 300 Northern Resident and killer whales return to these waters to feed, sleep, play, and rub their bodies on the pebble beaches of world-famous Robson Bight. The humpback population in this area is thriving and growing every year with over 97 individual humpbacks known to frequent this particular region.
Listen to the Whales
Enter the acoustic world of the orcas, as we travel with our underwater hydrophone. When we are in range of the orcas, we will be able to listen to their eerily beautiful calls and echolocating clicks from a deck-mounted speaker.
This is a true expedition style trip, which means we will move from camp to camp. If we find the perfect location we may choose to spend two nights camped at the same beautiful site, however most nights we will be at a new campsite. Relaxing on the beach in the evening is a great way to finish a day of sea kayaking. This is where new friends are made and talk of the day’s adventure unfolds.
We spend one night of our Whales & Wilderness Expedition at the Paddler’s Inn, in one of the more remote corners of the British Columbia coast. The warm hospitality of the McMorran family will ensure that our stay is both comfortable and relaxing. The perfect way to start or finish this wonderful journey. On-site massage (for an additional fee), showers, and trails for exploring round out the experience at the Paddlers Inn.
- Professional guiding service
- All kayaking equipment
(including kayaks, PFDs, paddles, pumps, ropes and sponges)
- Water taxi shuttle
- Meals (lunch day 1 to lunch day 6)
- All camping equipment including tents, Therm-a-rest sleeping pads, camp pillows, dry bags, group tarps and more
- Park and land use permits
If you are planning on bringing any of your own equipment please double-check the packing list to ensure you have the appropriate gear and please let our office know in advance of the tour to avoid us bringing duplicates.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?
Not included in the tour cost are accommodation before or after the kayaking portion of your trip:
- Flights, airport transfers, ferries, taxis
- Travel/medical insurance
- Alcoholic or carbonated beverages
- Rain gear, sleeping bags or personal items (toiletries, clothing, etc.).
- Sleeping bags and rain gear may be rented if you prefer not to travel with them (please reserve in advance; may be booked online with your trip reservation).
- Guide gratuity
Also Available for private group Reservations
If you have a large group that would like to book a the whole tour as a private group, ask us about booking out the whole trip for just you & your group.
Spirit of the West acknowledges and operates in the unceded traditional territory of the Mamalilikulla-Qwe'Qwa'Sot'Em, 'Namgis, Tlowitsis, Kwikwasut’inuxw, Nuu-chah-nulth, We Wai Kai, Homalco, Klahoose and Heiltsuk First Nations.
The 6-day Whales & Wilderness Expedition begins in Alder Bay. The details below should help give you a fuller picture of the day-to-day trip experience.
TOUR MEETING LOCATION
WHERE & WHEN: ALDER BAY RESORT & MARINA AT 11:30 AM (DAY 1)
On day 1 of your trip you will meet your water taxi driver in Alder Bay on Vancouver Island (approximately a 5.5-hour drive by car north of Victoria or 4 hours north of Nanaimo). Please arrive 15 minutes early to allow time to park, unload, and carry your luggage down to the launching spot.
WHERE & WHEN: ALDER BAY BY APPROX. 12:30 – 1 PM (DAY 6)
Return time can depend on weather and travel conditions, but is typically between 12 – 2 pm. We try our best to get you back on time for your onward travels or to explore more of what Vancouver Island has to offer.
This expedition alternates traveling North to South and South to North through the islands but both versions cover the same incredible area. It simply means that you either spend your first or last night at the Paddler’s Inn Eco-lodge or at our private campsite on Hanson Island in the Johnstone Strait.
The itinerary sample below describes the route from North to South.
Welcome to your adventure! At 11:30 am, we will transfer ourselves and equipment aboard our water taxi and journey out to the unique Paddler’s Inn Eco-lodge. Once we have arrived at the floating lodge we will meet our hosts Bruce and Josée, will get comfortable, explore the surroundings, and if time and weather permit, we will get out for our first introductory paddle after a kayak briefing from your guides before we enjoy our first dinner together.
After a delicious breakfast, we will pack our kayaks and head off on our expedition. We will spend the first day exploring the islands of the Broughton Archipelago and enjoying the stunning views and wildlife while en route to the camp for the night.
DAYS 3 TO 5
There are many options to paddle amongst the enchanting islands of the Broughton Archipelago. This region is a network of forested islands and protected passageways that offers both scenic paddling as well as intriguing history. Several beaches and campsites show evidence of those who have come before us- the First Nations people. We often visit the home of local legend, Billy Proctor, and his collection of historical west coast treasures. Spending time listening to Billy’s stories is a great way to get a sense of what life on the west coast was like and how it is changing. Each day we will keep our eyes and ears open for the marine mammals that frequent the area, including orcas, humpbacks, minke whales, dolphins, and porpoises
For our lunch breaks, we will enjoy picnics on various beaches. These breaks will also give us the opportunity to stretch our legs, discover the creatures that live in the intertidal zone, and explore the lush coastal rainforests with old-growth cedar trees.
We will stay at some of the most stunning wilderness campsites in the region. Enjoy locally-inspired dinners on the beaches, sitting around bonfires sharing the highlights of your day with your crew, before crawling into your tent for a cozy night under the stars.
This is our last day to enjoy the marine environment of the Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago. On the previous day we will paddle to Spirit of the West Adventures’ private campsite on Hanson Island to spend our last night under the stars. We will paddle back to our landing cove and we will take a short van shuttle back to Alder Bay for 12 – 2 pm.
*The South to North route will start with a short van shuttle from Alder Bay to our launch location on the first day. The last day will end with a water taxi ride from Paddlers Inn to Alder Bay.
Below is a list of commonly asked questions.
If you have any further questions or concerns please do not hesitate to call us.
+ WHAT MAKES OUR WHALES & WILDERNESS EXPEDITION SPECIAL?
Our 6-day Whales & Wilderness Expedition is one of the most popular tours we offer. We like to think it has something for every paddler: from a diverse paddling route boasting dotted island chains and sheltered bays ripe for exploring throughout the Broughton Archipelago to more of the open waters of the Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound. Both of these areas are well-known for a variety of rich and diverse wildlife ranging from seabirds, eagles, and bears to dolphins, porpoises, orcas and humpbacks. A one-way water taxi into the islands provides the opportunity to explore more of the area with no backtracking needed. This expedition starts or ends with a one-night stay at a floating eco-lodge nestled deep in the heart of the archipelago for an especially unforgettable coastal experience.
+ WHAT SORT OF CAMPSITES ARE THROUGHOUT THE BROUGHTON ARCHIPELAGO AND JOHNSTONE STRAIT AREAS?
The Broughton Archipelago Marine Park is the largest marine park in British Columbia. The campsites in this area are spread throughout a collection of undeveloped islands and islets near the mouth of Knight Inlet off of northern Vancouver Island. In the larger waterways of Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound further south, the stunning landscapes continue to impress with views as far as the eye can see. These more open areas are where the larger marine mammals such as humpback and orca are more frequently seen.
When travelling through these areas, we seek out sites in secluded bays, rocky bluffs, or forest clearings. While we always aim to find sites that provide a feeling of solitude, there may be times (on occasion) when we encounter other paddlers throughout the expedition. Campsites will be chosen by our guides based on considerations such as weather and sea state forecasts, group size, and route options.
On this particular tour, our first or last night (depending on which direction your tour travels) will be spent at the Paddler’s Inn, a rustic floating kayak lodge deep in the Broughton Archipelago.
+ WHAT IS THE PADDLERS INN LIKE? DOES IT HAVE ANY AMENITIES?
The Paddlers Inn is a rustic eco-lodge nestled in Simoom Sound on the shorelines of Gilford Island between Vancouver Island and mainland BC. It was started by a local duo named Bruce and Josee McMorran and has been stewarded by them since 1990. Set against a spectacular backdrop of towering bluffs and tranquil water, it is the perfect place to begin or end your adventure with us. Comprised of a handful of floating buildings repurposed from old logging camps in the area, it provides a welcoming atmosphere with access to a central kitchen area within the main lodge, comfortable rooms, hot showers, a sauna, and a covered outdoor lounge area.
+ WHAT SORT OF EXPERIENCE IS NEEDED FOR THIS EXPEDITION? HOW FAR DO WE PADDLE EACH DAY?
Our Whales & Wilderness Expedition can be suitable for paddlers of all skill levels and outdoor experience. This 6-day tour is one of the longer trips we offer and we recommend at the very least being comfortable in a wilderness environment and having a strong sense of adventure! Your guides will always ensure you are provided with clear direction, paddling techniques, and all sorts of tips to help you get the most out of your trip with us.
Distance covered and time spent paddling will vary depending on each particular trip, group size, weather forecasts, sea conditions, and our intended destination each day. We always establish a pace that is pleasant and feasible for all with ample breaks to stretch our legs and explore the area. Generally, we cover a distance of 4-6 hours a day on our expedition-style tours, not including meals and stretch breaks. The first and last days of a tour involves less time on the water due to water taxi travel and tour introduction/orientation.
+ WILL WE BE ABLE TO SHOWER ANYWHERE? WHAT IS THE BATHROOM PROCESS LIKE OUTDOORS?
During your one-night stay at the Paddlers’ Inn, you will have access to hot showers and flushing toilets.
Throughout the rest of the expedition, there is limited freshwater accessible in the areas we travel through. Many guests find wet wipes to be a great alternative for personal hygiene. If you would like to freshen up, salt water is also perfectly fine to use. To keep our impacts to a minimum, we ask that you please only bring environmentally friendly and biodegradable soaps and shampoo.
Bathroom facilities are not common in most wilderness areas, although some sites do have pit toilets. We also carry a portable toilet system that we typically rely on in most cases.
We understand that not everyone is aware of wilderness toilet etiquette and are here to help. Your guides will always designate a spot that is ideal for ensuring everyone’s privacy. We are very familiar with making sure guests feel comfortable and informed – please feel free to ask us any questions you might have, before or during your tour.
+ WHERE DOES THIS TOUR BEGIN?
Tour meeting location: Alder Bay Resort & Marina at 11:30 am (Day 1)
On day 1 of your trip you will meet your guide team in Alder Bay on Vancouver Island (approximately a 5.5-hour drive by car north of Victoria or 4 hours north of Nanaimo). Depending on which direction your tour date travels, you will either hop on a water taxi up to Paddlers’ Inn or paddle out of Bauza Cove (our guides will provide a shuttle to the launch point from Alder Bay). Please arrive in Alder Bay 15 minutes early to allow time to unload, carry your luggage down to the dock, and arrange parking (if necessary) to leave your vehicle for the duration of your tour.
+ MORE FAQS
Head to our main FAQ page for more Frequently Asked Questions.
We're proud of our great reviews - but don't just take our word for it, see what people are saying over on Trip Advisor. View Reviews
“The experience was amazing. The guides provided gentle and encouraging instruction and guidance. They were able to gauge the abilities of the group and provide an experience that pushed us beyond what we thought we could do.”
"Mentally, I will be unpacking this trip for months to come. Seeing and hearing numerous humpback whale surface. Playing in the bioluminescences at paddlers Inn dock. Exploring the intertidal zone, complete with squirting clams! Black bear, mink, seals and coastal birds! But it was your guides, PJ and Kevin, that made this trip an exceptional experience.”
Kristy B. Howe
“This trip exceeded all my expectations and boosted my confidence in my capabilities immensely. It has opened up a whole new world for me. Changed my Life.”
"The trip was perfect, beyond all expectations more enjoyable than anything else I have
ever done before..."
"Thank you for such an incredible adventure. The guides were perfect, the food, the whales and more whales. First class from start to finish. See you again next summer..."
John and Rita Parker
"We just got back from our Vancouver Island vacation and we just had to write you. The trip we took with you on August 14-18 was the highlight of our honeymoon. Everything was just perfect, and thanks for the little gift you gave us, a very nice touch. Say hi to Rick and Breanne for us."
Lynne and Alan Fosberg
"The guides were all very knowledgable and good at making us feel comfortable in our kayaks. Scott had a great sense of humour."
"Very knowledgable naturalists, great concern for safety, Bre was fun to be with and the guys were good sports on this all female trip."
"Outstanding, great cooks, fun to be with, very personable."
"Toni and Gen are excellent guides with the sweetest dispositions imaginable. I thoroughly enjoyed the other members of the group and of course the incredible scenery and wildlife. Trip of a lifetime!"
"Extremely professional + knowledgeable staff with terrific sense of humour who lead fascinating + educational tours."
"Food was excellent, very wholesome. I don't eat that well at home. The banana bread is the best ever!!"
"Excellent, amazing what they fed us in the wild... Loved the grape leaves."
"Thank you for a very memorable experience. Also especially appreciated the great care taken for my special diet."
Our online booking system allows you easy access for booking your tour with Spirit of the West Adventures, any time of day.
Before finalizing your reservation, please carefully read over our Terms & Conditions, as these terms will apply to your booking. We also highly recommend that you look into Travel Insurance options to protect your travels before booking your tour as some types of insurance (such as Cancel for Any Reason insurance) can only be accessed within a limited period of time after paying for any portion of your tour.
If you think that you would like to book a trip, but need time to look into other travel arrangements, please contact our office and we will place a temporary hold on your spaces. We also offer real humans to speak with if that’s your preference, so feel free to call our office at 1-800-307-3982 (from within Canada and the U.S) or 1-250-285-2121 (from overseas). We can be reached by email at [email protected]. If, for any reason, you are having trouble booking your trip, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are always happy to help!
We are happy to accommodate many dietary restrictions. However, dietary restrictions add additional complexity and costs to preparing for your tour. Please see below for some of the dietary restrictions we can accommodate and the associated costs for substitutions.
- $75 fee: gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, and vegan (please add by pressing the blue + beside “Dietary Accommodation” when booking)
- No additional cost: vegetarian, no red meat, no pork, no fish, no seafood
If you have dietary restrictions or allergies not listed above, please contact us at [email protected] to discuss if we are able to accommodate your needs and any additional charges. We take great pride and pleasure in serving you the best food we can for your adventure!