Paddle in Smuggler Cove, Sunshine Coast

  • Parking and Launching: end of Brooks Road past the parking lot to Smuggler Cove trailhead. 49°30’35.3″N 123°56’52.9″W
  • Launching type: pebbly beach
  • Difficulty – well protected coves at either end of the paddle, slightly more chop in the channel of Thormanby Island
  • Boat traffic – the channel is frequented by power boats
  • View – fantastic maze of coves and islets to explore. Colonies of seals resting on rocks. Smuggler Cove itself was busy with anchored pleasure boats.
  • Facilities – free road side parking
  • Overall score – 8/10

After a previous hike to Smuggler Cove, the idea of paddling here stuck. The cove looked so serene and quiet, and the surrounding areas looked like a fantastic rocky maze to explore. When the chance arrived, I jumped on it and put together a float plan. I would get up bright and early, and do the 9-10km paddle in 2 to 2.5 hours.

To ensure maximum chance of success, I scouted the launch point the day before. I was very glad to find ample street parking and an easy launch from an unmaintained pebbly beach.

Parking at the end of Brooks Road

Another encouraging sign was a paddleboarder coming back into the cove.

I launched my paddleboard around 7:30am. The water was dead calm.

I rounded the corner and started exploring. The entire route was lined with mostly rocky cliffs, so there weren’t a lot of options to stop for a rest, let alone pulling out.

The tide was going out and would be at the lowest around 11:30am. Wind was also forecasted to pick up around that time, so I was hoping to finish this paddle in 2 hours.

The water became more lively once I exited the sheltered coves and paddled into the channel between the mainland and Thormanby Island.

I wasn’t sure if I would miss the entrance to the Smuggler Cove, so I checked my phone a few times. There was weak cell reception (with Fido) all the way into Smuggler Cove. But my concern proved unfounded. The entrance was clearly marked with a sign.

The little square sign read “Smuggler Cove”, and was quite a bit more obvious in real life when paddling.

I turned towards Smuggler Cove, and I was surprised to see about a dozen yachts anchored in the cove. It definitely knocked me out of the reverie a little bit. I later learned that Smuggler Cove is well known to boaters as a great protective haven for anchorage, and in the summer, up to 20 boats can be anchored here. If you came here looking for solitude among nature, unfortunately you won’t find it in Smuggler Cove in the summer months.

Some of the yachts anchored in the cove.

I paddled past the boats and arrived at the beach where we took a snack break on our previous hike. This is the only place where one could pull out and hop onto the hiking trail.

I imagined if the return paddle was too difficult (eg. if the wind picked up prohibitively), one could pull out from here and hike the 1km easy trail back to the car, since the launch site is very close to the trail head.

I relaxed here for a minute and paddled back. There was a bit of head wind in the channel, but manageable. Passing boats created some boat wakes to contend with.

A bit more head wind and the accompanied chop

The tide was significantly lower now, so the little paths around the islets I came out from were not accessible any more. But in exchange, there were now exposed platforms on which colonies of seals were sunbathing.

I pulled into the launching cove. Since the tide went out, the rocky beach became a bit more difficult to access, but still very manageable with paddle crafts. Two kayakers were getting ready to launch as I was pulling out. They told me they were headed for Thormanby Island. I should have asked them if they were camping there overnight, because that would make a magical paddle camping trip.

If timing permits, I would suggest doing this paddle at high tide. It would allow more exploration of the nooks and crannies of the rocky shore line and easier launching/pulling out.

This is a part of our 2022 BC Coastal Circle Tour. Read on!

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