We are incredibly lucky for the beautiful waters that we get to paddle in right here from Jericho Beach. But you might be wondering what to expect when kayaking in English Bay
We have compiled some information on what to expect when paddling in English Bay.
Please note: This information does not replace professional instruction. We recommend taking at least our Beginner Course, or if going for paddles for more than 2 hours taking our Intermediate Course. Please also refer to our Trip Planning Resources for more details.
Additionally, please make sure you carefully follow our pre-launch briefing instructions as they include important additional information that is based on the conditions we experience on the day of your paddle.
Where to go
You always want to start your kayaking trip by paddling into the wind. This means that you will have the wind supporting you on your way back.
If you start off by going with the wind it will be a really nice and fast paddle to start with, but you will underestimate the distance you have paddled and you will have a hard time making your way back against the wind.
Depending on the direction the wind is coming from you have a few options of where to go from our Jericho Beach location.
Please also chat with our knowledgeable staff as they can point you in the direction to go and how far you can typically expect to go.
Be aware of the Marine Weather forecast and keep an eye on changing conditions while you are out there. We also recommend to know what the tide is doing as this will impact the routes you can take and the landing opportunities you have.
Always make sure you bring a communication device, such as your cellphone or a VHF radio with you.
We have a whiteboard at our hut with the marine weather forecast as well as the tidal information which we recommend you check before heading out.
Spanish Banks towards UBC & Wreck Beach
If the wind is coming from the west (which it often does during the summer months) paddling along Locarno Beach, Spanish Banks and maybe even as far as Tower Beach or Wreck Beach makes for a beautiful paddle along some of Vancouver’s best beaches.
On a 2 hour rental paddlers typically make it to somewhere along Spanish Banks and back. If you are a fast paddler or are going for a longer paddle then continuing on past Dog Beach towards Tower Beach and maybe even to Wreck Beach makes for a great daytrip. Please note that Wreck Beach is a clothing-optional beach.
Safety considerations: If the tide is low Spanish Banks extend as far as the “first dolphin” (the pillar with the light on top). This will considerably change your route. Also, be aware of whether the tide is dropping or rising as you want to avoid getting stuck on Spanish Banks and having to walk your kayak all the way to the deeper water (yes, it absolutely has happened to us).
Please also be aware of changing conditions once you paddle past Dog Beach. The westerly wind typically creates waves that get larger around that area and if it is a south-westerly wind you were protected from the stronger winds until you round that corner. The landing opportunities along Tower Beach also decrease and it often is a rocky landing, maybe even with some surf as well. So only venture that far if you have the skills to deal with the conditions.
Kits Beach/False Creek/Downtown
If the wind is coming from the east paddling towards Kits Beach and maybe even into False Creek or following the shoreline to downtown makes for a nice paddle along with great views of the Vancouver skyline.
On a 2 hour rental paddlers typically make it just about to Kits Beach. If you are a fast paddler or are going for a longer paddle you can continue into False Creek, or consider crossing to Sunset Beach from and continue paddling along shores of downtown Vancouver maybe even to second beach. To head back you can either follow the same route back or if the conditions allow you can cross directly to Jericho Beach.
Safety considerations: If you are heading into False Creek be aware of the boat traffic. Behave like a pedestrian on a busy street: stay to the side and stay out of the way of anything that is bigger than you. Pay special attention to the little ferries and water taxis. If you are heading to downtown also make sure the path is clear before crossing. If you are doing the crossing from downtown directly to Jericho be aware that this is roughly an hour paddle with no landing opportunities. The conditions will also be bigger than what you are experiencing along the shore, so only attempt to do this paddle if you have sufficient experience and the conditions allow for that trip.
Visit the Freighters
If the conditions are calm and there is no major wind you don’t have to paddle along the shore, but you are able to head out into the bay and get a closer look at some of the freighters anchoring there. It can be a fun trip to head closer to one of them. That being said, you have to keep at least 100m distance from them at all times, so generously circle it and head back, or you might even do “freighter hopping” and paddle to several freighters and do a larger loop.
Safety Considerations: You have to keep at least 100m distance from the freighters at any time! On the way you will likely also cross paths with other smaller boaters such as powerboats or sailboats: make sure you establish eye contact and stay out of their way. Make sure you only head out into the bay if there is very little wind and no waves.
Stanley Park & Ambleside
If you are going for a longer paddle than Stanley Park or even Ambleside make for nice destinations. You can either paddle to Stanley Park following the shoreline (see above), or you can cross directly from Jericho. You can stop along second or third beach or paddle to Siwash Rock.
If you are paddling to Ambleside please be aware that this is (i) a fairly long paddle (ii) crosses a busy shipping channel and (iii) there are restrictions in effect on where you can paddle. We have compiled more information below on where you can paddle. Essentially while you can paddle to Siwash Rock if you want to cross to Ambleside you will have to head west a little and then very carefully cross the channel. After having crossed you can head east again towards Ambleside. Please refer to the information below for more details.
Safety Considerations: Paddling to Stanley Park and to Ambleside is only recommended for experienced paddlers. While Stanley Park can (on a good day) be done as a half-day trip paddling to Ambleside is definitely a day trip. Boat traffic in English Bay as well as through First Narrows is of course a major consideration and so is the exposure on any of the crossings to wind, current, and waves as well as the potential of changing conditions. If you are considering doing the paddle please talk to our staff first to ensure the conditions allow this.
Also, as mentioned above, please refer to the additional information below on the restricted area that is part of the Traffic Control Zone. Stay out of that zone and be aware that you absolutely cannot paddle through First Narrows or all the way around Stanley Park.
Where not to go
The Port of Vancouver has implemented a Traffic Control Zone near the Lions Gate Bridge which prohibits kayakers from paddling in that area.
Please refer to the graphics below if you are considering paddling to Ambleside and ensure you stay out of the Traffic Control Zone.
Even when staying west of the Traffic Control Zone general common sense applies when crossing a busy shipping channel: stay as a group, stay away and out of the way of other boats and freighters, do not cross in poor visibility, cross directly, in a clear line and do not pause or linger.
Details: Safe Boating Guide Burrard Inlet
Please refer to the excerpt below from the Port Information Guide on details in regards to the Traffic Control Zone.
The First Narrows Traffic Control Zone (TCZ-1) comprises an area enclosed:
- To the northwest by a line drawn from the north pier of the Lions Gate Bridge through Capilano Light, intersecting a line drawn due north from Ferguson Point at position 49°19’22”N & 123°09’32”W;
- To the southwest by a line drawn from Prospect Point, along the Stanley Park seawall, intersecting a line drawn due north from Ferguson Point at position 49°18’40”N & 123°09’32”W;
- To the east by a line drawn from Brockton Point off Stanley Park to Burnaby Shoal, then north to the eastern edge of Fibreco Dock.
Source: Port Information Guide (page 67)