Weekend Escape: Sidney and Rum Islands

This trip is a true weekend getaway.  Out Friday night after work, back at home at a reasonable time on Sunday night.  And an incredible kayak trip through a group of islands just off the Saanich Peninsula.  Use either Sidney Harbour or Swartz Bay as access points, both have pubic access to the water.  There are fantastic beaches, good campsites, and a variety of paddling through islands, islets, short open water crossings and ecological reserves .  All with views of the the Cascade Mountains in the distance, Baker rising supreme above all on a clear day.

Kayaking north to Sidney Island and Sidney Spit, BC

Looking north to Sidney Island and Sidney Spit.

Sidney Island is indisputably one of the most pleasant and picturesque of the Gulf Islands.  Its lagoon and spit on the south side provides a lovely, sandy, warm area with shallow water and lots of beaches.  There are shorebirds and seabirds of all types.  In the wide open fields above the beach there are deer and an extensive network of trails that leads through the park and explores some of its history.

Kayaking at Sidney Lagoon, BC

Sidney Lagoon

Kayaking at Sidney Spit, BC

Sidney Spit

Navigation light at western tip of Sidney Spit, BC

Navigation light at western tip of Sidney Spit.

Rum Island has a good beach landing area and a great campsite on its north side, up high.  There are tent pads, pit toilets and picnic tables.  All the campsites are in the Gulf Island National Park Reserve and are well maintained, well used and well situated.

Beach access at Rum Island, BC

Beach access at Rum Island.

View north from Rum campsite to Stuart & Moresby Islands

Looking north from Rum campsite to Stuart & Moresby Islands.

You can do a great little loop in an overnight making it an ideal weekend escape.  And if you have longer, there is lots more paddling to be had.  Portland Island is a great example.  It has three camping areas, all well set up and well served.  Despite that fact that it is only a short paddling from Sidney, on a sunny day it feels like you are on a tropical island.  Shell Beach, protected behind Brackman Island (an ecological reserve) is a white shell beach that makes the world seem very far away.

There are little islets and rocks around with seals and sea birds.  We didn’t see any whales, but there were a couple of humpbacks off of Saturna the whole weekend.

Greig Island & Rocks with Coal Island in the background

Greig Island/Rocks with Coal Island in the background.

Coal Island was the surprise hit.  It has really interesting rock walls, cliff and slot beaches, as well as great intertidal life in the shallows along its east side.  Be sure to have a look going and coming from Portland, but keep in mind that the island is private and camping is not permitted.

Rock formations on east side of Coal Island

Rock formations on east side of Coal Island.

We were blessed with great weather and little wind.  But it is something to keep in mind, that though none of the crossings are long, it can occasionally get quite rough during poor weather conditions.  Be sure to monitor the wind and make good decisions when traveling.

Image of a Beaver on a boat house in Swartz Bay, BC. Saanich First Nations.

Image of a Beaver on a boat house in Swartz Bay. Saanich First Nations.

Thanks to Kevin Ninness and Chanel Harrison for the photos.

Happy Paddling.


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