A Great Sea Kayaking Option
The British Columbia waters between Vancouver Island and the Canadian mainland are known for their diversity of sea life. It’s a top scuba diving destination and a hot spot for kayakers. Collectively, the Strait of Georgia runs between the island and mainland from the top to the bottom. The inlets and sounds off the strait are popular waters for sea kayaking tours and are more protected from the wind and waves. Known as the Sunshine Coast, this area is accessible by a stretch of road running roughly 100 miles north up the coast. It is only accessible by a ferry from Vancouver to Gibsons, or a ferry from Campbell River to Powell River on Vancouver Island.
Our kayaking tour was a family affair that lasted two hours, booked with Pedals and Paddles Adventure Sports, the area’s first kayak outfitter. Located on the east side of Sechelt Inlet, the location is accessed by taking the Sechelt Inlet Road north from the town of Sechelt. After driving a winding road through the rainforest, our anticipation grew when we saw a mule deer on the drive.
Owner Laurie Reid started the business in 1991 as a retail shop with a couple of boats to rent. She quickly discovered she didn’t like retail, but that there was a niche for rentals. The business has been in its present location for 10 years. “We came to Sechelt in 1991 and wanted to go canoeing,” Reid recounts. “We thought there was a hole in the market. Three weeks later, we opened a store.”
At Pedals and Paddles, the focus is on two-hour tours, although longer tours can be accommodated. Reid also notes that the business caters exclusively to Sechelt Inlet, “because of safety, and because there’s so much to see; so much wildlife.”
Pedals and Paddles is located on a sandy beach that is ideal for launching a kayak. There are 60 boats for tours and rentals. Like ours, many families take the tours as an outing. A variety of boat configurations are available so that parents can take younger children, teenagers, or young adults.
Our guide Kayla went through the basics of using a sea kayak before we hit the water. Sea kayaks differ from regular kayaks in that they are longer and there is also a rudder on the back to keep a straight course when paddling in wind or waves.
When we had our tour, the tide was partially out. Tides in Sechelt Inlet are drastic and can reach more than nine feet. Whether the tide is in or out can drastically change your tour and what you see.
We reached the first islands from the beach and were in awe of the sea life clinging to the rocks. There were purple starfish and leather starfish, the latter having an internal skeleton. Flowering anemones and geoducks were visible as we toured from island to island. These were literally within touching distance, although we were definitely told, “No touching.” Some of these islands had cottages while others were empty. The highlight was seeing a family of harbor seals loafing on the rocks of the last island. They stood watching us as we paddled within yards of them. Eventually, some of the seals slid into the water, while others didn’t bother to budge. With the time spent looking at the aquatic life on the islands, we crossed a small bay and then turned around.
Talking to Reid upon our return, she noted that the goal of these trips is to get to Tuwanek Beach. Sometimes kayakers get out and stroll up to the beach. Another highlight between the point where we stopped and the beach is what she calls the aquarium, where kayakers can float around and see fish and starfish in the crystal-clear waters. There is also a waterfall in that area. More experienced kayakers can rent a kayak from Pedals and Paddles and set their own pace.
While in the Sechelt area, a great stop is Skookumchuk Rapids. This narrow inlet is at the mouth of Sechelt Inlet, a four-kilometer hike from the road. When the tide goes in and out, billions of gallons of water flow through at speeds reaching 30 kilometers per hour, creating rapids and whirlpools in an inlet where boats passed through just a few hours earlier. The two options combined make for a great family adventure along the Sunshine Coast.
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