Paddling with kids

Canoe trip through the Southern Gulf Islands

May 28, 2016

The weather forecast said it was going to be nice so I put an “out of office” notification on my email and we took off for a 5 day canoe trip in the Southern Gulf Islands.

It was our first time camping with the kids besides setting up the tent in the yard a couple weeks earlier. That experience had gone well, after four nights out in the tent I finally made an excuse to take down the tent and sleep in the house again.  We’d also gone out on a few day trips in the canoe so we were pretty confident the kids were going to enjoy themselves.

What I didn’t anticipate was just how much they would LOVE it.


We paddled from Salt Spring Island to Portland Island. We camped on the west end of Portland Island at the Shell Beach campsite.  No one else showed up even though it was a Saturday night so we decided to spend Sunday, Mother’s Day there as well.

We did a long hike around the island. All of Portland Island is a park (part of the Gulf Island National Park) and there is a trail system all around the island.  We didn’t make the whole circumference of the island, but there are trails that cut across the park allowing us cut the length of our hike without having to turn around and retrace our route.

Back at camp Molly and I went swimming in the ocean. Yikes it was cold!


The following day we paddled to Sidney Island. Sidney Island is a favourite with its long sandy spit and big sand cliffs.  One end of the island and the spit is also part of the Gulf Island National Park.  It’s usually a busy place but in early May we found it quieter than we had ever seen it.  We spent two nights on Sidney Island camping on the beach and paddling around the whole island.

I don’t remember what it feels like to be a kid, but I do remember how every experience is so very important. For the kids this trip was a first in many ways and they were up for the adventure.  Travelling to new campsites, setting up the tent, cooking over a camping stove and even playing outside until the sun set were novelties that they relished. They made up games to play, had races on the beach and seemed to soak in the beauty as much as we did.  Watching them play together we saw the bond between them grow.  I think they realized that only the other one really understood how they were feeling.


We were proud of ourselves and our kids for paddling as far as we did. The trip was not without challenges.  We dealt with ocean crossings, worried about ferry traffic and navigated strong tidal currents.  I won’t deny the stress was higher because we had our two young kids with us.  We learnt the limitation of paddling with a two year old who can’t grasp that he should stop fighting with his sister in the canoe.

For all of us the best part was being away, without distractions of regular life, chores, work, and cell phones. None of us was excited to go home at the end of the five days.  Luckily we all know we will get more camping adventures and experiences this summer.


Comments (2)

  • Hannah Reply

    May 30, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    I want to do this trip so badly! It sounds lovely. I can understand your worries about the crossing with the 2- year-old. It makes me nervous just thinking about it! What a wonderful adventure, though!

    • sarahcarty Reply

      May 31, 2016 at 8:37 pm

      Thanks Hannah. We built up to the big trip, but next time we’ll be sure to take a tide table and a ferry schedule!

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