A west coast guide favourite
6 Days / 5 Nights
West Coast Vancouver Island
Everyone, focus on beaches and sea otters
* Kayaking trips & tours are priced and charged in Canadian dollars; prices in other currencies can be estimated by clicking here. Prices are subject to 5% GST and optional $20 sustainability fee. Please see our terms and conditions for full payment and fees information.
What makes this tour so special?
If you crave adventure, and a desire to kayak and explore an area that few ever get to, then this west coast sea kayaking expedition is for you. Our expert guides know the area, the currents, winds, and of course the best camping and sunset spots! Together with your group, you will see sites and visit places that are outside the realm of the modern world, and accessible to only a select few. The dramatic seascape of the wild northwest coast of Vancouver Island provides the setting for one of the finest sea kayaking destinations in Canada, Nuchatlitz Marine Park. The area is sheltered from the open ocean by small and enchanting islands. This string of islets gives the adventurous kayaker an opportunity to experience the rugged coast while paddling in relatively protected waters.
This remote area is one of the few places where you can escape the crowds. Getting out to the park can be difficult for the solo paddler or independent group as the distance is far from the launch site and and headwinds are often encountered deeper in the inlets. To avoid this long and arduous paddle, Spirit of the West Adventures will transport you by water taxi to and from this prime kayaking destination. Once there we will establish our first night’s camp on a secluded beach among old growth forests. Each day we will explore the numerous islands and beaches, marvel at the natural rock formations like sea caves and towering rock pinnacles, and reflect on the rich west coast First Nations culture.
The Nuchatlitz is home to one of the largest sea otter populations on the west coast of North America. Once hunted to extinction in this area, the sea otter was reintroduced in the late 1960’s and now thrives. Their extinction caused considerable upheaval in the natural world, however with their return the area is returning to ecological health once again.
west coast Sunsets
The sunsets on the West Coast of Vancouver Island are simply stunning. Watch as the sun sinks over the horizon to the west and beautiful colours illuminate the skies. Most of the campsites on the Nuchatlitz tour offer west facing beaches where you can enjoy these amazing spectacles.
Most sea kayaking areas on the Inside Passage, between Vancouver Island and the mainland, have landing areas that range from rock to pebbles or gravel due to the lack of consistent wave action. Here on the outer coast we are treated to numerous beaches where you can walk barefoot and really get the sand between your toes.
Our adventure begins from Quadra Island or Campbell River as we journey two hours west along the scenic highway 28 to the town of Tahsis on the west coast of Vancouver Island. From here we jump aboard our water taxi and head into the heart of the Nuchatlitz Provincial Marine Park. En route, we take in the mountainous coastal landscape and keep our eyes peeled for wildlife as we pass by historic village sites. In the park, we have six days to explore. Our itinerary is quite flexible and the route will be mostly dictated by wildlife viewing opportunities, tide heights, wind direction/speed, and wave conditions. Our guides will base campsite choices on scenic qualities, availability, and of course, group preferences.
Sea Stacks & Caves
Formed by time, wind, and water, stacks are formed when part of a headland is eroded by hydraulic action. The force of the water weakens cracks in the headland and causes them to collapse, forming free-standing stacks and small islands. These formations, along with the numerous sea caves in the area, make for some of the most picturesque and interesting paddling on the coast.
- Professional guiding service
- All kayaking equipment (including kayaks, PFDs, paddles, pumps, ropes and sponges)
- Meals (lunch day 1 to lunch day 6)
- Cooking equipment
- Camping equipment including tents and Therma-rest sleeping pads
- Water taxi service
- 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).
The Nuchatlitz tour launches from the town of Tahsis on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. The Spirit of the West van will depart Quadra Island and Campbell River on the morning of the tour and drive the 3 hours to Tahsis. You are welcome to travel in the van with us and we will arrange for your pick up from your accommodation on Quadra Island at the pre-trip meeting.
WHEN: Day Prior at 6pm, WHere: Heriot Bay Inn on Quadra island
This meeting gives us a chance to answer any questions you may have and for you to meet your guides and fellow kayakers. Your guides will go over the logistics of the tour and answer any concerns you may have. If you cannot make it to the meeting just be sure to call in the day before departure to confirm your arrival. This allows us to confirm the exact departure time and location, or to alert you if there are have been any last minute changes.
WHEN: DAY 1, WHERE: Quadra island at 7am, Campbell River at 8.20am or Thasis at 11am
You can meet either on Quadra Island, in Campbell River or in Thasis. If meeting in Campbell River or Thasis, 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.
We will pick you up from your accommodation on Quadra Island (if arranged at the pre-trip meeting) or meet in the Heriot Bay Inn parking lot on Quadra Island at 7am. We will pack up the van and head off on our drive, picking up those meeting us in Campbell River before heading on to Tahsis to meet our water taxi. Once we arrive in Tahsis (approx. 11:00am), a scenic journey by water taxi takes us out to the west coast paradise of the Nuchatlitz Marine Park. Here we will set up our camp and enjoy the evening’s beauty.
DAY 2 to 5
After waking up in one of the most beautiful places on earth, we will begin our day with a hearty breakfast before we break camp. On the Nuchatlitz tour there is no set itinerary. Instead, our route will depend on weather conditions and the group’s desires. Our days will be spent exploring the picturesque islands, lagoons, sea caves hidden behind cascading waterfalls and beaches. We will also take some time out for beachcombing, or simply lounging and absorbing the magnificent surroundings. If we are fortunate we will end our day with a famous west coast sunset. Campsites are plentiful and scenically situated on either sand or pebble beaches, grassy knolls or beneath the canopy of ancient rain forests.
This is our last day to enjoy the marine environment of the west coast. After our morning paddle and lunch, our boat transport will take us back to Tahsis.
Our approximate return time to Quadra Island is between 6-8pm, 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 is included? What do I need to bring?
There are no additional costs once on our tour. On our guided tours we supply everything that you will need for kayaking and camping except for a few personal items such as a sleeping bag and rain gear (these can be rented if needed), your clothes and toiletries. We are happy to pick you up free of charge from your accommodation on Quadra Island on the morning the trip starts and we will drop you off there when the tour is finished. All other transportation, food, gear, etc, while on trip is included in the cost of the tour. Once the tour begins we provide all meals and non-alcoholic beverages (wide selection of teas, coffee, juices, hot chocolate) from morning snack on day one to lunch on the last day. You are welcome to bring your favourite wine, beer or pop, but this is not included in the tour price. There is a grocery and liquor store very close to the location of the pre-trip meeting if you would like to pick up extra beverages on the evening before the tour.
How much kayaking experience is required to join this trip?
No experience is required for this kayak tour! Our adventure is for everyone. Our trips are designed to cater to all levels of experience and abilities. The majority of people who join our tours are first time kayakers. All that we ask is that you welcome adventure with an open mind and are able to laugh and have fun when encountering the unexpected.
Do I need to be in great shape for this trip?
No. Our adventures are not considered to be overly strenuous or physically demanding, and we do not require a high level of fitness. We just ask that you are capable of a few hours of moderate exercise each day. Keep in mind that good general health will go a long way if we happen to encounter some strong winds or time restrictions. Most important is an adventurous spirit.
Are there any age requirements?
Spirit of the West Adventures caters to all ages of adventurers. Although we do prefer a minimum of 12 years for our multi-day tours, we like to assess each case individually. Those concerned with being in ‘their older years’ are welcomed to contact us to discuss their physical abilities.
How much paddling is generally done in a day?
Paddling time will vary depending on our destination and the group’s abilities and desires. Generally we travel between 3-5 hours a day, not including stretch or lunch breaks.
How stable are the kayaks? What is the likelihood of flipping over?
The kayaks we use on our tours are stable and designed for comfort. For those a little concerned, the double kayaks are slightly more stable than the singles. The likelihood of a capsize is minimal, and generally only occurs in an uncommon situation.
What happens if my kayak flips over?
If for some reason your kayak flips over, all of our guides have ample practice time on the water with rescue procedures, in order to quickly and efficiently get you back in your boat. At this point we will take you to the nearest shore to change into some warm cozy clothing and carry on with our journey. While we are out on the water, it is of the utmost importance that the group sticks together in the event of capsize or change of route plan.
What if the weather turns bad? Will I be comfortable and warm?
Our weather in the Pacific Northwest is generally pleasant from May through until the end of September. The temperature will vary slightly depending on which area you visit. In the Nuchatlitz area we generally experience milder temperatures than in Johnstone Strait. Fog is common in the summer on the outer coast, and may come and go through the day. Although it is uncommon, it can rain in the summer. A good rule of thumb is to be prepared for any type of weather and you will stay comfortable. Layering is the key, and it allows you to put on or take off layers while on the water if you need to.
What sort of wildlife might we see on the tour?
The diversity and abundance of wildlife in the Pacific Northwest is one of our privileges. With river run-off from the mountains, ocean currents, tiderips, eddies and upwelling these waters are among the most productive on earth. In the sea this includes the rich marine life of colourful plants and invertebrates, seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, mink, sea and river otters, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and (if we are lucky) whales. There are also land animals including deer, raccoons, cougars, wolves and bears. For those with an eye for eagles take note that they are most prominent in the earlier months before the salmon migration in the late summer/early fall.
What is the camp set up like?
All of our campsites are in wilderness settings. We seek out sites with beautiful surroundings and those that offer solitude. There may be times (on occasion) when we are camping next to another group of kayakers. Where possible we choose camps near freshwater streams. The campsites in the Nuchatlitz are varied in kind but not in natural, spectacular beauty. From wide, sandy beaches to grassy knolls, each site will be a new experience.
Where do we wash? Are there toilets?
Fresh water is limited in this area, so seawater is your best bet for washing up. Please use biodegradable, environmentally friendly soap brands. We carry a portable toilet system and your guide will generally designate an area or system that works for ensuring your privacy. We are very accustomed to making sure all of our guests feel as comfortable and informed as possible in this regard – please feel free to ask us any questions you might have, before or during your tour.
Where can I leave luggage that I won’t need on trip?
If you are staying on Quadra Island, many of the B&Bs offer free luggage storage – simply check with your host. Alternatively, guests staying on Quadra Island have the option of storing excess luggage at our office. Please ensure that your luggage is clearly labelled with your name, tour and trip date, and leave it with us on the first day of your tour for return to our office.
Where can I leave my vehicle while on tour?
Free parking will be available 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 in Tahsis for a daily fee. Parking details will be discussed further at the pre-trip meeting.
If I would like to tip the guides, what is the industry standard?
If you would like to express your appreciation to the guides through a gratuity, such recognition would be enthusiastically received. The industry standard for tipping is approx. 10% per person of the trip cost. All tips received will be collected and disbursed amongst your guides & basecrew by the trip leader.
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
"We have been on six camping kayaking tours and this rates as one of the best. The scenery and wildlife in the Nuchatlitz area are wonderful."
Lin and Brian Weich
"I had a great time and a wonderful experience. I am 100% satisfied."
"Better than we could have imagined. The scenery was breathtaking, the guides were fun, the food was amazing... a 10."
Beth and Simon Mielniczuk
"This was my second trip with Spirit of the West : Fantastic just as the first one. Hard to improve a very good formula."
"A beautiful area and most wonderful wildlife. (AKA. a humpback whale up live and close)."
"I came back happy and relaxed. Any holiday that can do that is tops........beautiful area, wildlife was superb a real highlight."
"Our guide Jason was excellent as lead guide. Very easy with group but was directive when necessary."
Sally and Gary Allen
"Scott was an excellent guide,
very competent safety conscious
Jacqui and Andrew Hakes
"Over the top! Better food than in most restaurants. Jolie's table decorations were great. Even baked a cake on the last night. WOW!!"
John and Nancy Nixon
"The food was a 10+++ very impressive both in quality and quantity. (Salmon on the first night was awesome!)"
Beth and Simon Mielniczuil
"Lots and Lots and Lots of food! Watching the guides make a chocolate layered cake on the campfire was impressive."
On the Nuchatlitz Expedition we will be packing everything into our kayaks each day in order to travel to our next campsite. While space is limited, please ensure you bring enough to stay warm and dry. The following is a list of suggested items that should keep you a happy camper. The key is to pack into small compact bags which we will provide. We will also provide some tips and tricks for packing when you arrive.
Sea kayaks are oddly-shaped vessels to pack, so the key is to pack into the small compact bags which we provide. (The video to the right also provides some practical, and humorous, tips and tricks you might appreciate). Sea kayaks are basically watertight, although small amounts of water may get in through the rudder lines and hatches. In the event of rain or dropping gear in the water we try to keep things as waterproof as possible. We provide you with waterproof storage bags also known as ‘dry bags’ (these will be given to you at the pre-tour meeting or the following morning if you are unable to attend).
If you prefer to bring your own dry bags, please note the largest bag should not be larger than a sleeping bag or 20 litres; several small bags are best. We will provide one 5 litre, two 10 litre and one 20 litre dry bags for you to pack into. Additional bags may be available depending on space in the kayaks. The 5 litre bag is good for storing small items such as cameras, sunscreen, glasses, etc. The larger ones will be used for storing the rest of your clothing. Please see our suggestions for waterproofing your sleeping bag. Shoes can generally be packed loose in the kayak. All participants will also pack some of the group gear and food in their kayak. Don’t worry, it always looks like an impossible mountain of stuff to fit in the kayaks, but with some perseverance and coaching from your guides we always manage to fit everything.
Please note that our summer temperatures from July until September are generally quite comfortable with temperatures from 18-30 degrees Celsius / 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s not uncommon to find mid day summers hot enough to want to cool off in the ocean! June and later September will have cooler temperatures, and at ANY TIME OF YEAR we can have rain & wind, with temperatures occasionally as low as 13 C / 55 F. So, we say it is best to come prepared for any type of weather.
PLEASE NOTE WHAT WE PROVIDE:
– ALL KAYAKS & SAFETY GEAR
– TENT & SLEEPING PADS
– DRY BAGS
– SMALL CAMP PILLOW
If you have your own gear and would prefer to use it on your tour, please bring it to the pre-trip meeting so that we can make sure it is suitable and meets safety requirements. The following is a list of suggested items to bring along. If you have any concerns or questions about the list, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
- Sleeping bag – A 3-season synthetic bag is recommended. Down bags will work but please take extra care to waterproof. If you are uncertain about whether or not you have the appropriate bag just give us a call or check with your local outdoor store. If you do not have a sleeping bag or would prefer not to travel with one, these may be rented for $25 plus tax. Please reserve in advance. To waterproof your sleeping bag, line a compression sack with a heavy duty garbage bag. Press the air out of the bag with your knee and then keep it compact with the compression sac (may be purchased at any outdoor shop). This also helps keep your bag small for travel.
- Wetshoes – A pair that can get wet such as sturdy full strapped sandals (such as Keens, Tevas or Chacos), neoprene booties, crocs, or rubber boots. Please avoid flip-flops/thongs. Spirit of the West has a wide range of rubber boot sizes (youth – men’s size 13) available to borrow free of charge if you don’t have your own wet shoes or have limited space in your luggage. There will be an opportunity to try on boots at the pre-trip meeting.
- Camp footwear – An additional pair of footwear that you plan to keep dry. Runners, trainers or light hikers are great.
- Hat – A sun hat such as a baseball hat or full-brimmed hat as well as a wool or fleece warm hat for evenings or cooler days.
- Sunglasses & sunscreen (stored in a Ziploc bag) – A must for protection from sun and glare off of the water. Safety cords on your glasses are highly recommended.
- Small flashlight or headlamp – With spare batteries. Headlamps are preferable as they allow for hands free operation.
- Camera – In a waterproof bag or case, or you may use our dry bags.
- Bathing suit
- Personal items – Toothbrush, toothpaste, biodegradable soap/shampoo, washcloth, feminine hygiene products, hairbrush, etc.
- Medication – If you are bringing medication please ensure that… 1) The name and expiry date of drug is on the container; 2) You have the detailed instructions of your dosage and frequency; 3) It is packed in a water and sunproof container; 4) You bring a full extra dosage of your medication in a separate container to leave with your guide, in case you misplace or lose yours, or are weathered in. If you are flying, please pack all necessary medication in your carry-on luggage. This will help eliminate some stress should your checked bags be misplaced in transit.
- Mosquito repellent – Insects are not a significant concern for us in our coastal ecosystem, however for those unused to insects or with particular sensitivities some repellent may come in handy.
- Ziploc bags & several large garbage bags – We will provide you with dry bags, but these come in handy for transporting laundry and/or wet clothing.
- Water bottle – Bike bottles or Nalgene-style bottles work best.
- Gloves (optional) – Biking gloves work well to protect your hands from blisters. If you are really concerned abut cold hands, and are paddling in the spring or fall seasons, you may want to invest in neoprene gloves or pogies.
- Beverages – We supply a wide range of teas and coffee as well as juices. You are welcome to bring along soda pops or alcoholic beverages if you choose to. Please note however that we do expect our guests to consume alcoholic beverages responsibly and strictly enforce a no alcohol on the water policy.
- Fishing gear (optional) – Make sure you have a valid B.C. fishing license. These can be purchased on-line at http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/licence-permis/index-eng.htm
- Book or journal
- Binoculars (optional)
- Gratuity for your guides – at your own discretion.
Clothing should be suitable for the time of year, bearing in mind that it could become cold and wet at any time of year. Layering is the best way to regulate body temperature and maintain warmth. We suggest avoiding cotton (except for those hot days). Cotton has no insulation value when wet. An inner material that wicks moisture from the body and gives a comfortable dry feeling even while wet is the best first layer (Polypropylene, Lycra, Nylon, Polyester). A synthetic material such as fleece or pile makes the best second layer to provide warmth. Wool is also suitable.
- Rain jacket & rain pants – For the unexpected nasty weather. To test your waterproofness – jump in the shower and see if you stay dry! (we’re serious!). If you would like to rent/hire rain gear from us, please reserve in advance of the tour. Tops and bottoms can be rented for $25 plus tax for the set.
- Light windproof jacket (optional)
- Long-sleeved non-cotton shirt (synthetic/wool) – 2
- Long pants – 1 pair of fleece or warm comfortable pants. 2 lighter pairs made of a quick drying, synthetic fabric. Athletic style pants (running or yoga) are generally appropriate. Jeans are NOT recommended for paddling.
- Lightweight long underwear – 2 pairs, helps to keep you warm at night or as a base layer during the day. We recommend one set for kayaking and one set which is reserved for sleeping and always stays dry.
- Sweaters – 2 warm wool or fleece sweaters (one may be all you need, but it is nice to have a spare in case one gets wet).
- T-shirts – 2 or 3.
- Shorts – 1-2 quick dry nylon
- Warm socks – 3 to 5 pair (1 warmer pair for around camp)
- An extra set of clothes that you may want to reserve for the end of the trip.
Our online booking system allows you easy access to booking your tour with Spirit of the West Adventures, any time of day. 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!