The Winchelsea Islands are part of nineteen islands that make up the pristine Ballenas-Winchelsea Archipelago, located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, running north from the Lantzville area and Nanoose Harbour to Rathtrevor Beach near Parksville.
The ruggedly beautiful islands offer a unique ecology and diverse ecosystems. Situated in the rain shadow of the Vancouver Island mountain range, the climate is mild and relatively dry.
In 1998, TLC The Land Conservancy of British Columbia purchased the 10.4-hectare South Winchelsea Island, one of four islands in the archipelago that are privately owned, the other 15 being crown land. TLC is still campaigning to pay the mortgage and maintain the property. The Nanaimo and Area Land Trust and the Islands Trust Fund Board hold a conservation covenant on the island.
South Winchelsea Island has been identified as a must for protection, having been recognised as an excellent example of the endangered Garry-Oak Meadow ecosystem. In Canada, this ecosystem in only found on southern Vancouver Island. Under the knarly Garry Oaks and beautiful Arbutus, visitors will find rare wildflowers and plant species; including the Camas Lilly and Chocolate Lily. South Winchelsea Island also offers opportunities to see bald eagles, black oystercatchers, and numerous other birds.
Location: The magical Winchelsea Islands are located in the Strait of Georgia between central Vancouver Island and the BC Mainland, due east of Nanoose Bay, and can be reached by a 20-minute boat trip from Schooner Cove Marina, near Nanoose Bay. There is a dock on South Winchelsea Island, which is open to the public, but access is restricted to a single trail to protect the sensitive Gary Oak Ecosystem.
The Land Conservancy offers an exciting holiday at the Robert T. Ogilvie Research Cottage on South Winchelsea Island, near the mouth of Nanoose Harbour, for those who seek a wonderful vacation in an unusual and beautiful setting.
Kayaking: There is great kayaking around South Winchelsea Island and the other islands in the archipelago.
Outdoor Adventure: Several of the islands permit backshore camping on the beaches, and many of the islands allow hiking. Fishing in the area is excellent, as you can imagine.
Wildlife: The islands are rich in marine wildlife. The tall Douglas firs on South Winchelsea Island contain several eagle nests and up to 75 eagles have been seen around the Island at a time. The rocky shores are haul-outs for Northern and California sea lions in winter, and during March, rafts of diving birds stop to feed on herring while travelling to northern and interior BC breeding grounds.
Each July, Nanaimo hosts the internationally acclaimed Marine Festival and World Championship Bathtub Race from Nanaimo Harbour around Winchelsea Islands to Departure Bay beach.