Johnstone Strait is the place to go to see whales. A large concentration of Orcas (Killer Whales) make their home there, and pods of transient whales also visit. You may also see sea lions, Minke whales and dolphins, and black bear. Johnstone Strait can be hazardous, and should be attempted by experienced paddlers only.
For inexperienced paddlers, tour operators offer a number of different styles of trips.
Drive north about 350 km (5 hours) from Nanaimo on the island highway. Visit the tiny funky settlement of Telegraph Cove, and take the ferry over to Alert Bay, where a new native longhouse has been erected to hold the treasures of the area.
Camping is limited, and is usually found on small gravel or shell beaches, often the sites of ancient middens. The Strait itself is often crowded in the summer, but if you paddle farther into the Broughton Archipelago you won't see many people. Visit the abandoned village of Memqumlis on Village Island, the site of the last forbidden potlach (call Tom Sewid, the native caretaker, for a tour. Tom is a great storyteller, and tells the history of the area vividly).
Hazards: frequent fog, frequently choppy, many large vessels in the strait (watch for boat wakes while on land as well. Cruise ships speed up the Strait at night, and can swamp you and your camp with their large wakes on the small beaches!!) They look huge from your small craft - it's an odd sensation hearing the loudspeaker calling people to the shuffleboard tournament on the Lido deck - two completely different ways to view an area!!
There are also a number of areas that have strong currents, producing whirlpools, rip tides, overfalls etc. Plan your paddling to take advantage of slack tide.
A tip for being visible to ship radar, pile a garbage bag full of aluminum-foil wrap and place it on your fore or rear deck, giving it as high a profile as possible (height). Your hatches will be full of gear/food anyway, and, the higher it is, the greater the chance it will show up on ship's radar.
A good trip to do with a guide unless you are a group of expert paddlers with self-rescue, marine radio, GPS, charts, tide/current table knowledge, expert skill level, etc. etc.
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Posted By: blackmud03
- Tue Aug 19 20:11:36 EDT 2008
CommentJohnstone Strait is very do-able without hiring a company. Go prepared and watch the currents. It is whale heaven along the kelp beds and they put on a show 4 times a day for us; we were standing on shore, low tide close to kelp beds & the moms surfaced with the babes literally 6 feet away. We were blown away and in absolute awe. The next day they swam under a kayaker who was fishing in the kelp bed - you had to be there!
Posted By: anniet-6
- Mon Apr 07 09:03:27 EDT 2008
UpsideWildlife, short hikes, beach coming, great views, great forest exploring - huge trees!
CommentThe ship traffic is only way out in the middle, and only at certain times when we were there, (July). Our guides showed us sooo much that we would have had no chance of finding in just five days.
Posted By: anniet-6
- Mon Apr 07 08:56:52 EDT 2008
QuestionI/we (my husband and I) have taken three overnight sea kayaking trips in British Columbia and several day trips. We absolutely love the area. We have not been disappointed with any of the scenery or experience. We have paddled Johnstone Strait, Nuchatlets (not sure if I spelt that correctly) and Broken group.
Not having all the needed gear (ie kayaks, life jackets etc.) we have opted each time to go with an outfitter, but each time we have tried a different one to see how much we could learn from them. What we found was that not all outfitters are created equal! We were pleased with all, they all seemed to be efficient at what they sold us, but the company that just blew us a way was the one that took us on our sea kayaking expedition in Johnstone Strait. The company was based farther south on Quadra Island and is called Out For Adventure www.outforadventure.com.
Out For Adventure was the most organized, professional company we have dealt with yet and the guides made the whole trip amazing. One of them was from New Zealand, but was an incredible influence on the entire group. This summer we want to go hiking in the Rockies, but when we head back for coastal sea kayaking, we will go with them again.
My point is, that it way be worth your while to go with an outfitter, as we gained more knowledge from doing that then reading any books.
Have fun! and paddle free.ANSWERS are in this forum: Sea Kayaking Johnstone Strait - My recommendation after taking the trip.
Posted By: mountainjane
- Tue Jun 26 09:58:05 EDT 2007
UpsideI loved it here.
DownsideWhen I did this route I was an intermediate paddler. I was !capable but the currents are extreme in some areas and if you add some inclement weather it can be quite dangerous. Oh and the boat traffic!
Posted By: Mike&Wendy
- Sat Jun 16 12:48:31 EDT 2007
UpsideThis is a fabulous area to explore, there are numerous sites of archeological importance and are fascinating to visit and imagine what they would have been like hundreds of years ago without gore-tex and fiberglass. We enjoyed fantastic sunsets when we were there in June of '06.
DownsideCruise ships and people in powerboats harrasing the Orcas.
CommentI don't completely agree with the trail difficulty or the advise that you need to be an expert paddler. There are certainly hazards as outlined in the text but I think an intermediate paddler with common sense and proper equipment would have no problem paddling in the area. There are numerous routes and areas to explore that are not exposed to the winds or strong currents that are present in the area. it is a beautiful area that is well worth visiting.