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Echo Bay Marine Park | Kim Campbell-Walker

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

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.

Swimming in the Burdwood Group Islands | Kim Campbell-Walker
Swimming in the Burdwood Group Islands | Kim Campbell-Walker

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 Broughton’s, 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. (Note: Since this trip the Burdwood Group has been closed for camping and there are now specific sites approved for camping in Mamalilikulla Territory. BC Marine Trails has good information available. Check here for details.)

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 Prince of Whales Whale Watching and Wildlife Adventures 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 Forest Campground offers camping and moorage.

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.

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5 Unique Locations to Explore in Nanaimo, BC

Morden Colliery, Nanaimo

Morden Colliery, Nanaimo | Kim Parcher

Many people pass through Nanaimo while on route to various other Vancouver Island destinations. In doing so, some of the most fascinating and unique locations are missed.

Here are five great reasons to make Nanaimo one of the top places to explore.

Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park

This small Provincial Park offers a glimpse into the early mining history of Nanaimo. In 1912 there was a working coal mine at this very location. What’s left is the last remaining coal tipple on Vancouver Island.

Secured behind a chain link fence, the large structure is visible right from the parking area. There is also a short trail that circumvents the artifact.

This Provincial Park is located just south of the Duke Point ferry terminal. Heading south on Highway #1 (towards Ladysmith), turn right onto Morden Road, and follow to the end.

Morden Colliery, Nanaimo

Morden Colliery, Nanaimo | Kim Parcher

The Arboretum

The H.R. MacMillan Grant Ainscough Arboretum is an unofficial park owned by the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN). The site used to attract university groups from across the province, who studied the behaviour and growth of exotic trees. What’s left is 150 species of trees that are now maintained and monitored by volunteers, as well as the RDN. Visitors to the area will be delighted with the plaques and interpretive signs giving details of each trees origin.

The Arboretum is also located near the Duke Point ferry terminal. From the Duke Point Highway, follow the signs as if you are heading to Jack Point & Biggs Park (off Maughan Road). Turn right onto Phoenix Way, and immediately turn right again. You will see a yellow gate and the sign for the park.

Roberts Memorial Park, Nanaimo

Roberts Memorial Park, Nanaimo | Kim Parcher

Roberts Memorial Provincial Park

A short 1 km hike through a grove of Douglas Fir trees takes you to a rocky shoreline of sandstone ledges and tidal pools. This area is part of the geological heritage of Vancouver Island and represents ancient sea beds.

The rocky beach offers great opportunities for wildlife viewing. Seals and otters are often found basking on the warm rocks, while Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagles and a variety of seabirds soar overhead.

The park is in Yellow Point, just south of Nanaimo. Take the Cedar Road exit from Hwy 1, and then turn onto Yellow Point Road. Follow signs to the park.

The Abyss, Nanaimo

The Abyss, Nanaimo | Kim Parcher

Extension Ridge

The 16-inch-wide earthquake fissure, located on the Extension Ridge trail, is known locally as ‘The Abyss’. Although not much is known about this large crack in the earth, there is speculation that it could be a result of a collapsed mine tunnel that was triggered by an earthquake years ago. To date there is no information about how deep the crack really is.

The trailhead is found off Harewood Mines Road in South Nanaimo. There is a small parking area under the power lines, and a large sign to let you know you have arrived at Extension Ridge. Head up the trail (under the power lines) for approximately 100 meters and climb the stairs. Keeping right, continue to follow the trail for approximately 15 minutes to reach the earthquake fissure.

Petroglyph Park, Nanaimo

Petroglyph Park, Nanaimo | Kim Parcher

Petroglyph Provincial Park

This small South Nanaimo Provincial Park has the most concentrated collection of ancient rock carvings on Vancouver Island.

A clearly marked paved trail will lead you through the park to view the petroglyphs. Information boards and replicas near the beginning of the trail provide details about the history of the area and help decipher the carvings.

The real petroglyphs are scattered around the park, and although hard to see due to being moss covered, finding them is half the fun!

Access this park right off Hwy #1. Watch for signs as you are heading north towards downtown Nanaimo. The park comes up quickly on your righthand side just after Haliburton Street. There is a large parking area at the trailhead.

If this area interests you, check out our drive:
From Coast to Coast on Vancouver Island: Vancouver to Tofino

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For places to camp on 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: August 16th, 2018

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