Plan a Memorable Vacation in BC’s Stunning Telegraph Cove and the Broughton Archipelago

Swimming in the Burdwood Group Islands | Kim Campbell-Walker

Swimming in the Burdwood Group Islands | Kim Campbell-Walker

Wildlife lovers rejoice! Telegraph Cove and the Broughton Archipelago are an ideal destination if your perfect holiday includes a chance of spotting whales, bears, eagles, and more.

Broughton Archipelago Provincial Park, sandwiched between Northern Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, is certainly in contention for one of the most beautiful parts of the province. With towering cliffs, midden beaches, rocky islets, and protected passageways through lushly forested islands, the Broughton Archipelago makes up the largest marine park in British Columbia. The park, established in 1992, is a mecca for boaters, and it is known worldwide as a premier kayaking destination. When we were in the Broughtons, we spoke with an experienced kayaker who had flown from South Africa, purchased a kayak off Craigslist in Vancouver, rented fishing equipment, and planned to spend five nights (longer if he could stretch his food by catching dinner!) in what he considered one of the world’s best kayaking areas.

The marine park makes up only part of the area considered the Broughton Archipelago. To start our trip, we took an hour-long water taxi from Telegraph Cove to the Burdwood Group – a collection of small islands at the meeting point of Fife Sound, Tribune Channel, and Penphrase Passage. When we landed on the main group site in the Burdwoods, it was like we had been transported to a tropical island. The area was established as a BC Conservancy in 2009 in order to protect both aquatic and forest habitats as well as sites of cultural significance in the traditional territories of the Mamalilikulla-Qwe’Qwa’Sot’Em First Nations, including the shell midden beach on which we landed.

Echo Bay Marine Park | Kim Campbell-Walker

Echo Bay Marine Park | Kim Campbell-Walker

An afternoon paddle had us marvelling at Deep Sea Bluff – a towering cliff on mainland British Columbia near where Captain George Vancouver reportedly anchored during his exploration of the BC coast in 1793. When we arrived at the bluffs, the tide was low and the barnacle-covered intertidal zone (in this case, entirely vertical) was taller than me. After the mandatory photo “touching the mainland” we headed back to camp. Our two days in the Burdwood Group consisted of circumnavigating small islands, exploring the rather desolate feeling Echo Bay Marine Park – complete with a collapsing community recreation centre and a picturesque but condemned wharf – and visiting the fascinating personal museum collection of Billy Proctor, a lifelong resident of the Broughton Archipelago and passionate beachcomber, fisherman, and logger. Bring your wallet and pick up a copy of one of Billy’s books for a fascinating read about the Broughtons.

Billy Proctor's Museum | Kim Campbell-Walker

Billy Proctor’s Museum | Kim Campbell-Walker

After two days in what can only be described as beachfront paradise, we packed up and headed for the ominously named Insect Island – hoping all the while that the name had nothing to do with mosquitos! After a mostly mosquito-free night in a lovely campground (despite the decidedly uphill hike to the tenting area), we continued our travels by paddling down Misty Passage, past Monday Anchorage, through the Coach Islets, to Sedge Island. At this point, so inspired by the wide-open vistas we had seen for most of the day and not wanting to camp on the rather boxed in Sedge Island campsite, we carried on to the spectacular White Cliff Islets – one of my favourite locations from the entire trip. These tiny rock islets on the edge of Queen Charlotte Strait are nothing short of spectacular. When we visited, the few trees on the islets were filled with keen-eyed eagles and fish darted through the kelp beds below us as we paddled along.

Flower Island | Kim Campbell-Walker

Flower Island | Kim Campbell-Walker

After exploring the islets, we headed for the campsite on nearby Owl Island. Perfectly placed on the island, the campground offers a protected bay with morning sun for launching and a short trail through the trees to a gorgeous sunset viewing beach. A sunset paddle around the aptly named Fire Island was spectacular as the sun sank below the horizon. One of the best parts of kayaking is the connection immediately forged with nature and your campground compatriots.  At the recommendation of some fellow kayakers, the next day we headed for Flower Island where, we were told, we “wouldn’t be able to sleep because of the whales.”

Owl Island Sunset | Kim Campbell-Walker

Owl Island Sunset | Kim Campbell-Walker

The paddle from Owl to Flower was another gorgeous day on the water. Once we passed Bold Head on Swanson Island it became apparent that Blackfish Sound was indeed where the whales congregate. The four-or-so kilometre paddle along Swanson Island was a non-stop show of whale blows, with our heads constantly swivelling to try and catch sight of the whales. Just after arriving at Flower Island we were treated to one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen – a nearly five-minute performance of a humpback whale blowing and slapping its tail (known as tail lobbing) just offshore. The marine activity carried on throughout the evening with appearances from dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, humpback whales, and orcas. It was truly one of the best wildlife experiences of my life.

In the morning we paddled back to Telegraph Cove, completing our journey from the mainland back to Vancouver Island. Telegraph Cove is the perfect launching point for a kayak trip to the Broughtons, and there are numerous tour operators on the North Island who provide guided trips. If kayaking is not your speed, consider a trip with the original BC whale watching company, Stubbs Island Whale Watching, or spend a full day observing grizzly bears in Knight Inlet with Tide Rip Grizzly Adventures.

Whale Interpretive Centre | Kim Campbell-Walker

Whale Interpretive Centre | Kim Campbell-Walker

Telegraph Cove is also a great destination in its own right. The community balloons in population during the summer months and as such, it is one of the most tourist-focused destinations on the North Island. Several coffee shops provide drinks and snacks, a pub on the pier offers plenty of choices including BBQ salmon dinners, and the excellent Whale Interpretive Centre is a must-visit for those wanting to know more about the creatures that call the Johnstone Strait home. Telegraph Cove Resort offers many accommodation options, including camping, motel units, and the opportunity to stay in the many restored cabins that also serve as an outdoor museum.

Telegraph Cove | Kim Campbell-Walker

Telegraph Cove | Kim Campbell-Walker

Telegraph Cove is a first-class destination for those wishing to get in touch with nature. From self-guided trips for experienced kayakers to afternoon whale watching excursions, the Broughton Archipelago is sure to delight your whole family.

For places to camp in North Vancouver Island and elsewhere in British Columbia go to Camping & RVing BC Camping Map.

Post your BC travel and camping photos using the hashtag #CampinBC

Published: September 13th, 2018

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Kimberly Walker by Kimberly Walker

Kimberly is a Special Education, Elementary School teacher in Hope, BC. Previously having worked ten years at the Hope Visitor Centre & Museum promoting tourism in Hope and British Columbia, Kimberly worked on many local history projects in the museum as well as researching and writing articles for the local newspaper. Kimberly loves travelling with her husband Dale and their dog Alpine. In the fall of 2014, they spent the first 78 days of married life travelling and camping their way across Canada - just the two of them and the dog - travelling in a Hyundai Elantra! Kimberly loves various outdoor recreation types and exploring our beautiful province.

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