Cormorant Island off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island is the traditional home of the ‘Namgis First Nation. They used the island as a place to bring their people who had passed on, and also lived on the Island on a seasonal basis for several thousand years.
Cormorant Island boasts the North Island’s oldest community, the fishing village of Alert Bay, which was an important trading centre for early residents in the area.
Alert Bay and Cormorant Island have an interesting history . Captain George Vancouver anchored his vessel, the HMS Discover, at Xwalkw (mouth of the ‘Namgis River) in the late 1700s. Cormorant Island is named after the HMS Cormorant, a coastal paddle sloop operating in the area in 1846.
Cormorant Island is very small, being only 4 kilometres long and measuring roughly 1 kilometre in width at the narrowest point of the island.
Today, this island fishing community hosts some of the region’s finest historical and cultural artifacts. In addition to enjoying the rich cultural heritage of Cormorant Island, visitors can enjoy many activities such as whale watching, eco-tours, kayaking, hiking and biking.
Location: Cormorant Island is located off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, easily accessible by a scenic ferry ride from the community of Port McNeill on Vancouver Island to the island’s busy harbour at Alert Bay.
Alert Bay is the main settlement on Cormorant Island, offering visitors a variety of historical attractions and outdoor activities.
Outdoor Adventure: Cormorant Island boasts over 10.5 kilometres of both hiking and biking trails to explore.
Wildlife: Cormorant Island’s surrounding waterways are home to Killer Whales, Sea Lions, Porpoises and Dolphins.
Close to Alert Bay in Johnstone Strait is the largest concentration of Killer whales in the world at Robson Bight (Michael Biggs) Ecological Reserve, where up to 200 Orcas arrive each summer to rub on gravel beaches at the mouth of the Tsitika River. Whale watching companies based in Alert Bay, Port McNeill, Sointula, Telegraph Cove, Sayward and Port Hardy all operate tours to Robson Bight.
To the northeast of Cormorant Island across the Labouchere Passage is the Broughton Archipelago Marine Provincial Park, a wilderness area consisting of a maze of several small islands, numerous inlets and adjacent foreshore at the southern extremity of Queen Charlotte Strait, off the west coast of Gilford Island. The islands in the marine park are undeveloped and are largely undiscovered. Facilities are limited to a day-use recreation. The numerous remote, solitary islands incorporated in the park provide unlimited and unique fishing and swimming opportunities, and are fabulous for exploring by kayak.
Cormorant Channel Marine Provincial Park is located on either side of Weynton Pass in the Cormorant Channel, due east of Alert Bay.
Fishing: Blackfish Sound east of Cormorant Island is productive for salmon fishing, offering feeder chinooks throughout the year. The first migratory chinooks appear in late May through to August, followed by the sockeye (June to August), pinks (July to August), coho in mid July, northern coho in September and chum salmon from late August through to October. Winter chinook end off the year by passing through toward the end of December. Halibut fishing commences in April to June, and continues through the summer to September – open water depths of 200 to 400 feet are most productive. Concentrate on Richards Channel, Ripple Passage and Bolivar Passage. Halibut around the 100 lb mark are brought in regularly, with monsters of over 200 lbs caught occasionally.
Ferry Service: BC Ferries operates a ferry service from Port McNeill on northeast Vancouver Island to Alert Bay and Sointula. Port McNeill/Sointula/Alert Bay Ferry Service.
Island Hopping: Travelling between the Southern Gulf Islands and Northern Gulf Islands can be accomplished in small hops. Each of these islands is a world unto itself, each with its own history, culture and colourful characters – each island deserves at least a day or two for exploring.