Premier Listings for the Discovery Islands
These islands, part of the chain of 6,000 islands that shelter the British Columbia coastline between Washington and Alaska, lie beyond the quick-access range of Vancouver and Victoria. Located between Campbell River and the mainland of British Columbia, the Discovery Islands dot the intricate waterways in some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
Visitors will find that the farther north in the Strait of Georgia they explore, the fewer fellow travellers they’ll encounter. The wonderful silence that envelops these islands is characteristic of the ambience in remote central coast locales. It wasn’t always this way. In the heyday of fishing and logging camps, the population on the more isolated islands was surprisingly higher than it is today. Evidence of this can be seen in abandoned cabins, ancient villages, and overgrown logging roads.
Explore by car, kayak, mountain bike, or on foot. Find a location that appeals to you, and within this microcosm, experience the wonder and magic that pervades life here.
The main islands in the Discovery Islands group are Quadra Island, Cortes Island and the Outer Islands, the largest of which include East and West Thurlow Islands, Sonora Island, Stuart Island, Maurelle Island, Read Island, Raza Island, East and West Redonda Island, and the Rendezvous Islands. Visitors from around the world are attracted to the Discovery Islands for their scenic beauty and recreational opportunities.
The Outer Islands and the intricate waterways that weave between them are home to resourceful and hardy people. Fish farms, fishing kayak lodges, homesteaders and logging camps are dotted throughout the Outer Islands. The scenery in these islands is arguably some of the most impressive on the BC coast. The Outer Islands are still on the frontier, caught between the luxury of paved roads and reliable telephone service and one of the last great wilderness areas of the world.
Location: The Discovery Islands are located between Campbell River on Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia. Campbell River is the departure point for ferry access to Quadra Island (10-minute trip to Quathiaski Cove on the east coast) and Cortes Islands. Travellers to Cortes Island must drive from Quathiaski Cove across Quadra Island to Heriot Bay on the west coast. There they catch another BC Ferry for the 45-minute journey to Whaletown Bay on Cortes Island. Both ferries transport vehicles.
The fleet of BC Ferries that services the Discovery Islands is not as large nor are the sailings as frequent as that serving the Northern Gulf Islands and Southern Gulf Islands. The moment you step onto a ferry heading for the islands, the pace relaxes and the smiles break out.
The only access to the Outer Islands is by private transportation; water taxis, kayaks, boats and floatplanes. Those with their own boats can launch on Quadra and Cortes Islands, and also at Lund on the Sunshine Coast.
Quadra Island is a 10-minute ferry ride from Campbell River, separated from Vancouver Island by Discovery Passage, and from Cortes Island by Sutil Channel. Resident artists and craftspeople make the island a fine place to sleuth around for pottery and other wares. The Nuyumbalees Cultural Center (formerly Kwagiulth Museum and Cultural Center) contains an outstanding collection of authentic artifacts.
After going to the effort to reach Cortes Island, with its placid lakes, beaches rich in shellfish, and rugged gorges, your reward is finding a campsite on the southwestern corner at Smelt Bay Provincial Park, a heavenly setting on this picturesque island.
The Rendezvous Islands are located in Calm Channel off the northeast end of Read Island in the Discovery Island chain of islands. The Rendezvous Island group comprises North Rendezvous Island, Middle Rendezvous Island, and Rendezvous Island South.
Camping and Parks: After going to the effort to reach Cortes Island, your reward is finding a provincial campsite on the southwestern corner at Smelt Bay Provincial Park, a heavenly setting on this picturesque island. Follow the island road 13 miles (21 km) from the ferry dock to the park, which is near Mansons Landing Provincial Park. Smelts are a green-and-silver, sardine-sized fish that frequents these waters in huge numbers and attracts salmon. Not difficult to net, they make a tasty meal.
Cortes Island is also blessed with a sublime picnic and fishing location at Mansons Landing Provincial Park. If they aren’t biting in the saltchuk (‘chuk’ is a Native word for water) just turn your attention to the fish in Hague Lake, a freshwater lake located within the park, a rarity in the Marine Provincial park system. A wide, sandy beach beckons to those who just wish to spread a blanket beside a driftwood backrest and dig into the cooler.
You’ll get to tour Quadra Island on the way to your picnic in Rebecca Spit Marine Provincial Park. The park lies on the east side of the island at sheltered Drew Harbour, almost 6 miles (9 km) from the ferry landing. There are more picnic tables here than on any other island, and a prettier sandy beach than almost anywhere else on Quadra. Anglers launch from the ramp here, and it’s a good place to pick up word on the health of fish stocks.
Canoeing & Kayaking: Nowhere else on the coast of British Columbia is there a more dramatic backdrop for an extended kayaking adventure. Paddlers from around the world are drawn by the easy access, sheltered waters and stunning scenery of the Discovery archipelago. The waterways between the islands were carved to incredible depths by glaciers during the last ice age.
Canoeing & Kayaking around Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands & Discovery Islands.
Octopus Islands Provincial Park off the northwest shore of Quadra Island is both remote and accessible at the same time. Nestled among the maze of islands through which the waters of Johnstone Strait funnel into the Strait of Georgia, the Octopus Islands are most easily reached from Heriot Bay on Quadra Island. This is one of two good places to launch, along with Village Bay farther north. Tidal currents around Quadra Island are notorious for their strength, particularly at Surge Narrows on the east and Seymour Narrows on the west.
Other favoured kayaking spots in the islands are Hoskyn and Okisollo Channels, North Rendezvous Island, Von Donop Inlet, and the Penn Islands. The Discovery Islands lie in the rain shadow of the mountain range that forms the backbone of Vancouver Island, ensuring fog-free, and dry kayaking during summer. Paddlers will share the waters with friendly seals, porpoises, and Minke whales.
Paddlers should avoid Seymour Narrows completely and only transit Surge narrows at slack tide. In addition, you should be well versed in the reading of tidal and current charts to safely explore the fascinating waters around tightly packed Quadra, Cotes, Maurelle, Read, and Sonora Islands.
An alternative to saltwater paddling around Quadra is a small chain of freshwater lakes in the interior of the island that are perfectly suited to canoeing. In summer, the water in the lakes warms up as levels drop. You may well find that you’ll have to haul your canoe through a narrow channel connecting Village Bay Lake and Mine Lake. You can bypass this section by launching directly into Mine Lake and heading for the prettiest part of the route that leads from Mine to Main Lake, the largest of the lakes in this chain.
Sandy beaches on small islands and in cozy bays are delightfully welcoming spots to land and pass a sunny day, with hardly any other paddlers with which to share this slice of paradise. If you land on the northeast side of Main Lake, you’ll find not only a sandy beach but also a short walking trail that follows an old logging road to Yeatman Bay, north of Surge Narrows on Quadra’s coastline. To reach the launch site, take West Road north from the ferry landing at Quathiaski Bay to Heriot Bay. Keep heading north on first Hyacinths Bay Road and then Village Bay Road. Launch at the bridge in Village Bay or continue another 1.5 miles (2.5 km) farther north along Surge Narrows Road to Miners Bay.
Heriot Bay (Quadra Island) and Whaletown (Cortes Island) are popular launching points for paddling not only the Discovery Islands, but also Desolation Sound and the Coastal Inlets along the coast of the British Columbia mainland.
Wildlife Viewing: Journey by boat to Mitlenatch Island Nature Provincial Park, you’ll find a bird-watching and wildflower paradise 8 miles (13 km) northeast of Saratoga Beach. Mitlenatch is home to the largest seabird colony on the Strait of Georgia, principally 3,000 pairs of glaucous-winged gulls. Other nesting species include pelagic cormorants, pigeon guillemots, and black oystercatchers. Specially designed trails for wildlife viewing lead across the middle of the island between Northwest and Camp Bays to an observation blind. This area is characterized by open meadows carpeted with wildflowers from April through August. Access is restricted to other parts of the island where rocky uplands are forested with trembling aspen, a species more frequently seen in the BC Interior. Their presence, along with prickly pear cactus, are a result of the semi-arid conditions here in the rain shadow cast by the Vancouver Island Mountains.
Fishing: The wealth of the salmon fishery in Discovery Passage between Campbell River and Quadra Island is so legendary that a special ritual has grown up around it over the past century. Called tyee fishing, this method has stringent requirements, but success buys instant membership in the exclusive Tyee Club of BC. Tyee is the appellation given a chinook (king) salmon when its weight exceeds 30 pounds (13.5 kg). Anglers must abide by regulations that stipulate a minimum catch weight of 30 pounds, hooked with an artificial single-hook lure fastened to a maximum 20-pound (9-kg) test line. Oh, and you have to be in a rowboat. (Considering the size of an average tyee, make sure it’s a big rowboat.) The official weigh-in station is at the Tyee Club House beside the boat launch on Tyee Spit, east of Hwy 19 on Spit Road in Campbell River.
Campbell River boasts four or more marinas serving the area, and is the best jump off point for fishing the waters around the Discovery Islands. There are dozens of fishing charter operators in Campbell River. The trick is finding the right one for your style, whether it be boat trolling, bank casting, or drift fishing.
The waters around Quadra Island have yielded some of the largest salmon ever caught on BC’s west coast. Although much of the activity is centred in nearby Campbell River on Vancouver Island, there’s plenty of action around Quadra, particularly at Quathiaski Cove, where the ferry linking Quadra and Campbell River docks. Boaters must be extremely cautious in the waters of Discovery Passage. Anglers congregate in the waters off Cape Mudge, Copper Bluffs, April Point, and at the entrance to Quathiaski Cove around Grouse Island. Good fishing is also found in the protected waters around Rebecca Spit Marine Provincial Park, where a popular public boat ramp is located.
Inland on Quadra, cutthroat trout are numerous in the freshwater regions of Village Bay, Mine Lake, and Main Lake. For more information on fishing on Quadra Island and Discovery Passage, contact one of the fishing resorts located on Quadra Island.
Diving: Scuba diving in Discovery Passage can only be attempted during slack tide. The current flows at speeds of up to 16 knots through the Seymour Narrows, the narrowest section of Discovery Passage. The currents are phenomenally rich in nutrients and oxygen, and sustain an awesome array of marine life. Many different species of fish, colourful invertebrates, and the elusive giant pacific octopus reside in these nutrient-rich waters.
There’s no wreck like an old wreck. That’s what the 366-foot former navy destroyer HMCS Columbia is fast becoming. She was scuttled by the Artificial Reef Society near Maud Island in Discovery Passage, just north of Campbell River on the west coast of Quadra Island. Divers should check with the Underwater Archeological Society of BC, or dive shops and marinas in Campbell River, for more details.
The small island of Steep, close to Gowlland Island in Discovery Passage, is rated as one of the best dives in the world. The northern tip of Steep Island is best dived at the end of an ebbing tide, for a fabulous dive amongst a profusion of colour, anemones, sponges, wolf eels, corals, lingcod, tiger rockfish and octopuses.
Explore BC and Southeast Alaska with Bluewater Adventures aboard our 70′ yachts sailing the BC Inside Passage, the Queen Charlotte Islands, Gwaii Haanas National Park, the Great Bear Rainforest, and Vancouver Island. You’ll see whales, Grizzly, Black and Kermode bears, and experience ancient native villages and Haida culture, primeval forests, wilderness, and amazing coastal wildlife.
The diversity of wildlife and awe-inspiring scenery that exists so close to Campbell River is unparalleled. Ideally located near the south end of Discovery Passage, the area is critically important habitat for Killer Whales, Humpback Whales, and so much more. Travel along stunning shorelines and inlets in search of Killer Whales, Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, Dall’s Porpoises, Seals, and magnificent Bald Eagles. Embark on our Grizzly Bear Expedition and observe these incredible creatures feasting on salmon in their natural habitat far away from human civilization. Our tour boats feature an enclosed and heated cabin, two outdoor viewing decks, and an onboard washroom.
In 1987 we built our off-grid kayaking lodge in the Discovery Islands with a dream of crafting life-changing multi-day sea kayaking experiences. We still live where we paddle, and our passion for exploring our remote corner of British Columbia has only grown stronger.
Guided trips combine skills instruction, wilderness adventure, and meals prepared from our own garden produce, local sea foods, and home baking. Our kayaking tours explore sheltered routes amid marine parks, abundant wildlife, and rainforest islands – all with spectacular views of the highest peaks of the rugged Coast Mountains.
1561 Galerno Road
Campbell River, BC
As Campbell River’s largest tour operator, we offer excursions on and off the water. With a spacious 14-passenger van, we run Guided Hikes, Winery, Distillery, and Brewery tours. We also have 7 marine vessels that include Zodiacs and covered boats, meaning we have something for all comfort levels!
Grizzly, Whale, and Wildlife tours are available ranging from 3 hours to a full day where you can expect to see Humpback Whales, Orca, Dolphins, Porpoise, Eagles, Sea Lions, Black Bears, and Grizzly Bears!
We are the only company on Northern Vancouver Island that is Carbon Neutral, and protecting the environment is something we deeply care about. For every guest that joins us, 1 square metre of old-growth forest is protected. Join us to create memories that last a lifetime! Boasting 6 consecutive years with a certificate of excellence, you can expect to have a fantastic experience with us!
Wildcoast provides memorable kayak vacations for adventure travellers that combine spectacular scenery, scrumptious food, and abundant wildlife encounters, including whales, dolphins, bears and eagles. Kayak with Killer Whales at our Orca base camp in Johnstone Strait, or take one of our kayak expeditions to Desolation Sound or the Discovery Islands. Our top-rated service caters to both local and international clientele. All kayak tours are fully inclusive and no kayaking experience is required. Only have a day? Visit our storefront for paddleboard and kayak Rentals or Day Tours in the stunning vistas surrounding Quadra Island.
It’s a Coastal Lifestyle … Live It!
Specializing in marketing and selling local residential, recreational, unique oceanfront and commercial real estate throughout Campbell River, northern Vancouver Island, Discovery Islands, the Outer Islands and the BC Mainland Coast. Our real estate listings include homes to small oceanfront and lakefront recreational lots, private islands, remote island acreages, fishing lodges, wilderness / adventure resorts and vacation homes, oceanfront / lakefront cabins, marinas, remote & timbered acreages, and development investment properties on the west coast of BC and Vancouver Island – BCO has the Coast covered!
The BC Oceanfront Real Estate Team loves to bring people to the coast and introduce people to the coastal lifestyle. All members of the team live an active coastal lifestyle, and they bring that passion for the coast to all that they do. All three agents have their own boats and are very familiar with the many different regions surrounding central and northern Vancouver Island. With a team behind you, you can be sure that someone is always at hand to answer questions and lend assistance.
The Flow Wilderness Retreat is located on the wilderness Maurelle Island, just east of Quadra Island in the Discovery Islands, surrounded by emerald green waters offering some of the finest kayaking in the world. Our central location allows us to explore three unique provincial marine parks and return to our luxury base camp each evening.
Enjoy a fresh shore lunch at a different scenic location each day. Relax after a day of adventure with our cedar-wood-fired hot tub, hot showers, hammocks and your private, cozy, cabin accommodation. Three-course gourmet meals with wine are served each evening on our seaside patio overlooking the islands of the Surge Narrows Marine Park.
Water-taxi pick up from Campbell River on Vancouver Island or Heriot Bay on Quadra Island can be arranged through our office with Discovery Launch Water Taxi. Kick back, relax and enjoy a scenic cruise through the enchanting archipelago that is the Discovery Islands.
The Heriot Bay Inn is Quadra Island’s adventure resort. Adventure: Kayak, whale or grizzly watch. Dine: Casual seaside fare in Herons, HBI Pub with live music Fridays. Stay: accommodations range from hotel rooms to ocean-view housekeeping cottages. Also onsite: marina, RV & tent campsites with full service hook-ups, wireless internet.
Kayaking British Columbia is the ultimate way to view BC’s abundant wildlife.
We want you to fall in love with kayaking and our unique coast, and our passion shows in everything we do. Choose among several professionally-guided 4-8 day trips for all experience levels around Vancouver Island. ‘Glamping’ basecamp-style with wood-fired hot tub overlooking the Pacific Ocean, or expedition-style paddling from camp to camp and paddling between 100s of islands through the Broughton Archipelago, famous Desolation Sound and the wild Great Bear Rainforest on the Central Coast. Savouring a fresh salmon BBQ in the open air, explore and view fascinating wildlife and wilderness and wake up on remote islands with the sound of the whales. Unique and breathtaking.
Our adventures are for everyone and are designed to cater to all levels of experience and abilities. We take care to introduce you to the sport in a fun and safe manner. All that we ask is that you welcome adventure with an open mind and are able to laugh and have fun when encountering the unexpected. Our groups are small, ranging from 8 to 13 people, depending on the trip, in order to provide you with the best experience possible. We provide everything you need for a once in a lifetime kayaking adventure. We provide high-quality fiberglass kayaks, paddling equipment, camp cookware, eating utensils, and camping gear.
Our guides take care of you for the entire duration of your tour, prepare delicious, organic and local meals, and have extensive training and experience in sea kayaking and in sharing the natural and cultural history of the area.
During the Northern Hemisphere winter, we also offer kayaking trips to the glacier-fed South American wildlife paradise, the Chilean Patagonia Archipelago, and multi-day escapes to sun, sand, remote beaches and the warm crystal clear waters of the Bahamas. Please contact us for all details of these amazing winter getaways!
Discovery Islands Lodge is a friendly B&B style inn, providing affordable waterfront accommodation and kayak tours for adventurous people. Located on remote northern Quadra Island, the lodge is ideally situated close to hiking trails, swimming lakes, and some of BC’s best kayaking.
Nearby Surge Narrows Marine Park offers Quadra Island’s most spectacular kayaking; our guided kayak day trips are the perfect way to explore its beauty and diversity. Entirely off-grid, and powered primarily by solar, Discovery Islands Lodge is the perfect place to unwind, unplug, and connect with others.