Read Island Winter Campout


Jan 24, 2010
Courtenay, BC
Working on getting this write-up short and sweet, just like this weekend winter paddling adventure.

In the summer Read Island is no great distance to paddle from Heriot Bay here on Quadra Island. Kayakers typically cruise past and head up Hoskyn Channel to Surge Narrows, or up Sutil Channel to visit the Penn Islands. In winter the limits of daylight and calm weather windows point the wise paddler to Read Island Provincial Park on the south shore of the island and only an hour away from Heriot Bay.

My friend and I launched on Friday afternoon and got to camp with 30 minutes to spare. As we put up our tents we watched the sun set over the hills behind Campbell River. The alpenglow was worth the paddle. Later the moon was so bright I could walk around without my headlamp. Of course clear skies mean a cold night.

I was glad I staked out my vestibules and set my vents because the next morning we woke to frost on everything, but my tent and gear were dry and snug.

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We hiked up the bluff on the left side of the cove to enjoy the morning sun. I was rewarded again for bringing my hiking boots and clothes; saving my paddle wear from getting bashed in the brush. The morning was spent soaking in the sun on the bluff like kings: sipping coffee, and taking in the view.

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We decided to head over the Shark Spit (Marina Island) for our day paddle. If you haven't paddled on Sutil Channel, it's a really nice reveal when you come around Viner Point and see the snowy peaks in the distance. There's often a colony of Sea Lions on Center Islet, and the crowd of them making the usual row greeted us on the other side of our crossing.

I tucked my aging Android phone away so I don't have any photos of that jaunt to annoy you with. As it was, the clouds rolled in and the breeze shifted around, now coming up Georgia Strait with a bitter bite. We had lunch at Shark Spit then turned around and headed back to camp in the growing gloom. Still, when we chatted with hikers on the shores of Cortes, I could tell they were jealous of us in our boats.

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The next morning we woke to slushy sleet on our tents, our kitchen tarp, and pretty much everything else. The forecast said the precip would stop mid-morning, but that point never came. Breaking camp in the slush was the least fun task of the weekend, but it was more than offset by all the rest.

For those of you in the [Vancouver] Island Health bubble, this is a great winter base camp. The campsite is "Read Point East" on the BCMT map. There is a stream so if you bring a filter, you don't have to worry about packing water.

Around the camp you can explore the shores of the park. There are many possibilities for landings and hikes. You can explore Hoskyn Channel and shores of Read or Quadra. You can also explore Sutil Channel and the shores of Cortes. The wind forecast will definitely figure in your choices as each side can afford you protected paddling depending on which wind is prevailing.

Remember to check the Cortes Ferry schedule to ensure you know when the ferry is arriving or departing Heriot Bay, so you can be sure you're out of the way.

The gap between Rebecca Spit and Big Breton Island can sometimes see big swells because it is the end of a long fetch coming up Georgia Strait. Check the wind forecast and be prepared to wait it out or to launch from Moulds Bay on the far side of Heriot Bay. It shortens your crossing to Read Island and provides you a little more protection by staying in the shadow of the Bretons.

edits: grammar and clarity
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Rodnak Kayak

Dec 19, 2007
Victoria, BC
Nice report. The wife and I did a "Read Island Roundabout" some 10 plus years ago. Heriot Bay is such a great place, as is the Inn, especially on July 1! Quadra is one of our favourite places. We gotta go back, but me thinks in warmer climes! Although the trip looked great!