Kayak Camping on Vargas Island in Clayoquot Sound
Rate this Adventure Canada › First Street Public Dock, Tofino
Added by Gemina Garland-Lewis
Explore the beauty of Clayoquot Sound at a paddle's pace. The paddle is 4km to Medallion Beach from Tofino. Enjoy solitude and wilderness while camping in Vargas Island Provincial Park.
For a true taste of all the beauty the Tofino area has to offer, you need to get out on the water - and preferably you need to get out for more than just a day trip!
Once you have your kayak(s) strapped to your car, head down to the Tofino First Street Public Dock, just on the water's side of the intersection of Main St. and 1st St. From here you can unload the kayaks down the boat ramp, load up your gear in the storage hatches, then move your car to a place where you can park overnight. Remember that many smaller bags are easier to load in a kayak than fewer large bags. Secure a laminated/waterproof map of Clayoquot Sound under the bungees in front of you so you can navigate throughout the islands, and then go ahead and put in right here, turning left out of the dock area towards Felice Island. Paddle south of Felice, heading west towards the channel between Stubbs and Wickaninnish Islands. Keep heading west towards Vargas Island and keep in mind that once you pass Stubbs Island the channel becomes choppier and there is danger of rip currents - be sure you're familiar with your map and have checked the weather and tide charts before heading out.
Round the southern end of Vargas Island and follow its coast northwest. There are some great shallow and calm areas around here where, if it's it a clear day, you can see to the sea floor and watch for marine life, including sea stars, sea urchins, flatfish, and seals. You'll know your destination, Medallion Beach, when you see it - it's a large half-moon sandy beach on the western side of the island. Continue to paddle around and explore if you have time, otherwise, head to shore to set up camp. The tides are quite big here so be sure to carry your kayaks high up on shore for the night. You can camp anywhere on the beach for free, but note the food cache tucked in the trees on the northern end of the beach. You'll want to be sure to take advantage of this for your food and toiletries since the island has active populations of both bears and wolves, and it's important to store food properly to avoid habituating these rare wolf populations to humans and their food. You'll likely come across some wolf tracks on the beach at some point during your stay, which is a real treat!
Since kayaking doesn't have quite the same issues with carrying weight as backpacking, be sure to have brought along a beer or two from Tofino Brewing Co. to drink while you watch sunset! After enjoying a beautiful and star-filled night, pack up your kayaks and either return the way you came to Tofino or continue to explore around Vargas if you have the experience to paddle less sheltered waters. Shelter or Sobo are both great places to grab some food and drink once you're back in town.
Notes on getting a kayak:
If you're not traveling with kayaks yourself, there are a couple of places that will rent them out to you in either Tofino or Ucluelet. Keep in mind that you will be asked about your knowledge of and experience with kayaking - they absolutely will not rent out to beginners overnight without a guide. If you're in need of a kayak and uncertain if you have enough experience, call ahead to speak to someone to make sure they'll rent to you when you get up there. The route from Tofino to Medallion Beach is one of the more sheltered, but you'll need plenty of experience and a consult with a guide if you're planning on extending your route northwest of this area of Vargas Island. Also, be sure you have a car with the appropriate rack and cushioning to secure a kayak safely.
- Rain gear
- Dry bags for all your other gear - heavy duty trash bags are a cheaper alternative for gear that might not need as much protecting
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Stove and fuel
- Food and snacks
- Plenty of water - there is no fresh water at Medallion Beach so you need to carry everything for cooking and drinking
- 10 Essentials
- Waterproof map of Clayoquot Sound
- Tide chart
- Extra layers (quick dry are best!)
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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
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