updated on: December 13, 2016
Kayaking St. Joseph Island
A wonderful way to explore the Island and get close to Mother Nature
The word kayak literally means “hunter’s boat.” It's a wonderful means to explore all the beautiful inland lakes and outer shores of St. Joseph Island. The kayak is easy to load onto your vehicle to venture off to your location of the day, and also enables you to get into little bays, rivers and tributaries. You normally would not be able to access these in a larger boat, and you'd miss the beauty of these secret little places teaming with wildlife. The kayak is also very quiet, enabling you to sneak up and capture beautiful wildlife. The landscapes are breathtaking, feeling part of the waterscape floating inches above the water.
Inland, Twin Lakes is teaming with loons, turtles, eagles, turkey vultures, turkeys, deer, sand pipers, beaver, otters, and common terns. It is a beautiful inland lake that is very kayak-friendly, especially on very windy days. Busy Beaver Campground and RV Trailer Park is on Hilton Road. They are open from the May long weekend to September 30 each year. There are 37 campsites. The fall is especially beautiful to kayak on the lake, as the leaves reflecting in the water are breathtaking. Portage to the upper Twin across the causeway and enjoy the solitude, as it will be just you and nature along the uninhabited shoreline.
At the end of B Line, is the Shoal Island Lighthouse and the remnants of an old ferry dock are interesting things to explore. Shoal Island Lighthouse had its first appointed keeper of the lighthouse in 1904 with an annual salary of $250. It was destroyed by fire in 1909 and then was rebuilt as the square structure you see today. In 2008 the Government of Canada declared the structure as surplus. The light, however, still shines bright today.
The abandoned ferry docks are still visible on St. Joseph Island. Old mock-up pictures of the ferry docks then and now can be seen here. The waters are swift near the current bridge onto the island so be careful when kayaking here. You will find lots of water birds herem as well as people fishing both on the shore and in boats. Lighthouses are prevalent here and on the north shore. Two lighthouses can be found on the rocky hillside.
In Hilton Beach, Hilton Marina and Hilton Park are very good areas to put your kayak in. Paddling to the right, it isn’t long until the old beautiful rustic cottages end and you are alone along the rocky coastline of the island. You can catch amazing sunrises and sunsets here. Waiting for a calmer day is advised, as it can get quite rough with high winds. Paddling left will take you quite a ways towards Gawas Bay which is more sheltered for kayaking. After a good paddle, you can eat at the Tilt’n Hilton or The Dry Dock. There is the Hilton Beach Tourist Park if you wish to camp, buy ice cream, or get your favourite bait for fishing. If camping isn’t for you, you could book a room at the Hilton Beach Inn.
Gawas Bay is a favourite area to kayak. You can put your kayaks in at the Government Dock for $2.00 on your honour in the little wood box. You can stay in the bay or explore the little hidden channels which can take you out to the island bridge, Camp d’Ours Island or to a beautiful area near Whiskey Rock. Gawas Bay has many herons, ducks, and beaver in the area. It's quite rocky and the vegetation is mostly untouched and lush. Kayaking here is a treat because you always happen upon wildlife. Have your cameras ready! You will even find another lighthouse near the entrance to Gawas Bay! One of many on the island.
The right of passage for locals is leaping off Whiskey Rock, and kayaking through this area is magical. Whiskey Rock is a magnet for boaters and thrill-seekers of all ages. In the summer, it is a busy place for boaters of motored and non-motored varieties. There is no peace or tranquility here, as you here the screams and laughter of jumpers into the beautiful green water. Most jump and go back for more. Few “chicken out” as you can jump from the lower level of rock or for the braver jumpers, leap from the top. The smiles of accomplishment are priceless.
Richards Landing Marina or the park are more great places to put your kayak in. Again, like Hilton Beach, you need a calmer day as the winds can be quite strong here as well. Richards Landing is the largest township on the island. There are a few restaurants, grocery store, medical clinic and motels and cabin rentals for you to stay. You can see the island bridge from here and follow the coastline. There is a huge eagle’s nest right across from the marina on the island you can kayak around.