Traveling north from Tofino to Hot Springs Cove, by kayak is a moderate voyage with three areas of caution where ocean swell can be difficult at times. Duffin Pass and Haynen Channel north of Stubbs Island is a bit challenging when the swell is from the south but the shortest among the three. Crossing Russell and Brabant Channel from Vargas to Flores is a bit more challenging but if you remember the 11 am rule (be at your campsite before 11 am) you should be OK. Most of the Inlets and large lakes on Vancouver Island have thermal winds that usually begin around 11 am that peeks at 2 pm and can last until late into the evening
Gibson Marine Park at the bottom of Matilda Inlet is a great first-night camp. There is a temped warm spring on the right, that was built out of concrete many years ago. Just behind the warm spring is the start of the trail to Whitesand Cove which faces the open Pacific. The Cove features a beautiful white sand beach and at low tide is fairly easy to walk around to the southwestern side where the open ocean crashes in. The Village of Ahousat, Restaurant and General store is also of interest to visit.
Dock and General Store at Ahousat
Gibson Marine Park with temped warm springs, a great first nights camp
Getting an early start the next morning heading north up Millar Channel your destination is the Megin River for the second night camp. There are no areas of concern on this passage because there is no open water to cross. Still, you will want to be as close to the Megin as possible by 11 am to avoid the afternoon thermals. At the north end of Millar Channel, is Obstruction Island, where I recommend choosing Sulphur Passage which is a more interesting and shorter path. Both Sulphur and Hayden Passages can have tidal currents, so slack or ebbing tide when heading north is the best time.
A incoming high tide entry is best at the Megin River and there are level areas for camping further up river.
The clear waters of the Megin River
The third area of concern on this voyage is the trip to Hot Springs Cove, which is the most difficult because you will be in open ocean conditions paddling against the swell. As the name suggests the paddle down Shelter Inlet is protected from swell, therefore, calm most of the time. You will begin to feel open ocean conditions as soon as rounding Starling Pt. and this is where you will decide to head out to Hot Springs or not. Its is 6 kilometers from Starling Pt to where you can safely make the turn into Hot Springs and be out of the swell. There is a fog horn at Sharpe Pt. sounding at 30 s when there is fog.
There are a public dock and info at Hot Springs and the actual springs are about 20 min walk down a boardwalk. Over the years the planks of the dock have been replaced by the various owner’s ships names that have visited the springs. I recommend a night visit to the springs during an ebbing high tide. Day time can be busy with the air traffic from Tofino.
Returning to Tofino can be done by the circumnavigation of Flores but that should be attempted by experienced open ocean kayakers only.
Those that want to experience an open ocean beach campsite might I suggest Pretty Pocket Cove on Flores Island directly east of Sharp Point when leaving Hot Springs. A surf landing must be made here but it is a well-protected cove for being on the outside and worth the risk of getting wet.
Pretty Pocket Cove
On Meares Island, halfway up Lemmens Inlet is a small cove named Adventure and the Islet out front is called Columbia. In 1791 American fur trader Captain Robert Gray aboard the ship Columbia wintered here and built a stockade they named Fort Defiance. In this cove over the winter they also built a 45-ton sloop that was named Adventure.