Ready for adventure? We’ve roamed the world’s oceans and lakes to compile this look at eight of our favorite island escapes, from lounging in the palm trees of the South Pacific to paddling with whales in the Bay of Fundy and gazing at grizzlies in Alaska. We’ve also included one escapade that’s so daring, it may never be repeated.
Untamed, isolated and exposed, few places better exemplify the wild nature of Vancouver Island’s rugged northwest coast than the Brooks Peninsula and the adjacent Bunsby Islands. Sheltered by the peninsula and the off-lying Barrier Islands, the Bunsbys are relatively protected from the mighty Pacific swell. Within their quiet passages, paddlers enjoy rich marine life, lovely wilderness campsites, unusual rock formations and spectacular sunsets.
With the exception of Big Bunsby Island, which is a provincial park, all of the islands and their surrounding waters lie within the vast Checleset Bay Ecological Reserve. Along with important seabird nesting sites and an abundance of whales, the reserve is home to a thriving population of sea otters. Centuries of hunting lead to the extirpation of the sea otter from the B.C. coast in the 1830s, but the reintroduction of the luxuriantly furred marine mammals in 1969—and the creation of the reserve in 1981—has triggered a comeback. Today, rafts of the moon-faced critters feast on Checleset Bay’s smorgasbord of clams, abalone and sea urchins, and doze contentedly among the kelp beds, welcoming kayakers.
Kyuquot Sound is the starting point for most trips to the Bunsbys. The Kyuquot/Checleseht First Nation maintains launches at Artlish and Fair Harbour, from where it is a two-day paddle out the sound and up the coast to the islands. The final 11-kilometer stretch is an exposed crossing and for this reason it’s best to camp at the mouth of the sound and wait for a weather window to cross to the islands.
Both the Mission Group, lying just north of the sound, and Rugged Point Provincial Park, at Kyuquot’s south entrance, offer wonderful opportunities for first (or last) night camping and exploring. Don’t miss the short footpath through lush old-growth Sitka forest to Rugged Point’s south beach—a clean, expansive crescent of fine sand printed with wolf, bear and cougar tracks. —Virginia Marshall
This article was originally published in Adventure Kayak, Volume 16 • Issue 3. Read this issue.