The small oceanside community of Deep Bay on the east coast of Vancouver Island is a town seemingly devoted to angling. Mapleguard Point is the elbow of an arm and spit that protect Deep Bay’s natural harbour, beside the much larger Qualicum Bay.
A peaceful BC resort community, Deep Bay is a fisherman’s delight, where chinook salmon in the 20-pound range top the scales each year.
Nicely sheltered by Mapleguard Point, Deep Bay launches boats for the rich coho and chinook salmon grounds that lie in the bay near the Norris Rocks, Chrome Island, and Eagle Rock.
Deep Bay is in Lighthouse Country, or the Baynes Sound area, which also incorporates Horne Lake, Qualicum Bay, Bowser, Fanny Bay and Buckley Bay – a good place to base yourself whilst exploring Vancouver Island. Deep Bay provides a wonderful view across Baynes Sound toward Chrome Island and its lighthouse, Denman and Hornby Islands, Texada Island, and the snow-capped Coast Mountain Range beyond that on the B.C. mainland.
Location: Deep Bay is located north of Qualicum Beach on the east coast of Vancouver Island.
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Wildlife Viewing: Superb winter waterfowl habitat is found along the shores of Deep Bay and the adjacent Baynes Sound, guaranteeing excellent and easily accessible birdwatching. Baynes Sound is used extensively by Western Grebes, Common Loons, Trumpeter Swans, Brant geese, Mallards, to mention just a few, and is also a popular viewing area for Bald Eagles that congregate in large numbers at the mouth of salmon streams during winter.
Stop for a swim in the warm clear waters inside Deep Bay Spit. Follow Gainsberg Road off Hwy 19A, turn right just before the harbour, then left on Deep Bay Road, which ends out on the spit.
Windsurfing: You’ll find good windsurfing in the protected waters of Deep Bay beside Hwy 19, directly west of Denman Island’s south end. You can also rent windsurfers in Deep Bay.
Golf is played year-round at the Arrowsmith Golf & Country Club, an 18-hole semi-private golf course situated 15 minutes south of Deep Bay, near Qualicum Beach. Vancouver Island Golf Vacations.
Immediately west of Deep Bay on Hwy 19 you’ll find Rosewall Creek Provincial Park, a small 63-hectare roadside park straddling both sides of Highway (19A) between the south end of Mud Bay and Deep Bay. Rosewall Creek and adjacent Mud Bay are important winter habitat areas for waterfowl and shorebirds. The park uplands are heavily wooded with second growth forests of Douglas-fir, grand fir, and western red cedar. Western hemlock and sitka spruce are also common. The park offers riverbank casting at the entrance to Qualicum Bay.
Canoeing & Kayaking: Kayakers can put in at Rosewall Creek Provincial Park or in Deep Bay’s natural and protected harbour on Qualicum Bay.
Caving: There are several hundred significant caves to explore on Vancouver Island, including those at Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park, 9 miles (14 km) west of Hwy 194 near Qualicum Beach south of Deep Bay. The park protects seven caves in the Horne Lake Cave system. A small fee is charged for tours in July and August, conducted by knowledgeable guides from the Canadian Cave Conservancy, a nonprofit organization devoted to proper management, protection, and interpretation of Canada’s cave resources. If you’re here in summer, plan on joining the challenging Karst Trail and Riverbend Trail tours, which last about two hours. Tours leave the trailhead on the hour between 10am and 4pm. You can take a self-guided tour of Main Cave and Lower Main Cave throughout the year. Although the distance covered isn’t great – about 0.1 mile (0.2 km) you’ll have to bend, duck, and squeeze your way through a series of narrow passages.
No matter when you arrive, prepare yourself for a tour by dressing warmly, wearing sturdy boots, and carrying a bright flashlight. (Helmets and lights are provided on guided tours. For those with a lust to squeeze deeper into the cave system, the three-to-four-hour Riverbed Bottoming trip leads down through a series of vertical pits, the deepest of which is nearly 60 feet/19 m). A gravel road leads to the parking area and trailhead at the far end of Horne Lake. A footbridge spans the Qualicum River, from where a rough limestone trail leads to the Main Cave.
The 123-hectare Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park is located along the Qualicum River, and is named after a Hudson Bay Company explorer. The road follows the shoreline of Horne Lake to the headwaters of the Qualicum River. The lake is 5 miles (8 km) long and about 1 mile (1.5 km) wide, and features good boat fishing year-round for cutthroat, rainbow, and kokanee trout. Besides caving and fishing, other adventures include canoe and water safety instruction on Horne Lake, kayaking, horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking. There is a private campground adjacent to the park with a boat launch.
Spider Lake Provincial Park, known for its warm water, canoeing and kayaking, is a small lake located 5 miles (8 km) west of Hwy 19A near Horne Lake. There is a lovely stretch of beach beside the warm, clear waters of the lake, on which no motorized boats are allowed. If you’re looking for a respite from travel, spend an hour or two picnicking here at any time year-round; take a dip in summer and toss in a hook if you like smallmouth bass. The lake is stocked regularly, so for best results come in early spring before it warms up, or wait until fall to try your angling luck once temperatures begin to drop. The lake is indented by a number of bays, particularly at its north end, which makes for quiet exploring in a canoe or rowboat.
Take a break from the beach and drive north to Buckley Bay for access to Denman Island and Hornby Island, only a 15-minute ferry ride away. Tranquil and bucolic, Denman Island and Hornby Island sit just off the east coast of Vancouver Island. Denman, the larger of the two, is known for its pastoral farmlands and its population of talented artisans. Stroll down a country lane, bask in the unspoiled countryside of woods and wildflowers or explore hidden coves along the sunny coastline. From Denman, cross to nearby Hornby Island, with its gorgeous white sandy beaches – go hiking, kayaking, cycling or scuba diving.
Five minutes south of Deep Bay is the small waterfront community of Bowser, a great family vacation destination. The Bowser Hotel made history in the 1930s (and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not) by having a bartender dog that served beer to patrons, collected their money and returned with their change. A first from British Columbia!
Ten minutes north of Deep Bay on Highway 19A is the tiny community of Fanny Bay, home to the world-famous Fanny Bay Oysters, growers, processors and exporters of farm-raised Pacific oysters and Manila clams. Piles of oyster shells are everywhere on the beach – head for any local eatery to savour a true gourmet treat!
The Fanny Bay Conservation Unit in nearby Fanny Bay provides access to the diverse bird life found at Fanny Bay and the surrounding habitat. The sanctuary includes forests and upland areas, marine waters and mudflats providing a wide range of wildlife habitat. The bay and estuary are visited by harbour seals, and moms with pups are easily viewed during late summer and early fall. From Highway 19 near Fanny Bay take Ships Point Road, then left onto Tozer Road to the parking at the end of the road, from where a trail provides access between the marsh area and the tidal mud flats. Farther along the trail you enter the forest.
Circle Tours: See the best of BC when you embark upon one of the many circle tours that take in Vancouver Island, the Discovery Coast, and the Sunshine Coast. The coastal tours involve exciting road and ferry trips on BC Ferries, and scenic highways flank the coast, taking you through charming beachside communities, rolling farmlands and majestic mountain ranges. Check out the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island Circle Tour, and other Circle Tours in British Columbia.