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This spring season has been very kind to us, as we are experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures and many clear days. While there is still snow up in the mountains, conditions by and on the water are quite lovely. I had been out for a couple day paddles around Nanaimo already, so when my friend Matt suggested an overnight kayaking trip I jumped at it! We debated the location of our trip, considering a return to Kennedy Lake, new ventures up island in the Broughton Archipelago Islands, or the always lovely Blackberry Point. In the end we decided to try something new by exploring the Southern most Gulf Islands. Matt, his wife Kim and their son Hemmingway would pilot their double kayak and I would pilot my single.

It made most sense to launch out of Sidney, parking nearby the US bound Anacortes ferry terminal. We paddled out under pristine conditions, on route to D’Arcy Island, visiting James Island and Sidney Island along the way. James Island is private and appears to have an island golf course resort. Sidney Island has many private properties as well as the Sidney Spit Marine Park.

D’Arcy Island is part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. It is the southernmost Canadian gulf island, the last before the passage widens out into Strait of Juan de Fuca. The island was formerly used as a leper colony in the early 20th century and ruins of the buildings built during that time are still visible. We explored the various trails which traverse the island and investigated a variety of lovely campsites. We had a great first night out, our campsite faced west and had a perfect spot for my hammock, as we watched the sunset drop behind Vancouver Island.

The following day we traveled North on the east side of Sidney Island. On the way we explored the private Halibut Island on which we met the owner who was quite friendly. We then paddled around Mandarte Island, which supports the largest seabird colony in the area. More than 8,000 birds have been known to nest on the island. It is the only place in BC where tufted puffins have been known to breed and the island has more cormorants and pigeon guillemots than any other place in the province. We witnessed hundreds of birds and dozens of nests on the island as we floated by.

We then crossed towards Isle de Lis, also known as Rum Island, which was known as a stopping point and liquor cache for rum runners during the days of prohibition. Here we made camp and took a well deserved rest as the weather changed and we experienced some rain. The following day we explored the island circumventing a trail which runs along the coast. Our neighbors on the island, a team of divers, alerted us to a secret ‘cache’ which could be found in a small rock cave in the centre of the island. We located this cache which turned out to be filled with various bottles of rum and a guest book for those lucky to find the cache. We took a nip and signed the guest book before returning the chest to its resting place, arrrr.

The weather was still unsettled, and we experienced a mixture of rain, sun, heavy winds, and calm all throughout the day. Late in the afternoon we took a break in the weather to make the crossing from Rum back to Sidney Island. During the crossing the weather turned again and we experienced some light rain and wind. Arriving safely at Sidney Island we then realized we would have to paddle around the spit to reach the protected waters of Sidney Spit. The spit extends nearly 2km on the northern end of Sidney Island. Finally in protected waters we found the campsite and set up camp. Just in time, as not long after the winds whipped up and we had a flash storm during our dinner. We were happy to have our camp set and tarps up by this time.

Gulf Islands Route

On the fourth day we explored the Sidney Spit Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. We then paddled back to Sidney under sunny skies. We were incredibly lucky to have mostly lovely weather for this four day trip!

CC BY 4.0 Southern Gulf Islands Kayaking Trip by Michael Paskevicius is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.