Over the long weekend in early July 2018, a group of 8 old friends, 2 guides and a resort cook from Cabana Desolation Eco Resort spent five wonderful days exploring, unwinding, and reconnecting at Cabana Desolation Eco Resort in the heart of Desolation Sound, British Columbia.
Together we experienced incredible paddling, explored forested trails that lead to breathtaking panoramas, visited historic boardwalk communities and ate lovingly crafted meals as friends on our uninhabited island oasis.
If you’re interested in our guided or unguided packages but unsure of the daily flow, read on to discover the diverse and wonderful opportunities for rest and exploration at Cabana Desolation Eco Resort.
Note that all groups at Cabana Desolation are different in their own way: this package was a group of friends that really enjoyed soaking in the ambiance of the resort in a relaxed way, while others are more proactive in the their adventure seeking and are keen to put more miles on the board. We are very flexible on our Cabana Desolation packages, and our staff are fantastic at going out of their way to tailor an experience that is perfect for each guest to the best of their abilities!
Graeme and I – guides for the trip – met early on the morning of July 1 and prepared the kayaks and equipment we would need for the 5 day tour ahead.
The luxuries of Cabana of which the guests are so appreciative – the commercial kitchen with resort cook, the comfortable accommodations, the on-demand hot water showers – are just as exciting for the staff. No need to pack 5 days worth of fresh food into the hatches, no cramming tents and sleeping pads into the very depths of the bow and stern of each kayak required. All in all it’s a very relaxed morning at our beautiful waterfront location in Okeover Inlet as the guests start to filter in around 9am.
As all the guests knew each other before the tour, introductions were brief and jovial between us as guides and each couple that made up the group. John and Tammy had visited us at Cabana the year before and enjoyed themselves so much that they had convinced their friend group to join them out here again. Bob and Amy, Clint and Sarah, and Janet and Peter made up the party.
After packing everyone’s personal items (as well as more than a few bottles of wine) we were on the water in calm Penrose Bay by 10am.
Graeme and I had been monitoring the marine weather forecast in the lead up to the trip, and were aware that they were calling for much stronger winds in the mid afternoon. We therefore pushed a little beyond our regular lunch spot on the first morning and made for a sheltered beach towards the mouth of Malaspina Inlet and the entrance to Desolation Sound after about 2 hours of paddling. The wind was a light breeze out of the NW all morning, and conditions were perfect and calm as we snaked our way north between the small islets that dot the inlet.
After a lunch of a fresh quinoa salad and a potato salad made from ingredients completely taken from Graeme’s garden, we continued into Desolation Sound and paddled up to Feather Cove on the tip of Malaspina Peninsula. With the wind still blowing relatively benignly from the NW, we aimed our kayaks towards Kinghorn Island and made the crossing to the southern shore.
The ocean was completely calm during the crossing, and we paddled round the western shore of the island and then past the northern beach where Captain George Vancouver first made landfall in Desolation Sound centuries ago. As we landed at Cabana Desolation Eco Resort the forecast wind was starting to be felt on the water, and we were all grateful to be landing and the opportunity to rest our legs and be introduced to our island retreat.
Dan – our resort cook at Cabana for the week – was on hand to welcome us and help everyone into their accommodations. The evening continued and the wind picked up from the north, and we all sat around and enjoyed the great food and warm atmosphere of the resort after an active but rewarding opening day.
The wind continued all night and in the morning was still blowing relatively strongly from the NW. Whitecaps could be seen between our island and West Redonda Island to the north, and after a delicious breakfast we all huddled around the chart of the area prominently displayed on the wall of the Cabana Cafe and discussed our options.
The forecast was calling for the winds to die down considerably in the afternoon, and so it was decided that the group would take the morning off to explore the island on foot – or to relax a little longer in their personal cabana with a good book – and we would reconvene at lunch and further decide on a course of action.
As our guests were content to discover the island at their own pace and in small groups, Graeme and I pointed out some interesting features of Kinghorn Island on the chart and provided backpacks for our guests to use while they explored. While John and Tammi and Clint and Sarah went off in search of the cliffs on the south west shoreline of Kinghorn – which provide incredible views of the Strait of Georgia to the south – Amy and Bob found themselves a nice little beach to relax and soak up the sun while Peter and Janet got stuck into a good book and retired to the comfort of their cabin to continue to unwind.
At around 1pm Dan served lunch in the Cabana Cafe – a nice fresh Greek Salad with freshly baked muffins and an assortment of handcrafted dips – and the four couples returned one by one to eat and share what they had discovered throughout the morning.
The wind had died out by this time but the appetite for exploration had wavered a little, and the ladies had us pour them each a glass of wine and they made their way to the Cabana point to enjoy the afternoon.
Graeme and I – hearing that the men were big seafood connoisseurs, took a few of our guests over to a secret beach on the island nearby and taught them what to look for when harvesting fresh oysters, which grow big and abundantly in Desolation Sound. We picked up to our daily allowed limit of these shellfish from the beach and returned to the resort with anticipation!
As the afternoon waned and the sun dropped in the sky, Graeme went down to south beach and kindled a fire while I worked with Dan in the kitchen to prepare all manner of delicious toppings, and when I went to find Graeme again he – along with John, Clint and Peter – were already arranging the first of our oysters on the grill over the fire.
One by one the oysters popped open in the their shells and were picked up by an eagle eyed Graeme manning the tongs. Various toppings such as hot sauces, asiago cheese, white wine and garlic butter were added to the perfectly cooked oyster before they were passed around the circle and we all got our fill.
Dan came down to announce that dinner was ready and got in on the action himself, and then we all filed back up to the Cafe and sat down to a wonderful Portuguese Fish Stew – Caldeirada de Peixe – that complemented the appetizers (and wine) perfectly!
The weather was calm and warm as day broke on the third day and Graeme, Dan and I were enjoying a quiet morning as our guests were content to relax and enjoy their freshly brewed coffee, which we had delivered to their Cabanas one by one.
After all our guests filtered into the Cabana Cafe and we had enjoyed another delicious meal, we turned our attentions to the plans for the day. With perfect weather the group decided that a quick paddle over to the boardwalk community of Refuge Cove would be an interesting day trip, allowing us to soak in some Desolation Sound history and browse the art gallery and book store for potential gifts and souvenirs.
We launched just after 11am and crossed in amazingly calm conditions to Hope Point at the mouth of Refuge Cove. We paddled over the the island in the middle of the cove and did a little intertidal viewing with the low tide and then continued on the the public dock, coming in around the back and away from the sailboats and occasional float plane that comes in and out of the bay.
Graeme and I landed on the dock and then helped people out of their kayaks onto the boardwalk one by one. Refuge Cove was bustling – but not too busy – on this early summer afternoon, and as our guests went off in their groups of twos to explore and immerse themselves in the funky little community, we took the lunch up to the store and laid out a huge spread on the table outside, including all sorts of freshly made dips and sauces.
After a couple of hours exploration, people watching, souvenir shopping and good eating, we were back in the kayaks for the return to our oasis on Kinghorn Island. We landed at about 4.30pm, giving everybody plenty of time to enjoy a hot shower and a glass of beer or wine on the point before Dan wowed everyone again with another 1st class meal in the Cabana Cafe.
With more incredible weather, the group decided over breakfast that they would like to do a little hiking today, and Graeme and I knew just the spot.
The Sunshine Coast Trail – 180km in length in entirety – starts at Sarah Point in Desolation Sound and heads south all the way to the Saltery Bay ferry terminal south of Powell River. There is a beautiful pocket beach a short distance paddle from Kinghorn that provides access to the trail, and we loaded up the kayaks after breakfast with our hiking shoes and a packed lunch and set off at about 10.45am.
The crossing from Kinghorn to Feather Cove on the mainland takes about 30 minutes, and refreshed and refuelled after a big meal we made great time in more calm seas. We landed at the beach and pulled our kayaks up well above the high tide line, before changing into some more comfortable hiking clothes and shoes and hitting the trail!
The path leads through some great forested lowlands before it starts to climb moderately up the hill and heads slightly away from the ocean, switchbacking a few times to make the ascent easier, and then levels out upon reaching a nice mossy bluff, the sun starting to peak through the smaller and less canopied hemlocks and pines as we take our breath a little and continue on.
Within 5 minutes of levelling out, there is a spur to the right that takes us to a place known as ‘Desolation Bluffs’ – a great level area with some rustic seating and incredible views over Desolation Sound. From here we could see our island way below us in the centre of the Sound. To the east the Coast Mountains rose straight out of the water and folded into the horizon, and to the north and east the Discovery Islands broke into hundreds of little passages that led to paths unknown.
We stretched and took pictures and had a little bite, and then returned after 15 minutes or so back down to the beach below. Here Graeme and I laid out the bulk of the lunch – amazing homemade quiches and banana muffins, along with a huge, fresh green salad – and we all ate as we stretched in the sun and spoke briefly with a couple of kayakers that were about to set up some tents in the campsite nearby.
In the afternoon we returned to Cabana Desolation via the western shore of Kinghorn Island once more, observing a large colony of seals that enjoy lying on the exposed rocks at low tide and the abundant fishing below the cliffs for their meals.
Dan was hustling when we returned, and Graeme and I joined him in the kitchen to help with the food preparation. It was Mexican night, and some of the best pork tenderloin tacos we had ever experienced with freshly made corn tortillas and Mexican style salads and salsas were ravenously enjoyed by all!
Tomorrow we return to Okeover and head back home, and there was a sense of regret among the group that they couldn’t enjoy one or two more night out here, and plans were concocted amongst everyone to return in years to come.
It was a little cooler when we rose on the final morning, but the weather remained calm and we all waved goodbye to Dan as he stood on the point and we paddled away just before 10am. (He got to leave as well, he just had to wait for the motor vessel to arrive and pick him up!)
We crossed from Kinghorn Island over to Zephine Head at the mouth of Malaspina Inlet and paddled down the eastern shore of the inlet with a nice flood tide carrying us along the way. We landed at our fantastic lunch spot just inside Grace Harbour for a final meal together, and then got back in the kayaks one last time and made our way south to Penrose Bay and our waiting vehicles, landing comfortably before 2pm.
Everyone said their goodbyes as our fabulous office staff began cleaning kayaks and Graeme and I pulled together all the group equipment for our post-trip duties. We took some final group pictures with Penrose Bay as the backdrop, and then our guests slowly left one by one to collect their vehicles and start the journey home.