Travel Itineraries for your visit to Desolation Sound, Powell River, Vancouver, and Vancouver Island
Located on the Upper Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, accessing Powell River from Vancouver and Vancouver Island is easy, scenic, and often part of the adventure
Whether you have a month or a couple of days to spare, the following itineraries from Vancouver and Victoria on Vancouver Island ensure you make the most of your vacation in coastal British Columbia
- Getting Here Directly
- From Vancouver
- From Victoria
- Taking Your Time
- From Vancouver
- From Victoria
- Driving the Coastal Loop
If you are short on time, or you're squeezing a Desolation Sound kayak trip in between commitments at work or with family and friends, Powell River and Desolation Sound is accessed relatively easily from both Vancouver and Victoria on Vancouver Island.
Similarly, for those looking to take advantage of a couple days off or a long weekend, Powell River is the perfect place to get away from the city and revel in a relaxed, natural environment. The Powell River region (also known as the Upper Sunshine Coast) has all you need for a wonderful weekend escape: sea, sun, mountains, forest trails, good food, unique accommodations, and a friendly, relaxed vibe.
If you are driving from Vancouver and participating in one of our guided tours, you will need to arrive in the Powell River area sometime on the day before your tour begins. While we are located only approximately 150km north of Vancouver, the road is bisected by two large bodies of water - Howe Sound and Jervis Inlet - which necessitates the boarding of two separate, very scenic ferries along the route.
From the Horeshoe Bay ferry terminal in West Vancouver, take the ferry to Langdale (Gibsons) on the Lower Sunshine Coast. This trip takes approximately 40 minutes. After you disembark follow Highway 101 north, through the seaside town of Sechelt, all the way to the end of the peninsula and the loading point for the second ferry at Earl's Cove. Allow about 90 minutes for this leg of the journey to ensure you arrive in time to make any connections. The ferry from here to Saltery Bay on the Upper Sunshine Coast is another 50 minutes. After arriving at Saltery Bay, Powell River is another 30 minutes drive north of the ferry terminal.
All in all, and depending on ferry connections, the commute from Vancouver to Powell River is about 5 hours in duration. For those people looking to escape the city after work on a Friday afternoon, it is possible to make the connection to arrive in Powell River that evening, waking up on Saturday morning with a full weekend of adventure ahead!
For ferry timetables, click here to view the schedule for Horseshoe Bay to Langdale, and here for the schedule for Earl's Cove to Saltery Bay.
You can choose to spend the night in Powell River, with it's sweeping ocean views, lively restaurant scene and ample accommodations, or continue 30 minutes north to the Lund and Okeover area, where there are further options for food and lodging in a quieter setting.
Powell River Sea Kayak has two locations - in Okeover Inlet and Lund - and these are located 30 minutes drive north of Powell River.
Alternatively, guests can fly from Vancouver International Airport's South Terminal and arrive in downtown Powell River within 30 minutes of takeoff! This is a fantastic option for those with little time, but please note that you will still need to arrange transport to get to our location in Okeover Inlet or Lund for your tour or rental.
Click here for the Pacific Coastal Airlines flight schedule and fare prices to Powell River from Vancouver.
When returning to Vancouver, it is again possible to make the connecting ferries to arrive back in the city on the evening of your tour ending. While we always recommend planning to stay the night somewhere on the Sunshine Coast just in case there are ferry issues or delays in returning from your tour, many of our guests do indeed choose to return to Vancouver this evening.
Similarly, if you are coming to Powell River and Desolation Sound from Victoria, it is easy to enjoy the unique charms of this area in a weekend or couple of days.
To get to Powell River from Victoria, take the TransCanada Highway north for a comfortable 3 hours until you reach the exit for Cumberland/Courtney/Comox, and make your way to the Little River ferry terminal in Comox. There are four sailings a day between Comox and Powell River on the Sunshine Coast, and the crossing is approximately 90 minutes in duration.
Click here for ferry times for the Comox / Powell River route.
While it may require leaving work early on the Friday afternoon to make the last ferry from Comox to Powell River in the afternoon, for those looking to arrive at our launch site in time for a tour in the morning, it is possible to spend the night in the Courtney / Comox region and catch the first early ferry on the morning of the tour and make it to our location in time.
And much like returning to Vancouver, it is easy for our guests to catch an afternoon or evening ferry from Powell River and be in Victoria that evening.
For those with more time up their sleeve on either side of their kayaking vacation, there are endless opportunities to relax and explore the Powell River region, and both the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island as well, before returning home.
Living in Powell River, we naturally thoroughly recommend spending as much time as you can exploring the Upper Sunshine Coast and its never ending beaches, trails, lakes, festivals, and restaurants. Visit our Local Attractions listing to see for yourself what this area has to offer.
However, we also understand that the journey is often just as important as the destination, and that is why we have put together a few highlights for travellers coming here from Vancouver and Victoria both on the road to our beautiful region, and around and about Powell River itself.
The Lower Sunshine Coast, a 45 minute ferry ride from West Vancouver, is a long strip of land hemmed in by mountains on one side and the ocean on the other, and appears far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city left behind. Many guests spend a night or two on the lower peninsula on their way up to Desolation Sound, turning a kayak day trip into a 4 or 5 day escape, or a multi-day adventure into a two week getaway to a well-hidden secret right at their back door.
If you have the time, even if you are passing straight through to Powell River, we recommend not rushing to catch the first connection at Earls Cove, but taking the opportunity to explore the lower peninsula on your way north and the various coves, bays and communities along the way.
Gibsons and Sechelt
Take a left turn right off the ferry from Vancouver and follow the waterfront to Gibsons Landing, a charming shopping, restaurant and gallery district with incredible mountain and ocean views back towards the Coast Mountains surrounding Howe Sound and North Vancouver. Gibsons was made famous by the long running beloved Canadian television series 'Beachcombers', and though the show is long gone, fans can eat at 'Molly's Reach' restaurant, the diner synonymous with the show that has been converted from film set to fan restaurant right on the waterfront.
Grab some lunch at one of the many local restaurants before continuing north along Highway 101 to the town of Sechelt, which is wedged between the ocean on the west and Sechelt Inlet in the east, and offers many more shopping and restaurant options.
Hidden Coves, Bays and Villages
Beyond Sechelt, the coast north to Earls Cove is dotted with numerous small villages and countless hidden coves and beaches to explore and discover. Grab a coffee in the cute village of Madeira Park and browse the bookstore and art galleries, before continuing on to the ferry to the north.
If you are staying a night or two on the lower coast, many more opportunities for rest and recreation present themselves.
Tetrahedron Provincial Park
In the mountains behind Sechelt the awesome Tetrahedron Provincial Park is a favourite for summer hiking and has 4 backcountry huts available for overnight use, and is also a very popular winter recreation area.
Meanwhile, just south of Earls Cove in the north of the peninsula, the small town of Egmont is the gateway to a dramatic display of the raw power of the sea. Skookumchuck Narrows is a narrow passage near the entrance to Sechelt Inlet, and twice a day as the incoming or outgoing tide rush through this small gap the force of the water can flow at speeds up to 16 knots and create standing waves over 9 feet high!
There are accommodation options for all budgets and fancies all up and down the Sunshine Coast. Click here to go to the Sunshine Coast BC tourism page for more information.
Vancouver Island is a tourist destination all to itself, and due to its easy access to the Sunshine Coast, many of our guests from out of province or overseas will combine a kayak trip in Desolation Sound with an extended vacation on Vancouver Island.
If you're based out of Victoria for your BC vacation, there are plenty of options for turning your kayak trip into a lengthy exploration of the BC coast.
Scenic Roads and Coastal Vibes
If you are somewhat limited in time, but not rushing to catch the last ferry to Powell River, driving north of Victoria there are two options: the straight shot to Comox on the TransCanada Highway, or turning off just north of Nanaimo you can take the scenic, coastal route 19A and visit picturesque beachside towns on your way north such as Qualicum Beach, Fanny Bay and Buckley's Bay. Grab some lunch or a coffee at one of these oceanside communities and stretch your legs to break up the journey.
For those who have longer to explore, Vancouver Island is an incredibly diverse and naturally beautiful part of the world that can keep you interested for a couple of days to a few weeks of adventure.
Gulf Island Getaways
Hop on a ferry to one or more of British Columbia's unique Gulf Islands and get a taste of small town island life just minutes from the region's larger towns and cities.
Composed of over a dozen large islands and countless smaller islands and islets in the Straight of Georgia, each Gulf Island has its own flavour and style, from the quirky to the wild. From Schwartz Bay just outside Victoria you can hop on ferries to historic Mayne Island, access sparsely populated and wild Pender and Saturna Islands, or visit quirky Salt Spring Island, the largest Southern Gulf Island, with its rural lifestyle and abundance of galleries and restaurants.
No matter where you travel in the Gulf Islands, you are sure to be influenced by the unique and relaxed atmosphere of each town and isle you visit - far cry from the small but bustling provincial capital you have left behind! Spend a weekend, a week, or any length of time island hopping and staying in different island communities at each port of call.
Other Gulf Islands accessed further up the coast include Galiano Island, with its incredible sandstone cliffs, which is accessed from Victoria as well as Saltspring, Mayne and Saturna Islands; the rural community-minded feel of Gabriola Island, a short hop from Nanaimo harbour; and the beaches, wineries, markets and galleries of Denman and Hornby Islands located just off Buckley's Bay, south of Courtney.
Tofino, Ucluelet and Pacific Rim National Park
Some of these Gulf Islands only receive around 30mm of rain a year, so be sure to link an extended stay there with the truly wild, and often much wetter, towns of Ucluelet and Tofino on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island. Completely open to the Pacific Ocean, Pacific Rim National Park links these two coastal communities with miles and miles of sandy beaches interspersed with jagged, rocky headlands pounded incessantly by the full force of the ocean. Simply turn off at Highway 4 just north of Nanaimo and follow it to the end of the road.
The beaches are famous for surfing lessons and long pensive walks, while Clayoquot Sound and the Broken Islands are favourites with kayakers. Whales and dolphins, sea otters, and colourful invertebrates thrive off-shore and on the rocky cliffs. Throw in some great restaurants and accommodations and thriving Tofino and sleepy Ucluelet are a great detour for a couple of days of further Island exploration.
The communities on both sides of the Strait of Georgia, while all unique with their own personality, share common cultural, historical and environmental links. An increasingly popular itinerary that many of our guests choose to follow is the 'Coastal Loop', linking the towns and experiences on both side of the Strait in a tour from anywhere between 3 days to a month in length or more!
Why not linger on your drive up from Vancouver before your kayak tour, taking the time to immerse yourself in the communities on both the Upper and Lower Sunshine Coasts, before catching the ferry from Powell River over to Comox and visiting the many tastes and adventures that Vancouver Island has to offer on your way south to Victoria. From here, the return ferry to Vancouver and the completion of your loop is a beautiful 95 minute journey that passes through the territory of southern resident orcas and in sight of three distinct mountain ranges: the Coastal range of BC, rugged Vancouver Island, and the Olympic Range in Washington, USA.