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Kayaking Bowron Lake, Cariboo. Photo BC Parks

Boating and Other Watersports are Popular in British Columbia

Does floating along in a kayak on the quiet waters of a sheltered cove appeal to you? Or, is experiencing the thrill of whitewater rafting or dancing on the wake of a boat on water skis more your style? Perhaps you enjoy the flap of the sails on the open water, or the oneness of paddleboarding.

With over 25,000 inland lakes and thousands of kilometers of rivers, plus close to 27,000 kilometers of coastline in BC, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to water activities. The region’s diverse and natural beauty provides a stunning backdrop for an abundance of boating opportunities, and if you combine your boating and watersports with a camping trip you are set for a fun-filled vacation.

Boating near Sayward. Photo: Picture BC/Province of British Columbia
Boating near Sayward | Picture BC/Province of British Columbia

Boat Licensing and Regulations

All motorized boats (over 10hp) are required to be licensed. For details go to Transport Canada.

In order to operate a power-driven boat in Canada, individuals must be 16 years of age or over and hold a Canadian Boating License or  Proof of Competency indicating they understand the rules of the water and how to safely operate a boat. This applies whether the boat is owned or rented. Restrictions are in place for persons under the age of 16.

Transport Canada’s Safe Boating Guide is a comprehensive guide to boating in BC and Canada. Foreign recreational boaters can find information here.

Whitewater Rafting on Nahatlach River, Boston Bar. Photo: Destination BC/Reo Rafting Ryan Robinson
Whitewater Rafting on Nahatlach River, Boston Bar | Destination BC/Reo Rafting Ryan Robinson

Boating Equipment and Safety

Certain safety equipment is required no matter the type of pleasure craft. This includes a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) or Lifejacket for each person. Watertight flashlight, bailer and flares are also required. Review the relevant section in the Safe Boating Guide produced by Transport Canada.

Wind and storms can spring up at any time. Ensure you have a way of communicating with emergency services should the need arise.

Nautical charts can provide locations of various obstacles to look out for such as low bridges and underground cables. Be alert and watch for large vessels such as ferries, tugs and floatplanes. Take a compass with you.  And be aware of swimmers, divers and water skiers.

There are certain areas where no boats, or only non-motorized boats, are allowed and there are other restrictions on some lakes and waterways in BC. Watch for the appropriate signs including (but not limited to): 1) No gas or diesel engines 2) Maximum Speed 3) Power Limit 4) No boats.

Protect yourself and obtain insurance. For larger vessels, marine insurance is required, for smaller pleasure craft you may be able to add to your home insurance policy.

Other Useful Information

Camping & RV in BC has a google map that shows where all the private campgrounds, provincial parks, national parks and recreation sites are and each listing indicates whether they are on the water, have a marina, boat rentals and more.

Read blogs on the Camping & RV in BC website that highlight some of our visitor’s favourite places for boating and water activities.

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For place to camp in British Columbia go to the Camping Map

For more information, visit:

Ahoy BC
BC Coastal Marine Parks

Share your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc, #explorebc, #bcnice

It’s always a great day to #campinbc

Published: June 1st, 2022

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