Searching for Orcas in Johnstone Strait

Remote wilderness, glassy waters, rocky beaches, and killer whales (orcas).

Remote wilderness, glassy waters, rocky beaches, and killer whales (orcas). Kayaking this area is the best way to experience Johnstone Strait.

Options for getting into the prime kayaking area of Johnstone Strait include going with an outfitter or driving into Naka Creek and launching from there. Not a lot of available campsites, but there’s not a lot of kayakers either which makes this such an awesome region to explore. The water can change from pure glass to whitecaps quickly so if you are inexperienced, best to have a guide. Local government websites can advise on weather tides and campfire restrictions.

We chose an outfitter and the trip began with a water taxi from Quadra Island, BC, to a summertime camp set up beside Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. The camp location was excellent with both east and west exposure letting us get out for sunrise and sunset paddles. Not only can you see Orcas, but bears regularly hang out on the beach on Cracroft Island across the Strait. Following safe wildlife guidelines is a must so make sure you secure your food (hang food while camping to ensure you don’t attract bears) and keep the standard 100 metres away from whales and other sea life when out kayaking. The wildlife may get closer to you which can be pretty exhilarating so be sure to raft up when you are out kayaking if they are in the area so you appear to be bigger. We saw killer whales all four days we were there.

During the time at camp having someone else cook and clean was a treat. When we weren’t up for kayaking we hung out on the rocky beach, sunned ourselves and enjoyed some wine we had brought along for the trip. We paddled across the Strait to Cracroft to find the bears and down south to Naka to hike into a waterfall. Both the hike and the waterfall are great. Keep watch of the water conditions as the waves can pick up in the afternoon and make it a more vigorous paddle back to camp. While we didn’t do this during our trip, kayaking up to Boat Bay can also be worthwhile on a calm day. Eagle Eye operates a marine mammal watch station there and ensures that any boaters entering the restricted area of Robson Bight are advised of the guidelines.


We did a native sauna (provided by our outfitter) which soothed our aching muscles after a long day of kayaking and enjoyed hot showers at camp. We quickly got over any thought that this might be too cushy as we were warm and dry each day with no worries about wet clothes spoiling our trip.

The incredible skies you see here at night were one of our favourite things about Johnstone Strait. We got out for one final sunrise paddle on our last day before the water taxi picked us up and took as back to Campbell River. We went with outfitter Wildcoast Adventures and had a great time.

Check out more of my photos here: https://muddylove.pixieset.com/wildcoastadventures

PACK LIST

● Clothing: bring synthetic material clothes as days may be warm or cool and

you will be on the water most of the time. Even in summer pack your warm

socks, long pants, fleece and rain jacket

● Water Bottle

● Water shoes ( neoprene water shoes work best) & camp shoes (so you have

something dry to change into)

● Sunscreen, sunglasses, sunhat and a warm toque

● Headlamp or quality flashlight

● Kayak gloves (if you are prone to blisters)

● Insect repellent

● Fast-dry towel

● Camera

● ...and if you are going without an outfitter:

○ Kayak, safety gear, first aid, and marine charts

○ Food and water

○ Tent, sleeping bag and mat

○ Cooking equipment & rope to hang food

Published: March 13, 2017

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

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

Cindy Hughes

Vancouver