Paddling in Vancouver’s Backyard – Porteau Cove to Anvil Island

Flickr Damon West

Aurora Borealis viewing at Porteau Cove Photo: Flickr, Damon West

Wild and remote, yet only thirty minutes from Vancouver, Howe Sound is a paddler’s paradise.  Navigating the Sea to Sky corridor from the water is a unique and invigorating way to explore the area, world famous for breathtaking ocean views, spectacular waterfalls, snow capped mountains and Squamish Nation history and culture. My recent adventure to North America’s southern most fjord began at Porteau Cove Provincial Park.  There are two paved boat launches and also plenty of beach area to begin your paddle.  Prior to setting off be sure to check out the Dive Area. Porteau Cove is a very busy diving centre.  Two sunken ships and a series of man-made reefs attract scuba enthusiasts to these waters.  I always enjoy chatting with the divers and hearing tales of the marine live thriving below the surface.

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Divers approach man made reefs at Porteau Cove, Photo: Rob Weiss

Dragging myself away from the bustling activity of the boat launch, I met my favourite paddling partner and we set our sights on Anvil Island, named by Captain George Vancouver because of its unique shape.  It was a beautiful, clear day, the water was calm and the marine forecast was good, so I began the crossing.  Within minutes I felt at peace.  I could hear the water lapping up against the side of my kayak as I paddled along.  Viewing Howe Sound from the cockpit of a kayak offers a unique and intimate perspective.  Being on the water makes me feel closer to nature and the elements, yet at the same time small and insignificant.  Gazing up at the soaring mountain peaks I felt humbled by the sheer beauty of the area.  We paddled in silence, savouring the moments.

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Anvil Island, Photo: Rob Weiss

We were careful to time our landing on Anvil Island to coincide with a low tide.  Many stretches of the island shoreline are steep, making landing difficult if not impossible during high water.  Fortunately, we discovered a quiet, little sheltered cove, perfect for a rest stop and picnic lunch.  As I pulled out and dug deep into my dry bag for lunch, I was greeted by a curious and playful river otter.  He looked at me, puzzled as to why I might be there.  He continued to stare, quite brazenly, and I half expected him to ask if we had made lunch reservations.  Quickly, losing interest in us, he returned to the sea, likely in search of his own lunch.  Reluctantly, we finished nibbling and hopped back into our kayaks.  The weather window remained favourable. Not wanting to rush back, we crossed the Sound and meandered along our return route to Porteau Cove, enjoying views of the rugged shoreline.  This is Sea to Country!

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Kayak Sea to Sky Country, Photo: Rob Weiss

Getting There:

Porteau Cove is a popular camping, diving, paddling, stargazing and Aurora Borealis viewing area.  The Provincial Park is located 38 km north of Vancouver on Highway 99 and 20 km south of Squamish. Parking is limited, arrive early!

Be Prepared:

Strong afternoon winds are common and conditions can and will change suddenly in Howe Sound.  Check your tide charts, currents and monitor marine weather.

Sea to Sky Marine Trail – Howe Sound:

Interested in extending your trip?  The Sea to Sky Marine trail officially opened in 2015 and features six new campsites in Howe Sound.

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