Johnstone Strait Guided Sea Kayaking Day Trip
Mid May to September
May 17th - June 30th
July 1st - September 23rd
Spend a full day getting back to nature in the Johnstone Strait! The dynamic Johnstone Strait is home to everything from sea-stars to orca and is surrounded by incredible rainforested mountains. This tour is designed for all ages and ability levels, though you will be paddling for upwards of four hours so a certain level of physical fitness is advised. Your guide will provide you with all the instruction and equipment you need to comfortably enjoy a day of spectacular paddling.
You will paddle the rugged shoreline of Vancouver Island, poking into tidal shallows and drifting under eagles nests before enjoying a break for lunch on a remote beach. The afternoon will be filled with more paddling and interpretation.
We typically encounter bald eagles, seals, massive groves of bull kelp, entertaining jumping herring, sea stars and other intertidal life on all our tours. Though we cannot guarantee whale sightings, chances to see larger marine mammals such as orca and humpback exist as well. The beautiful British Columbian mainland mountains create an incredible backdrop throughout the day trip. Follow along next to your guide and you will likely find something you have never seen before
Our Day Trip departs from picturesque Telegraph Cove on northern Vancouver Island. You will need to arrive here by 9:45 a.m. on the day of your tour as we plan to be on the water by 10:15 a.m. The day starts with introductions to your fellow adventurers and a brief discussion on safety and paddling to ensure you're comfortable on the water. After being fitted to your kayak you will be ready for launch into the natural harbour of Telegraph Cove. Here you will have some time to get used to being afloat before we head through the narrow opening to Johnstone Strait and the seemingly unending wilderness beyond.
The morning will be spent headed North Easterly with the spectacular, rugged coast of Vancouver Island on your right, the distant mountains of mainland BC on your left and the dynamic Johnstone Strait in between. Our tours focus on the journey; we try to ensure that all stress is left behind in the parking lot. Our guides are keen to share their knowledge of the area, intertidal creatures, plants and whatever swims by the day you are out. We make no guarantees when it comes to wildlife, however a wide variety of creatures have been sighted on day trips in the past: orca, humpbacks, harbour seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, deer, mink, river otters, bald eagles and black bears; All in their natural environment. The tour follows a meandering route along the Vancouver Island shoreline, visiting small groups of islands, remote beaches and rugged rocky shoreline.
The chance of seeing the orca while kayaking are about 50% from mid-July through September and slightly higher in August. Much better than the chance of winning the lottery! Before mid-July, it is unlikely to see orca on a day trip as there are not enough salmon, in the area the day trip paddles, at that time of year.
Our guides all carry marine VHF radios and monitor the local chatter to ensure that we never miss an opportunity to see whales, bears or other wildlife. They also carry hydrophones, an underwater microphone with an external amplifier. Should there be whales nearby, your guide will allow you to listen in on orca's unique calls!
Bring your lunch and something to drink as you will stop for a while at lunchtime, on a remote beach overlooking Johnstone Strait. Marine wildlife frequents this area so keep your eyes peeled, we have had some incredible marine mammal sighting from the beach during lunch.
After our lunch stop you will begin the paddle back to Telegraph Cove, again you will stop to explore areas that abound with the intertidal & invertebrate life that thrives in our cold, nutrient rich waters. We regularly see sea urchins of various colours, ochre stars, leather stars, sunflower stars with many legs, brittle stars, all sorts of crabs and other shellfish and the abundant bull kelp. Naturally, if opportunity to observe the lager mammals occurs, we will take it. The day trip typically arrives back in Telegraph Cove between 4 and 4:30 p.m.
This tour is suitable for the whole family but due to its duration we do recommend that your children be over 10 years of age to participate. Should you wish to bring children younger than this, please contact us to discuss a private day trip. No previous experience is required as we use very stable two and three seat, enclosed sea kayaks, provide all paddling equipment, utilize qualified sea kayak guides and conduct a pre-departure training and safety briefing.
To avoid disappointment, pre-booking is strongly advised.
It is important to understand the seasonal nature of the ecosystem we operate in. The Queen Charlotte and Johnstone Straits attract an abundance of marine mammals in the summers, but are much quieter in the winters. Because of this seasonality, we ask guests to pair their wildlife hopes appropriately with the dates of their visit. Please see our wildlife seasonality graph below:
Wildlife seasonality graph coming soon
Over 200 Northern Resident Orcas call this area home for the summer. These oceanic mammals travel in family pods and forage in the Johnstone and Queen Charlotte Straits for their favourite food, chinook salmon. They reside in the Straits for two months on average, typically arriving around mid July and staying until early September.
Larger more nomadic transient orca (Bigg’s) are seen sporadically in the waters as well. They travel and behave less predictably but occasionally pass by in a typical quiet, stealthy fashion. (Unless a porpoise crosses their path…).
HUMPBACKSAn increasing number of Humpback Whales have been returning to these waters since the whaling industry ultimately eradicated them from the area. Though whaling ended in BC in 1967, even 35 years later in 2003 only 7 Humpbacks were documented in the Queen Charlotte and Johnstone Straits. In 2019 however, 95 individual humpback whales were documented feeding on the abundant krill and herring of the straits... they back! These solo giants arrive from Hawaii and Mexico in late May and stay to feed until October.
Steller Sea Lions
Some Steller sea lions, the largest of the sea lions, call this area home year round. However, many more arrive in August and can be seen, and smelled, hauled out on their favourite rocks in groups sometimes larger than 40. Sea Lions are curious creatures and we can often be joined for short whiles by friendly pairs when we are paddling in Blackfish Sound.
Year Round Wildlife
Harbor seals, bald eagles, pacific white-sided dolphins, Dall’s porpoise, black bears, minks and salmon are spotted year round in the straits. The cold, nutrient rich waters create an incredible ecosystem. Beyond mammals, the abundant intertidal life in the straits is often underrated: sea stars, chitons, barnacles, limpids, anemones and urchins thrive in the straits and are often easy to find at low tide. Their alien forms and behaviours are both interesting and illuminative as some intertidal creatures’ physical structures have remained relatively unchanged for over half a billion years.
Historic Telegraph Cove, British Columbia
Telegraph Cove is a community of around 20 year round inhabitants, on Northern Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. It is approximately 200 km northwest of Campbell River by car. It was formerly home to a cannery, a mill for the Canadian Air Force, a telegraph post, and now serves as a starting point for many forms of eco-tourism.
Telegraph Cove is the departure and return point of all our trips. Because we are based in the cove we have priority access to boat launches, allowing you to be first on the water. After only 2 minutes of paddling you will be in the heart of the dynamic Johnstone Strait.
Telegraph Cove and its nearest neighbouring community Port McNeill, have multiple accommodation options available for you to use prior to your trip. Please see our list of recommended accommodations in the area. In addition to kayaking, a variety of other adventures are available during your stay in the cove including: grizzly bear tours, boat assisted whale watching, hikes, an art gallery, beach access and excellent dining options. Please see our list of things to do in Telegraph Cove.
The incredible Whale Interpretive Center, located beside our shop, is home to over 30 marine mammal skeletons. It mustn't be missed! Finally, you will frequently see bald eagles, mink, river otters, black bears or even whales before we leave the dock.
Experienced SKGABC Certified Guides
Our outstanding team of SKGABC certified guides is the backbone of our company, facilitating your experience with us from start to finish. On trips our guides fill the roles of group leader, paddling instructor, naturalist, risk-manager, weather forecaster, chef, wildlife tracker, and your new best friend. Our team is made up of an incredible group of people, all with unique stories and backgrounds and inescapable passions for the outdoors and the area we operate in. This passion brings our guides back to the Strait summer after summer. Our average lead guide has spent 3 years at NIK, and Brad has been with us for 21!
Our team of returning staff means your guide knows the area well. This allows them to craft your day around the local forecast, currents and wildlife patterns from a position of knowledge and experience. Whether the fog is rolling in, the wind is picking up, or the sun is shining on down, your guide knows how to make the most of the day. We fully trust our guides to manage your experience with a focus on safety, comfort and wonder.
We provide all of the camping and kayaking equipment on all of our tours. Come with the clothing and personal items noted in ‘What to Bring’ and we do the rest. Some of the equipment we provide on our trips includes:
All of our day tours use durable plastic double kayaks. These kayaks are as stable as it gets. They have plenty of room for storage, bungees on their decks for quick access to water, and have comfortable seats and backrests.
We will provide you with dry bags for any personal belongings you would like to bring with you. Dry bags are the best way to store your lunch if you want it to stay nice and dry! Dry bags are leak free 99% of the time, every time. Because of the small chance they might leak, we recommend storing electronics in a more rugged container within a dry bag.
Paddles, Spray Skirts, PFDs, and Safety Equipment
After we dress you up for your adventure you will be ready for the runway! We have PFDs, paddles and sprayskirts that will work for all shapes and sizes. Your safety and comfort are our highest priorities.
No two trips are the same! We pride ourselves on our fluid itineraries. The weather, tides, wildlife, and the interests of groups are different every trip. Because of this, we both trust and empower our guides to adapt the trip as they see fit so you can have the best experience possible!
What to bring
What to bring on a full day sea kayaking tour
This is a water sport and you will get a little wet while getting in and out of the kayak.
- Something to drink, water works great!
- Shoes you do not mind getting soaked as you will get your feet wet. Please do not bring flip-flops or thongs as these have been the cause of many cuts and falls on the boat ramp and beaches.
- Board shorts or long synthetic pants work well for your lower body.
- Layers work well for the upper half.
- Bring a hat or cap; they work great to keep you warm, keep the sun out of your eyes or the rain off your head.
- Sunscreen; even if the sun is not shining, UV rays get reflected from the water and will burn you.
- A camera or binoculars; We will provide a dry bag to keep them safe and dry.
- A bagged lunch and snacks for on the water.
- If you have allergies that require the use of an EPI Pen - bring It!
For maximum comfort while kayaking avoid cotton clothing, this includes jeans.
Brilliant Summer of 2020 We went on a 4 day kayaking trip with Our guide was Dan. The trip was honestly one the most memorable and magical trips I’ve ever had. We saw humpbacks, orcas and all the other wildlife telegraph cove has to offer. Our guide Dan was phenomenal. Having someone with us who has such a genuine interest and love of what he does made our trip more special. The food was sensational and the camp areas were great also. 10/10 loved it. Ps we miss you Dan!
Incredible trip with Bree and amazing staff overall at North Island Kayak Had an amazing three-day orca trip guided by Bree! Bree was an amazing guide on all fronts -- she was extremely knowledgeable about the whales and other fauna, flora and mushrooms; she also was excellent with the currents and keeping the group happy (and she was an amazing cook, especially the salmon dinner and hot salmon melt sandwiches after a cold paddle the next morning). She knows where to go -- we saw whales every day, including a whole pod about 10 m offshore the first evening. I cannot recommend her or North Island Kayak enough.
Multi-day Ocean Kayak Tour I went on a multi-day ocean kayaking trip last week, organised by North Island Kayak. It was a fantastic adventure. In particular, our guide - Tristan - was phenomenal and made the trip that much more enjoyable. He was knowledgeable about the environment and put us in a great position each day to see whales and other wildlife. The right guide can 'make or break' a trip like this and Tristan was easy-going and attentive to the kayakers, in equal measure; he made sure everyone was having a good time. I normally don't hold out high hopes for cuisine when I'm camping but Tristan handled all of the cooking and 'knocked it out of the ballpark' every time. I highly recommend Tristan and North Island Kayak.
Exceptional Guiding Our guide Bree was wonderful. Her expertise, local knowledge and ecological insight made the trip. We highly recommend her and North Island Kayak.
North island kayaks rule! I went on a 3 day kayak trip with our amazing guide, Bree Roberts. She was so knowledgeable of the whales, plants and indigenous communities. She was fun and kept us all very safe. We also had incredible meals, celebrated my birthday with chocolate cake, and had plenty of time for rest and relaxation. I loved it and want to go back again and again.
Ocean Kayak Tour Fabulous trip with Guide Bree Roberts - smooth safe kayaking with a very thorough guide - safety and geared to older ladies who like adventure! Bree’s personally and cooking were 10/10. Highly recommend! Good company - awesome tents, food and we saw killer and humpback whales along with porpoises! I felt safe and enjoyed the days on the ocean
Great Week My 6 day trip with Bree was great. The group was small enough to cater the trip to us as we went, and what a time it was. I lost count of the whales we saw, not to mention the bear and countless fish.
Awe inspiring 3 day paddle! My wife and I spent 3 great days paddling Blackfish sound and Johnstone Strait with our very capable guides Bree and Thon(sp). We had many mammal encounters, but the scenery and the intertidal sealife was also amazing to see.
Thon was a hardworking guide, and Bree was an upbeat and very knowledgeable guide and host, passing on a huge amount of local knowledge about specifics of the sealife in the area. As a result I was able to get some great pictures of the underwater shoreline creatures.
A very memorable adventure, and have already had a friend sign up for a trip on our recommendation.
Great weekend with the lads 4 friends and I went on a 4 day tour with North Island Kayak last week (Sept 2020). We all agreed that the weekend was probably the best weekend any of us have had in 2020.
We saw plenty wildlife and marine life. The campsites which we stayed at were both remote and extremely well equipped. We enjoyed freshly cooked meals throughout our trip and a few beers by the campfire was the perfect way to end the day.
Our tour guide, Tristan, was very knowledgeable on the local area as well as the marine life. Tristan was extremely friendly and greatly added to the fun which our group had.
Overall, a fantastic trip!