British Columbia Destinations

Destination: Pruth Bay (Calvert Island)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014S.V. CAMBRIA

The former fishing resort is now home to the Hakai Institute at Pruth Bay, Calvert Island.

With more than 120,000 hectares, the Hakai Lúxvbálís Conservancy is the largest protected marine area in British Columbia.  It includes most of Hunter Island, the northern half of Calvert Island and several small island groups in Queen Charlotte Sound.  Here, the coastline is diverse and home to stunning white sand beaches, tombolos, tree-covered hills, secluded anchorages, islets and reefs all begging to be explored – the West Coast, in particular.  And while the park is easily accessed from the east, along Fitz Hugh Sound, the western boundaries are more difficult.  The area is strewn with rocks and reefs and isn’t charted particularly well, so local knowledge would be helpful.  We tried to make a visit two years ago but were unsuccessful – the westerly swell was breaking and we had to turn around.We’ve yet to make another attempt, but I hope we will some day.  Until then, Pruth Bay makes a fine substitution . . . as well as a destination.

A Navionics screenshot of the Hakai Luxvbalis Concervancy with the park boundaries in red.

Situated within the park boundaries on Calvert Island, Pruth Bay is a popular spot.  But as far as anchorages go, it’s fairly ordinary:  The protection is fine.  The holding is okay.  The scenery is familiar.  And the bay is busy with regular traffic from float planes, boats and helicopters.  So, what’s the appeal?  That’s simple: land-access to the pristine white sand beaches of the Hakai Lúxvbálís Conservancy.

Sitting at the head of Pruth Bay is the Hakai Institute. Housed in a former up-scale fishing resort, Hakai is a non-profit venture that works with universities, First Nations, BC Parks and others to offer in-field research opportunities.  Together with the parks department, the institute added boardwalks, trail markers and an outhouse for public use and access to Calvert Island’s famous West Beach.  The trail is well-maintained and winds through bushes, ferns and a forest of Sitka Spruce before opening to West Beach.

The view of West Beach from the Lookout is amazing!

A substantial dock and wharf provide access to the property and visitors are welcome to use the dinghy docks underneath the pier.  Sign in at the visitor’s center where you’ll find a map of some of the island’s trails.  If you have any questions, the staff and guests are very friendly and have always been happy to help or discuss whatever research they might be doing . . . even if you wander outside public areas (which you shouldn’t do) because you have some perverse addiction to “the back-of-house”.

The Hakai Institute "back-of-house" with its year-round garden and solar power plant.

The trail to West Beach is well-maintained and winds through bushes, ferns, and a forest of Sitka Spruce before opening up to the Pacific Ocean.  If you stop there, you won’t be disappointed.  West Beach is beautiful, and on a clear day the sun highlights the greens, blues and whites to make the scene look tropical.  It’s easy to spend hours walking barefoot in the sand, combing the beach for any treasures that may have washed ashore.  But, for the more adventurous, two other trails await. 

North Beach (Calvert Island) looks out to Hakai Pass.

The first and best known of the two leads to North Beach.  The trailhead can be found at the northern end of West Beach and passes through rainforest and can be muddy in places.  But it’s easy to follow and only about 0.5 mile each way.  The second trailhead can be found at the southern end of West Beach and calls for more of a commitment:  The system of trails is intricate and leads to a series of eleven beaches along the west side of Calvert Island (I’ve only managed to reach four or five).  The hike is rugged in places and requires good shoes and some climbing.  Access to both trailheads is limited to lower water, however, so plan accordingly. 

At times the terrain along the Calvert Island trails is rugged and requires climbing.

The views along the West Coast of Calvert Island are world-class.

It's one beach after the other on the West Coast of Calvert Island.

The beaches along the West Coast of Calvert Island are home to many interesting rock formations and uplifts.

To anchor, Pruth Bay offers good protection from most weather and plenty of swinging room, but boats are asked to stay 100 metres (330 feet) from the dock to allow access for float planes and barges.  The holding is good in mud and sand in depths of 10 to 20 metres (33 to 66 feet).  As a bonus, the Hakai Institute pipes free wi-fi into the bay.  The downside is that Pruth Bay is often crowded but a quieter, more secluded anchorage can be found in the arm to the south.

So, if you find yourself in the area of Calvert Island, we highly recommend making the seven-mile trek up Kwakshua Channel to Pruth Bay.  But make sure you give yourself plenty of time to enjoy and explore the Hakai Lúxvbálís Conservancy – an experience you won’t soon forget and a destination all on its own.  And if you figure out how to reach all eleven beaches, let me know!

Things to Do:

  • Beach Combing
  • Camping
  • Eagle Watching (both Golden and Bald)
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Talk to the staff at the Hakai Institute

Waypoints of Interest:

Pruth Bay:                  51°39.216’N, 128°06.724’W (approach)
Pruth Bay:                  51°39.216’N, 128°07.649’W (anchorage)
Kwakshua Channel:     51°39.067’N, 127°57.364’W (entrance)

Disclaimer:  This blog article is not to be used for navigation.  It is solely an account of our personal experience in Pruth Bay during settled weather conditions.  What worked for us at one particular time is no guarantee or indication that it will work for others.  There are no services in the immediate area and any boat that enters should be self-sufficient.

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