looking over the prow of a kayak vancouver island

Kayaking on Vancouver Island

Along the stunning shores of Vancouver Island off the west coast of British Columbia, Canada, you can find an unforgettable kayaking experience! Whether you’re drawn to paddling through the tranquil waters of freshwater lakes or tackling the exhilarating waves of the Salish Sea or Pacific Ocean, kayaking on Vancouver Island is a must for any outdoor adventurer! Kayaking near Vancouver Island allows you to explore the intricate network of lakes, fjords, channels, and inlets of the island’s rugged coastline, and getting up close to the incredible marine life along the way! Not sure where to start? You’re in the right place! Find out where the best spots to kayak are and if you’re looking for unbeatable accommodations on Vancouver Island, look no further! EMR Vacation Rentals offer incredible properties at competitive prices so you can live and explore this paradise like a local!

Where to Rent a Kayak on Vancouver Island?

Ready to set out on a solo kayak trip around Vancouver Island? You’ll need to find the right rentals that fit with your plans! On Vancouver Island, there are a number of rental outlets so no matter where you’re staying on Vancouver Island you can find all the equipment you need to hit the water! 

Victoria Kayak Rentals

Located in the heart of Victoria, this rental shop offers a diverse range of kayaks suitable for both beginners and experienced paddlers! With convenient access to the Inner Harbour and Dallas Road coastline, it’s an ideal starting point for your kayak excursion in Victoria.

Nanaimo Kayak Rentals

Situated in Nanaimo, this rental service provides high-quality sea kayaks along with expert guidance for navigating the island’s pristine waters. Explore nearby coastal caves or venture out on day trips to encounter marine wildlife—all from the convenience of their rental fleet.

Tofino Kayak Rentals

For those exploring the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino Adventure Co. offers an array of kayaks for rent. Explore the temperate rainforests and remote inlets under the guidance of experienced staff, ensuring a safe and unforgettable journey.

Comox Valley Kayak Rentals

Nestled in the picturesque Comox Valley, this rental shop caters to experienced paddlers seeking tranquillity and natural beauty. With kayaks suited for various skill levels, visitors can explore nearby ecosystems, lakes, and marine parks with ease.

The Best Kayak Tour Companies on Vancouver Island

For visitors looking at guided tours on Vancouver Island, you can find some incredible companies that have experienced kayak guides renowned for their expertise and hospitality. Here are our top choices!

Ocean River Sports

With a focus on adventure and exploration, Ocean River Adventures curates sea kayaking tours tailored to individual preferences! Whether you’re looking to head out from Oak Bay, downtown Victoria or you’re looking for a multi day expedition, their experienced guides ensure every outing is memorable and safe! 

West Coast Expeditions

Embark on a remote wilderness adventure with West Coast Expeditions, known for their multi-day sea kayaking expeditions along Vancouver Island’s rugged coastline. Discover hidden coves, ancient ecosystems, and abundant marine life while camping under the stars.

Adventuress Sea Kayaking

Perfect for guests staying in Nanaimo, Parksville or Qualicum Beach, Adventuress Sea Kayaking offers personalized day tours suitable for all experience levels from the shores of Nanoose, Parksville and Qualicum Beach. Explore tranquil waters, historical sites, and marine reserves while benefiting from their small-group approach and incredible, personalized service!

The Best Seasons for Kayaking on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island’s temperate climate makes it an ideal paddling destination year-round! Even so, there are certain seasons that are better for kayaking than others! Let’s take a look and see what each season offers! 

Kayaking in the Spring: March to May

Spring brings mild temperatures and blooming flowers and a burst of wildlife activity making it an excellent time for kayaking! During this season you can start witnessing migrating and resident whales, newborn seal pups, and vibrant coastal flora as you paddle along the island’s shores.

Kayaking in the Summer: June to August

The undisputed champion of peak kayaking season, summer offers long daylight hours and warm, sunny weather. During this season, you can see more migrating pods of whales and explore diverse ecosystems and or embark on overnight camping trips to fully immerse yourself in the island’s natural beauty.

Kayaking in the Fall: September to November 

As fall rolls in, the crowds thin out creating a serene atmosphere for kayaking adventures! During this season you can marvel at the changing colours of the surrounding forests, encounter spawning salmon, and enjoy the tranquility of calm waters before winter sets in.

Kayaking in the Winter: December to February

Winter is ultimately the least popular season for kayaking, however on the west coast there are many brave paddlers who will bundle up and embark on kayak trips during the chilly weather. Around Vancouver Island, the ocean and lakes rarely freeze and this season offers unique opportunities for storm watching, birdwatching, and exploring secluded coves without the summer crowds. Bundle up in appropriate gear and experience Vancouver Island’s raw beauty in its quieter season.

The Best Places to Go Kayaking on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island boasts a myriad of breathtaking kayaking destinations, each offering its own distinct charm and natural wonders. Here are some of our top must-visit spots!

Broken Group Islands


Situated within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, the Broken Group Islands offer a paddler’s paradise with sheltered waters, sandy beaches, and abundant marine life. Explore interconnected islets, sea caves, and ancient First Nations sites in this pristine archipelago.

Broughton Archipelago


Renowned as one of the best places in the world for orca whale watching, the Johnstone Strait in Northern Vancouver Island offers thrilling kayak encounters with these majestic marine mammals. Paddle alongside pods of orcas, humpback whales, and other wildlife in the nutrient-rich waters of this scenic strait.

Clayoquot Sound


Located near the town of Tofino, Clayoquot Sound is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve renowned for its biodiversity and natural beauty. Kayak through sheltered fjords, old-growth rainforests, and hidden hot springs while marvelling at the region’s stunning landscapes.

Desolation Sound


Accessible from the town of Lund, Desolation Sound offers kayakers a tranquil oasis surrounded by snow-capped mountains and emerald waters. Explore secluded bays, paddle through narrow channels, and camp on pristine beaches in this remote and picturesque marine park.

What Wildlife Can You See Kayaking Around Vancouver Island

Embarking on a kayaking adventure around Vancouver Island offers unparalleled opportunities for wildlife sightings! From playful sea otters to majestic orcas, the island’s coastal waters teem with diverse marine life. Here are some remarkable creatures you might encounter on the water! 

Sea Lions: Keep an eye out for colonies of curious sea lions basking on rocky outcrops or swimming gracefully through the water. These social marine mammals are known for their distinctive barks.

Sea Otters: Watch for the endearing sight of sea otters floating on their backs, cracking open shellfish and playing in the waves! These charismatic creatures play a vital role in coastal ecosystems and are often spotted near kelp forests, where they forage for food and raise their young.

Orcas: Vancouver Island’s coastal waters are a prime habitat for orcas (also known as killer whales), making sightings a common occurrence during kayak tours! Witness these iconic marine predators as they travel in family groups along the island’s rugged coastline.

Humpback Whales: Experience the awe-inspiring sight of humpback whales breaching and feeding in the nutrient-rich waters of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Vancouver Island. These gentle giants migrate through the area seasonally, offering kayakers a chance to observe their impressive behaviours up close.

Bald Eagles: Look to the skies for the majestic silhouette of bald eagles soaring overhead, perched atop coastal trees or diving into the ocean to hunt for fish! Vancouver Island is home to a thriving population of these iconic birds of prey, providing ample opportunities for birdwatching enthusiasts.

Harbor Seals: These curious marine mammals are a common sight around Vancouver Island and can often be seen popping their heads out of the water to peer at paddlers, basking in the sun or playing in the water!

Marine Birds: Keep an eye out for a variety of marine birds, including cormorants, gulls, and a myriad of colourful ducks, as they forage for food along the coastline. Binoculars can enhance your bird watching experience, allowing you to observe these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.

Whether you’re a first time paddler or experienced kayaker, Vancouver Island offers endless opportunities for unforgettable adventures. From the rugged beauty of the Broughton Archipelago to the tranquil waters of the Broken Group Islands, there’s a paddling destination for every explorer! Embark on sea kayaking tours to the Discovery Islands, or paddle around the Gulf Islands like stunning Quadra Island! Whether you’re out for a day trip or a multi-day excursion, you’re sure to see scenic vistas and tons of wildlife. With its stunning landscapes, rich ecosystems, and welcoming communities, Vancouver Island invites you to discover the magic of kayaking in this Canadian paradise!