Salish Sea Marine Trail grand opening

Salish Sea Marine Trail Celebration Special Event

Join the BC Marine Trails Network in a weekend celebration of paddling and camaraderie Sept. 15-17 amid the splendor of the Salish Sea.

The Salish Sea Marine Trail connects Victoria to Vancouver as part of the Trans Canada Trail, and the grand opening celebration on Newcastle Island puts you on the doorstep of some of the great wilderness locations of this multi-faceted paddling route. 

The grand opening weekend event includes two initiatives - the marine trail grand opening and a new annual race, the Crazy Eight, which loops around Newcastle and Protection islands.

Join us for this piece of history in the making and meet our friends at the Snuneymuxw First Nation who will be our gracious hosts at this event and into the future as a key waypoint on the Salish Sea Marine Trail.

Need help booking or signing up for events? Click here for instructions. Please note the Weekend Pass does not include camping for Friday and Saturday nights. View the schedule in a spreadhseet.

Weekend passes now sold out!

We no longer have weekend passes available, but there are still great ways to participate. Join us on the Saturday for the group flotilla and grand opening, for the post grand opening social, for the traditional Coast Salish salmon barbecue (tickets are still available), and the keynote speakers in the pavilion 6-8 p.m. On the Sunday, join us for the Crazy Eight race. Race-only entry is $10 to cover insurance costs. 

Help us make this a zero-waste event

If you are taking part in the breakfasts, please bring a plate, cutlery and a mug for coffee we don't have to dispose of hundreds of paper cups. Water is available for cleanup after your meal.

What's new:

We've cancelled the Harbour Race to concentrate on the Crazy Eight Race, which has been getting the vast majority of the registrations. If you aren't sure of the distance, you can always cut it short and just paddle around Newcastle Island. Either way you still qualify for the draws.

We've confirmed we can offer a traditional Coast Salish salmon barbecue dinner on the Saturday evening. It will be a Snuneymuxw community event to prepare it for the Salish Sea Marine Trail grand opening, under the guidance of a professional Snuneymuxw chef. Tickets are $42 including taxes and gratuities, and includes beverages. It should be an incredible cultural experience and part of a packed Saturday of events that include the grand opening and flotilla, the traditional dinner and the evening keynote speakers.

We've just added new workshops for an early morning yoga session at 8 a.m. Saturday and a second beginners standard kayak roll session on Sunday at 9 a.m. We've also added a Kayaking with Kids workshop on Sunday at 10 a.m.

Parking and launching

BC Marine Trails recommends launching from the Brechin boat ramp at the end of Zorkin Road adjacent to the BC Ferries Departure Bay Ferry Terminal. Long-term pay parking is available there. The southern ramp includes a kayak-only launch area. From the launch location it is a 2.5-km paddle to the south side of Newcastle Island and the Salish Sea Marine Trail grand opening venue.

Walking on BC Ferries?

If you're coming from the Mainland, and wish to leave the car at home, you can walk your kayak onto BC Ferries at Horseshoe Bay, walk off at Departure Bay and walk your kayak to the Brechin boat ramp for the short paddle to Newcastle Island. If you do, let us know - we'll enter you in a draw for a free adult passenger fare so your trip home will be free. Thanks to BC Ferries for donating the passes to help keep unnecessary cars at home.


Friday, Sept. 15

5-6 p.m. 

Friday night social hour 

6-8 p.m.    

Friday night paddling speakers

Saturday, Sept. 16

7-9 a.m.

Breakfast and Orientation
Workshops or Historical Harbour Paddle Tour

Included in Weekend pass ($25)

8 a.m.

Orientation and welcome

9-12 p.m.

Nanimo Harbour history paddling tour. Team games.

Workshops (Various. See the schedule)

12-1:30 p.m.

Lunch/Free time. Make your way to Swy-a-lana by paddle.

Bring your own or visit a local eatery.

1:30-2 p.m.

Group Flotilla from Swy-a-lana Lagoon to Newcastle Island.

Free: Please register here.

2-3 p.m.

Welcome ceremony.

3-4 p.m

Social event. - sponsored by Alberni Outpost

4-6 p.m.

Traditional Coast Salish dinner prepared by the Snuneymuxw community

 Tickets now available.

6-8 p.m.

Keynote speakers

Free but register to guarantee a seat.

9 p.m. - 7a.m.

Quiet time



Sunday, September 17


7-9 a.m.


Included in Weekend pass

Register for your choice of two races or workshops.

9-12 p.m.

Crazy Eight race: A long distance figure-eight around Newcastle & Protection islands starting and finishing in the channel between the islands. 

The Harbour Race: This runs along Newcastle Passage around the Cardinal buoy in Departure Bay, with one lap starting and finishing in Mark Bay.

9-11 a.m.

Kayak games

9-12 p.m.

Workshops (Varous sessions. See the schedule)

12-1  p.m.   

Closing Ceremonies, winner presentations and prize draws

Planning your weekend:

Camping:  Cost for group camping in the provincial park at Newcastle Island is $10 per person per night for Friday and Saturday. Book early as spaces are limited. Register for one or both nights to take part in the Salish Sea Marine Trail grand opening events.

Amenities include showers, flush toilets and a food kiosk (limited hours). It's a stunning location, close to trails, beaches and scenic shoreline, only moments away from all the services of a major city. 

Alternate accommodations: Private campsites on Newcastle Island can be booked through the BC Parks' Discover Camping online registration system. Or you can book at any of the waterfront or near-water hotels and accommodation options in Nanaimo.

Weekend passes: The $25 weekend pass includes breakfasts on Saturday/Sunday, entry into the workshops (registration required), kayak polo tournament, and Newcastle Island GPS treasure hunt, Crazy Eight race, and access to keynote speaker sessions. It also includes event insurance coverage.

Additional cost events: The Saturday evening Coast Salish dinner and the Newcastle Island cultural tour will require the purchase of an additional ticket. Watch for registration of these once details are finalized. 

Free events:  If you can't attend the entire weekend, please join us on Saturday afternoon for the group flotilla and the grand opening ceremonies. The meeting place will be in the waters just off Swy-a-lana Lagoon. Please register for the flotilla to help us plan for the event.

Waivers: If you are participating in any on-water event, a signed waiver is required. Avoid lineups at the registration table by  signing the waiver online in advance.

How to get here: The BCMTNA recommends launching your paddlecraft from the Brechin Boat Ramp at the bottom of Zorkin Road adjacent to the Departure Bay Ferry Terminal. You can walk or roll your craft onto the ferry at Horseshoe Bay Terminal and walk off at Departure Bay.

From the boat ramp, it is a 15 minute paddle down picturesque Newcastle Island Channel to Mark Bay and the camping area on the south end of Newcastle Island. For specifics about the Brechin Boat Ramp and other nearby launch options, visit the BCMTNA map.

Need help? Let us walk you through the weekend

This event is set up to function much like an online store, with a cart that tracks the items you choose. If you're not familiar with carts or how they function, please consider the following.

  • If you have signed up for an event but can't find your cart, look for the "Your Salish Sea Cart" cart box in the right sidebar near the top right of any events page. As you add more events, your cart will update. You can remove items from your cart at any time. If you don't see "Your Salish Sea Cart," it's likely you have no items in your cart.
  • If you clicked "Add more events" after registering for an event, but don't see more events, look for the "Salish Sea Marine Trail Celebration Events" box at the top right sidebar of any events page, and choose the appropriate category (camping, the weekend pass and workshops, or the race). 

Here's how to organize your weekend:

  • Are you camping? You have a choice of just one night or the Friday and Saturday. You will have to register for each night separately. 
  • Are you participating in workshops, the race and/or other weekend events? You'll have to sign up for a weekend pass. It is $25 and in large part covers insurance. Please note a pass does not include the camping, as some participants may prefer a local hotel to camping.
  • Workshops are held the Saturday and Sunday mornings and several run co-currently, so be sure you pick only one workshop for each hour. View the schedule.

Questions? We can answer them! If you can't find something, are having trouble registering, or are simply scratching your head about something, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 250-244-6437. We can sort it out! We also welcome suggestions. Please be kind, however, as we are restricted by the parameters of the events software used to create this registration system, so there are many elements over which we have no control. Thanks for your patience!

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