If you want to see sea otters, Nuchatlitz Provincial Park is the place to go. There are hundreds of them living in the waters in and around the park. They are a constant, in big waves and small, good weather and bad, floating around on their backs or bobbing upright in the kelp beds. They ridiculously adorable and so much fun to sit and watch. They are also a keystone species, keeping the sea urchin population in check and ensuring the health of the giant kelp forests. They were hunted to extinction between the 1790′s and the early 1900′s, their thick pelts were worth incredible sums in the Chinese markets. They were reintroduced and have since reclaimed 2/3 of their original territoryand have restored the ecosystems of the western kelp forests.
Nuchatlitz Park is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island just north of Nootka Island. It comprises most of the small islands off the northwest coast of Nootka Island as well as a portion of the northern end of Nootka itself. It is a great place to paddle, as the area is relatively protected and the paddling is intricate throughout the islands. There is very little development, so it feels very remote and wild. Logging has increased in the area in recent years and many of the surrounding hills are marked with clear cuts and roads. Wind can be a problem. Strong inflow winds into the long access inlets can make for difficult paddling. Be sure to get an early start before the winds come up. Or take a water taxi out the the park.
You can leave the park proper and paddle west out into Nuchatlitz Inlet. There are sea caves, sea stacks, reefs and huge beaches all along the north shore of the inlet. Be mindful of wind and the swell that rolls in heavy from the exposed west coast and can knock you onto the rocks/shore. Make sure to keep your distance.
- The sandy beaches of Rosa Island and the unnamed islands 37, 40, 44, and the intricate paddling as you weave through the park.
- The sea caves, reefs, sea stacks and interesting shoreline between Belmont and Benson Points in the Nuchatlitz Inlet.
- The ruins of a Greek freighter in Louie Bay (just inside Tongue Point). It was towed into the bay and blown up to be sold for scrap. That never happened and the pieces form a strange art gallery to paddle though (high tide) or walk around (low tide). The pieces form sculptures that are almost pretty in post-apocalyptic kind of way.
- Paddling into the Lagoon in Louie Bay (be sure to time it with the tides to avoid dragging your boat) paddle to the end of the lagoon, beach your boats and tie them up and them walk to the outer coast. The trailhead for the Nootka Trail is at the end of the lagoon.
- Paddling in Louie Bay between Florence Point and Tongue Point.
- Camping at Garden Point on the west side of Esperenza Inlet (just behind Centre Island). Very pretty little islands, reefs and sandy beaches. There is a creek here with fresh water.
Drive north along Highway 19 past Campbell River and up to Woss. At Woss you go west on a well maintained Forest Service Road to Zeballos (42 kms). The best place to launch from in Little Espinosa Inlet (which will take you into Espinosa Inlet). Drive about 5 kms past Zeballos (towards Fair Harbour) and there is a bridge across Marmat Creek. Cross over the bridge and park on the pullout. There is a small rapid where the creek meets the inlet, but you can launch just under the bridge at the base of the rapid without any problem.