It’s all about the view!
I have been all through the Discovery Islands on multiple occasions with my friend Nick Templeman and Yukon – #chiefwhalespotter from Campbell River Whale & Bear Excursions but this was my first time paddling and camping here. For whatever reason, I have been adverse to the area, mostly due to strong currents, rocky landings and the lack of long sandy beaches which I tend to prefer in more far flung destinations on the west side of Vancouver Island. Nonetheless I decided to give it a try between April 8th and April 11th.
My friends Pavel Novy and John Kimantas had made previous recommendations and more recently, Nick and BC Marine Trails President, Paul Grey offered further insight.
I settled on visiting Penn Island SW, a short paddle from Coulter Bay on Cortes Island. Launching or landing from Coulter Bay in a kayak is best on a mid or high tide as it can be quite muddy otherwise. Be aware of winds that can pick up suddenly if you’re committed to a direct crossing to Penn Island SW.
Penn Island SW – Image created with a DJ Mavic Mini Drone
Launching from Coulter Bay, Cortes Island
The crossing from Coulter Bay to Penn Island SW
Showing off my 1480 Kodiak Outback hat – inspired by my friend Steve Best, check out one of Steve’s epic videos here: mryerblog.com/…/steve-best-gwaii-haanas-2019
Landing on Penn Island SW is also best on a mid or high tide. The gradient is steep and there’s large boulder sized rocks. About 75% of the way down, on the east side of the beach is a sort of “boat run” which offers the best access point.
The Landing on Penn Island SW
Potentially, there’s beach camping above the high tide line but by far the best camping is up on the west side bluff. I counted 4-5 flat areas where a small tent can fit nicely. The views are spectacular.
Once landed and settled on Penn Island SW, I stayed put for the entire time. I enjoyed lazy days, basking in the sun, finishing off one book and starting another and watching the sun set next to a campfire each night. Recommended reading is Kayaking Vancouver Island – written by Gary Backlund and Paul Grey.
On the last morning, I woke to a setting moon directly in front of my tent out on the bluff. A fitting way to end a wonderful stay, in a magical place.
This area is well known for both Orca and Humpback Whale sightings and offers 180 degree views should you be fortunate enough. I didn’t have any luck this time but maybe I will, when I return and explore the area more.
Lastly, on another note, I want to thank Lucas and crew from the Armada who rescued a capsized kayaker not far from where I was camped, on the late afternoon of April 9th. I hope all is well for the paddler. My friend John Arnold checked in with me that evening, knowing that it probably wasn’t me but still just wanted to make sure. Thanks John. You can read about the story here: nationalobserver.com/…/first-nations-fishermen-rescue-kayaker-quadra-island