Paddle British Columbia.
Credit: Chris Cheadle / Getty Images

Prep Time: Three months 
Time Off Work: Two weeks 
When to Go: July–Augusy

The lush, nine-mile-long thumb of Vancouver Island known as Brooks Peninsula is so remote, the last ice age never quite found it. This temperate rain forest is part of the 3 percent of Canada that never ended up under ice 10,000 years ago, and it's like a lost world in which moss slowly devours fallen totem poles, eagles fly overhead with salmon locked in their talons, and sea otters hammer open shellfish on their bellies. "It's the West Coast at its most wild," says Brent Blackmun, area supervisor with BC Parks. For a seriously up-close and exhilarating taste, slide into the cockpit of an expedition kayak for nine days, and 60 miles of coastline, exploring the wilds of B.C.'s Checleset Bay. Expect several days of committed paddling and a couple of exposed ocean crossings; you'll camp on small islands along the way and make frequent surf landings. Your reward: Attenborough-worthy wildlife gazing, empty beaches, and one of the most vivid night skies you've ever seen.

Start Today: Build core strength. Add activities like swimming and yoga to your routine. Kayak touring is less cardio-intensive than other activities, but endurance and power are key as you'll be traveling between five and 11 nautical miles each day. Brush up on your paddling. A second-nature understanding of the basics, particularly bracing, which you'll need for balance in rough seas, and assisted- and self-rescues, are absolutely necessary. So is the ability to land your kayak on a beach with breakers behind you. Pick up these skills on a weekend kayaking course.

Don't Leave Home Without: A great pair of binoculars. Bushnell's waterproof H2O 7x50 scopes are O-ring-sealed and nitrogen-purged to completely lock out moisture (bushnell.com).

More Info: Seasoned paddlers can plan their own trips into the Checleset, but services are sparse and logistics are daunting. Most U.S. airlines serve Vancouver Airport. From there book a flight on Pacific Coastal Airlines (pacificcoastal.com) to Campbell River, then hire a cab for the 90-minute ride to Gold River.