Paddling a Warm Water Paradise
Everyone, focus on scenery and relaxed pace
* Kayaking trips & tours are priced and charged in Canadian dollars and are subject to 5% GST and $20 / person environmental sustainability fee. Please see our Terms and Conditions for complete terms. To check live availability on any trip, click the Book Now tab and select a trip date.
KAYAKING & ADVENTURING IN A PADDLERS’ PARADISE
Desolation Sound Marine Park is a world-class sea kayaking destination. Enjoy the warmest waters north of Baja, nestled beneath the towering mountains of the BC Coast Mountain range for a truly awe-inspiring adventure. The area provides great kayaking among protected islands and bays and opportunities for freshwater swimming. A few walks and hikes can be included in the trip, depending on your interests. Desolation Sound is a great place to simply relax and immerse yourself in the best that BC coast has to offer. This tour is suitable for all experience levels.
Nestled between the Canadian mainland and Vancouver Island, Desolation Sound offers sheltered conditions and diverse paddling options, along with spectacular camping locations. The rugged mountain terrain has kept this part of the coastline free of road access: making kayaks the perfect way to visit this majestic and unspoiled area. We enjoy views of soaring peaks and dramatic cliffs that fall away into the ocean. This region is ripe for exploring, providing an intricate web of river mouths, inlets and small islands.
Our days will be filled with circumnavigating these idyllic islands, exploring the deep-water inlets created by glaciers, exploring the intertidal life in the warm shallow bays, stretching our legs to reach some beautiful viewpoints overlooking the area and swimming in freshwater lakes. While most of the paddling takes place in relatively sheltered waters, we do also experience a few more exposed and open water crossings. Your guides will provide training and assistance to ensure everyone is safe and comfortable. Please also be aware that the shorelines in Desolation Sound plunge steeply into the ocean. Landings can be small, rocky and uneven underfoot. Some boat carries are steep and some landings require you to move quickly. Your guides will assist where they can, but good mobility is required for this tour.
Our adventure begins from Squirrel Cove on Cortes Island. A short 40-minute ferry ride from Quadra Island and a 10-minute drive across Cortes Island brings you to Squirrel Cove, where we begin our adventure via kayak. This tour is an out and back expedition style trip where we begin and end the paddling portion of our trip in Squirrel Cove. From here we journey out to the islands where we will camp for the trip’s duration. Although this tour is a true expedition style trip, packing everything we need into our kayaks and changing campsites, it also offers the option of staying at one centrally located site for multiple nights and enjoying day paddles from there.
Camping & Dining
We paddle from campsite to campsite, setting up our tents on small islands and majestic bluffs overlooking bays, small beaches and secluded coves in the heart of Desolation Sound. The lush temperate rainforest that stretches down the mountainsides to the coast, offers trails winding through the unspoiled wilderness. Visit old-growth trees and stretch your legs after a day in the kayak. The long summer days and Mediterranean like climate make it inviting to take a refreshing swim in one of the many fresh-water lakes or the warm ocean water- there are no shortage of beautiful locations to dive right in.
Your guides take care of your safety and wellbeing for the duration of the trip. These multi-talented wilderness guides prepare 3 fresh and wholesome meals each day. The first night includes a wild fish dinner which we source from a Quadra Island fisher family. We take pride in having happy campers with full bellies. Our wonderful team ensures all dietary needs and restrictions are met, and provide creative culinary alternatives that will please vegetarians, vegans, gluten and wheat-free diets, and those with various allergies and food sensitivities.
Crawl into your tent after watching stunningly beautiful sunsets, falling asleep to the sound of gentle waves crashing onto the rocky beaches.
Other activities include hiking, kayaking skills development, shellfish harvesting, and lots of opportunities to swim in the nearby lakes as well as the warmest ocean waters north of Mexico.
INTERTIDAL LIFE & ANIMALS
Discover and learn all about the awe-inspiring intertidal world. Every 6 hours the tide uncovers a fascinating variety of marine plants and animals such as colonies of big and small starfish, sea urchins, colorful sea anemones and much more.
We are often fortunate to view marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, river otters, the occasional sea otter, deer, black bears. While not seen on every tour, we do sometimes also have the privilege of watching humpback whales and or orca whales who enjoy the abundance of plankton and food sources that live in these rich waters year-round. There is also incredibly rich birdlife include many different types of sea birds as well as the majestic North American bald eagle.
Your professional guides have extensive training & experience in sea kayaking and in sharing the natural and cultural history of the area. Our groups are small with maximum 10 guests and 2 guides, and our tours all-inclusive. We provide everything you need for the adventure! Join us for a once in a lifetime kayaking adventure.
- Professional guiding service
- All kayaking equipment
(including kayaks, PFDs, paddles, pumps, ropes and sponges)
- All meals and snacks from lunch on day 1 to lunch on day 5
- Non-alcoholic beverages (coffee, teas, juices, water)
- Camping equipment including tents, camp pillows, Therma-rest sleeping pads, 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*
- Personal items (toiletries, clothing, etc.)
- Guide gratuity
*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).
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 Desolation Sound tour launches from the east side of our neighbouring Cortes Island. The details below should help give you a fuller picture of the day-to-day trip experience.
TOUR MEETING LOCATION
WHERE & WHEN: QUADRA ISLAND, 7:30 AM OR Cortes island, 10:15 AM (day 1)
You can meet either on Quadra Island or on Cortes Island at the Squirrel Cove Store & boat launch. If meeting us on Cortes Island, please call our office to let us know.
Spirit of the West Adventures is based on Quadra Island (a 10-minute ferry ride from Campbell River) and this is where our tour starts. We highly recommend making Quadra Island a part of your vacation plans. Our beautiful island has a whole different and laid back feel to it, complete with endless opportunities for outdoor activities, beaches to relax, amazing accommodations and great local artisans.
WHERE & WHEN: Quadra Island, Between 3-5 PM (DAY 5)
Return time can depend on weather and travel conditions and what ferry we will catch from Cortes to Quadra. We try our best to get you back on time for your onward travels or to explore more of what Quadra and Vancouver Island has to offer.
Please let us know if you will be meeting us on Quadra Island or Cortes Island. For those meeting on Quadra, we will catch the 8:45 am ferry to Cortes Island (45-minute ride) and then travel to our launch site at Squirrel Cove. After packing our kayaks we will spend some time reviewing kayaking skills and tips for comfort and of course safety procedures before our journey begins. Our route takes us on a paddle towards the fjords of Desolation Sound, providing us with a stunning mountain backdrop. There are a number of beautiful sites within an afternoon’s paddle. Keep your eyes open for harbour seals or Dall’s porpoises along the way!
Savour our first hearty breakfast in the great outdoors before we pack up and head off on today’s adventure. We continue on into the enchanting islands, kayaking Desolation Sound where we take our time exploring as we head towards our desired camping site for the evening.
DAYS 3 & 4
These days may entail paddling through the scattered islands, interpretive forest walks, swimming in freshwater lakes, practicing some on-water skills, or simply lounging at our island campsites.
We will journey back to Cortes Island along the rugged shores of West Redonda Island. A visit to Refuge Cove or the lovely protected lagoon of Squirrel Cove will be our last stop of our 5-day kayak journey.
Our approximate return time to Quadra Island is between 3-5 pm, however, due to the number of variables in wilderness travel we recommend that you plan to stay in the area for this night to avoid unnecessarily stressful complications should our return be delayed by something out of our control. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss your travel plans in more detail.
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 DESOLATION SOUND EXPEDITION SPECIAL?
The 5-day Desolation Sound tour is our most relaxed expedition-style tour in terms of the distance covered and conditions encountered.* The area typically offers calm and sheltered paddling conditions with the exception of a few small crossings between islands. This tour also often incorporates other activities, such as hiking and swimming at nearby lakes. Enjoy sweeping views of the remarkable Coast Mountain range as you paddle amongst scattered islands and dramatic shorelines.
An added perk: this region is known for having some of the warmest waters north of Baja in the Pacific.
*Most of the shorelines on this tour are rocky and occasionally steep, so good mobility is necessary for landings and boat carries. Guests should be able to navigate slippery and sharp, rocky beaches without assistance, able to lift/carry personal items and walk up occasional short, steep beaches to our tent sites.
+ WHAT ARE THE CAMPSITES LIKE IN DESOLATION SOUND MARINE PROVINCIAL PARK?
All of our sites are in wilderness settings and our shelter each night is provided by the tents and tarps we carry with us on expedition tours. The sites in Desolation Sound most often have wooden platforms in the forest or on grassy bluffs overlooking the ocean. There may be times (on occasion) when we are camping next to another group of kayakers. Campsite choice will be based on group size, route options, and weather conditions.
The shorelines in Desolation Sound plunge steeply into the ocean. There are very few ‘proper’ beaches – landings are small, rocky and uneven underfoot. Some boat carries are steep and some landings require you to move quickly. Your guides will assist where they can, but good mobility is required. These rocky beaches are also often covered in sharp mussels and oysters. We highly recommend protective closed-toe footwear such as water shoes, Keen-style sandals or crocs for paddling shoes on this tour.
+ HOW MUCH EXPERIENCE IS NEEDED FOR THIS EXPEDITION? WHAT SORT OF DISTANCE IS COVERED EACH DAY?
In Desolation Sound, we tend to paddle at a relaxed pace. The water here is much warmer due to reduced tidal flow with the open ocean. Between the warm ocean and several freshwater lakes that are a short walk from the ocean’s edge, we usually get in some good swimming. We carry all our gear and food in the kayaks, but will often spend a couple of days at the same campsite so we don’t have to take down tents and pack the kayak every day. One key aspect to note is that the landings and boat carries on this tour can be tricky due to the nature of the rocky shorelines – good mobility is necessary. Guests should be able to navigate slippery and sharp, rocky beaches without assistance, able to lift/carry personal items and walk up occasional short, steep beaches to our tent sites.
The Desolation Sound area offers a great deal of flexibility in terms of route, distance covered, campsites and daily activities. We try to get a sense of what the desires of the group are and plan our route based on the group’s needs. We always paddle at a pace dictated by the group and take lots of breaks to stretch and explore the shoreline.
+ WHERE DO WE WASH AND WILL I HAVE ACCESS TO TOILETS?
Our Desolation Sound expedition is our only trip where there is fairly reliable access to freshwater lakes and swimming spots. Therefore, there is the occasional opportunity for washing up in these spots. Otherwise, salt water works just fine! We ask that you use environmentally-conscious and biodegradable shampoos and soap.
Because much of Desolation Sound is a well-trafficked designated marine park, there are pit toilets at most of the campsites. We also carry a portable toilet system as a backup for group use. Your guides will always designate an area that works best for ensuring your privacy. We are very accustomed to making sure all of our guests feel comfortable and informed – please feel free to ask us any questions you might have, before or during your tour.
+ WHAT SORT OF WILDLIFE CAN I EXPECT TO SEE IN DESOLATION SOUND?
Our tours in Desolation Sound do not regularly encounter orca or humpbacks, although sightings do happen from time to time. It is known for being an incredibly rich and diverse area – sightings of dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, bears, deer and many bird species are common and always special to experience.
We like to be upfront about wildlife and potential sightings as all wildlife is just that— wild. We choose our direction of travel carefully, monitor wildlife activity on our VHF radios, and plan our days accordingly to try and maximize sightings of all wildlife varieties. We do our best to allow the group a chance to encounter these amazing creatures in their natural habitat, however, we cannot predict specifically where they will be at any given time.
+ WHERE DO WE MEET ON DAY 1?
Tour meeting location: Quadra Island, 7:30 am or Cortes Island, 10:15 am (Day 1)
You can meet either on Quadra Island or on Cortes Island at the Squirrel Cove Store & boat launch. If meeting us on Cortes Island, please let our office know.
Spirit of the West Adventures is based on Quadra Island (a 10-minute ferry ride from Campbell River) and this is where our tour starts. Free parking will be available at our office on Quadra for your vehicle while on tour with us. Many of the accommodations on Quadra Island also have free parking included with your stay. Parking is also available at Squirrel Cove for a daily fee.
We highly recommend making Quadra Island a part of your vacation plans. Our beautiful island has a whole different and laid-back feel to it, complete with endless opportunities for outdoor activities, beaches to relax, amazing accommodations and great local artisans.
+ 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 trip was well paced - good paddling distances and great lunch spots and camp spots. Our guides were amazing - they were so patient with us all - never rushing everyone - they both brought great energy to the group. The food was fantastic - I was amazed at the meals and found the food delicious - good quality - always enough for everyone. Would highly recommend the trip and Spirit of the West to everyone!”
“Great tour, loved the flexibility and terrain covered. Guides were patient and knowledgeable and listened to our needs. Amazing food. Awesome times!”
“So much unique and breathtaking scenic spots tucked away under the mountain backdrop. Gorgeous. In all, a challenging and rewarding experience in such a magnificent location. It built my confidence.”
"Unbelievable how much time I spent smiling on this trip. I found myself smiling one time, even when I was having a very serious conversation with a fellow kayaker - I just couldn't help it, I was in such a beautiful place."
"I was convinced to go on this trip by my children. After going on this tour I feel like I'm 10 years younger: I'm reenergized after what feels like a long hibernation. Thank you."
"It was great! Wonderful time with my son."
"I'm an English teacher and for the first time in a very long time I couldn't think of any words to describe what I was seeing. It was that spectacular. Thank you for putting together such an excellent team. I had an extraordinary experience."
"I felt like I was doing something that I'd wanted to do for years but didn't know how to go about doing. With the Spirit of the West guides, Rick and Amy made me feel like these were the people I'd been waiting to get me out kayaking. They were exceptional."
"Your guides are a wealth of knowledge. Not only knowledgeable about the area or the flora and fauna, but about the needs of the group, namely having fun. Sometimes I would scan the whole group and realize everyone was having a good time. That is a compliment to your team."
Bill and Helen Robertson
"It is obvious that every one at Spirit of the West works hard to provide clients with an outstanding experience."
"I felt safe and happy. The guides were like the people I asked to go to parties when I'm too shy to go by myself. They came in and just took total care that I was enjoying myself and feeling comfortable. They were very generous with their energy."
"I think I might start a guide fund for all of my grandchildren. I want them to learn to do the kind of job that your guides did. Breanne and Luke were exceptionally skilled and I am considering living vicariously through them. Their enjoyment of their job was contagious and it energized the whole group. Congratulations on finding such great leaders."
"Superb, and always surprising. We'd heard about the food, but it was even better than we expected."
Alex Layard & Seb Powers
"I ate far better on this trip than I do at home!"
"I ate good wholesome food and always felt healthy which was what I needed after being so rushed in Toronto and always eating fast food on the go. Thank you for taking such good care of me. I have been rejuvenated."
"I came with my teenage son. This was some much needed bonding time. I had never thought of whether he would eat the food, and when I saw the guides preparing the food I thought, oh no, what if he doesn't like it? He ate like it was Christmas dinner and he was happy. I felt instantly like I was having the best holiday. The energy that you put into the food was very much appreciated."
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, 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!