hiker on Nootka Island

Your Travel Guide to the Beautiful Nootka Sound

Canada is a country filled with unparalleled natural beauty. No matter what you’re looking for, whether it’s the big sky of the prairies, the soaring peaks of the Rockies or vast shorelines, we’ve got it all. But if you’re looking for one of the most temperate climates in the “Great White North”, you’ll want to consider visiting Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia. Vancouver Island is just under 500 kilometers long, and while it might be small in relation to the rest of Canada, it has some of the most unique, varied and stunning Canadian landscapes and is known for the vast wilderness, perfect for idyllic outdoor adventures. One of the most beautiful and stunning places for adventure seekers is the breathtaking Nootka Sound on the far west coast of Vancouver Island. Steeped in history and surrounded by natural beauty, the Nootka Sound is a paradise for sport fishing, hiking, camping, ocean adventures and so much more.  So whether you’re a seasoned outdoor adventurer or not, the Nootka Sound is the perfect place to find tranquility in the stunning beauty of Vancouver Island’s wilderness. 

The History

Captain James Cook of the Royal Navy was the first European to set foot in British Columbia in March 1778 when he anchored in Resolution Cove on Bligh Island, across from Yuquot on Nootka Island. As the story goes, while the British ships were weighing anchor, the Mowachaht/Muchalaht met them in canoes and repeated itchme nutka, itchme nutka! This phrase means go around – they were trying to redirect the ships to go around to Nootka Island, but Cook believed that they were saying the name of the area and thus named it Nootka. For millennia, Yuquot has been the home of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation of the Nuu-chah-nulth people, and holds significant historical importance as the site of the first European and First Nation contact in British Columbia. Nootka Sound became an important area for early traders and explorers with English, Spanish and American ships landing in the sound to access Vancouver Island. Today this remote area is relatively unpopulated but the Nootka Lighthouse, built in 1911, is one of the few remaining manned lighthouses on the coast of British Columbia.

The Location 

Nootka Sound is located on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, just over 70 km north of Clayoquot Sound where Tofino and Ucluelet are located. You can access Nootka Sound via the Gold River Highway that runs the width of north Vancouver Island from Campbell River on the east coast to Gold River on the west coast. The villages around Nootka Sound are tiny, the largest being Gold River with a population of just over one thousand people, Tahsis, the second largest, has a population of approximately three hundred people and Yuquot, the home of Chief Maquinna, is a small settlement of only six members of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht people and two full-time lighthouse keepers. This area is known for the rich sea life, mild climate, and the beautiful surroundings – qualities that drew First Nations settlers to this area thousands of years ago and are the same qualities that draw visitors to this magical place today. 

Outdoor Adventures on Nootka Sound

Kayaking on Nootka Sound

If you love kayaking, Nootka Sound needs to be added to your bucket list! There are so many places on the windswept Pacific coast of the Sound that are best explored and enjoyed from the seat of a kayak: small islands with deserted sandy beaches, sheltered coves, and ancient, towering forests. From the silence of a kayak, you can appreciate the sounds of this wild area from the marine birds who hunt in the waters, to all the beautiful creatures in the ocean: majestic humpback and gray whales, orcas, friendly sea otters, curious seals and huge sea lions, porpoises, octopi and more! 

Hike the Nootka Island Trail

If you’re an avid hiker and want to experience a once-in-a-lifetime hike, The Nootka Island Trail is it! Stretching 35 km from Louie Bay on the north side of Nootka Island to Yuquot on the south, this trail leads you over vast, windswept beaches, through dense forests and near rushing rivers. With approximately ¾  of the trail beach hiking and ¼ of off-shore forest hiking, this is truly a unique experience that you’ll need to be prepared for! While the trail is becoming more popular, it is still very remote and trail maintenance is sporadic and not for the faint of heart! You’ll be navigating over slick rocks, deep sand, tidal shelves, piled up driftwood, fallen logs, overgrown salal, steep sections that require ropes, slippery roots, and limestone cliff edges. While all this sounds daunting, there are also sections of powdery soft sand, some of the most breathtaking sunsets you’ll ever see and enormous Douglas firs that make every tricky section worth it!  If you’re looking for an adventure, this is undoubtedly it.

Fishing on Nootka Sound

If you’re an avid angler, the Nootka Sound is a world-class location for fishing excursions where you can find an abundance of chinook, coho halibut, ling cod, red snapper and shellfish of every variety. If you’re looking to catch some world-famous BC salmon, there are seven rivers, including the incredible Conuma River, in the area that are filled with salmon and three hatcheries. You’ll want to visit in late summer and early September to get the best catches. For almost everything else, between early spring in April and September you can find great snapper, rockfish and halibut fishing. The halibut caught in the area range between 15 and 50 pounds but there are some anglers who have caught a halibut that is over 150 pounds in the area! If a fishing trip to the Nootka Sound is on your wishlist, check out Nootka Marine Adventures

Adventure Cruises on Nootka Sound

If you’re looking for a way to explore the Nootka Sound, Esperanza Inlet and Kyuquot Sound in style, you’ll want to consider booking a tour with Get West Adventure Cruises! You can explore these stunning waters aboard the comfortable MV Uchuck III, a 1942 American Yard Minesweeper ship that has been carefully reconditioned and converted into a 100 passenger vessel, perfect for navigating the historic waters of Nootka Sound. With a wood-finished lounge, coffee shop and spacious open-air seating on the top deck, the MV Uchuck III takes passengers all around the sound on three different cruise options: the Yuquot Day Cruise, Nootka Sound Day Cruise and Kyuquot Overnight Cruise. Learn about the day to day operations of a vessel in these waters as the crew picks up and drops off supplies at fisheries, logging camps, and remote resorts, visit one of the oldest working lighthouses in North America or make arrangements to wet-launch a kayak and enjoy some paddling in the remote areas the MV Uchuck III takes you!