Explore the Trails – Paddling Gambier Island
The trails of the Sunshine Coast offer a wide array of experiences for travellers of all levels and walks of life. Ranging in length, difficulty, and medium of experience (by foot, bike, kayak…) the Coast’s trails are the epitome of the pristine beauty and epic landscapes of British Columbia. Join the adventure and share your photos with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Youtube using #sunshinecoastbc. Happy trails!
Paddling Gambier Island
Once again we welcome guest blogger, Sunshine Kayaking. Established in 1991, Sunshine Kayaking is conveniently located along the waterfront in Gibsons Landing Harbour and offers everything from kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals, tours, and lessons to sailing tours and fishing charters.
Gambier Island is host to many beaches, kayak launching areas and great for swimming and kayaking, excellent hiking trails through the forest where you will see many types of different wildlife, camping and hiking. There are five major campsites on the perimeter of Gambier Island – West Bay, Halkett Bay, Brigade bay, Douglas Bay and Ekins Point. There is also camping at Gambier Lake which is a 3 -hour hike from Douglas Bay.
Grace Island & West Bay – trip time 4 – 5 hours return
Launch from Gibsons Landing Harbour. Follow the Gibsons shoreline until you are past the Langdale ferry terminal. Exercise appropriate caution to avoid the ferries and other commercial traffic. Once clear of this traffic, cross the Channel toward Grace Island, just off the southern tip of Gambier Island. Slip behind the island around the point into West Bay. Paddling down the shoreline of the bay, you will pass towering rock cliffs and occasional beaches. Vistas worthy of picture postcards are a treat for the eye as the snow-capped mountains rise out of the water on every side.
Going ashore you will find two public wharfs, Gambier Harbour and West Bay, each giving you access to the settled areas of the island. At the very end of West Bay is the mouth of a creek, where you can hear the water tumbling down the mountainside in the winter rainy season. You can go hiking through the woods which are all hung with mosses. This is a possible campsite if you are planning to stay overnight. Mosses and lichen are a beautiful feature of this shoreline. They grow in great profusion on the rocky cliffs, constantly moistened by the water that seeps down the steep slopes. Along with ferns, the moss and lichen form a study in green textures clinging precariously on narrow ledges of rock. Return to Gibsons Landing Harbour
Halkett Bay Provincial Park – trip time 8 – 9 hours return
Launch from Gibsons Landing Harbour. Paddle across Shoal Channel and around the North Side of Keats Island. The towering peaks of the coastal mountains open out before you in a magnificent vista. Hugging the coast of Keats allows you to enjoy the various kinds of starfish that cling to the rocky shores.
Collingwood Channel is a favourite spot for viewing wildlife of all kinds due to the brisk tidal flows. Watch for many different species of birds, lots of seals and the occasional whale. From Cotton Point on the eastern tip of Keats Island, head across to Hutt Island where you can slip into the lee of the island for a rest before venturing across Collingwood Channel to Gambier. The shortest crossing to the island starts here, but head for a point east of Hope Point, on the southeast end of Gambier, to stay in the lee of Bowen Island.
Hackett Bay is than a short paddle down the coastline. This Provincial Marine Park has excellent campsites. From here you can explore the eastern face of Gambier Island and enjoy its wonderful seascapes. Tucked away inside a government wharf lies at the end of the bay where a thick fringe of hemlock and second-growth fir shield the shoreline from view. If you walk into the shade of the trees, you’ll discover a series of clearings linked by old logging trails that have assumed the character of sedate laneways. You could camp here where there are several formal sites or on a small island just offshore in the bay. The island boasts a small beach, above which stands a clearing large enough for one tent. You can hike the old logging road that terminates beside the campsites at Halkett Bay west to Camp Fircom, a half-hour walk. At first the road leads through the forest, but it descends to the shoreline as it nears the camp, with a pleasing view south of Hood Point on Bowen Island. Return to Gibsons Landing Harbour.
Woolridge Island – Ekins Point – trip time 4 – 6 hours depart Port Mellon return
Launch from Port Mellon via Dunham Road to the water’s edge and launch your kayak. From this vantage point you are looking directly across Thornbrough Channel toward Gambier Island, with Woolridge Island directly in front and snuggled up against Gambier Island. Thornbrough Channel is a protected waterway and usually calm. Paddle toward the western tip of Woolridge Island. The coastal mountains are spectacular from the middle of the Channel.
Rocky beaches greet you all along the island shore until you round the point to enter Latona Passage between Woolridge and Gambier Islands. Through the still of the waters you will see Herons galore on the log booms, Kingfishers swooping between the shores and trees and seals keeping a close on what we are doing.
There is a small beach near the southeast tip of Woolridge Island where you stop, relax and have lunch. Continue the trip by paddling northeast along the eastern arm of Thornbrough Channel toward Ekins Point. As you move along the Gambier Coast, the cliffs collapse and you can launch on friendlier rocks. At Ekins Point you will have spectacular views and there is a camping site available. On the return trip to Port Mellon, paddle straight southwest, leaving Woolridge Island to the left, and then another 3.2 km to your launching site. Return to Port Mellon.
Douglas Bay & Brigade Bay – trip time can be from Gibsons Landing Harbour or Port Mellon departure
Launch from Gibsons Harbour or from Port Mellon to Douglas Bay and Brigade Bay. From Port Mellon paddle toward Woolridge Island, and continue to the east side of Gambier Island opposite Anvil Island. This side of Gambier Island is spectacular, with rock cliffs soaring out of the sea against a backdrop of towering coastal mountains. This area is uninhabited except for the abundance of seabirds and seals that fish the channels in numbers. Camp on the shorelines of Ekins Point, Douglas Bay or Brigade Bay under a canopy of gigantic maple trees and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the outdoors.
You can visit the waterfall in Douglas Bay or do some hiking. If weather permits, enjoy a trip to Christie Islet and Pam Rock. This tiny islet and sprinkling of bare rocks, poking out of the water just south of Anvil Island, is home to one of our largest seal colonies. They are also the breeding grounds for Glaucous-winged Gulls and cormorants, Harlequin Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Bonaparte’s Gulls and many others can be seen in their seasons. The Double-crested Cormorants have been building their nests if twigs on these rocks for many years and now they are 2 -4 foot high structures perched on the rocky ledges. A very unique sight to see.
Gambier Island Circumnavigation: Trip Time – As Long As You Want!
To circumnavigate Gambier Island, you can paddle in either direction depending on the conditions at the start of the trip. From Gibsons Landing Harbour around Gambier Island and back to Gibsons Landing Harbour it is approximately 41.5 km (26 mi). Expect to paddle about 5 km/h (3mph) if you are moving at a relaxed pace and stopping to enjoy the sights. Paddling time will also depend on the direction of the tide and wind. There are five major campsites on the perimeter of Gambier Island – West Bay, Halkett Bay, Brigade Bay, Douglas Bay and Ekins Point, so take your time and enjoy the scenery.
An itinerary would be as follows or visa versa: Depart Gibsons Landing Harbour – Grace Island & West Bay – Halkett Bay, Brigade Bay – Douglas Bay – Ekins Point – Woolridge Island – Thornbrough Bay – New Brighton – Gibsons Landing Harbour
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