Kayaking the Broken Islands

The Broken Island Group is a beautiful group of islands between Bamfield and Ucluelet. The outer islands shelter a large area from the open ocean, so although you are in the middle of a large inlet of the open ocean it quite calm compared to the large channels around it.

A map of the broken island group, the smaller square is where we did our kayaking, see below.

An outline of our trip, the red line is our first day (which was a round trip) and the pink line is our second day. Notice the attempt to go between Benson and Clarke. It was a very windy day and the huge waves and strong winds from the open ocean made our original trip plan too dangerous.

My friend Mo invited a few friends from Vancouver to join us in Bamfield and the 6 of us rented kayaks from Broken Island Adventures. We took a water taxi out and set up camp on Gilbert island.

Home sweet home on Gilbert island

A sealion near our campsite on Gilbert. He was chasing a little school of fish and was so fun to watch.

Our first day we paddled to Wouwer to see the great tide pool. Our lack of map reading skills, combined with our inability to decide whether to go by compass directions or the shape of islands on the map made our journey there pretty hilarious, but we made it!

Getting ready to leave for Wouwer island

The hike in to the great tide pool, you have to beach on one side of the island and hike to the other side.

Mo in the great tide pool, she brought a whole wetsuit and I, in true unprepared Christina fashion, went in in my undies. The great tide pool is a huge tide pool that you can actually snorkel in! There are some amazing creatures in it, including moon snails.

A nice paddle back to our campsite with the wind to our backs and we soon had a nice little fire going and a lovely little camp dinner.

A gorgeous sunset on our way back from Wouwer

There was an amazing bioluminescence bloom this August. Bioluminescence is created by plankton which will give off a blue-white light when disturbed. Most of the other girls hadn’t seen bioluminescence before and wanted to swim in it. I’d already gone skinny-dipping in the great tide pool and wasn’t keen about getting back in the ocean, but remembered a canoeing trip I’d been on through the bioluminescence last year and came up with a better idea. After convincing Mo we hauled our kayaks down the beach and into the ocean. We paddled through the bioluminesence, leaving trails of light behind us and glowing balls where our paddles touched the water. The further from shore we got the more brilliantly the water glowed. Fish swam below us, creating streaks through the water. Occasionally an entire school would swim beneath us creating a wave of blue-white light. There was also a meteor shower the same night. There is no way to capture or describe how magical and amazing that night was. We paddled around the inlet watching the stars, the trails left by our kayaks and paddles, and searching for schools of fish for at least an hour.

A general idea of what bioluminescence looks like. It was completey dark except for the stars and the water was very still, so it would only light up when we moved through it. *

The next morning was foggy and damp, we made breakfast and I went out for a quick paddle around the island while the rest of the girls got ready. I stayed quite close to shore and paddled around Gilbert and a neighboring island. It was a beautiful peaceful way to start the day. When I got back everyone was ready to go and the fog was starting to burn off. We were planning to make our way over to Turret Island by going across Coaster Channel. The idea with crossing this channel is hugging the shore of the islands surrounding it, which makes for a long trip.

A foggy morning paddle

Coaster channel was quite choppy and when we were picked up we were informed that we probably shouldn’t have crossed it in those conditions. Luckily we made it, and even more luckily the other girls talked me and Mo out of attempting to go around the open ocean side of Clarke island as we’d planned.

The girls in Coaster Channel at the start of our day long paddle

This doesn’t do it justice, but this is what we were going through in Coaster Channel on the way to Benson. It was choppy with huge swells and we would occasionally have waves break on the fronts of our kayaks

The beach at Benson Island, an important First Nations archaeological site, where we stopped for lunch

A magical little mossy forest on Benson island

I was happy to be finished our day of paddling

We were picked up by the Broken Island Adventures water taxi and safely brought back to Bamfield where we enjoyed dinner and promptly passed out, still feeling the waves moving our bodies.

* Photo from http://aquamarinediscovery.blogspot.ca/2008/10/dinoflagellates-bioluminescent-algae.html

One thought on “Kayaking the Broken Islands

  1. Hello Christina,
    This is a lovely account of your adventure in the Broken Group Islands.
    We recently have had some comments from other visitors that they had seen your blog and referred to the maps that you have posted above. These maps are from 1988 and things have changed a bit since then and even since 2012 when you posted your trip. The map above indicates that there is potable water at some islands and that there is camping on Benson Island. Unfortunately, there is no reliable water source in the Broken Group Islands and we advise paddlers to bring all the necessary drinking water required for their entire stay in the islands. As well, camping on Benson Island is no longer permitted and hasn’t been for a number of years. There are 7 designated camp sites in the islands including: Hand, Turret, Gibraltar, Willis, Dodd, Clarke, and Gilbert Islands.
    As this dated information is causing some confusion, we would very much appreciate if you could either change the map or make these notes to your map. Below is a link to current information on the Broken Group Islands and for a map as well:


    Please do not hesitate to contact me if you should have any questions.

    Crystal Bolduc
    Promotions Officer, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
    250-726-7165 ext 517

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