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Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada

Kayaking and Canoeing

Facilities and Services | Pre-trip Checklist | Safety Tips | What You Need to Know

A couple kayaks along the beach of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
Explore the park by kayak!
© Parks Canada / Josh McCulloch

An ideal paddling location, the Gulf Islands are one of the most beautiful and accessible archipelagos in the world. Distances are short, scenery is varied, campsites are numerous and, despite the close proximity, civilization seems worlds away. Add the chance to see killer whales, bald eagles, seals, sea lions and otters, and you have the makings for a grand wildlife outing while barely leaving your launch site.

Choose your trip:


Facilities and Services

The park offers 10 backcountry camping areas with approximately 100 backcountry camp sites across eight different islands. Seven camping areas are accessible by water only. Click here to download suggested kayak launch and parking locations (PDF, 133 KB).

Check out our 2014 Hiking, Camping and Boating Guide (PDF, 1.62 MB) to learn more about park facilities including locations and operating dates.


Pre-trip Checklist

When preparing for your paddling trip, ensure that you have all the safety equipment d and kayaking gear required. Here are some items you might consider packing:

  • Plenty of water – Potable water is only available at car camping locations.
  • Garbage bags – Garbage facilities at car campgrounds only.
  • Lifejacket and gloves
  • Sunscreen, sun glasses, hat and long sleeve shirt
  • Nautical charts, compass and GPS (in a waterproof case)
  • Rain gear and polypropylene or fast- dry clothing and/or wet/dry suits
  • Means of communications (VHF radio, cell phone)
  • First aid kit
  • Pocket knife
  • Duct tape
  • Camera

Make sure to check the Important Bulletins for closures and public safety alerts before you leave home.


Safety Tips

When visiting Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, you are in an area where rescue services and medical assistance may take time to reach you in case of an emergency. Ensure that you have the level of training and experience necessary to take responsibility for your safety.

Sea kayaking and canoeing are risky activities. Some safety tips include:

  • Ensure you are trained in sea kayaking techniques (including but not limited to rolls, rescues, tides and navigation) and that you are properly equipped before setting out. If not, consider booking a tour with a certified kayaking guide.
  • Marine weather and sea conditions can vary dramatically. Check weather forecasts and tide tables before heading out.
  • Use extreme caution when travelling strong tidal currents, particularly in the following areas:
    • Boat Pass (between Samuel and Saturna Islands)
    • Active Pass (between Galiano and Mayne Islands)
    • Waters off of East Point (Saturna Island)
  • Dress warmly.
  • Yield to larger vessels. Recreational boat traffic is high in peak season (May-September), and commercial freighters and passenger ferries are common in all seasons. Choose bright colours (e.g., lifejacket and kayak) for visibility.
  • All marine vessels are subject to the Small Vessel Regulations and the Collision Regulations made under the Canada Shipping Act.
  • Learn first aid skills and know how to obtain help. Carry a marine VHF radio and monitor weather conditions regularly (VHF radio broadcasts). Keep signalling devices close in case of sudden emergency. Familiarize yourself with cold water conditions and signs of hypothermia.
  • Kayak or canoe with a partner and let someone know where you are going and when you are planning to return.
  • Consult the Safe Boating Guide and the Sea Kayaking Safety Guide.

Obtain emergency contact information and learn more about Visitor Safety at Gulf Islands National Park.


What You Need to Know

  • Respect closures for Special Preservation Areas, including Sidney Spit Lagoon and park islets. Stay at least 100 metres from islets – they are important and rare habitat for nesting seabirds and marine mammals.
  • Respect marine wildlife viewing guidelines and stay at least 100 metres from marine life.

Learn more about other National Park Regulations.

"Leave No Trace™" principles promote and inspire responsible outdoor recreation and stewardship. Learn more about Leave no Trace™ in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.