We were finally able to visit and prepare this Browning Pass review after many years of talking to divers, reading other Hideaway and Port Hardy reviews, watching videos and seeing amazing underwater photos from the Browning Pass area.
Name: Paul K
What are you reviewing?: Hotel/B&B/Scuba Diving Lodge
Name(s): Browning Pass Hideaway
Rating: 5 Stars (Fantastic!!)
Visibility - How many feet?: 25-30 feet (but it can be over 100 feet, just not when everything starts to spawn)
Details (please explain why): Five stars – not because it is a luxurious 5
Star hotel, but because the crew were wonderful hosts and guides, and the diving was the best I have ever experienced!
"5 Star world class diving that lives up to the reputation of being the best temperate water diving in the known universe!"
After a scenic 2 hour ferry ride from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo, and a 4 hour drive to Port Hardy, we met up with the crew and other guests at the Quarterdeck Marina, loaded the boat, and made our way to the Hideaway.
Conditions were a little rough that day out in the open water, but settled down nicely once we reached the sheltered waters of Browning Pass.
We entered Clam Cove, and soon after caught site of the Hideaway Resort and its new floating diver accommodation. Before I could even get my luggage off the boat, I was told that it was slack tide and a diver from Switzerland was without a dive buddy and needed me to gear up and join him on a trip right away - wahoo - awesome.
Fantastic - within minutes of my arrival, I was on my way to dive the North Wall in Browning Passage.
The wall was beautiful and covered with colorful and interesting marine life in every direction – sponges, corals, crabs, anemones, various types and sizes of rockfish, and I couldn’t see any bare rock anywhere. Looking up or down, right or left, the wall exploded with color and life.
We hit 22 meters (about 70 feet) and even though there was tons of life below for the more adventurous, there was tons of life at a level safe for all experienced divers.
(Speaking of experience, we also learned that the professional on-site PADI instructor also offered courses and certification upgrades with enough proper planning and preparation.)
Once I surfaced and expressed my amazement at all the life, John deBoeck just laughed and said "you haven’t seen anything yet!"
Once we returned to the Browning Pass Hideaway, I gathered my bags and checked out my accommodations in the new floating guest accommodation.
Their new 17 room lodge was built in 2010 by a nearby fishing lodge, but before it could be used by their guests, the lodge went out of business.
Bought by John DeBoeck and towed to the Hideaway last year, these individual rooms are quite spacious, clean, and ideal for divers and the rugged west coast conditions that are found in the Port Hardy area.
And for the nostalgic divers, the rustic old bunkhouse is still available.
I was quite happy with my new room with its ensuite bathroom and shower, electric heat, and either a double bed or two single beds so that each room can comfortably accommodate two guests.
Over the next two days, I had the thrill of diving 7 Tree Island twice, Hussar Point, the Rock of Life, the world famous Browning Wall (one of the top wall dives anywhere in the world), and Eagle Rock.
Each site was unique, full of life, and a world-class dive site in my humble opinion.
For that reason, most have made our list as one of Vancouver Island's Best dive sites.
My favorite though was 7 Tree Island, even though there were way more than 7 trees above, but the life below was spectacular and I can’t wait until my dive buddy Reto sends me the pictures he took (which are on this page now - thanks Reto)!
In addition to the spectacular variety of underwater marine life we saw and the beautiful above ground west coast scenery, we saw families of river otters checking us out at the lodge, a harbour seal give birth to a new pub behind the Hideaway kitchen, numerous seals and sea lions, Dall’s Porpoise jumping in our bow waves, bald eagles everywhere, and lots, lots more!
They gladly cater to all levels of divers, however for safety and other guest enjoyment, divers should be experienced and drysuit certified (drysuit certification can be done at the Hideaway if pre-arranged)
Many thanks to the Hideaway crew including John, Mike, Don and Christie – what a fantastic piece of dive paradise you have up near Port Hardy.
I will be back to dive at the Hideaway again and to prepare another Browning Pass review!
Some of our best photos can be found on our CoolDives Facebook page (like Cooldives on Facebook and be entered to win a free Scuba British Columbia t-shirt.)
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