Published: Apr 11 2019
If you are looking for a place to try international boating, western Canada is an excellent place to begin. Located near Seattle, at the north end of the boating hub of Puget Sound, the region offers a sheltered entrance with moderate temperatures. It has some of the best scenery in the world to enjoy by boat.
Here is a look at some of the must-see places in western Canada, and what you need to know before you go:
Directly to the north of the San Juan Islands, this island chain continues across the Canadian border. Galiano Island and Salt Spring Island are a part of the Gulf Islands and are popular tourist destinations in the summer for boat rentals and tours. The Gulf Islands are on the protected eastern side of Vancouver Island and are a great place for fishing charters, scuba diving, and exploring the local islands. The Fraser River is a famed location for top-notch salmon fishing, and the turquoise waters are beautiful for diving to see bright-colored rockfish, colonies of stalked anemones, and tubeworm plumes, as well as the world's largest species of octopus.
Boating in Canada's gulf islands is protected, and there are dockside restaurants, marina space, and other resources you might need if you rent a boat. One of the most common kinds of tourist activities to enjoy in Canada's Gulf Islands is whale watching— the pods of resident orca whales are the most famous population in North America. Book a whale watching tour to see these amazing animals in the wild - it's the perfect thing to do if you're traveling with kids.
Want to rent a kayak in the Gulf Islands? There is a kayak trail that allows boat-in campsites and stretches from south Puget Sound to Alaska and features several sites through these islands. One important distinction that separates the San Juans from the Gulf Islands is the proximity of some of the Gulf Islands to the more metropolitan areas on Vancouver Island and the city of Vancouver. If you prefer not to boat into the city, British Columbia offers an extensive ferry system that allows pedestrians to explore many areas, but you can also rent or charter a boat on your own to explore more.
Though the water is sheltered compared to the coast, there can still be some chop, particularly when it comes to the smaller, deeper channels between some islands, so if renting on your own, be careful. When the tidal flow is against wind direction, this can cause substantial wind waves and be an unpleasant surprise for those who suffer from motion sickness.
Kelowna and the Okanagan are a beloved destination for boating, watersports, fishing, and relaxing with great food and drinks. It's the wine country of Canada and offers stunning views from the water. Rent a pontoon on Okanagan Lake and cruise for hours to beloved boating spots, or rent a speedboat and try your hand at waterskiing, wakeboarding, or tubing. It's the perfect thing to enjoy when traveling with kids or friends around this part of Canada. You can also check out Kalmalka Lake, a smaller, but equally beautiful lake close to Okanagan Lake.
Want more information on boat rentals and boating experiences in Kelowna and Okanagan Lake? Check out our boating guide to this amazing destination in Canada.
The ocean side of Vancouver Island has boating joys, provided you are willing to deal with ocean swells. The most famous port on this island is Victoria, and this can be a destination on its own. Situated on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, just off the Strait of Juan de Fuca, this city has a flair of Victorian England, from the clean city building facades to the themed tourist gifts to high tea at the Empress Hotel. Buses from here can take you to the famous Butchart Gardens, which is a must-see day trip if you spend on taking several days to see the city. Rent a boat from Victoria and explore more of this beautiful city on the water.
Coastal towns on Vancouver Island like Tofino are great to rent a boat, rent a kayak, go fishing, to dock your boat, fuel up, and visit the local shops. In addition to offshore boating and deep-sea fishing, there are a few hot springs that are available just off the outer shore of Vancouver Island and the smaller islands to the north. Tofino, Ucluelet, and Port Alberni are the three ports to visit to get the full experience of the national park called Pacific Rim Park, a highlight of this route. The high-level volcanic activity of this region offers these heat vents and creates great places to take a hot soak. Be careful of the sulfuric content of the vents, however, as they will be a bit smelly at times, and can tarnish jewelry by giving it a black outer coating.
For those who prefer freshwater boating, there are a large number of lakes and streams to be found in BC and Alberta. Tens of thousands of miles of connected streams and lakes stretch northward into the Northwest Territories and Yukon and offer fantastic opportunities for remote canoe or kayak trips. Fishing sites for salmon and trout are so abundant that it would take a lifetime to find them all. However, much of these are shallow, smaller order streams that are great for shallow boats that can make the occasional portage. If you are looking for some of the best places in BC and Alberta to the boat, there are lots of opportunities. Larger rivers include the Fraser River just north of the Canadian border or the Peace River that is found along the Alaskan Highway at the north end of British Columbia.
It is easy to find access to large boating lakes and navigable rivers near many of the bigger towns in BC. These lakes and rivers are great for fishing, and they often get warm enough in the summer for tubing, jet-skiing, waterskiing, and more. Rivers and lakes are very different than the Pacific Ocean and give an advantage to those who love to swim. Probably the most famous place to boat in the interior portion of western Canada is Lake Louise, in the Banff area. Here, towering snow-capped mountains jut steeply from the calm turquoise waters, creating a spectacular view that people come from around the world to experience. Day boat tours are an excellent option for people who prefer to day boat and then spend evenings in a bit more luxury. The amenities and lodging options in this region are some of the best in western Canada.
No matter your preferred style of boat or your timeline, there are great options to be found in British Columbia. Even better, the people here are friendly and helpful and will provide lots more excellent local suggestions when you come to visit. Be sure to pack lots of layers, as the weather here, even in summer, can be chilly at times, and rain is always a possibility. Also, if you are boating and camping, arm yourself with insect repellant, as there may be several large flying species who love the taste of tourists. A well-prepared boater is sure to have a memorable time here and to leave counting the days before they can return to discover even more of this nation's beautiful waters.
Need a boat rental in Canada? Download the GetMyBoat app to search through hundreds of options in cities across the country.