Skip to content

Exploring the West Side of Vancouver Island | Part 2

From Hot Springs Cove we cruised over to Clayoquot Sound. There are many little inlets and anchorages to explore (as well as one of our favorite towns on Vancouver Island — Tofino. Our first stop was Bottleneck Bay, which as the name suggests, has a narrow entrance channel (we never saw less than 25 feet under the keel). Inside is a large, secure anchorage.

Bottleneck Bay anchorage from the air, Clayoquot Sound
Bottleneck Bay, Clayoquot Sound

We spent the following night in Bacchante Bay, and then continued on to Tofino. Tofino is a great town to visit, and as I said in the Part 1 post, the last time we were in Tofino was with the Airstream in 2014. Arriving by boat is a whole different ball game.

Tofino waterfront
Tofino waterfront

Tofino really doesn’t cater to pleasure boats, at all. We tried hailing the harbormaster at the public docks but received no answer. The transient docks appeared full, with small boats rafted two and three deep. We continued down to Crab Dock which looked like it had space, but the current was running to about 4 knots, and the narrow channel there is bordered by sand bars and smaller islands, all with small whale-watching and fishing boats buzzing past at 8-10 knots while you try to figure out where to go. We called Tofino Resort and Marina (formerly Weigh West Marina), and they said they had space for us and told us where to tie up. This facility has recently been completely remodeled and updated. Included in the moorage rate (which is a bit expensive) are power, water, laundry, WiFi, and showers. The staff is friendly and helpful, and they take reservations. We would definitely stay here in the future.

While in Tofino we reprovisioned with groceries, beer, and wine. We also dined out! We had oysters in the afternoon at Tough City Sushi on the waterfront, an evening cocktail (cedar-infused rye!) at Wolf in the Fog, and a delicious late dinner at Shelter.

On to Barkley Sound! Our first anchorage was a lovely, well-protected spot in the Broken Group, behind Turtle Island. We anchored and then took the dinghy out to explore.

Topiary islet near our anchorage in the Broken Group, Barkely Sound
View from our anchorage near Turtle Island, Broken Group in Barkley Sound

Next we headed inside a bit further, and anchored in a spot next to Refuge Island so we could go up Lucky Creek with the dinghies:

Heading out in the dinghies to see what’s up Lucky Creek (anchored at Refuge Bay, Barkley Sound)
At the head…a waterfall and some tallish cliffs
Lucky Creek waterfall
We secured the dinghies to the rocks and climbed up to see what was at the top of the waterfall
…more pools and more waterfalls!
…and a rope swing! If it had been hotter out, we’d have been swimming!
Back at Airship and Safe Harbour, anchored near Refuge Island

We had a calm and sunny cruise back out to the Broken Group, and anchored in Effingham Bay, right on the edge of the ocean.

View from our anchorage in Effingham Bay, Barkely Sound
We beached the dinghies on this sand spit/islet near our anchorage at Effingham Bay and walked around a bit.
More island topiary
Sea caves on the outside of Austin Island, near our anchorage at Effingham Bay, Barkley Sound
Another sandy islet, Broken Group, Barkley Sound
Beach textures
Scratched up bull kelp

The next morning we cruised from Effingham Bay over to the town of Bamfield. Bamfield is a tiny town separated into two halves that border Bamfield Harbour — the east side is where the road is, and the west side is on a peninsula. All the buildings are linked by boardwalks and is not connected to the main part of town by road at all. It’s really a very charming little town! We tied to the government dock on the west side and took off on foot to explore the boardwalk trail.

Bamfield has a small general store on the west side that had a surprising amount of great-looking produce!

Next we took the dinghies across to the east side, which was fine but not as charming. There is another store (called “The Market”) that also had quite a bit of produce. (Is it obvious what we care about as cruisers in remote areas? Fresh produce!!!) We stopped at the pub (called “The Pub”) and had a beer and some yam fries, and then headed back to the boats for some work and a late supper.

It was looking like our window to do the last (long) leg of the outside (and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca) was going to be Saturday, which is why we decided to come into Bamfield instead of staying out in the islands. It’s a good jumping off point, and though we could spend weeks more exploring out here, we need to be in Victoria by the 20th…so we’ll be a little early, but at least we won’t get stuck! The trip is about 75 nautical miles (and about 10 hours underway) from Bamfield to Sooke, and fortunately for us, the forecast for the morning until late afternoon was for minimal winds, low swells, and fog.

Leaving Bamfield at first light:

As soon as we got outside of Barkley Sound we entered the thick fog bank:

Fog can make for a rather boring cruise. There’s not much to see, but you need to keep even more of a watch than on a good visibility day. We have GPS and radar and AIS, and with calm conditions we were pretty low on complaints for the day.

Happily breaking up the boredom were two Orcas (not together) — one younger one (splashy and active, and very close to Airship)…

…and another larger one with a much taller dorsal fin, further away:

We also saw more than a dozen humpbacks (most of them in the fog), including two enormous ones right in our path. We stopped and waited until they dove.

Entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca…conditions were still calm, and the fog eventually cleared for us, but remained thick at the east entrance. Approaching Sooke Harbour:

We anchored just on the inside of Whiffen Spit, which is a lovely location but for all the crab traps and speeding fishing boats zooming in and out all day. Those little guys can throw quite a wake, which is not awesome when you’re rafted to another boat!

Kevin and I decided to see if we could get in for an early dinner at the Sooke Harbour House. (Since we were anchored right out front basically, and could easily dinghy over and back…we figured we’d never be closer!)  We managed to score the corner window table, with a killer view of the water, and opted for the three course dinner plus wine pairings. Everything was fabulous, and the food was better than we remembered from when we visited three years ago. Definitely worth a visit!

After dinner we walked the length of the spit and back, and then dinghied home.

From Sooke, we’re heading over to Victoria for a few days. Another new destination for Airship!

Driftwood fort on the beach at Whiffen Spit