Side Bay is located on Northwest Vancouver Island, north of Brooks Peninsula and pretty much right beside Lawn Point Provincial Park. It is accessible via logging road from Port Alice, approximate driving time is 4.5 hours from the Comox Valley. It’s 3 hours of pavement and then 1.5 hours of logging road. There’s lots of signs on the logging road to point you in the right direction and it’s in really good shape – much better than say the road to Bamfield in comparison.
The drive up island was good, I left Courtenay at 4:00 pm and arrived in Port Alice at 7:00 pm. Don’t plan on getting any fuel, last minute supplies or a bite to eat. The folks in Port Alice truly are on “island time.” Everything, such as what there is closes at 6:00 pm or more likely 3:00 pm. Fortunately someone was able to call the person that tends the fuel station and they were glad to help. I did manage to find a restaurant called “Pizza Place.” A small pepperoni and cheese took an hour and there was much more crust than any cheese or pepperoni. Either way, I was glad to have it and started making my way on the logging road to Side Bay, leaving Port Alice at 8:00 pm. I was a bit uncertain, as I have never driven in this area before but as mentioned there’s lots of signs pointing you in the right direction and the road is in great shape. Along the way I counted 17 signs of Black Bear scat. I also saw a large Black Bear running full out along the road in front of me, just before I arrived at Side Bay at 9:30 pm. No, you can’t outrun a Bear and seeing this animal kicking up dust was a great reminder of that.
I set up my camp at Side Bay just as the moon was beginning to rise over Brooks Peninsula. A few other campers were further down the beach but it really did feel like I was alone.
It’s been very dry both in British Columbia and Vancouver Island, hence the recent fire ban on the island outside of “the fog zone.” I was able to build a small fire below the high tide line on the beach and sat beside it until about 12:30 am before settling in for the night.
Instead of getting out on the water early I decided to stay the day at Side Bay. Considering I arrived late the night before I wanted to spend the day combing the expansive beach, studying the waters, creating images and reading my book. It was nice to just relax and not really have anywhere to be. A very creative person had left some “rock art” behind which was fun to see.
I launched from Side Bay late in the morning, around 10:30 am at low tide. A note to those that paddle solo. You’ll need a cart for the long walk down the beach. The surf tends to be a lot lower at low tide than when the tide is up which is why I chose to launch when the tide was at it’s lowest.
There was some gentle swell, light wind but it was warm and sunny. I counted 4 Sea Otters along the way as I Paddled towards Mayday Island. Although not a designated British Columbia Marine Trails Campsite bcmarinetrails.org John Kimantas mentions a beach on Mayday Island on page 83 of the BC Coast Explorer and Marine Trail Guide that I figured could serve as a camp if I needed it to be. I was glad to be informed about this for later. My first stop was at Keith River Pocket Beach to begin completing 1 of 3 site condition field reports I had planned for the day for the British Columbia Marine Trail Network. Completing these assessments are a lot of fun and a great way to contribute to the various initiatives undertaken by BCMTN. If you’re staying at any designated British Columbia Marine Trail Network Campsite, please take the time to complete a site condition field report: bcmarinetrails.org/…w-to-help/stewardship Reports are needed for these sites as a part of the North Vancouver Island Circle Route: drive.google.com/…Bf_Y3JIQ05wQjV6bmc/view
Keith River Pocket Beach – Site Condition Field Report #1
This is an expansive sand beach about 3.5 km from Side Bay, easy landing with camping on the beach and just under the treeline. Cougar, Wolf and Black Bear are plentiful in the area, so remember to keep a clean camp and practice leave no trace principals.
Keith River Site 3 – Site Condition Field Report #2
This is a smaller sand beach, easy landing with camping on the beach and just under the treeline. Heavy driftwood may impede on some beach camping. Of the 3 beaches, this is the only one that didn’t have recent signs of wildlife in the form of Black Bear tracks. It’s about 500 m from Keith River Pocket Beach.
Keith River Site 4 – Site Condition Field Report #3
On this Beach there were very recent signs of Black Bear, likely within the last 12 hours or less. I contemplated spending the night here until I saw the tracks.
After completing my final site condition field report I noticed the wind start to pick up and what appeared to be a system forming over Brooks Peninsula. The water started to become choppy too. My original destination was Heater Point but it was getting later in the day and I thought it would be best to turn around. Not wanting to stay on the beaches with recent signs of wildlife, I opted to make camp at Mayday Island. It turned out to be a good decision not to head to Heater Point as it began to howl wind and rain at about 6:30 pm.
I hunkered down in my tent for the night, read my book and fell asleep around 11:30 pm.
I broke camp at 5:30 am and was on the water at 6:20 am. The heavy rain stopped earlier. There was still a light drizzle, it was windy and the waters were quite choppy as I crossed back over to Side Bay. I was glad to get off the water. I landed at Side Bay at very low tide. Just as I got out of my kayak, 1 meter waves crashed on the beach behind me. So much for my claim for low surf at low tide.
Side Bay is a very picturesque area, it’s out there but with some effort it is accessible. Waking up each morning and having views of the infamous Brooks Peninsula in your backyard is inspiring. It’s a great launching point for destinations there and in the surrounding area. A good resource before heading out is contacting the Port Alice Visitor Center, they can update you on road conditions and so forth: portalice.ca/visitors/visitor-centre
I got the chance to use this at Side Bay this past weekend on North Vancouver Island. I had to pull my kayak approximately 100 meters to and from the water. It worked flawlessly on uneven terrain – pebble, rock and sand.
Be sure to run the strap through the rigging on top of your kayak or other anchor points on canoes, etc. otherwise there’s the potential for the cart to slip off. (Yes, this happened to me until I figured out what was what.)
Features and specifications:
- Aluminum kickstands, very sturdy and durable.
- Large Foam Filled rubber tires roll smoothly across sand, gravel, and road.
- The long tie-down strap helps to fasten the kayak on the cart securely.
- EVA cushions on the kickstands help to protect kayak while being transported
- Material: Aluminum + Rubber
- Loading Capacity: 75kg
- Tire Size: 26 * 8.5cm / 10.24 * 3.35in(D * T)
- Kickstand Diameter: 2cm / 0.79in
- Strap Size: 385 * 2.5cm / 151.57 * 0.98in
- Weight: Approx. 3202g / 7.06lb
Buy yours here: albernioutpost.com/…/alberni-outpost-kayak-cart
British Columbia Magazine is a one of a kind publication, showcasing all the great things and places about British Columbia: bcmag.ca
I’m very proud to have one of my images featured on the bottom of page 13 of the Summer, 2017 edition.
I’m a very proud supporter of Friends of Clayoquot Sound and their conservation work in the local area. Two of my images were recently featured on page 5 of the summer 2017 newsletter. Please consider making a donation: http://focs.ca
I’m very proud to be a Volunteer, Member and now a Director with the BC Marine Trails – The World’s Largest Marine Trail Network: bcmarinetrails.org
After a relaxed 13 km paddle, the last thing a person wants to find on their camping beach is a group of teenagers with shabby power boats that cost much less than your first car, loud music and chainsaws! Needless to say I didn’t stay on the Stud Islets and for good reason. I found a much more “friendly” alternative which is all I can say so as not to disclose the location. The Whale told me to stay right where I was too!
Day 1 – May 25th, 2017
I departed Courtenay at 1:05 pm, over packed as usual and arrived at Poett Nook Marina and Kayak Launch just Northeast of Bamfield at about 4:00 pm. The road to Bamfield is never in the best of condition but there were sections this time that were a little more rough than usual. Poett Nook offers several amenities and easy access to the Deer Group Islands with limited exposure to the open water crossing. poettnook.com/welcome The only downside is that there’s only one fire pit that you have to share with others, if you’re so inclined to do so. I got lucky and met a couple folks from Germany that were on vacation and exploring the area, Sebastian and Markus. Great guys! I was smart to decline their offer of some sort of very potent German alcohol. I wanted to be on the water early the next morning otherwise it may have been worth a sip or two.
Day 2 – May 26th, 2017
I launched from Poett Nook at 6:20 am, the open water crossing through Trevor Channel was calm with only some gentle swell when I neared the Deer Group.
After passing through Robber’s Passage I took an on water break near the Sea Arch just North of the passage. The tide was too low to paddle through the arch but nonetheless it was inspiring to see a geological formation that has taken millennia to form.
I carried on, but not too far and took another break to actually get out and stretch some, at this point I was about 11 km in.
From here, my next destination was the Stud Islets which is where I intended to camp. I rounded the corner of the last islet and much to my disappointment I hear music, see shabby power boats, see the beach filled with “teenage children” and I hear a chainsaw. I beached my kayak and got out to see if there was any feasible way I could stay there knowing full well that there was no way. I barely exchanged words with the individuals that were there and quickly got back into my kayak and left. I circled Holford Bay for about 45 minutes contemplating a suitable alternative at which point I found a beach.
The BCMTN (British Columbia Marine Trail Network) alternative sites within Holford Bay North and South didn’t seem very appealing, at least to me. Nonetheless I did complete site condition reports on day 3 so that perhaps these locations can be contemplated some more. If you’re out there paddling, please take the time to complete a site condition report, it’s really easy and a fun way to contribute: bcmarinetrails.org/…w-to-help/stewardship
So, after eating I sat on this beach that I found for a little bit trying to decide if I really should stay or not or move not too far away to Holford Bay North. I sat there lost in my thoughts when out of nowhere a giant Humpback Whale breached not 100 m from where I was sitting, directly in my intended path to Holford Bay North! This has a way of convincing you to stay put. So, the Whale told me to stay right where I was and so I did for two nights. It ended up being fantastic. Thank you to this Whale for telling me what to do. It came back a few times afterwards too, maybe just to remind me. The picture below shows the whale, just to the left is Holford Beach North.
All in all I was very happy with my camping beach, it offered protection from the wind and sunlight until mid afternoon, an established fire ring and a great view.
Day 3 – May 27th, 2017
I slept in and didn’t wake up until 9:30 am, relaxed and spent most of the day reading a book that I have been meaning to read that was given to me as a gift at Christmas. If you don’t already know who Alex Honnold is, you need to catch up on him. He is to free solo rock climbing as to what three Mozart’s are to music. What this guy has achieved is incredible to say the least. alexhonnold.com
I did have some visitors. Lisa, her five year old son Anthony and their dog Marlee spent an hour or so foraging for shells on the beach. A very friendly trio. Lisa informed me that there’s Wolves on Tzartus Island and to listen for them at night. I informed her that a contributor to the BCMTN Facebook page shared a picture of a Cougar on the Stud Islets in May of 2016.
Day 4 – May 28th, 2017
I was asleep early the night before and up at 4:15 am, broke camp and on the water for 5:25 am for the paddle back to Poett Nook. (I did wake at around 2:00 am to check on my kayak during the high tide and was surprised to see the Northern Borealis. A first for me on the coast, even thought it was faint on the horizon.) As soon as I turned west of the island I was on, the wind picked up and the fog was pretty thick. It was an uncertain paddle all the way back to Robber’s Passage and I was concerned about the open water crossing through Trevor Channel. I took a break in the passage.
Much to my relief, Trevor Channel was dead calm, the 2 km crossing was easy and I made it safely back to Poett Nook at 9:30 am.
The Deer Group Islands are undervalued in my opinion as a kayaking destination, secluded yet accessible and definitely worth checking out. Later, I intend to check out the outer islands west of Robber’s Passage.
This is a beautiful location on the South end of Buttle Lake in Strathcona Provincial Park. One could spend all day composing the setting. I’ll definitely be going back.
I continue to be honored to have my images serve as a source of inspiration to others far and wide. (Painters, North of Dauphin, Manitoba wonderfully depicting one of my fence line images this evening.)