Discovery Islands of British Columbia

2023 Discovery Islands Visitors Guide

Situated in the Strait of Georgia, between Campbell River on Vancouver Island and the northern tip of the Sunshine Coast on mainland B.C., the Discovery Islands offer access to what can only be described as some of the most stunning scenery in the world. Known for majestic coastlines and tranquil waters rich in marine life, this region provides a number of recreational opportunities, with ocean kayaking and whale watching being the most popular activities. The Discovery Islands are also rich in Aboriginal history and tradition, which can be explored on an interpretive tour or on an art gallery. Quadra Island is the largest municipality in the region, with nearby Cortes Island coming in second. Other Islands that are part of the Discovery region include Read Island, Maurelle Island, Sonora Island and the Thurlow Islands. The peaceful, unspoiled shores of these outer islands are a little off the beaten path, but well worth the voyage. The Discovery Islands are accessed via ferry from Campbell River.

Discovery Islands Map
Map of the Discovery Islands

Quadra Island

Quadra Island, British Columbia, is the largest of four islands that make up the Discovery Islands. A quick ten-minute ferry ride west on the Discovery Passage from Campbell River, Quadra Island is a visual marvel. The island’s intricate shoreline is composed of unchartered caves, inlets, coves and beaches, scenic characteristics of the landscape that double as unsurpassed recreation. Three main villages constitute the island: Cape Mudge, Heriot Bay, and Quathiaski Cove, the latter of the three being the most commercially developed. Originally inhabited by the Coast Salish natives, the Discovery Islands (encompassing Cortes Island, Outer Islands, and the Inlets, are steeped in history). Evidence of its heritage exists in a number of museums and art galleries scattered about. While on Quadra Island, do as the islanders do and try sea kayaking or diving, experiences rivaled by few places on earth. The surrounding waters also teem with salmon and are ideal fishing grounds. King salmon run in these waters, heading out to sea as small fry, and returning as 30-pound monsters.

Quadra Island - Discovery Islands
Quadra Island, Discovery Islands, BC

Sea Kayaking & Whale Watching on the BC Coast
The ocean surrounding the west coast of British Columbia provides unique leisure and recreational opportunities. The unspoiled waters and miles of undulating coastline, in addition to the numerous species of land and marine wildlife, make it the perfect location for water-based activities. The moderate climate for a place so far north is also a tremendous advantage.

Spirit of the West Adventures
Kayaking Quadra Island’s stunning coast is a magical experience, complete with the thrill of seeing killer whales. Sea Kayaking tours depart from Heriot Bay on Quadra Island. Orca tours include 4- and 6-day Johnstone Strait adventures, and other sea kayaking expeditions include a 5-day Desolate Sound trip and a 6-day tour to The Nuchatlitz. Heriot Bay BC

Running Bear Lodge and British Columbia Wilderness Adventures
Trapper Rick will take the sightseer searching for wildlife, trapping, fly fishing or mountain hiking. Just relaxing is lovely in this naturally beautiful scenic area. Some of the sights are the Kak-Wei-Ken River, grizzly bears, beavers, whales, eagles and more. Accommodations are available. Address: 1654 Hyacinthe Bay Road Heriot Bay  BC  Canada 

Rising Tide Sea Kayak Adventures
Offering wilderness kayak tours to destinations including the Discovery Islands, South Johnstone Strait, and Desolation Sound. A decade of experience guiding on Canada’s West Coast. Tours feature meals, guides, equipment, and small group sizes. Trips leave from Campbell River, Quadra and Cortes Islands. Heriot Bay  BC

Cortes Island

Named by Spanish explorers in the late 1700s, Cortes Island is mucho bello—very lovely. The island is situated at the gateway to Desolation Sound, a renowned watery playground for paddlers. There are three communities on the island. Whaletown is the site of the first whaling station on the island and the location of the ferry terminal. Mansons Landing Provincial Marine Park is the crown jewel of Cortes Island, with its toe-wriggling white sand beaches and fresh or salt-water swimming. Squirrel Cove, home to the Klahoose First Nations, prides itself on its many exceptional craftspersons. Populated by fewer than one thousand people, nature molds much of the island. A contrast to Cortes Island’s pastoral scenery is Wolf Bluff Castle. The castle is five stories high, complete with turrets, a dining hall, a dungeon and bedchambers that may be reserved.

Discovery Islands - West Redonda Island
West Redonda Island, Discovery Islands, BC

Mansons Landing Provincial Marine Park is located on the west side of Cortes Island, and fronts both Manson Bay and Hague Lake. Marine wildlife viewing, swimming, and boating (natural boat launch only – no motors) are some of the activities that can be enjoyed in the park. Two-day use facilities exist.  Address: Seaford Road Cortes Island  BC

Named after the old-growth forest Coast-Salish First Nations people call “Ha’thayim”, Ha’thayim (Von Donop) Provincial Marine Park also contains lakes, estuaries and a saltwater lagoon. Visitors to the park, which is located at the northwest tip of Cortes Island, can hike, kayak, canoe, swim, and fish, and wilderness camping is permitted.

Smelt Bay Provincial Park is a great attraction for boaters who wish to paddle the calm waters of Smelt Bay. The pebble beach offers breathtaking scenery. Day use facilities, as well as overnight camping, are available. The park is located on the southwest side of Cortes Island, 15 km south of the Whaletown Ferry Terminal.

Wolf Bluff Castle & Gallery
This five-story castle does not have the extensive and intriguing past of other castles since it was only built 17 years ago. Nonetheless, it is an enchanting pseudo-authentic attraction featuring a dungeon, a dining hall, bedchambers and a collection of woodcarvings of Cortes wildlife.  Address: Manzanita Road Cortes Island  BC  Canada

Read Island

Read Island Provincial Park encompasses old-growth and second-growth forest, bog and fertile lowlands and protects important high-density Bald eagle habitat. See a wide variety of wildlife including river otters, seals and sea lions along the water’s edge, and black-tailed deer, weasels, mink, beaver, cougars, and wolves in the uplands. The park is an excellent spot to see Bald eagles, who nest in the tall trees. There are no designated campsites at this park, however, random wilderness camping is allowed. No facilities are provided and there is no fee. Read Island is accessible year-round.

Maurelle Island

Surge Narrows Provincial Park is located on the south end of Maurelle Island, east of Quadra Island off central Vancouver Island. With its high tidal changes and many reefs, this park has ideal conditions for marine life. Sea urchins, sea cucumbers, sea stars, and anemones flourish in these prime conditions. Random wilderness camping is permitted on the upland portions of the park, which is undeveloped and has no facilities. This park offers opportunities for ocean fishing – rockfish and salmon are the main species. Address: Surge Narrows Provincial Park Maurelle Island  BC 1 250 954-4600 

Sonora Island

Thurston Bay Marine Provincial Park is a 389 ha park and is accessible only by boat. The park contains Florence Lake as well as a number of small beaches. Potential activities for visitors include swimming, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and wilderness camping. Sonora Island, BC


Share on: