Broughton Archipelago & Johnstone Strait Kayaking Tours

EXPERIENCE STUNNING COASTAL SCENERY AND SPECTACULAR WILDLIFE
 VIEWING AROUND NORTHERN VANCOUVER ISLAND

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

Zodiac
Excursions
Whale
Watching
Bear
Viewing
Sea
Kayaking
Nature
Walks
Coastal
Cruising
Nature
Learning

ABOUT Broughton Archipelago & Johnstone Strait Kayaking Tours

Enjoy the geographically unique group of protected islands and islets called the Broughton Archipelago. Johnstone Strait flows from the southern edge of the Broughton and is the main route the Pacific salmon travel on their way to the Fraser River near Vancouver BC (one of the world's largest salmon runs) and many other mainland and Vancouver Island rivers.

Pacific currents funnel through the narrow tidal passages of this region, creating a rich habitat for marine mammals, fish, birds and intertidal life. British Columbia’s Northern Resident orca populations return to this area every summer to feed on wild salmon, as do migrating humpback whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins and Dall’s porpoises.

This kayak tour provides the ideal combination of breathtaking coastal wilderness paddling and unparalleled wildlife viewing. With the Columbia III’s onboard accommodation, we can easily travel to the untouched corners of the Broughton Archipelago and Johnstone Strait (usually inaccessible by expedition kayakers) and position ourselves in “the right place at the right time” for the most unforgettable wildlife encounters.

Departing from Port McNeill after boarding at 6 pm, we’ll spend our first night on the Columbia III at the historic BC First Nation’s coastal village of Alert Bay. Here, we’ll take an evening walk to the beautiful seaside graveyard totems and, the next morning, visit the renowned U’mista Cultural Center, famous for its Potlatch Collection. This sets the tone for our coming week in Kwakwaka’wakw territory as we paddle the labyrinth of islands, islets and passages, backdropped by snow-capped peaks of the Coast Mountains.

We keep a sharp lookout for both marine and terrestrial life. Bald eagles overhead, ravens calling, harbour seals swimming close to check us out, black bears foraging on the beach, a humpback whale blowing, and Pacific white-sided dolphins playing in the waves are all common sights from our kayaks in the Broughton. We are always on the lookout for the orca and carry a hydrophone onboard to listen to whale vocalizations while watching them.

We’ll plan each day around our guests’ desires. If conditions are right, a night paddle to view bioluminescence that sparkles with every stroke is possible. This tour includes walks in the rainforest, whale watching, visiting the local whale research station, relaxing aboard the Columbia III, and plenty of paddling throughout the region.

TRIP OVERVIEW

Day 1

The Columbia III will be awaiting your arrival in the coastal sea-side town of Port McNeill. Boarding time is 6 pm the first evening. Here you will be greeted with a warm welcome from the Columbia III’s captain and crew as we prepare to cast off. Our first night aboard will find us in the BC First Nations village of Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, home of the renowned U’Mista Cultural Center.

Day 2

At 9 am sharp, we will visit the U’mista Cultural Center, a short walk from the dock where the Columbia III will be moored. This visit will introduce us to the local First Nations people in whose territory we will be traveling through for the duration of the tour. The center contains a wealth of current and historical First Nations cultural information, as well as beautiful carvings and pieces of art. A short film will give us further appreciation of their complex and vibrant culture. Back onboard the Columbia III, a delicious lunch will be served as we cruise down Johnstone Strait towards the Broughton Archipelago, always keeping a watchful lookout for wildlife. We will then review kayak orientation and safety procedures before setting off on our first paddle.

Day 3-6

Each morning after breakfast we will launch our kayak flotilla and begin our day of exploring the channels and island mazes of coastal Canada’s Broughton Archipelago and Johnstone Strait.

The geography of the Broughton is quite varied with vistas of Queen Charlotte Strait’s open waters contrasting with the dozens of narrow, secluded, winding passageways. These diverse landscapes are all easily accessible with the mothership, and you will find them to be a kayaker’s paradise.

Wildlife we are likely to see include orcas, Pacific white-sided dolphins, Dall’s porpoises, humpback whales, harbour seals, sea lions, bald eagles, black bears and numerous seabirds. At low tide, we’ll discover the rich variety of marine life on the rocky shorelines. Our guides are continuously scanning for wildlife and are eager to share their knowledge of the area’s natural history.

Lunches will be savoured as we sit and enjoy a spectacular view or snooze in the sun. The afternoons will be spent kayaking, visiting a whale research station or walking in the rainforest before boarding the Columbia III, waiting for us in a new place. The mothership will then travel to the night’s anchorage, often spotting whales along the way.

Day 7

Our last morning in the Broughton Archipelago will include a short paddle and if the orcas or humpbacks are in the area, some whale watching from the Columbia III. We will serve lunch on route to Port McNeill and arrive there around 2 pm.

“WOW! What an adventure. We are truly amazed by the skill, knowledge and effort of your guides and staff. It was an experience of a lifetime. The meals were above expectations, and the attention to detail and our safety were awesome. The wildlife was the best I have seen on the BC coast: bears, sea lions, orca, humpback whales, dolphins, birds (too many to mention) all in one single trip!”

– Linda and Pat, Kelowna, BC, 2014

PLANNING FOR
YOUR TRIP

Be sure to go through this list carefully so that you are prepared for every day of your adventure.

Print These Instuctions

Embarking Details

Our Broughton Archipelago / Johnstone Strait Kayaking Adventure begins in the town of Port McNeill, about 460 kms north of Victoria on the eastside of Vancouver Island. Here the Columbia III will await your arrival at the CAB Fuel Dock (250) 956-4044 / 956-3336.

Important Points

  • Columbia III will be moored at the CAB Fuel Dock in Port McNeill (250) 956-4044 / 956-3336.
  • Board the vessel punctually between 4:00 pm and 4:15 pm. Not earlier, not later.
  • The Columbia III returns to Port McNeill at approximately 12 pm (noon) on the last day of the tour.
  • The Columbia III cell phone number is 250-202-4745 (The ship is only in cell coverage on the first and last day of each tour)

Getting To Port McNeill

There are a number of ways to get to Port McNeill. The simplest are to fly directly from Vancouver to Port Hardy Regional Airport (a 25 minute taxi drive from Port McNeill), or by seaplane from Seattle to Port McNeill Harbour. The Flight time from Vancouver to Port Hardy is about 1.25 hours. Other ways include the combination of car and ferry to Vancouver Island, or bus and ferry to Vancouver Island. Ferry crossing time from Vancouver to Vancouver Island is Approx. 2 hours. Driving time from Nanaimo to Port McNeill is 4.5 hours, or from Victoria to Port McNeill is 6 hours. Another option is to fly to Campbell River Regional Airport (halfway between Victoria and Port McNeill) then drive the rest of the way (2.5 hour drive).

Travelling By Air

From Vancouver: Pacific Coastal Airlines runs numerous daily flights to Port Hardy (a town 25 minutes north of Port McNeill). See Port McNeill Shuttle Bus service below.

From Seattle: Kenmore Air Seaplanes runs direct flights to Port McNeil 1-800-543-9595 or 425-486-1257 (in Seattle)

From Calgary, AB: West Jet runs daily flights to Comox (a town 3.5 hours south of Port McNeill by road) 1-888-937-8538

Travelling By Ferry

From Vancouver: B.C. Ferries has year round vehicle and passenger service – Routes include: North Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) to Nanaimo (Departure Bay), South Vancouver (Tsawwassen) to South Nanaimo (Duke Point) and South Vancouver (Tsawwassen) to Swartz Bay (near Victoria) 1-888 223-3779 or outside B.C. 250-386-3431.

From Washington State:

  • M.V. Coho has vehicle and passenger service from Port Angeles WA to downtown Victoria B.C.
  • Victoria Clipper has passenger-only ferry service from downtown Seattle to downtown Victoria B.C. 1-800-888-2535.

Ground Travel Information

Bus service on Vancouver Island:
Island Link Bus has seasonal service to Port McNeill from various points on Vancouver Island, info@islandlinkbus.com

Taxis in Port McNeill and Port Hardy

Car Rental Providers:

  • Budget Car Rentals 1-800-299-3199 or 250-923-4283
  • National Car Rentals 1-800-227-7368 or 250-923-1234

Visiting Vancouver Island

Many of our guests like to explore Vancouver Island before or after their adventure on the Columbia III. Please contact Tourism Vancouver Island (250)754- 3500 or www.vancouverisland.travel for ideas and information. Accommodation throughout BC can be arranged through 1-800-435-5622 or HelloBC.com.

Accommodation in Port McNeill

For those guests who wish to arrive prior to our departure, or stay later after our trip, the following accommodations are available in Port McNeill. Further information is also available from: Port McNeill & District Tourist Bureau (250) 956-3131 or the Port McNeill & District Chamber of Commerce.

Accommodation in Port McNeill:

Parking

There is a variety of parking available. Please ask for directions at the boat when you arrive.

ALL ABOARD THE
COLUMBIA III

Contacting Columbia III

The Columbia III can be contacted at 250-202-4745.
The Mothership office can be reached at 1-888-833-8887 or 250-202-3229.

In case of an extreme emergency, the boat can be contacted directly by calling the Canadian Coast Guard in Victoria 1-250-363-6333. Ask them to send a message to MV Columbia III (quote this number: MMSI# 316-003-614) sailing in the Broughton Archipelago area. We are often off the boat so expect a response to take 12 hours. The ship’s phone is not for guest use.

For more contact information, visit our CONTACT page.

Meals

We will do our best to accommodate personal dietary restrictions, including vegetarian and vegan. Wine will be served with the evening meal. If you would like an alternative to alcohol, please let us know. Please note: any food allergies or needs must be listed on your medical form well before your departure date to ensure the cook has time to shop accordingly.

Medical, Allergies, and Other Concerns

Mail us your completed Medical Form ASAP. Your tetanus and COVID 19 vaccinations must be up to date (less than 10 years old for Tetanus) before you leave.

Be sure to bring enough of your required medications as you will be far from any drug stores. We may encounter minor ocean swells so if seasickness is a concern, please bring anti-nausea medication. But rest assured, we travel in very sheltered areas and overnight in calm, protected bays. We do our best to avoid swells and waves!

Liability Waiver

Please read our liability waiver closely. We require a signed waiver for you to be able to join our tour. You can send a copy to us by email or regular post. Your signature must be witnessed but not notarized. A friend, partner or relative can be your witness.

Download Liability Waiver

Packing for
your trip

Weather, Clothing, and Packing

Our skipper and certified guides will not take you in any weather conditions that are dangerous to you or the group. We will likely encounter some wind and waves (the ocean is not always flat!), but nothing that would compromise the safety of a beginner kayaker.

Apparel Selection

For maximum comfort, a layering system of lighter “quick-dry” and warmer fleece clothing works best. Merino wool is excellent as well. Avoid cotton which stays wet for a very long time. Waterproof rain gear is essential. When getting in and out of your kayak on shore your feet WILL get wet. We suggest a pair of sturdy water sandals/ shoes. Sports gloves for paddling may add to your comfort and help prevent blisters. Proper protection from the sun is essential so bring sunglasses, a sun hat, sunblock and lip screen. Bring a water bottle. Staying hydrated in the outdoors is very important. When aboard the mothership, comfortable casual clothing is nice to change into after paddling.

Consider bringing the items listed on the packing list we provide.

We have waterproof bags (dry bags) onboard that you can use for your cameras or other small items in your kayak if you like. Large Ziploc bags work as well. Hard suitcases are difficult to fit into the small storage compartments on the Columbia III, so if possible, bring your things in soft duffle type bags.

NOTE: Although not required, if you’d like to express your appreciation to the guides through a gratuity, such recognition would be enthusiastically received. The industry standard for tipping is approximately 5-10 percent of the trip cost. All tips will be equally distributed among your crew.

Packing List

  • Sun Hat / Warm Hat
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Windbreaker or Shell
  • Waterproof Rain Gear (jacket and pants)
  • T-shirts, Shorts, Swimsuit
  • Warm Layered clothing
  • Shore Shoes (for walking or hiking)
  • Sturdy water sandals/shoes (for kayaking)
  • Toiletries
  • Medications, prescription and non prescription
  • Day Pack
  • Sunglasses, Spare pair of Eyeglasses
  • Sun block, Lip Screen
  • Insect Repellent
  • Water Bottle
  • Sports Gloves (for use while paddling)
  • Binoculars, Journal, Sketchbook (optional)
  • Waterproof Bag
  • A Good Book

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why do I need to sign your liability waiver form?

Our insurance provider requires all our guests to complete a Canadian industry standard waiver. You will receive this form once you have reserved. See the Liability Form here for reference.

Can I bring a personal drone for aerial photography?

No. Many First Nations on the coast prohibit the use of drones in their territories and we are bound to this restriction with our protocol agreements with the Nations. Additionally, there are government restrictions on the use of drones around marine and terrestrial wildlife. Sorry!

What do I need to bring on a mothership kayak tour?

Our tours are all inclusive. We supply the kayaks and related gear (paddles, spray skirts, lifejackets), meals, bedding, shower towels, and wine with the evening meal. When you book, we will provide you with a packing list of the personal items you will need to bring.

Do I have to be an experienced kayaker to come on a mothership kayak tour?

You do not need any previous kayaking experience to come on our tours. Our certified guides give a thorough presentation regarding paddling safety and technique before we launch our kayaks on the first day. They are always available throughout the tour to answer your questions, demonstrate strokes or help you out with any paddling concerns.

What happens if I tip over in my kayak?

First of all, it is very unlikely to happen. If it did, our guides are trained, practiced and tested on their rescues, so you would be back in your kayak in minutes. Then we’d paddle to shore to warm up with dry clothes and a cup of hot tea before heading on our way again.

How many hours do we kayak each day?

Every day is different depending on the weather, the location, and the wishes of the group. Typically, we paddle for two to three hours before lunch and another two to three hours after lunch with the option to paddle more or less. That’s the benefit of a mothership style tour.

Is there the option to use a single kayak?

Yes, we carry four single guest kayaks. They are shared amongst the guests though most people prefer doubles, so if you are a “single” lover, you’ll likely be able to paddle a single all week. Occasionally due to safety reasons, the guides may request everyone to be in doubles.

Can I charge my camera batteries aboard the Columbia III?

We have both 117 VAC and 12 VDC cigarette-lighter style systems aboard with ample power for charging camera batteries and related equipment.

Do I need to bring my own binoculars?

Although the ship carries several pairs of binoculars, it is always best to bring your own if possible. This will insure that you have the binoculars handy at the critical moments of wildlife viewing.

Do you supply maps of the areas we visit?

Yes. We offer beautiful charts free of charge.

Can Mothership Adventures accommodate my special dietary restrictions while on tour?

Yes, we can usually accommodate most dietary restrictions and food allergies. You will be able to indicate these on our pre-trip medical form.

Is alcohol provided or should we bring our own?

Wine or beer is served with each dinner. If you would like other types of alcohol, please bring your own, providing your consumption is moderate.

What are the sleeping arrangements aboard the Columbia III?

Five private cabins accommodate two guests each. Three staterooms have double beds for couples and two have single bunks for single passengers. Three toilets and two showers are shared between the five staterooms.

Should I be concerned about seasickness?

Seasickness is rarely a problem. The Columbia III travels for the most part in very protected waters which are not exposed to the ocean swells, but if you are prone to seasickness, then please do bring your medication.

Will there be additional costs on the tour that I don’t expect?

No. If there are any costs during the normal itinerary such as museum admission fees or costs for a BC First Nations feast or performance then Mothership Adventures pays for these at no extra charge to you. Any personal purchases you might make at shops or with artisans during the tour would, of course, be your responsibility.

Is it mandatory to go on all kayak outings?

The beauty of the Mothership is that you only do what is comfortable for you. If the weather turns foul and you want a quiet day aboard the Columbia III then snuggle in! This is your holiday. Relax and enjoy yourself.

Ask a question

Rates & Dates

2024 Broughton Archipelago & Johnstone Strait Tour

Sold Out Jun 10 - Jun 16, 2024

6 nights

CDN $5450

Jul 7 - Jul 13, 2024

6 nights

CDN $5450

Jul 14 - Jul 20, 2024

6 nights

CDN $5450

Sold Out Jul 21 - Jul 25, 2024

4 nights

CDN $3620

Sold Out Jul 26 - Jul 30, 2024

4 nights

CDN $3620

Jul 31 - Aug 6, 2024

6 nights

CDN $5450

Aug 7 - Aug 13, 2024

6 nights

CDN $5450

Sold Out Aug 14 - Aug 18, 2024

4 nights

CDN $3620

2025 Broughton Archipelago & Johnstone Strait Tour

Jul 7 - Jul 11, 2025

4 nights

CDN $3995

Jul 12 - Jul 18, 2025

6 nights

CDN $5995

Jul 19 - Jul 25, 2025

6 nights

CDN $5995

Jul 26 - Jul 30, 2025

4 nights

CDN $3995

Jul 31 - Aug 6, 2025

6 nights

CDN $5995

Aug 7 - Aug 13, 2025

6 nights

CDN $5995

Aug 14 - Aug 18, 2025

4 nights

CDN $3995

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TESTIMONIALS

Over the years, we've provided ‘trips of a lifetime’ for countless travellers from around the world. See what our past guests have to say about their experiences with us.

View Guest Book

“We are truly in awe of the experience you shared with us. The attention to detail and the quality of care you show your guests is outstanding. Fern, the food was incredible, kayaking will always bring back memories of the smells coming from your galley and the camaraderie shared at the table. Ross, your love and enthusiasm for the COLUMBIA III and Mothership Adventures always shows in the stories and knowledge you so freely share. Thank you all for one of the best vacations we’ve ever had, along with the opportunity to share a week in your lives. We can’t thank you enough.”

– 2012 Joan and Michael Collins, Publishers, Sea Kayaker Magazine

“Another amazing trip aboard my favorite boat. It’s like taking our home into the middle of a vast, wild, beautiful wilderness, and then getting to quietly be a part of that natural world. A gentle spirit bear, sparring grizzlies, breaching whales and gorgeous paddling water! And then great food, good humor, amazing stories and wonderful friends. Thank you everyone for a unique and fantastic trip.”

– Mary, Cour D’Alene Idaho. 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and whole boat charter 2018, and returning in 2022

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