A Quick Guide to Sea Kayaking in Desolation Sound

Calm, protected inlets surrounded by majestic mountains and the warmest water on the Pacific Coast north of Baja make Desolation Sound a popular destination for sea kayakers.

Photo by Katya Palladina.

by Andrew Elizaga,

Katya and I had been interested in kayaking along British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast for some time before we finally arranged a trip to Desolation Sound in August 2018. Calm, protected inlets surrounded by majestic mountains and the warmest water on the Pacific Coast north of Baja make Desolation Sound a popular destination for sea kayakers as well as people cruising on power or sail boats.

The gateway to Desolation Sound is the town of Lund, which is also “mile zero” of Highway 101. It is located on land known to the First Nations as Klah ah men, a traditional gathering place for the Tla’amin people.

GETTING TO LUND

Since we were coming from Tacoma we drove to Port Angeles and took the 8 AM Blackball Ferry to Victoria. You must be at the ferry terminal at least 1 hour prior to sailing. Reservations are highly recommended, especially during the summer. From Victoria we drove to Comox (Little River) and took the BC Ferry to Powell River (Westview) on the mainland. Again, reservations are recommended. Lund is a 30 km drive north from Powell River.

An alternate route is to drive north on I-5 from the Seattle area to Vancouver, BC, but we preferred to avoid any delay crossing the border on land. You are much less likely to run into long lines and delays crossing the border on a ferry, and if you take the mainland route you still need to take a ferry north of Vancouver .

After we arrived at Powell River we stopped at the local SaveOn grocery to stock up on fresh produce and last minute supplies. We got into Lund in time for dinner and spent a night at the historic Lund Hotel. We sorted all our gear and packed our drybags that evening. If you prefer to camp, there is a campground at the Okeover Arm Provincial Park. The campsites at the Copeland Islands also are close enough if you want to spend your first night in the islands.

Photos by Katya Palladina.

We don’t recommend filling your dromedaries with water from the historic Lund Hotel. The water tastes terrible! Bring your own water from home. If you have a water filter you can re-supply from Unwin Lake which you can get to from Tenedos Bay.

The General Store at the Lund Hotel caters to boaters so they are well-stocked with camping supplies and groceries if you need to do any last minute shopping. Outside of the store are mailboxes, one for domestic and one for international mail.

There are a couple kayak outfitters in town, TerraCentric and Powell River Sea Kayaks, and they are happy to provide some “local knowledge” and advice on campsites and hazards, such as cougars and grizzly bears. All the campsites we stayed at had well-maintained tent platforms and toilets that were even supplied with toilet paper. You will need to get a backcountry permit for camping which you can obtain online or in person in Lund. The cost will depend on your length of stay.

Kayakers usually launch from the boat ramp at the Lund marina or the beach at Okeover Arm. There is a fee for launching and landing at both sites. We paid $7 CAD per day to park in the hotel parking lot.

We launched out of Lund and paid $4 CAD per kayak, and returned via Okeover Arm. There is a taxi service in Lund so I thought I would be able to call a taxi to take me back to Lund to pick up my car but unfortunately cell phone reception was nonexistent at Okeover Arm. That was unexpected because cell phone reception was actually excellent in Lund and even out in Desolation Sound. I ended up walking back to Lund to get my car, about 90 min or 6.8 km away.

Katya Palladina. Photo by Andrew Elizaga.

DESTINATIONS

COPELAND ISLANDS

Our first stop was the Middle Copeland Island in the Copeland Islands Marine Provincial Park just northwest of Lund. There were 10 tent platforms, and many faced west and had amazing views of the water and sunset. The channel to the east of the island sees a lot of boat traffic. Sea planes flew over regularly. Boaters will sometimes stop at Middle Copeland Island to explore, hang out, and use the toilet.

Launching and landing can be tricky throughout Desolation Sound (with the exception of Savary Island) since the shoreline consists mostly of cliffs with rare rocky beaches covered with oysters.

SAVARY ISLAND

Savary Island southwest of Lund is famous for its large white sandy beach. There are a lot of vacation homes on the island but the beach is public. There is a pier and water taxi service to and from Lund. Unfortunately there are no campsites or public toilets.

Middle Copeland Island and Savary Island. Photos and sketches by Katya Palladina.

CURME ISLANDS

This island group consists of the North, West, and East Curme islands which are clustered around a central lagoon, and the South Curme Island a short paddle away. The Curme Islands are one of the most spectacular campsites for sea kayakers. These are considered to be the best camping sites in the area and we were lucky to find one.

TENEDOS BAY and UNWIN LAKE

Tenedos Bay is a popular anchorage for boats because of its protected waters. From the Bay there is a trail to Unwin Lake which is clean and warm and very pleasant to swim in. It is also a convenient source of freshwater. At the beginning of the trail are a few campsites.

Curme Islands, Tenedos Bay, and Lake Unwin. Photos by Andrew Elizaga and Katya Palladina.

MALASPINA INLET and OKEOVER ARM

There are plenty of small coves and islands to explore inside the Malaspina Inlet and Okeover Arm. Campsites are located on north shore of Malaspina Inlet at Hare Point. Although protected, the inlet is subjected to strong currents so plan your trip accordingly.

We only spent 5 days at Desolation Sound but our hearts were totally stolen by the turquoise waters, warm sun, and starry skies!

View from Curme Island by Katya Palladina.

RESOURCES

TrakMaps
Desolation Sound and/et Sutil Channel | CHS Chart 3538. Printed on waterproof and tear-proof paper.

BC Parks: Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park
Information includes a link to the Backcountry Reservation system where you can obtain a backcountry permit. If the online system is not available then you can pay with cash at Okeover Park or Lund Harbour. A Desolation Sound Parks backcountry registration is valid for overnight use in the Copeland Islands, Malaspina, Roscoe Bay, and Desolation Sound Provincial Marine Parks.

BC Parks: Okeover Arm
Campsites near Lund on Okeover Arm.

Blackball Ferry
Ferry service between Port Angeles and Victoria.

BC Ferries
Look for the ferry schedules for the Sunshine Coast,
Comox – Powell River (Little River-Westview)

SaveOn Foods, Powell River
Grocery store in Powell River.

The Historic Lund Hotel
Fully restored oceanfront heritage hotel in the heart of Lund with seaside dining, pub, gallery, and amenities

Nancy’s Bakery
Home of the Blackberry Cinnamon Bun!

The Boardwalk Restaurant
Try their fried pickles!

TerraCentric Coastal Adventures
Above Nancy’s Bakery, offers tours and educational programs.

Powell River Sea Kayak
Kayak tours, rentals, and lessons.

Sketches by Katya Palladina.

All photos and images copyright ©2018 Baby Seal Films LLC

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