Sea Kayaking in the Bay of Islands

By Keith Nicol*

This report was originally printed in the Fall 2002 issue of Ebb & Flow.

1:50,000 scale NTS maps - 12G/1 & 12G/2 (Bay of Islands), 12A/13 (Corner Brook), and 12H/4 (Pasadena).
Nautical chart - Pointe Amour to Cape Whittle and Cape St. George (1:350,000 scale)

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Sea kayaking is a great way to see the Bay of Islands in western Newfoundland. The area offers an amazing amount of diversity and will appeal to beginners and experts alike. As the name suggests, it has lots of islands but it also has three fjord-like arms and spectacular scenery.  

If you are just starting out, then you might want to try some of the launch points close to Corner Brook like Prince Edward Park or the community boat access in Irishtown or Mt. Moriah. These areas offer shoreline paddling so that if you want, you can be close to shore. Also the wind and waves are generally more conducive to learning in these more protected parts of the Bay of Islands.

Destinations from Irishtown include the Hughes Brook Estuary or the scenic shoreline toward Summerside. At Mt. Moriah, you can paddle along steep cliffs and small gravel beaches toward Cook's Brook or back toward Corner Brook and the yacht club. We often see osprey patrolling the shore near Cook's Brook, and there are often terns swooping and diving in this area as well.

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Further along the north shore is McIvers which offers many destinations. For competent paddlers, it is the preferred launch point for paddling to Wood's Island, but it also has a huge tern colony just off shore. McIver's Island is home to over 1000 terns according to a recent survey by Environment Canada.

South of McIver's is a scenic waterfall and a long deserted gravel beach which is ready-made for beach walking.  From this shore, you also get great views of the Blow Me Down Mountains which form an impressive backdrop to the skyline.

There are also many options along the south shore including Number #4 Brook in York Harbour. It is an ideal launch point for trips to Seal and Governors Island. Seal Island is particularly worth visiting for its secret cove laced with white sand. Also, nearby Bottle Cove offers a sandy beach for starting trips out into the open Gulf of St. Lawrence. From Bottle Cove you can paddle to Little Port or Cedar Cove or around South Head to Lark Harbour.

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All of these trips require a careful weather eye and competent paddlers with all the safety equipment. You often need stay well away from the steep cliffs in the area due to wave rebound, and there are few landing places. However, you are rewarded with sightings of different sea birds like guillemots and eider ducks and impressive views of offshore islands like Weebol.

At present, there is little information about paddling in this area, but the local club is hoping to rectify that over the coming months. For anyone interested in learning more about local sea kayak destinations contact Craig Burden (president of the west coast chapter of Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador, tel. 709- 783-2101), Explore Newfoundland (a local kayak business, tel. 709-634-2263) or Keith
Nicol (709-639-1770).

Contributor Keith Nicol has Level 2 CRCA Sea Kayak certification and teaches Outdoor Pursuits/Environmental Studies at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook.

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