Marine recreation

British Columbia is world famous for its rugged Pacific coastline, a paradise of beaches, inlets, and islands. The B.C. coast offers a wealth of recreational opportunities including boating, sailing, paddling, fishing, swimming, diving, and marine-accessible camping.

With its complex ecosystems and unique habitats, British Columbia’s coast also offers extraordinary opportunities for marine wildlife viewing. You may spot northern orcas, humpback whales as well as dolphins, seals, and a wide variety of seabirds.

Our marine parks provide many amenities for marine travelers, including marinas, small-craft harbours, campgrounds, ecotourism lodges, and hot springs. Some parks offer mooring and docking facilities. Elsewhere, boaters can pull out onto sandy beaches and camp on the shore.

Marine areas are ecologically and culturally sensitive. For practical tips on safe and responsible aquatic adventures, see our marine visitor guide.

Look here for an overview of marine recreation opportunities across the province. Click below for information on opportunities in these areas:

Marine Recreation Action Plan

At BC Parks, we are committed to providing sustainable marine recreation opportunities. To help our staff meet this commitment, we have launched the Marine Recreation Action Plan (MRAP), which targets five key goals:

  1. Better understand the natural and cultural values of marine areas 
  2. Strengthen relationships with First Nations coastal communities
  3. Provide high-quality marine recreation, today and in the future
  4. Enhance collaboration with other government agencies
  5. Promote ocean stewardship and responsible marine recreation

Read the Marine Recreation Action Plan [PDF]

Gulf Islands

The Gulf Islands area consists of 200 islands close to Vancouver and Victoria. Exceptional natural beauty and proximity to major population centers make this region one of B.C.’s most visited destinations.

Kayakers, sailors, and power boaters enjoy the sheltered waters, strong tides, and dramatic coastlines. You will find ample facilities, including major anchorage sites and areas to pull out and camp.

Pirates Cove on De Courcy Island offers a sheltered anchorage with stern tie pins, as well as two dinghy docks. The south beach also offers six walk-in campsites complete with tent pads.

Wallace Island includes beaches ideal for sheltered paddling. There is a small dock in Conover Cove for vessels up to 11m in length and a dinghy dock in Princess Cove. The island also offers stern tie pins and three designated camping areas.

Montague Harbour on Galiano Island is ideal for boaters of all kinds. A boat launch sits at the north end of the park. Montague Harbour, to the south, provides docking facilities and mooring buoys in. Walk-in campsites can be reserved.

Click below for information on other Gulf Islands marine parks: 

Lower Mainland, Howe Sound

Howe Sound features breathtaking scenery, conveniently located near Vancouver, B.C.’s most populace city. Steep-sloped mountains, rugged coastlines, stunning waterfalls, and scattered islands all stand close to the metropolitan area.

For swimmers, Howe Sound provides a selection of long, sandy beaches and warm waters. In Porteau Cove, between West Vancouver and Squamish, divers and snorkelers can explore a sunken ship with extensive marine life.

Howe Sound’s sheltered bays supply plenty of anchorage. Halkett Bay is a popular boating destination. Plumper Cove, an anchorage off Keats Island, features a wharf, mooring buoys, and marine-accessible campsites for canoers and kayakers.

Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast includes secluded bays, stunning inlets, and towering granite cliffs. There are over 60 waterfalls, with the notably spectacular Freil Lake Falls located in Harmony Islands Marine Park.

This area offers many scenic boating opportunities. Princess Louisa Inlet provides a beautiful anchorage with mooring buoys, stern ties pins, boat and dinghy docks, and walk-in campsites.

The Sechelt Inlets, meanwhile, have excellent waters for kayaking, as well as sandy beaches. These beaches provide safe pull-outs for camping, swimming, fishing, or scuba diving.

The Sunshine Coast is also a great area for swimming and snorkelling. Buccaneer Bay boasts broad, sandy beaches and warm, sheltered waters. Garden Bay and Hardy Island are also notably popular destinations.

Click below for information on other Sunshine Coast marine parks:

Vancouver Island, West Coast

Opening onto the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver Island’s West Coast, offers unique adventures to experienced sail and power boaters. It also offers more tranquil activities, with Mᑫuqᵂin providing a haven for kayaking and canoeing.

The West Coast is one of B.C.’s finest coastal hiking areas. Cape Scott provides both day-hiking and multi-day backpacking opportunities. The North Coast Trail delivers over 40 km of adventures for more experienced hikers.

Flores Island is a popular destination for campers. You can enjoy beach camping, whale watching, kayaking, and hiking the 10 km Walk the Wild Side Trail. Nearby Maquinna has natural mineral hot springs.

Click below for information about other parks on Vancouver Island’s West Coast:

Desolation Sound

Desolation Sound Marine Park is one of the most popular sail and power boating destinations in B.C. Boaters can enjoy sheltered waters and protected anchorages. Kayakers can explore islands and coves across 60 km of shoreline.

For hikers and swimmers, the area provides beaches, four lakes, and a stunning waterfall (Cassel Falls in Teakerne Arm). There are 11 designated campgrounds, with Rebecca Spit a great choice for convenient beach access.

Desolation Sound is also a hotspot for wildlife sightings, with warm waters ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. Here, you can see northern orcas in their natural habitat. Mitlenatch Island has a large seabird colony.

Click below for information on other Desolation Sound marine parks:

Johnstone Strait

Wedged between the Coast Mountains and Vancouver Island, Johnstone Strait is home to an abundance of marine life. You may spot humpback whales, orcas, dolphins, and seabirds here.

Broughton Archipelago Park, is B.C.’s largest marine park. It is made up of dozens of undeveloped islands and islets on Knight Inlet, near Vancouver Island’s north end.

When the seas are calm, kayakers enjoy exploring the outer islets. Boaters and kayakers can also find sheltered anchorages and scenic coves deeper into the archipelago’s larger islands.

Click below for information on other Johnstone Strait marine parks:

Central Coast

The Central Coast is one of B.C.’s top wildlife-spotting areas. Along the coastline, you may see bald eagles, sitka deer, grizzlies, black bears, and the rare white spirit bear. In the water, humpback whales, orcas, and seals are plentiful.

The largest protected marine area in B.C., Hakai Lúxvbálís, offers lagoons, forested hills, and white-sand beaches. All-weather anchorages make the coastline accessible to boaters year-round.

British Columbia is world-renowned for its fjords, and some of the best examples can be seen at Fiordland Conservancy. Sheer granite cliffs rise more than 1,000 m, dotted with waterfalls.

Click below for information on other Central Coast marine parks:

North Coast

British Columbia’s North Coast offers a marine environment like no other. Huchsduwachsdu Nuyem Jees (Kitlope) includes the world’s largest intact coastal temperate rainforest, with old-growth trees over 800 years old.

Codville Lagoon is a marine mammal area where you may spot orcas, humpback whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, and sea lions. Lowe Inlet, meanwhile, is a great place to witness salmon migrating.

All this makes the North Coast an ideal boating area, with Oliver Cove a highly recommended destination. An inside route provides shelter for small boats, and boaters can access all-weather anchorage.

Click below for information on other North Coast marine parks: