Salish Sea Marine Trail

Sunset from Shore
Dionisio Point

About

Imagine meandering the Pacific shoreline from the urban setting of Victoria to immerse yourself in a network of idyllic islands, running the Vancouver Island shore north through the Gulf Islands into the wilds of the North Georgia Basin, jumping islands to reach the Sunshine Coast, then crossing the wild mountainous backdrop of Howe Sound before arriving in the urban setting of Vancouver.

The Salish Sea Marine Trail joins two of the great British Columbia cities by a paddling route that leads into some of the great wilderness locations of the Salish Sea as part of the Trans Canada Trail’s Great Trail. Experience the elegance of Victoria, the serenity of the Gulf Islands, the wilderness of the Central Georgia Basin, the beaches and sunsets of the Sunshine Coast, the magnificence of Howe Sound and the vibrancy of Vancouver. It is a marine trail like none other. 

The full trail is an expedition for veteran paddlers that could take upwards of two weeks. But we’ve also broken down the trip into bite-sized portions so you can experience different aspect in shorter, simpler journeys to fit your timeframe, skill level and interests. You can find all those options and more in the “Plan your Trip” section below. 

The Salish Sea Marine Trail consists of four legs: Victoria to Sidney, Sidney to Nanaimo (one part of the Gulf Islands Marine Trail), crossing the Georgia Strait from Nanaimo to Sechelt and the Sunshine Coast from Sechelt to Jericho Beach. There are still a couple locations on the coast where we need to improve connectivity. Our the main reference for using marine trails and finding information about launch sites, campsites, and day use sites.

Chrysta - first person to traverse the entire trail
D'Arcy Island; photo by C. Wallin
Eagle feeding on dead sea lion on Portland Island

Plan your trip

The Salish Sea Marine Trail extends from Jericho Beach in Vancouver to Victoria on Vancouver Island, passing along the Sunshine Coast, east Vancouver Island from Winchelseas to Nanaimo and then through the Gulf Islands. Access to this trail can be made at numerous launch sites. Refer to our main map for details.

 

Resources

  1. It’s a good idea to view the overall area on our main map first to get an idea of where you wish to paddle. Choose your location and route.
  2. Our goal is to ensure safe travelling by canoe or kayak. We completed safety audits of all routes in the Gulf Islands and other stretches of the BC coast to determine where distances are not optimal or safe. For example, the outside of the Gulf Islands – Gabriola Island, Valdes Island and Galiano Island – have long stretches of coastline without ample campsites. That is, campsites optimally should be 8NM apart to a maximum of 12NM.
  3. If you are new to paddling you have to decide whether you are ready for your first trip. Consider taking paddling lessons and join a local club. Be trained. Be prepared. Be connected.
  4. As a member you can access our trip resources page or easily find resources online at Sea Kayak Association of BC.

Hazards & Risks

Lighthouse on Salish Sea Marine Trail
Buccaneer Bay east side by J. Kaye

The British Columbia coastline is an inherently dangerous location, and marine trail users assume the risk of navigating the BC coast. The BC Marine Trails Network has pinpointed some key locations where risks are increased due to pre-existing known conditions or possibility of risk. However, marine trail users are cautioned that risk can occur at any time at any location, and proper equipment, clothing, rescue gear, preparation and training are recommended to ensure optimal safety. Recurring safety considerations include:

Currents and rips: Conditions will be lessened if not eliminated at slack times, so check the Tides and Currents Tables to find the safest time to cross or transit difficult locations.

Ferry Lane Crossings: Several busy ferry corridors must be crossed over the course of the Gulf Islands Marine Trail, Salish Sea MT or Sea to Sky Marine Trail. Risk can be minimized by monitoring the appropriate Canadian Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Services broadcast channels and by calling in on that same channel to alert traffic to your presence. This is strongly recommended for groups crossing ferry lanes or in questionable conditions such as chop, darkness or fog that could make paddlecraft difficult to see.

Shipping lanes: Be sure to know where shipping lanes are located on your charts and monitor Canadian Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Services broadcast channels to track shipping movement. The following links can help you with traffic:

Pacific Pilotage Current Vessel Movements 

Launch Sites to access the trail and area

There are many launch sites to access the Salish Sea Marine Trail. Our map is our central repository of information about launch sites. The map is regularly updated by region managers and data managers of the BC Marine Trails. Look for the blue icon. Note that some stretches of this trail do not meet maximum distance between campsites. You may have to include a B&B or find beach camping along the way.

 Campsites

The best way to find campsites is on the BC Marine Trails map. There are number of excellent campsites on each leg of the Salish Sea Marine Trail:

Leg One: 52.6 km from Victoria Inner Harbour to Rum Island. Some campsites are: D’Arcy Island, Sidney Spit, Isle de Lis

Leg Two: On this 92-km 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. There are many campsites to visit. See the map.

Leg Three: 84 km from Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park, Nanaimo, to Friendship Park, Sechelt. This is the wilderness section of the Salish Sea Marine Trail, with much of the most dramatic shoreline and isolated locations. This is where to go on the Salish Sea to get away from it all. The trick is the open-ocean crossing to get here, which can be placid to downright dangerous depending on the weather. This makes it a fairly advanced route, but with attention to the forecast and timing moderate skill levels should have no issues if they can manage the distance of the crossing – about 10 km whether from Vancouver Island or the Sunshine Coast. Campsites include Pebbly Beach, Buccaneer Bay, Home Bay, Farm Bay, Long Bay

Leg Four:

59.8 km from Friendship Park, Sechelt, to Jericho Sailing Centre, Vancouver. This leg combines some great mountain scenery and the fjordlike setting of Howe Sound, the Big City climate of Vancouver and the expansive beaches of the Lower Sunshine Coast. If makes for a varied but imposing area to traverse, involving both a major shipping area (Burrard Inlet), an open water section along the mouth of Howe Sound and a lengthy shoreline journey along the Lower Sunshine Coast to position yourself to or from the crossing of the Strait of Georgia. Campsites include: Plumper Cove, Apodaca Provincial Park (in the works)