Broughton Archipelago Explorer Kayak Tour

With a wealth of diverse wildlife including humpback whales, harbour seals, porpoises, black bears, bald eagles, and seabirds plus thousands of years of First Nations’ culture and history, the Broughton Archipelago is a great location for an early-season six-day kayak tour.

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The Broughton Archipelago, a Provincial Marine Park, is a beautiful maze of islands situated between northern Vancouver Island and the snow-capped mountains of British Columbia’s mainland coast. The Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations have called this area home for countless millennia, and the ancient villages, seafood gathering sites, shell middens, culturally modified trees, and pictographs attest to this.

Over the six days we kayak between the mouth of Fife Sound, along the eastern edge of Queen Charlotte Strait, through the archipelago, and into Blackfish Sound and Johnstone Strait. We usually camp at four different wilderness campsites during the trip. We have a number of different sites to choose from; some involve camping in the forest, others on tent platforms on rocky points, and others on pebble beaches. The exact locations used on each trip depend upon a number of factors such as group size, wildlife viewing opportunities, and weather.

This kayak tour is offered during early and mid-June. From late June to mid-September we offer our similar six-day Orca Waters Explorer kayak tour that combines a portion of the Broughton Archipelago tour with more time spent in Johnstone Strait where we have greater chances of viewing orcas later in the summer.

We provide high quality three-season tents. For couples we provide three-person tents and for solo travellers, a slightly smaller tent. Therm-a-rest sleeping pads and warm mummy-style sleeping bags with liners are all provided to ensure a good night’s sleep. A library of natural history books is on every trip.

On the water we use stable single and double fibreglass kayaks and lightweight carbon/vinyl paddles. Waterproof kayaking jackets and neoprene kayaking mitts are provided to keep you warm and dry while kayaking.

Price: $1650 CAD per person plus 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Other currencies: Click for £ GBP / € EUR / $ USD and taxes

Group Size: Maximum of eight guests and two guides.

Participants: This tour is adult-oriented but participants as young as 15 may be accepted.

Suitability: Beginner / intermediate to advanced kayakers. Is this tour right for you?

Departs: Port McNeill, Vancouver Island.

Grizzly Bear Viewing Day Trips: (opens in a new tab) Many of our guests add a grizzly bear watching day trip before or after they join us kayaking. Let us know if you would like to add this activity and we will make all the arrangements.

Includes: We provide you with all the necessary kayaking and camping equipment, including kayaks, paddling jackets, PFD (life jacket), group shelters, tents, sleeping pads, camp chairs and sleeping bags (you may bring your own). A comprehensive list of required personal items can be read by clicking on the “Preparation” tab above. All meals during the kayak trip are provided and prepared by your guides. We’re proud of our menu that includes abundant fresh fruits and vegetables, a wide variety of international dishes, and freshly baked treats. Most dietary restrictions can be accommodated given sufficient prior notification. Transportation is all-inclusive from Port McNeill by our network of vans and water taxis.

What is not included: We do not provide transport from your home to Port McNeill, nor do we provide airport transfers. Accommodation in Port McNeill is not included. Any meals outside the kayak portion of the tour are your responsibility. Travel insurance for accidents or emergency evacuation is not provided; we recommend you purchase a policy before leaving home. The trip price does not include guide gratuities; should you feel that the service was exemplary, it is always appreciated.

Exact kayaking routes may vary depending on possible wildlife sightings, currents, tides and weather.

Day 0: Plan to be in Port McNeill the night before the kayak tour departs. There is a pre-trip meeting at 8:00 pm with your guides at our office, located at 1790A Campbell Way, across the street from the Haida Way Inn and next to the Black Bear Resort. Your guides provide you with an overview for your trip, distribute dry bags to pack your clothing, and answer any questions you may have.
Meals Included: None

Day 1: We meet at 7:30am to head down to the marina to load our water taxi. It is just a short walk from the hotels, and all your bags are transported by our van. Vehicles and extra luggage can be left at your hotel while you are on your kayak tour. If you are not staying at a hotel or B&B with parking, we have limited free parking and luggage storage available at our office.

The hour long water taxi ride takes us to our first campsite, where we’ll settle in. The guides provide a site orientation and paddle briefing. We head out for a paddle before lunch giving you time to get used to the kayaks, the wilderness setting and each other.
Meals Included: Lunch – Dinner

Days 2 to 5: The Broughton Archipelago is a literal maze of islands, and no day’s paddle will be the same. If the weather conditions allow, we paddle along the edge of the Archipelago in Queen Charlotte Strait, home to seabirds, seals, humpback whales, and expansive views. Turning into the sheltered waters of the Archipelago, we can explore this mystical area and its First Nations sites, hidden bays, and rich rainforest.

During this nomadic tour, we normally break camp at four different sites.

Each trip is different, and your guides will customize the itinerary based on weather, tides, and group interests. But rest assured, exploration, wildlife viewing, and relaxing are a part of every trip.
Meals Included: Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner

Day 6: On our last day, we linger over breakfast, snap a few last photographs, and enjoy one last short paddle before our journey ends. After lunch we pack up camp and board our water taxi for the return journey to Port McNeill, arriving around 3:00 pm.

We usually arrive back in Port McNeill in enough time for you to fly out of Port Hardy or catch a late ferry back to the mainland, but delays do happen. We strongly suggest that our guests spend the last night in Port McNeill, enjoy a hot shower, and slowly transition out of vacation mode. Most guests choose to do this, and guests and guides often get together for a no-host farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
Meals Included: Breakfast – Lunch

This tour departs from Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island.

If driving to Port McNeill you need to sail on BC Ferries from the Vancouver area to either Nanaimo or Victoria on Vancouver Island. From Washington State, Coho Ferry sails between Port Angeles and Victoria. Drive time from Victoria to Port McNeill is approximately 5.5 hours and from Nanaimo to Port McNeill is approximately 4 hours.

Driving to Port McNeill is quite straight forward. From Victoria drive north on highway 1 to Nanaimo. From Nanaimo head north on Highway 19 until you see the sign for Port McNeill. Port McNeill is 1 minute off the main highway. The only other option to this route is north of Nanaimo just before you reach Parksville you can take the seaside route on Highway 19A. This route rejoins the main Highway 19 at Campbell River. The seaside route may add an extra hour to your trip.

If you are looking to share a ride to or from Port McNeill (you either have room in your vehicle or are looking for a ride) please visit our RideShare (opens in a new tab) page to add your details to our RideShare (opens in a new tab) calendar.

Tofino Bus operates once daily bus service between Victoria and Port McNeill. Connections can be made from Vancouver in Nanaimo.

Flights to Port Hardy (YZT), the closest airport to Port McNeill, depart from the south terminal of Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and are approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. These flights are operated by Pacific Coastal Airlines. Port Hardy airport is a 30 minute taxi ride from Port McNeill.

If flying with Air Canada or one of its partners, and you are not planning to visit Vancouver, you may want to check on flying to either Nanaimo (YCD), Victoria (YYJ), Comox (YQQ), or Campbell River (YBL) on Vancouver Island. While you would still need to rent a car or take the bus it saves you the time and cost of the ferry.

Another option is to fly via Calgary (YYC) or Edmonton (YEG) to Comox (YQQ) on Vancouver Island with WestJet Airlines. Comox is about 2 1/2 hour drive south of Port McNeill.

Kenmore Air operates float plane service to Port McNeill from Seattle, Washington.

Recommended Port McNeill Accommodations

Black Bear Resort

Additional Port McNeill Accommodations
Haida Way Motor Inn
Dalewood Inn
McNeill Inn
Ocean Comfort B&B

Our Guest Handbook contains details on preparing for your kayak tour. Included in the handbook is travel and accommodation information, a list of what to bring, what you can expect while you are kayaking, wildlife viewing etiquette, and medical and release forms.

The handbook answers commonly asked questions. However, do not hesitate to contact us with any specific questions you may have. The handbook is in PDF format. If you do not have a PDF viewer one can be downloaded free from Adobe.

For quick reference, below is what you should be bringing on your kayak tour. We provide everything else.

While the summer months in British Columbia are mostly warm and sunny, we still have a few cold and wet days. After all, the coast of British Columbia is the world's largest temperate rainforest. For maximum enjoyment on your trip in all types of weather please bring the items listed below.

It is important that your clothing be made of synthetic materials or wool to retain their warmth when wet. Most synthetics also have the advantage of being quick drying. Avoid cotton clothing because they lack warmth if wet and take a very long time to dry. All of the items listed below need to fit into four dry bags (which we supply). If you have any questions on what you need to bring please feel free to contact us.

Sleeping bag - fits into 40 litre dry bag
We supply sleeping bags, liners, and pillows to all guests but if you prefer to bring your own we recommend:
● A three season synthetic insulated bag

Clothing - fits into 20 litre dry bag
Please bring everything listed. There is duplication and you may not need everything, but in the event of getting wet or cold you will be glad you have it. While many people consider long underwear to be a winter item it can make a world of difference on a cool summer evening and can double as leggings under shorts during the day. The biggest heat loss area is the head and a warm hat can add immensely to your comfort.

● 1 pairs of short
● 2 pair of pants
● 2 long sleeve shirts
● 2 short sleeve shirts
● 1 sweater or sweatshirt
● 3 to 5 pairs of socks
● 2 sets of long underwear
● 4 to 6 pairs of underwear
● 1 swimsuit
● 1 fleece jacket
● 1 baseball cap or sun hat
● 1 wool or fleece cap

Rain gear - fits into 10 litre dry bag
We provide waterproof kayaking jackets but you still need rain gear for around camp. Rain gear does not need to be breathable but it should be be waterproof - not water-repellent.
● 1 waterproof rain jacket with hood or rain hat
● 1 pair of waterproof rain pants

Personal items - fits into 10 litre dry bag
● Toiletries
● Sun screen
● Sunglasses with a retainer
● Prescription eyeglasses or contacts
● Spare eyeglasses or contacts
● Wet Wipes
● Synthetic camp towel
● Medication
● Spare medication
● Insect repellent
● Book
● Flashlight and batteries
● Camera
● Extra digital storage and batteries

Footwear – either worn or packed loose
● sandals or shoes you can get wet
● Walking or running shoes (preferably waterproofed)

● Rubber boots (some guests prefer these instead of wet shoes or sandals for kayaking. But, if you go too deep when entering or exiting your kayak the boots will be wet for the remainder of the trip).
● Wool or fleece gloves or mitts (if your hands easily get cold these are good to have for the evenings)
● Paddling or cycling gloves (we provide kayaking mitts for warmth, but if you are prone to blisters you may find cycling or paddling gloves to be beneficial).
● Farmer Jane/John wet suit to wear kayaking.

Suggested reading: All of our kayak tours carry a small library of field guides and local history books, including many listed below. We recommend the below books if you want to learn a bit about the area before visiting. Each title is linked to and will open in a new window.

Full Moon, Flood Tide: Bill Proctor’s Raincoast
Heart of the Raincoast: A Life Story

Charts: You do not need to bring charts on this kayak tour. Your guides have charts of the area and will review them with guests each day. If you wish to bring your own chart(s) they are listed below. Each chart is linked to the corresponding page on the Canadian Hydrographic Service's website and you can search where to buy these charts locally (links will open in a new window).

3546 – Broughton Strait – 1:40,000
3515 – Knight Inlet – 1:80,000

While each of our kayak tours and routes will vary based on possible wildlife sightings, currents, tides and weather the below map highlights the general area that our base camp kayak tour operates in.

Charts: You do not need to bring charts on this kayak tour. Your guides have charts of the area and will review them with guests each day. If you wish to bring your own chart(s) they are listed below. Each chart is linked to the corresponding page on the Canadian Hydrographic Service's website and you can search where to buy these charts locally (links will open in a new window).

3546 – Broughton Strait – 1:40,000
3515 – Knight Inlet – 1:80,000


We think our tours are pretty great and so do our guests.
Below are excerpts from a few TripAdvisor reviews.
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"We've just got back from a 6 day wilderness caneoing trip in the coastal archipelago north east of the Johnson Strait. We were self supporting with all our gear including food and fresh water in the kayaks. We camped and needed no outside support for the trip. We did maybe 20 km per day between the huge numbers of Islands in the archipelgo north east of the Johnson Strait. Our guide, Silka, was outstanding. She seemed to know exactly where the wildlife was and what it was doing. She was seriously switched on and she knew just where to go, when to push and when to hold back. There were just the three of us, old friends from Uni, taking the trip. The food was amazing, especially since it was all fresh and all coming out of the storage holds of the kayaks. Silka wouldn't let us do any of the cooking claiming "hygiene reasons" (... hmmmm! I think it was rather because she wanted the food to be edible ...). But we did manage to persuade her to let us do all of the washing up, tent pitching and fire-lighting so at least we didn't feel completely like colonial conquerors. The tides and currents round the islands were a potential nightmare but she planned the daily routes with great care and we always seemed to have them with us. We took two single kayaks and one double, just to give us options if anyone picked up an injury.

We saw humpbacks every day, sometimes just a few tens of metres away. Many had calves. We were seeing up to half a dozen in view at a time. One came up less than 10 metres from my kayak and lunge fed on some fish that had formed into a bait ball at the surface. I had just noticed some gulls starting to eat the fish at the time and had the shock of my life when this huge whale lunged out with its mouth open just a few feet from me. What an experience..."
Read the full review on TripAdvisor

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A $500 CAD per person deposit is required to permanently reserve your spot(s) on a Broughton Archipelago Explorer kayak tour. The remaining balance is due 60 days before your tour's departure date. Please note our cancellation policy

We accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and JCB cards. Please note that all prices are in Canadian dollars and that 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be added to the price of each tour.