Solitude in Hotham Sound

Hotham Sound is a big bay just to the west of Jervis Inlet on the Sunshine Coast. If you have ever taken the ferry from Earl’s Cove to Saltery Bay (enroute to Powell River and Desolation Sound), you will have passed right by it on the way.  Each time I made the crossing I promised myself that the next time I would be back with a paddle in my hand.  It is a stunning area, hemmed in by peaks (many around the 2000m range), surrounded by steep sides and littered with islets.  An impressive waterfall drops along the east side.

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Facing into Hotham Sound from the edge western edge of Captain Island.

It is a quiet place, compared to the busier Desolation Sound. Perhaps it is overshadowed by the better known Jervis Inlet, the fjord-like inlet that snakes up into the interior coast of southwestern BC, passing the grand Princess Louisa Inlet and Chatterbox falls on the way.  Most of the pleasure boat traffic heads up there, leaving Hotham to the paddlers.  Also, unlike most of the rest of the area, there are few private homes and cottages, and very little light pollution.  You really feel as though you have left the world behind.

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Looking north into the sound from Granville Bay.

Harmony Islands Marine Park sits on the east side of the sound, and provides a safe anchorage, swimming and good kayaking.  Just to the south of the park Freil falls drops 450m from the lake above down into the sound.  It is a good place to collect fresh drinking water in the sound.

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View from Harmony Islands looking south and back to Freil Falls high on the eastern shore.

There are no designated camping areas or amenities anywhere in the sound.  And although a couple of areas have been developed by paddlers with benches, fire pits and cleared areas for tents, most of the camping is truly wilderness style. There are several pullouts, rocky beaches and places to take out along the way.  It is fun to explore the shoreline and find yourself that perfect undiscovered new site.

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View from our campsite on the eastern shore right near the entrance to the sound.

No matter how you plan it, a crossing several kilometres of open water will be necessary in order to reach Hotham Sound from Egmont. Depending on where you cross, you may also be crossing the ferry route behind Captain Island, so just pay attention to that when you enter the narrow area between Captain Island and the mainland.

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We lucked out and on a hot, sunny day in June the crossing from Egmont was glassy.

Perhaps the greatest surprise was the temperature of the water in the sound.  The water around Egmont was icy, and yet up in the sound the water was warm enough for real swimming.  You could easily spend hours in the water swimming and snorkeling without a wetsuit.  The water was not even cold enough to chill out beer ;).

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Warm waters. Looking west from Captain Island towards Saltery Bay.

Access: Take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale (Gibsons) on the Sunshine Coast and then drive up Hwy 101 to Egmont (at the end of the road, right before the Earl’s Cove ferry terminal).  Launch from the government dock in Egmont proper or from the Backeddy Resort just down the road.  It has a boat launch that makes it easier to pack and launch kayaks.

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Southern end of Jervis Inlet, a paddler’s paradise.

The whole Sechelt Pennisula is a paddler’s paradise.  From Pender Harbour to Garden Bay, up Agamemmon Channel, around Nelson Island, over to Saltery Bay, the whole south part of Jervis Inlet is made for paddling.  You could get creative and use the ferry to shorten journeys or make a one-way trip.

DSC_0537Happy Paddling!

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