by Julie Deans
The Broughton Archipelago Marine Park and surrounding area is traditional unceded land of the ʼNa̱ mǥis First Nation, and member nations of the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw and Nanwakolas Tribal Councils. Care is needed on shore as there are numerous unprotected cultural heritage sites.
In August 2020 I spent 4 days at Paddlers Inn, which is in the northeastern section of the archipelago, just outside the Park. There are multiple small islands with beaches and rocky shores to explore within easy reach, and no major crossings or currents to contend with. As much as I enjoyed paddling in the Broughtons, a large part of the appeal for me was the beauty and serenity of Paddlers Inn itself.
Getting to Paddlers Inn by kayak is possible with overnight camping en route, but there are significant crossings that were more than this solo paddler could safely undertake. I opted for the ~2 hour water taxi ride. Bruce, one of Paddlers Inn owners, collected me and my kayak from Telegraph Cove. I happened to be the only passenger on this trip but the boat can accommodate up to 8 kayaks and 12 passengers. For 2021 Bruce is operating his water taxi out of Port McNeill.
The water taxi pulled up in front of the tiny Float-house cabin I had rented, and deposited me and my gear on the spacious dock surrounding the cabin. The other owner/ host of Paddlers Inn, Josee, was waiting with a smiling welcome. She showed me around and offered any help I might need during my stay. The cabin was at the end of a long dock that also supports 2 other larger cabins, an attractive common outdoor seating area with overhead shelter and central gas fireplace, rental kayaks, fish cleaning area and a couple of storage sheds. The dock is low to the water and very solidly built with no detectable movement caused by wind, water, or people walking on it. The 2 larger cabins on the dock, and a 4th cabin up on the hill, can accommodate up to 4, 10 and 6 people, respectively. The Paddlers Inn website has walk-through videos of each cabin that are very helpful.
The Float-house Cabin was perfect for me and would be fine for a couple. It was spotlessly clean and as delightful as I expected from the photos and video on the website. There is one queen bed, a small built-in table along one wall, and a bright little kitchen with a door leading to a sheltered eating area outside. I brought and prepared all my own food as there is no catering on site and the store in nearby Echo Bay apparently has only non-perishable corner store items.
A small sauna/ drying room in the cabin has a wood burning stove and ample space for hanging up and laying out paddling gear to dry. Outside there are deck chairs, access to the private bathroom with shower, and beautiful hanging baskets all around the cabin. A hose - presumably there to water the flowers - was handy for rinsing off kayak and gear.
Chart No. 3515 (or use the laminated charts provided) The close proximity of the cabin and my kayak to the water minimized the time it usually takes to launch and land, so my day paddles started early, and ended mid-afternoon with plenty of time and energy left for R&R. Once out of the sheltered bay I paddled in different directions each day, taking suggestions from friends and from Paddlers Inn owner-hosts. Each of these paddles was about 15 nm but could easily have been made longer or shorter. There was very little boat traffic of any kind, probably less than usual because of pandemic restrictions.
Picking up a Wi-Fi signal from the owners’ home up the hill is possible but spotty. I was not able to get a stable signal anywhere on the property although I know others did. I monitored weather reports on my VHF radio, and sent messages home using my Garmin InReach mini with Garmin Connect on my iPhone.
I regretted not bringing along a bird book to identify some unusual gulls and other birds. Surprisingly, I saw little other wildlife on my paddles although I’m told that white-sided dolphins, humpback whales, seals and sea lions are often seen in these waters. I did see humpback whales and orcas from the water taxi as we crossed in both directions.
Echo Bay is only ~10 minutes paddle away. In a normal (non-pandemic) summer it is apparently a busy hamlet/ marina with an artist’s studio and Billy Proctor’s famous museum to visit. Read “Heart of the Raincoast” by Alexandra Morton and Billy Proctor for insight into 20th century settler life in this area.
There are good hiking trails leading to lookouts, a beach, and an inland lake with dock and canoe, but there are bears and cougars around so hiking alone was not advised. Bear spray is provided by the hosts, as is professional massage that was highly recommended by a friend, but I was happy to just enjoy the cabin and quiet outdoor spaces on the dock when I wasn’t out paddling.