Here’s one for a Canada Day weekend! So close to Vancouver and so seldom visited – Pasley Islands are a group of small islands tucked away behind Bowen Island. Yet with a kayak they are certainly within your reach. As a reward, you will have most beaches entirely to yourself, you’ll camp in a beautiful campground at Plumper Cove Provincial Park and you’ll have an unforgettable and wonderfully local Canada Day.
Before I dive into logistics of this kayaking trip a couple of disclaimers: we are primarily hikers and hop into a kayak only occasionally. We do have self-rescue training and know a few things about tides (POint Atkinson being your reference station) and charts but neither of us is a strong kayaker (Edit: fast forward 4 years and many kayaking trips later later and we feel confident to tackle a wide range of destinations). If you fall into the same category, before heading out do pay attention to marine weather forecast, do not go alone and stick together as a group. Howe Sound, with the right amount of wind can be quite an unwelcoming place. Aim to do all your crossing early in the morning.
You can do this as a day trip exploring the nearby islands or as an overnighter. In either case the best is to start from Tunstall Bay on the west side of the Bowen Island. To get to Bowen Island, take a ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Snug Cove (check the BC Ferries schedule). You can rent kayaks from MEC but you’d have to bring them AND your car on the ferry. This is where renting from Bowen Island Sea Kayaking, right at the ferry terminal dock, is advantageous as for a small fee of $10 per person they will transport you and their kayak to Tunstall Bay, the place where you want to be.
If you are heading out just for a day, paddle directly due west west towards a group of small islands (Pasleys). If planning to camp overnight, skirt the Pasleys on their northern end and from there it’s a beeline for Keats Island. Just a short paddle up Keats’ west coast will get you to Plumper Cove Provincial Park with a beautiful beautiful campground, a small marina and a dock.
It took us around 2.5hrs to reach the provincial park from Tunstall Bay but we had no headwind or anything crazy en route. If you are anxious about the notorious afternoon winds in Howe Sound, do this crossing in early morning or early evening (5pm and later). The water is nice and calm then and long summer days will provide enough daylight.
Once in Plumper Cove, set up camp, haul kayaks up a short step to a higher ground or tie them securely, the high tide covers the narrow pebbly beach entirely! And enjoy. You have an option to go for a short coastal walk from the campground or enjoy a snooze on a thick green grass under a canopy of majestic trees.
Pack up and head north along the Keats coast. Follow the shoreline as it turns east and then back south for a semi-circumnavigation of the island. From here head south for Ragged Island, then Silver Island, then Hermit Island. Get off on beaches as you wish, stretch out on warm rocks, go for a swim.
Word of caution if you are heading south towards Popham Island: stay on the inside (east) side of the island as the waters here are more protected. The west side is open to Georgia Straight and the ocean swell and winds and the choppy waters on this side can be scary to a novice kayaker. However, there’s none of that in the inner waters so enjoy to your heart’s content. A full day is quite enough to explore multiple islets and to return back to Tunstall Bay on Bowen.
Note: there’s no camping allowed on Pasley Islands (Ragged, Hermit, Popham) so your only option for an overnighter is camping on Keats Island. However, if going just for a day, Pasley Islands are just perfect.
All photos in this post by our friend Mary H.