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Best Places to Paddleboard: Gulf Islands

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

The Gulf Islands in British Columbia are renowned for their serene waters, breathtaking landscapes, and diverse wildlife, making them a perfect destination for paddleboarding enthusiasts. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a first-time paddler, there are plenty of amazing spots to explore on a paddleboard. You can choose to have a relaxing experience or an adrenaline-pumping adventure - the Gulf Islands offer something for everyone. Here are some of the best places that I recommend checking out for an unforgettable paddleboarding experience.

Where are you paddling?

SUP Routes from Sidney (Vancouver Island)

Port Sidney Marina to Sidney Island

  • Level of difficulty: moderately challenging route

  • Distance: 6.9-km return

  • Paddle access points: 9835 Seaport Pl, Sidney, BC V8L 4X3

  • Parking: Port Sidney Marina Parking lot

  • Paddling hazards: Beware of boat traffic as this route crosses a main channel, winds can pick up in this area quickly

The 6.9-km SUP route near Sidney, British Columbia, is a moderately challenging route that is popular among outdoor enthusiasts. The route is popular among kayakers and under the right conditions, can be a great SUP route too.

The route offers stunning views of the bay and surrounding mountains, as well as opportunities for wildlife viewing. It is not uncommon to spot eagles, otters, and seals while paddling.

Canoe Cove to Portland Island

  • Level of difficulty: Moderate

  • Distance:19km

  • Paddle access points: Big Blue Sailing or Public water access

  • Parking: Big Blue Sailing

  • Paddling hazards: This route passes through ferry routes and boat traffic is common. Be aware of the tides and wind direction before setting out.

  • What else to see and do: Visit Boaters Exchange for local artwork or grab something to eat at the Stonehouse Pub.

If you're an intermediate-level paddler with good fitness but not necessarily expert skills, the 19 km paddle from Canoe Cove to Portland Island is an excellent choice for an adventurous, full-day excursion. The paddle takes about four hours with breaks and rewards you with awe-inspiring views of the Gulf Islands. During the journey, you'll pass several small islands and paddle through calm waters before reaching the picturesque Portland Island, which offers an ideal location for a picnic or swim before making the return journey. Overall, this paddle offers a fantastic experience for paddlers looking to challenge themselves while enjoying the beauty of the Gulf Islands.

Explore the Gulf Islands with Blue Jellyfish SUP Adventures;

SUP Routes on Salt Spring Island

Located in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Salt Spring Island is a peaceful and scenic destination that boasts an array of activities and attractions. As the largest island in the Gulf Islands, visitors can enjoy a range of shopping and dining options, as well as plenty of water-based activities. Whether you have your own kayak or stand-up paddleboard or need to rent equipment, adventure outfitters like Salt Spring Island Paddle Board Company can provide tours and rentals to explore the island's coastline. From historic indigenous beach sites to secluded bays surrounded by arbutus trees, the crystal-clear waters of the Salish Sea offer an unforgettable experience for all interests.

Cusheon Lake

Embark on a captivating 4km SUP loop starting and finishing at Cusheon Lake Public View Point on Salt Spring Island. Paddle along the calm waters of Cusheon Lake, surrounded by pristine nature and picturesque scenery. Witness the underwater world beneath your board, with fish gliding beneath you and vibrant vegetation. Marvel at the forested hills and distant mountains that frame the lake, adding to its serene beauty. Return to the starting point, feeling accomplished and rejuvenated by the peaceful ambience of Cusheon Lake, known for its recreational opportunities and natural wonders.

This 4km SUP loop at Cusheon Lake on Salt Spring Island offers a refreshing and invigorating paddleboarding experience. Immerse yourself in the tranquillity of the lake, explore the vibrant underwater world, and soak in the breathtaking views. With its captivating scenery and outdoor recreation options, Cusheon Lake provides the perfect setting for an unforgettable SUP adventure.

Beddis Beach

  • Level of difficulty: Moderate/ Hard

  • Distance: 13Km

  • Paddle access points: Beddis Beach

  • Paddling hazards: Ocean Hazards

Embark on an exhilarating 13km out-and-back SUP route from Beddis Beach to Ruckle Provincial

Park on Salt Spring Island. Paddle along the rugged coastline, encountering secluded coves, hidden beaches, and captivating rock formations. Enjoy panoramic coastal views and the untouched beauty of Salt Spring Island's shoreline. Reach Ruckle Provincial Park, with its rugged and undeveloped coastline, and take a moment to appreciate the tranquillity. Then, retrace your path, relishing the awe-inspiring views before returning to Beddis Beach. This SUP adventure offers a thrilling exploration of nature's wonders and a deep connection with the ocean, making it a memorable experience for nature enthusiasts and paddling adventurers alike.

St. Mary Lake

7.5km loop SUP route that starts at St Mary Lake Public Beach Access on Salt Spring Island, BC. St

Mary Lake is known for its crystal-clear waters, which provide excellent visibility and a chance to observe the diverse underwater ecosystem. Paddlers often enjoy glimpses of fish swimming beneath their boards and the colorful aquatic vegetation that adds to the lake's charm.. Return to the starting point, complete the loop, and cherish the tranquil and unforgettable paddleboarding experience amidst the natural splendor of Salt Spring Island.

SUP Routes of Galiano Island

Galiano Island is one of the most diverse and captivating Gulf Islands, offering visitors a range of activities from swimming and kayaking to hiking and exploring its rugged coastline. Start your adventure at Montague Harbour Marina, home to Gulf Island Kayaking for your rental needs, or take a tranquil paddle along Gray Peninsula—with its 180-metre rock ledge—from Montague Provincial Park. For a truly unforgettable experience, time your visit with high tide so that you can coast alongside the sunset on the beach. Then journey to Dionisio Provincial Park in the north, featuring stunning sandstone formations, wildflowers, and sandy beaches perfect for swimming in Coon Bay or venture to Wallace Island.

Montague Harbour Loop with Portage

  • Level of difficulty: Easy

  • Distance: 2.5 km

  • Paddle access points: Montague Harbour Marina Park

  • Paddling hazards:

  • What else to see and do: Eat at Pilgrimme. The restaurant is known for its locally sourced and foraged ingredients, as well as its innovative and creative approach to cooking.

The Montague Harbour Loop is a scenic paddle route that will take you around the picturesque island of Galiano. The route is approximately 2.5 km long and features a short 50 m portage. Starting from Montague Harbour, you will paddle through tranquil waters and enjoy stunning views of the rugged coastline. The loop will take you past a 180-metre rock ledge along the shore. You will also have the opportunity to explore small coves along the way. The 50 m portage is a small challenge that will lead you to a hidden gem - a perfect spot for a picnic. The loop can be completed in around an hour and is suitable for paddlers of all skill levels.

SUP Routes of Mayne Island

Mayne Island may be small, but it's a surprisingly rich destination for paddle sport enthusiasts. Head to Bennett Bay, a calm and protected bay, to test your skills on the water. After paddling, take a well-deserved break at the Mayne Island Resort and unwind at the spa or grab a bite to eat at the Bennett Bay Bistro, known for its delicious food. If you're looking for something more casual, check out The Groove Island Kitchen, which offers an eclectic menu of tapas and gourmet burgers and pizzas along with local craft beers on tap, perfect for relaxing in a laid-back atmosphere.

While you're on the island, be sure to visit the Japanese Garden Memorial to pay tribute to the contributions of Japanese residents who left during World War II. Take a stroll through the serene garden and check out the meditation hut and secret garden - it's a peaceful and reflective experience you won't want to miss.

Montague Harbour on Galiano Island to Public Access Boat Ramp & Beach on Mayne Island

  • Level of difficulty: Hard

  • Distance: 18.5 km

  • Paddle access points: Start: Montague Harbour > Finish: Curlew View Rd, Mayne Island, BC V0N 2J2

  • Paddling hazards: High-Traffic Ferry Route

  • What else to see and do: Stay at Mayne Haven Bed and Breakfast.

Embark on an exciting 18.5-kilometer paddle adventure from Montague Harbour on Galiano Island to the Public Access Boat Ramp & Beach on Mayne Island, which is considered a challenging route due to the distance. The trail takes you through the heart of the Gulf Islands, but caution is advised as it coincides with a high-traffic ferry route. It is important to keep an eye out for larger boats and be aware of your surroundings. As you paddle through calm waters, take in the picturesque scenery of the surrounding islands and keep an eye out for wildlife such as seals and eagles. Once you arrive at the Public Access Boat Ramp & Beach on Mayne Island, you can relax and enjoy the stunning views.

Mayne Island to Curlew Island Loop

  • Level of difficulty: Easy

  • Distance: 3.5km

  • Parking and Paddle access points: Public boat launching at Curlew View Rd, Mayne Island, BC V0N 2J2

  • Paddling hazards: Usual tides, rocks and winds

  • What else to see and do: Visit The Birary to pick up some local handmade jam. Get fresh produce at Farm Gate Store, In addition to fresh produce, the Farm Gate Store also sells a selection of natural health and wellness products, such as essential oils, supplements, and natural skincare items.

Enjoy a 3.5-kilometer loop trail from Mayne Island to Curlew Island in British Columbia, which is generally considered an easy route. This scenic trail is perfect for paddle sports enthusiasts and offers a peaceful atmosphere, with few other people likely to be encountered along the way.

SUP Routes of Saturna Island

Despite its modest size and population, Saturna Island offers spectacular vistas that are sure to take your breath away. Begin your adventure at East Point, where picturesque seascapes blend with the curious songs of nearby sea lions, and watch in awe as orcas swim through the nutrient-rich waters below.

Public Access Boat Ramp & Beach on Mayne Island to East Point & Narvaez Bay Campsite on Saturna Island

  • Level of difficulty: Hard

  • Distance: 21km

  • Parking and Paddle access points:

    • Start: Public boat launching at Curlew View Rd, Mayne Island, BC V0N 2J2

    • Finish: Narvaez Bay Campground

  • Paddling hazards:

  • What else to see and do: Stay at Mayne Island Resort. They offer a range of accommodations, including ocean-view rooms, suites, villas, and cottages. Guests can enjoy on-site facilities such as a spa, fitness center, heated outdoor pool, hot tub, and sauna. The restaurant serves delicious meals made with locally sourced ingredients, and guests can relax and enjoy cocktails or local wines in the lounge. It's a great place for a luxurious and relaxing vacation.

This is a challenging 21.1-km route from Public Access Boat Ramp & Beach on Mayne Island to East Point & Narvaez Bay Campsite on Saturna Island. It's a hard paddle due to the distance, but the views are worth it. The route goes by a busy ferry route, so be careful. Narvaez Bay Campground is a good spot to rest, camp, and enjoy the scenery. Pack enough water, food, and sunscreen for the long trip.

East Point on Saturna Island to Tumbo Island Loop

Along this 11.4-km loop trail, you may encounter stunning coastal scenery and rugged shorelines. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as seals, sea lions, and eagles. You may also spot various types of marine plants and kelp forests as you paddle through the calm waters. The trail offers beautiful views of the surrounding islands and is perfect for those looking for a peaceful and scenic paddleboarding adventure.

SUP Routes of North and South Pender Islands

Paddle through two islands for the price of one on Pender Island! There's no better way to soak up the scenery than by exploring the canal between North and South Pender, where you'll witness a rush of tide depending on when you go. From Port Browning to Bedwell Harbour, pass under Canal Road bridge and paddle your way around. On the tip of North Pender you'll find plenty of accommodation, restaurants and galleries. Meanwhile, South Pender is home to Poet's Cove Resort (Bedwell Harbour) - with its luxury spa, state-of-the-art gym and kayaks and paddleboards at your disposal for an unforgettable experience on the water.

This area is great for fall paddling so why not grab a copy of our entire Vancouver Island Fall Paddle Guide?

Port Browning to Bedwell Harbour on Pender Island

Experience this 5.5-km point-to-point trail that is considered an easy route. This trail is great for paddle sports, and it's unlikely you'll encounter many other people while exploring. Bedwell Harbour is a scenic harbor on Pender Island, British Columbia. It's a popular destination for boaters and offers a protected anchorage, marina facilities, and access to surrounding islands. Poets Cove Resort and Spa is located on its shores, providing luxury accommodations and recreational activities. The area is known for its stunning landscapes, hiking trails, and wildlife. Bedwell Harbour is a tranquil spot for boating and enjoying the natural beauty of the Gulf Islands.

From the windswept shores of Salt Spring Island to the hidden gems of Saturna, British Columbia's Gulf Islands offer an unforgettable adventure for paddlers seeking to explore the stunning beauty of the region. With easy accessibility from Victoria Airport and tour operators like Blue Jellyfish SUP Adventures and Pacifica Paddle Sports, you can begin your journey by walking on and paddling off with BC Ferries at Swartz Bay ferry terminal.

For those looking to explore further islands, convenient launch points like Long Harbour on Salt Spring Island and Sturdies Harbour in Galiano Island await, where you can set up a rental car with a soft rack for your luggage or take Gulf Island Ferries to Canoe Cove in just thirty minutes. Each island boasts its own unique beauty, from witnessing sea lions serenade you at East Point on Saturna Island to coasting alongside a breathtaking sunset on the beach at Montague Harbour Marina, or wandering through the secret garden at Bennett Bay Bistro in Mayne. Whether embarking on kayaks or paddleboards, these southern seas promise remarkable memories that will last a lifetime.

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