The West Coast Vancouver Island North BC Marine Trail section:
Leg three: Nootka
There’s a magical sense of history in Nootka Sound, highlighted by the quaint little church at Yuquot. Step into the foyer and you’ll see stained glass windows donated by the Spanish government to commemorate Spain’s role here that included the only Spanish military fort in Canada. Step inside the church and you’ll see some fantastic totems.
You can visit here by paddle, of course, through relatively protected waters. Advanced kayakers will relish the outer shores of Nootka Island, the largest island off the Vancouver Island coast. For those who wish to see this spectacular coast but prefer land, there is the Nootka Trail, one of the lesser known major coastal hikes, which runs the shore from Louie Bay to Yuquot, with a few tough headlands between beaches thrown in for good measure.
Similar to most other regions, Nootka Sound offers numerous access points to a diverse range of attractions, which vary from the storm-thrashed reefs of Nuchatlitz Provincial Park to the more protected waters of the Spanish Pilot Group.
One of the great features of this area is the greater range of options available, from cottage accommodation in Nuchatlitz or water taxis from Zeballos or Tahsis to regular scheduled freight and boat passenger runs from Gold River to Yuquot and beyond. Getting here need not be a hardship, though paddling brings the greatest rewards.
Trail guide preview: Nootka Sound and island
Access points: The main recreational hub for central Nootka Sound is Cougar Creek, a recreational campground and boat launch that is seasonally very busy. Fees apply. Gold River is too distant along Muchalat Inlet for quick trips, but is the base for the freight and passenger service Uchuck III for transport into the sound and beyond. Access to the north is possible from either Tahsis or Zeballos. Both are popular and convenient gateways to Nuchatlitz or Catala Island, with water taxis available at both communities. A popular launch point for self-directed trips is the bridge between Little Espinosa and Espinosa Inlets.
Short trips: From Cougar Creek a journey up Hisnit or Tlupana inlets is a great introduction to the mountain scenery of the area, particularly the cliffs of Perpendicular Bluff in Tlupana. The area has several resorts that cater mainly to fishing groups but will likely accommodate kayakers. This enables base trips in the vicinity of the Spanish Pilot Group. Inflow and outflow winds can actually aid day trips – ride the outflows in the morning and the inflows in the afternoon, if conditions are favorable. Of course, beware variations and best to plan to travel early before the day’s winds rise.
Moderate trips: The Spanish Pilot Group and Bligh Island offer an option away from the open ocean swell, with limited camping opportunities. A day trip to Yuquot is highly recommended. To the north, Nuchatlitz Provincial Park and Catala Provincial Park are both kayaking magnets for obvious reasons – great camping, scenery and opportunities to explore reefs, sea caves and the many other features. A scenic highlight is Nuchatlitz Inlet. See it before it is logged! It is a treasure.
Advanced trips: The outer coast north of Tatchu Point offers a rugged getaway, if conditions allow. Tatchu Point can be treacherous, but the rewards of the beaches near Jurassic Point are substantial. A circumnavigation of Nootka Island is an adventure for veteran paddlers, with the outside of Nootka Island a definite highlight. Pick either sweeping beaches like those near Calvin Falls or pocket beaches like those at Callicum Creek for campsites. Note the inside passage through Tahsis Inlet is prone to wind funneling, which can slow a trip considerably.
New BC Marine Trail sites: Nootka Sound is likely to evolve as issues are resolved, such as cultural sensitivity keeping locations in Nuchatlitz Provincial Park – Nootka’s most popular kayaking destination – off the official list while consultations continue. Until then, the omission of the region constitutes a key missing component of the trail.
Most of the confirmed sites in Nootka already exist by way of provincial parks (Catala Island and Bligh Island, for instance). But there are also notable new additions, with Strange Island, Marvinas Bay, Saltery Bay and Lord Waterfall newly minted as campsites – great new areas to check out.