Journey to the Broken Group Islands: Your Guide to Boating and Exploring This Stunning Destination

The Broken Group Islands: A Boater’s Paradise

Scattered at the mouth of Barkley Sound, between Ucluelet and Bamfield, the Broken Group Islands welcome travellers with stunning vistas and an incredible array of wildlife.

Consisting of over 100 islands, islets and rocky outcrops just begging to be explored, the Broken Islands Group offers adventures for boaters and landlubbers alike.

The Broken Islands form part of the traditional territories of the Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations, the Toquaht Nation and the Uchucklesaht Tribe, each of whom has treaty rights involving the Pacific Rim Park National Reserve.

Benson Island is considered to be the birthplace of the Tseshaht First Nation and is believed to have been consistently occupied for at least 5,000 years. Honouring the cultural history of the island, the Tseshaht house post welcomes visitors to what was once the cultural center of the Tseshaht.

Whether you prefer to skim along the water in a kayak, take in the natural beauty from your sailboat, explore any of the many rocky beaches, or soak in the rich cultural history, a trip to the Broken Islands is one you’re sure to remember.

Read on for everything you need to know to plan a journey from Van Isle Marina to the Broken Islands Group.

Getting To the Broken Islands

While the Broken Islands Group are a part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, they are naturally only accessible by boat.

If getting there by kayak is to your taste, you’ll find a convenient launch at Secret Beach Campground and Kayak Launch, which is about a 45-minute drive east of Ucluelet.

If you wish to explore by yacht, there are several marinas to launch from in both Ucluelet and Bamfield, but remember that none of the islands have docks, so you will need to be familiar with off-shore anchoring techniques.

A great way to combine travelling with sightseeing is by equipping your larger craft with a kayak or canoe. That way, you have the freedom to spend your time in the Broken Islands kayaking from island to island, exploring the shorelines and even pulling onto beaches for a while.

Tip: Research the area before you arrive and utilize a detailed Broken Islands map to plan mooring and exploring locations.

Note: If you’re hoping to launch from your Sidney, BC, Van Isle Marina base to travel up to Barkley Sound, you will need to plan for a trip consisting of several adventure-filled days. 

Camping in The Broken Group Islands

As part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, camping in the Broken Islands is a great travel choice for outdoor adventure enthusiasts.

Campgrounds can be found on the following islands:

  • Gilbert
  • Hand
  • Turret
  • Gibraltar
  • Clarke
  • Dodd
  • Willis

Parks Canada insists that all camping be confined to these designated areas. While there are basic facilities, such as solar composting outhouses, you will need to bring your own water supply and take your garbage with you.

The Tseshaht Nation works with Parks Canada to share the beauty and history of their traditional territory with the public with initiatives like the Beach Keeper program. Continuing a cultural history of land stewardship, volunteer Beach Keepers are onsite to welcome campers and adventurers, as well as provide safety information and advice.

Note: Campers heading to the Broken Islands for their getaway will need to make sure they have a Backcountry Camping Permit in addition to a National Park Entry Pass, both of which can be obtained through the National Park’s online reservation system.

Tips for Camping on the Broken Islands

Since the campgrounds in the Broken Islands Group are nestled in the wilderness and offer only basic amenities, there are a few things you should bear in mind when planning to camp there:

  • Bring biodegradable soap
  • Hang tarps with rope, not nails
  • Make sure to store food and garbage safely away from wildlife
  • Dogs are not allowed unless they are service dogs
  • Pack out what you bring in

Broken Island Wildlife

The natural land and seascapes created by the Broken Group Islands are second to none, but the diverse wildlife is where the Broken Islands truly shine. Boaters and campers alike can spot grey whales, humpback whales, transient orca, mink, bald eagles, seals and sea lions, otters, and more shorebirds than anyone can count.

Scuba divers will be treated to a spectacular array of anemones, fish, crabs and sea stars as they explore the ocean floor. Also, while they might not be typical, cougars, wolves and bears are sometimes spotted.

Staying Safe Around the Broken Islands

The most important thing to remember when you visit the Broken Group Islands is that you are in a wilderness area that is subject to nature and fast weather changes.

With that in mind, there are a few safety tips to consider when planning your trip to the Broken Islands:

  • Use a cooking stove instead of cooking over a fire
  • Keep all fires below the high tideline
  • Keep all food and garbage safely stored
  • Check your campsite for dangerous trees before you set up
  • The Imperial Eagle and Loudoun Channels are prone to strong winds, making these difficult to travel by kayak or other small vessels
  • If the waters are rough, you should pull into the nearest campground instead of the one you planned on
  • Barkley Sound faces the open ocean, so it is prone to harsh ocean conditions, which can mean large swells, rough winds and strong currents
  • The Broken Group Islands are a maze of reefs, islets, islands, and submerged rocks, so navigation can be difficult. Carry a Broken Islands map and navigational tools such as a compass when on the water.
  • Be aware of other marine traffic in your area
  • As with any outdoor adventuring, exposure to the elements is a concern. Make sure you check the weather forecast for the area and bring appropriate clothing.
  • You are sharing space with wildlife, some of which include cougars, bears and wolves. Be mindful of your surroundings.

With a bit of preparation and a healthy dose of caution, you can enjoy an outdoor adventure in a truly stunning setting and return home with memories to last a lifetime.

Planning Your Broken Islands Journey from Van Isle Marina

At Van Isle Marina, our yacht sales team can help you find the perfect boat for your planned adventures.

Talk to one of our crew members onsite, or contact us today for assistance.