Canoeing the Mackjack River into Raft Cove on Vancouver Island

The Mackjack river is a hidden gem.

But let’s be clear right off the bat – it is not for the faint of heart, and definitely requires a certain kind of preparedness to enjoy it the most.

As a kid, I grew up canoe tripping down rivers and across lakes, so when Rob mentioned he was interested in this adventure, I was beyond stoked.

Now, I’m not going to give exact instructions on how to get here in an effort to kind of help this place remain a secret – or at least a spot which requires you to put in the same kind of effort and research to getting there.

What I will say is the basics.

Essentially, you’re taking the ferry to Vancouver Island, driving to the most northern town of Port Hardy, and across logging roads to the western side of the island. Finding the right spot to put your canoe into the tidal river is on you, and then you paddle down approximately 5kms to the beautiful beach of Raft Cove, on the ocean.

It’s a neat experience paddling in a tidal, ocean river – that’s for sure. When the tide is coming in, you even see big crabs moving along the sand bottom below.

When you arrive at the mouth of the river, it’s an explosion of excitement – a beautiful white sand beach, where there’s even pretty good surf when there’s swell.

We set up a chill-worthy hammock spot and had the most beautiful two nights watching the sun go down and shine it’s rays onto the beach.

We also spent hours fishing the salmon-filled river, catching our very own tasty dinner, which we roasted on the fire.

As majestic and beautiful as it was – it’s definitely a place you want to be prepared to camp at. There is ample wild life… like really – a lot of wild life. Bears, cougars, wolves (it’s their home after all!) And you want to make sure you have sufficient water supply, as there’s not many non-salt water sources nearby.

When we weren’t fishing we were exploring (or chilling) in the tide pools, and along the beaches that lined the ocean nearby. Wildlife foot prints (and poop!) were everywhere.

All in all, it’s quite a mission. 5 hours driving from Nanaimo and 1.5 hours canoeing down the river, but it’s honestly worth every minute.

It was on our bucket list to see that part of the island, and ticking it off was a magnificent experience. Don’t you love those moments where passion for adventure meets the feeling of epic accomplishment?




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