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BC Marine Trails: Preserving BC coastal access for small craft users.

Salish Sea Marine Trail

Introduction

On July 1, 2017, on Canada’s 150th birthday, the BC Marine Trails Network Association will celebrate the opening of its most ambitious, complex and influential trail yet.

The trail will transform paddlesports on the south BC coast by linking two major urban centres as part of the Trans Canada Trail, doing what no other trail could do: linking the BC mainland and Vancouver Island.

It will be a showcase for the Salish Sea and its natural environment: the peaceful protected waters of the Gulf Islands; the wild island destinations in the northern extent; the challenging crossing of the Strait of Georgia; the incredible fjord scenery of Howe Sound.

It will become a world-class paddling challenge as well as a focus for all south BC paddling on the coast by securing access points and safe havens along the entire route. Hubs will be service centres to cater to the flow of visitors, bolstering tourism and the paddlesports industry.

It will be a game changer for paddling the British Columbia coast.

Founding sponsors, partners and service providers

Founding sponsors

To become a founding sponsor of the Salish Sea Marine Trail, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Partners

Coming soon.

Service providers

To become an official Salish Sea Marine Trail service provider, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Trail information

Click the title bar to open and close trail sections.

Disclaimer

Guest Book: A list of those who have completed the trail

To have your name listed as having completed the trail, and to link a trip report as an option, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Our Salish Sea Marine Trail photo collection

Leg One - Victoria to Sidney

Distance: 39 km.

Description: Clover Point is the starting point for the Salish Sea Marine Trail logistically as well as symbolically, being KM Zero of the Trans Canada Trail. However, for protection and logistics, travellers may wish to begin in Victoria Harbour or any number of other launch locations possible along the nearby shoreline. From Victoria the route follows the Saanich Peninsula north adjacent to the Vancouver Island shoreline, an area bordered by island groupings containing numerous parks and marine-accessible campsites ideal for use by paddlers. Watch for wonderful wilderness areas including two major bird sanctuaries, one provincial park with camping facilities and three sections of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve with camping facilities.

Where to camp:

Icon campsite bc parks Discovery Island Provincial Park. An established provincial park. It is approved as an official site of the Salish Sea Marine Trail.

Icon campsite national park D'Arcy Island. This is a section of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. It is approved as an official site of the Salish Sea Marine Trail.

Icon campsite national park Sidney Spit. This is a section of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. It is approved as an official site of the Salish Sea Marine Trail.

Icon campsite national park Isle de Lis (Rum Island). This is a section of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. It is approved as an official site of the Salish Sea Marine Trail.

Where to launch:

Icon trailhead A launch strategy for the Salish Sea Marine Trail is currently being undertaken by the BC Marine Trails Network Association. When a launch site is formalized, it will be added here and to the BCMTNA map. Many unofficial launches are already indicated on the map. Grey flags indicate proposed launch sites yet to be ratified.

What to see:

This section of the Vancouver Island coastline, the Saanich Peninsula north of Victoria, is a pleasant mix of urban and rural shoreline as well as island clusters that can make for perfect paddling, if you watch for the currents at key locations. Note the warning signs on the Salish Sea Marine Trail map! This presents a wonderful mix of day paddles from places like Oak Bay and Sidney to overnight stays hopping across the islands to multi-day regional treks taking in all the best sites. Among those are Trial Islands, a wonderful example of the rare coastal bluff ecology of southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands; Chain Islands, a major seabird nesting area; Mandarte Island, another seabird nesting location; and D'Arcy Island for its leper colony ruins.  

Local hazards:

Icon warning general Victoria Harbour. Traffic scheme, congested travel. 

Icon turbulence Strong currents, turbulence. Found at frequent locations along Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait. Watch for turbulence, rips and standing waves numerous areas including nearshore.

Icon warning ferry Ferries. Crossing from Saanich Peninsula or the nearby islands south of Swartz Bay means passing near the busy BC Ferries terminal at Swartz Bay and potentially crossing one or more ferry lanes depending on your route. Ferries can be frequent and fast with sightlines short due to the many islands and turns required by the ferries. In addition, the Washington State ferry leaves Sidney and travels between Sidney and Forrest islands at high speed with short sightlines.    

Leg two - The Gulf Islands, Sidney to Nanaimo

Distance: 92 km. 

Description: On this stretch the Salish Sea Marine Trail duplicates the central route of the Gulf Islands Marine Trail, running east and north of Salt Spring Island then along Trincomali Channel through False Narrows to Nanaimo. There are a multitude of side routes, possible, of course, with one being the inside route along the west side of Salt Spring Island through Sansum Narrows, as well as side routes through Stuart Channel taking in possibly the communities of Chemainus and Ladysmith. These locations are also prime day kayaking trips from the marine trail launch sites, as are many of the locations through Swanson Channel on the east side of Salt Spring Island. The camping options here are a mix of Gulf Islands National Reserve and BC Parks campgrounds, with the notable addition of Tent Island thanks to the Penelakut First Nation making it available for public use for a fee. The waters here can be generally described as some of the most placid on the Pacific coast of North America, though attention should be paid to strong currents in channels and select locations and to the high number of ferries and other marine traffic at key locations, particularly Swanson Channel.  

Where to camp:

Icon campsite national park Portland Island. This is a section of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. It is approved as an official site of the Salish Sea Marine Trail.

Icon campsite national park Shingle Bay. This is a section of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. It is approved as an official site of the Salish Sea Marine Trail.

Icon campsite national park James Bay. This is a section of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. It is approved as an official site of the Salish Sea Marine Trail.

Icon campsite bc parks Montague Harbour Provincial Park. An established provincial park. It is approved as an official site of the Salish Sea Marine Trail.

Icon campsite bc parks Wallace Island Provincial Park. An established provincial park. It is approved as an official site of the Salish Sea Marine Trail.

Icon campsite bc parks Pirates Cove Provincial Park. An established provincial park. It is approved as an official site of the Salish Sea Marine Trail.

Icon campsite bc parks Descanso Bay Regional Park. An established regional park on Gabriola Island. It is approved as an official site of the Salish Sea Marine Trail. 

Icon campsite bc parks Newcastle Island Provincial Park. An established provincial park. It is approved as an official site of the Salish Sea Marine Trail.

Where to launch:

Icon trailhead A launch strategy for the Salish Sea Marine Trail is currently being undertaken by the BC Marine Trails Network Association. When a launch site is formalized, it will be added here and to the BCMTNA map. Many unofficial launches are already indicated on the map above. Grey flags indicate proposed launch sites yet to be ratified. Primary Salish Sea Marine Trail launch sites officially designated include the following:

Icon trailhead Crofton Boat Ramp.

Icon trailhead Kinsman Chemainus Park.

Icon trailhead Transfer Beach, Ladysmith

Icon trailhead Descanso Bay Regional Park, Gabriola Island

Icon trailhead Brechin Boat Ramp, Nanaimo

What to see:

The Gulf Islands feature some incredible shoreline and in particular fretted sandstone that has eroded over the eons into remarkable honeycomb patterns and other formations. Sea birds and sea mammals abound, so expect a wide selection of seals, sea lions, eagles and even the occasional orca and humpback. The shoreline is a pleasant mix of arbutus, Garry oak, Douglas-fir and other trees as well as unique vegetation that thrives in the dry Mediterranean climate of the Gulf Islands.  

Local hazards:

Icon turbulence Strong currents, turbulence. Found at frequent locations along narrow channels. Watch for turbulence, rips and standing waves at numerous areas. While narrow channels will have more violent water, currents can run strong along island shorelines and can be a considerable advantage or disadvantage to travel depending on your circumstances.

Icon warning ferry Ferries. Crossing from Saanich Peninsula or the nearby islands south of Swartz Bay means passing near the busy BC Ferries terminal at Swartz Bay and potentially crossing one or more ferry lanes depending on your route. Ferries can be frequent and fast with sightlines short due to the many islands and turns required by the ferries. Frequent ferries along various traffic lanes in various directions and at various times means uncertainty in Swanson and Satellite channels.

Alternative route options:

Samsum Narrows Route: Part of the Gulf Islands Marine Trail, it uses a narrow, scenic, curving and mountainous tidal channel to travel the inside route south and west of Salt Spring Island.

Ladysmith Connector: A side route to the Salish Sea Marine Trail includes the Town of Ladysmith and Stuart Channel south to Tent Island to connect with the Salish Sea Marine Trail at Wallace Island. It can also be used to connect to the Sansum Narrows route.

Ladysmith Connector North: A side route to the Salish Sea Marine Trail includes the Town of Ladysmith and Stuart Channel north to connect with the Salish Sea Marine Trail at Pirates Cove. 

Leg three - Crossing the Strait of Georgia, Nanaimo to Sechelt

Distance: 66 km. 

Description: This route is along more open water north through Nanaimo and Lantzville to a wide cluster of islands known as the Ballenas-Winchelsea archipelago. This will offer protection and Crown land camping options before one of the two longest crossings of the trail (about eight kilometres) to Lasqueti and Texada islands, two large islands set amid the Strait of Georgia. Between them is a group of islands ideal for kayaking, the main one being Jedediah Island Marine Provincial Park, which makes an obvious centre point for the crossing. The final leg of the crossing is another eight kilometres to Thormanby Islands where a choice of three nearby provincial parks offer shelter and camping. Overall this leg entails the most challenging portion of the trail and will likely only be attempted in its entirety by advanced paddlers, though shorter trips to the outlying islands only (such as Thormanby Islands or the Winchelsea Islands) are possible by all skill levels. In addition, water taxis will enable exploration of Jedediah Island and the surrounding archipelago.

Leg four - The Sunshine Coast, Sechelt to Horseshoe Bay

60 km. From Thormanby Islands the route will follow the mainland coast south to Gibsons before crossing Howe Sound and joining with the established Sea to Sky Marine Trail, which ends at Horseshoe Bay. Part of the trail building process envisions the acquisition of more sites within southeast Howe Sound, and so will add to both trail systems: The Sea to Sky Marine Trail and the Salish Sea Marine Trail. 

 

Help make the Salish Sea Marine Trail a reality!

The BC Marine Trails Network Association is hoping to raise $10,000 of the budgeted $100,000 to complete the Salish Sea Marine Trail from supporters and members. 

Donate now!