Best Sailing Destinations In BC

Best Sailing Destinations In BC | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 28, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • British Columbia has some of the most beautiful sailing destinations in the world
  • With the amount of islands and forests you would think you are in another world
  • The coast of Vancouver Island is one of the best British Columbia coast offerings
  • Salt Spring Island is arguably the most popular west coast destination to visit
  • Whale watching has proven to be a popular hobby along the BC coastline

Sailing in British Columbia is a dream come true for anyone wanting to sail in Canada. But what are the best sailing destinations in BC?

The best sailing locations in British Columbia include the Gulf Islands, Vancouver Island, and Princess Louisa Inlet. Other top sailing destinations in BC are Gabriola Island, De Courcy Island, and Secretary Islands. These are just a few and sailing goals may differ on what you would like to see.

In my experience, the Sunshine Coast is some of the most beautiful stretches of waterways you can find in British Columbia but are also a little more challenging to navigate. However, there is plenty to see for anyone wanting to make the trip.


Table of contents

Top 11 Best Destinations for Sailing in BC

British Columbia has some of the most amazing coastal waters and a handful of protected waters. There are plenty of uninhabited islands and marine parks to explore so do not get in any hurry.

Whether you are on the north end or south end you can find many opportunities for cruising grounds. Nature lovers will rejoice when seeing the abundant wildlife all throughout the BC coast.

Desolation Sound

Desolation Sound
Desolation Sound

Desolation Sound is around the central coastal mainland and is known for its beauty with thick forests and hidden anchorages to provide a great sailing experience. You can likely see plenty of marine life like orcas or dolphins. There are also tons of sheltered coves and warm waters that are great for exploring or canoeing.

Gulf Islands

Gulf Islands
Gulf Islands

The Gulf Islands are situated in between Vancouver Island and the mainland that offers sailing some of the best atmospheres to sail. The climate around the Gulf Islands is excellent and there are a lot of communities to check out. There are plenty of beaches to explore and dining experiences all over.

Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island will make you want to take it slow and cruise as there is an abundant picture perfect scenery all around. There is a good chance you can spot various humpback whales and killer whales while whale watching. There are also a ton of ports to check out so that you can see the local communities.

Howe Sound

Howe Sound
Howe Sound

Howe Sound is a great sailing and hiking destination that offers excellent mountain views with a beautiful view of the coast. When you are not looking at the mountains you will likely see seals and majestic birds such as eagles. You can also pass through Horseshoe Bay or Gibsons to get the best views through your nautical miles.

Princess Louisa Inlet

Princess Louisa Inlet
Princess Louisa Inlet

Princess Louisa Inlet is part of the sunshine coast region that features large cliffs and waterfalls. You will notice how clean the emerald waters are and you will see a lot of fish. If you decide to stop you can make a hike to the Chatterbox Falls and get a closeup view of the waterfall.

Inlet Barkley Sound

Inlet Barkley Sound
Inlet Barkley Sound

Barkley Sound is a remote sailing paradise with plenty of secluded beaches and rainforests that make you feel like you are on another planet. The local landscape is also home to many sea lions and otters. This is also a great opportunity to explore the Broken Group Islands which are an archipelago of over 100 islands and islets.

Gabriola Island

Gabriola Island
Gabriola Island

Gabriola Island is a once in a lifetime exploration and one of the best in British Columbia. There are stunning views on the coast and beautiful forests full of wildlife. As you approach the smaller towns you can join the local communities that thrive off the coast and have tons of artwork showcasing the beauty.

De Courcy Island

De Courcy Island
De Courcy Island

De Courcy Island is another great location to check out while sailing. Pirate’s Cove is part of the marine park and is one example of protected waterways you should see. With 460 acres to explore you can spend an entire day on the water checking out the views.

Secretary Islands

Secretary Islands
Secretary Islands

The Secretary Islands is one of the best spots to go when you do not want a lot of crowds. It is also great for shellfish lovers with way too many oysters and clams to go around. Keep in mind that this is privately owned but there are mooring opportunities nearby that should make this trip excellent for fishing BC.

Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island is known for having something for everyone. They feature tons of exciting food and art events to cater to the tourists. They also feature excellent waterways that you need to explore after you have spent some time on the island.

Queen Charlotte Islands

Queen Charlotte Islands
Queen Charlotte Islands

You cannot explore the BC west coast without sailing to Haida Gwaii which is the newer name for the Queen Charlotte Islands. You will find a National Park Reserve and tons of marine life. This island has one of the richest marine histories and ancient villages.

Why You Should Sail to BC

You can sail to any part of the world and likely be happy depending on your goals. But sailing to the BC coast is an experience like no other.

The Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island are some of the more popular spots but anywhere on the west coast will do just fine. Here are some reasons why it is worth sailing to the Sunshine Coast and beyond.

Beautiful Coastline

BC is known for its breathtaking scenery on the water. There are potentially only a handful of locations around the world that could compare with large mountains and thick forests while sailing. You will also see exquisite beaches and many smaller islands.

Wildlife Appearances

Many sailors want to experience seeing the marine life that lives here. Other than fishing here there are opportunities for bird watching and seeing whales in warm waters.

Many people also want to see dolphins and orcas that swim around various parts. You will likely see more than you can count on one hand.

Plentiful Anchorages and Hidden Coves

BC has some of the most iconic places to drop anchor for the night or for exploring during the day. These locations offer some of the most restful nights you have experienced on the water. If you make time to explore these locations you will never know what you will find on your adventure.

Sailing Communities and Offerings

The sailing communities in BC is one aspect of their revenue that helps their economy. They have plenty of fishing and kayak rentals as well as a yacht club.

They also have a rich sailing history and culture where you can experience their traditions. The food is excellent and you can experience some of the best seafood.

More Than Enough Sailing Locations

Each location that you visit in BC along the coast or island has its own characteristics that set it apart from another. They are like a snowflake meaning no two are the same. No matter what your taste or sailing goals take you there are plenty of opportunities to find something for you.

Tips for Staying Safe in BC While Sailing

Sailing in BC requires similar safety measures as you would anywhere else. However it is important to get a feel for the area before you by researching various conditions and the places you plan to visit.

Check Conditions

You need to consider the water and weather conditions before heading to a place in BC to sail. Their weather can be hard to predict at times and it will cause you a hard time on the water if you are not prepared.

Check with weather forecasts and water updates before sailing. Always keep in mind that it could change and be ready to adapt.

Lack of Safety Equipment and Experience

While the weather might be warm during the time you go and visit you should prepare for cold water temperatures. Make sure you plan around the warmer times of the year to avoid colder waters.

Other safety gear you should always have include a life jacket and a radio to communicate on various channels. You should also consider your experience on the water as some locations might be challenging to sailors that lack time on the water.

Lack of Familiarity with the Area

While you do not have to visit Hot Springs Cove or the Pacific Rim National Park it is best to plan out your adventure as best as you can ahead of time. You will be exploring areas that are new to you and sometimes that can be overwhelming.

You want to make sure that you do not get lost and that you respect the natural habitat like sea otters ad black bears. Some of these locations have regulations and make wildlife viewing more difficult.

Respect of Culture and Communities

The east coast of BC is a thriving community of rich culture for sailing. It is important to understand that while these locations are beautiful you need to respect the people that live there.

It is crucial that you are mindful of the environment too. Taking care of the area and not leaving trash or damaging anything is helpful.

Enough Food and Water

Depending on how long you plan to sail around BC should give you an idea of how much food and water you need to have on board. If you have a desalination device this could be helpful if you are running low on water.

You will be able to stock up at various ports around BC but you should ask the locals when the next best location to do so would be. This should give you a good idea of how much food to take with you upon your travels.

Taking Care of Your Boat

You should always check over your boat before embarking on any adventure. This means making sure all of your appliances or electronics are working as well as recent maintenance completed on your engine.

In addition you should look over the boat’s hull and check for any damage or potential leaks. The sails should also be looked over to see if there are any rips or tears.

Understand Regulations

Canada has various regulations in different parts of the area. While sailing you should consider all of the places that you plan to stop at and make sure you do not have to have any paperwork. If you do then you need to do the research to find out what you need and why.

Pros and Cons for Sailing in BC

There are a handful of pros that make the trip to BC worth it for sailing. However there are a few cons that could make the trip not as fun.


Beautiful Coast

The coastline offers some of the most iconic views that you will find on the water. It offers a blend of rustic mountains and compelling ocean life.

Tons of Marine Life

There are plenty of marine life that you do not typically see in other coastlines around the world. The fact that you can take a picture and see many different types within that picture is incredible.

Great Sailing Conditions at Times

Depending on the time of year you can experience some of the best weather and warmer waters. Sailing from May to October is ideally the best time to visit but may vary based on the location you are wanting to check out.

Rich Culture

The coastal towns around BC offer plenty of opportunities to experience local traditions and culture. You will be embraced in a different world while also feeling like you found a new home.


Cold Water and Weather at Times

Cold water temperatures will be present in a variety of waters around Canada. You would likely need to visit in the summer months to have the best chances at warmer waters but keep in mind that you should have some cold weather sailing gear with you.

The weather can be unpredictable at times throughout BC. There are strong winds and thick fog that can plague a good sailing day at any moment. This makes it hard to plan your days and you will need to be able to make adjustments in real time.

Ice Hazards

Various arctic regions are susceptible to having large ice floating about. This could be an issue if you have difficulty seeing in darker conditions or if you are unaware of the area. Be sure that your boat is in good condition.

Short Sailing Seasons

Depending on the area you are trying to visit you may not have as long of a sailing season as other locations in BC. Be sure to check the desired location and see if it is within your expected time of visiting.

Longer Periods in the Dark

Higher latitude regions will have longer time in the dark. This will make sailing difficult and potentially dangerous for those that do not see well in darker conditions or be unable to see ocean swells. In addition to the weather and ice this might deter plenty of sailors already.

Best Sailing Destinations In BC
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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