Mount Norman Park on South Pender Island encompasses over 100 hectares of varied forests, grasses and varied wildlife. The forest is regenerating, having been logged as recently as 1985.Mount Norman Park is a part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, which protects a portion of British Columbia’s beautiful Southern Gulf Islands, a landscape of rocky headlands, forested hills and shorelines studded with colourful tidepools.
One of Canada’s newest national parks, the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve resembles a patchwork quilt of protected lands scattered over 15 larger islands, and many smaller islets and reefs.
The Coast Salish people – the Saanich and the Songhees – hunted and fished around Pender Island as far back as 6,000 years ago. In the 1700s, Spanish explorer Francisco Eliza sailed past Pender Island, which he named Sayas (“skirt”). Permanent settlement of the islands by Europeans began with small sheep farms in the 1800s. By the 1900s, the island community had grown large enough to warrant a government wharf, a post office, and ferry service from Sidney on Vancouver Island.
Because the Gulf Islands are so tightly configured, it’s often difficult to determine where one begins and another leaves off, especially as Vancouver Island provides such a big backdrop that it takes on the appearance of a mini mainland. One of the best ways to sort out the geography is to take a hike to one of the higher viewpoints, such as the peak of Mount Norman. From this vantage point you can identify the surrounding islands.
The main hiking trailhead is off Ainslie Point Road. From here, start your 30-minute hike through stands of Willow and Red Alder surrounded by towering Douglas firs. Proceed along twisted trails over a bedrock base established 80 million years ago.
Finally reaching the summit of Mount Norman, the highest point on the Pender Islands, at 244 metres (800 feet), the views of the surrounding islands and northern San Juan Islands are unsurpassed. The vista from the top makes every step of the hike worth it. After a rest, you can return to Ainslie Point Road, or continue the trail down to Canal Road on the northern boundary of the park.
Facilities in Mount Norman Park are limited to toilets, parking, and a boardwalk at the viewpoint atop Mount Norman (no camping). Adjacent to the park is Beaumont Marine Park, which is also part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. Beaumont is reached by a separate trail leading off near the main trailhead. It’s a fairly steep 2.5-km trail, and while it only takes about 30 to 40 minutes to walk down, it’s a challenging hike to come back up. With good anchorage, mooring buoys, and a sandy beach for kayakers to land, Beaumont is a popular place to camp (11 campsites) and picnic for visitors touring the islands by boat or kayak.
Mount Norman Park is located on South Pender Island in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia, 5 miles (8 km) southeast of the Otter Bay Ferry Terminal (a 15-minute drive).
Access to the park is off Canal Road. Turn right onto Ainslie Point Road immediately after crossing the wooden bridge that connects North and South Pender Islands. Follow the road to the Mount Norman Park entrance, where parking is available.
BC Ferries provides a vehicle and passenger ferry service to Otter Bay Ferry Terminal on North Pender Island from Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island (Victoria) and from Tsawwassen, south of Vancouver on the BC mainland.
The shoreline of North and South Pender Islands attracts kayakers, canoeists, fisherman and scuba divers. Cycling is a great way to explore the islands as there are so many roads and beautiful beaches to discover.
Nearby Regions & Towns
Parks Canada – British Columbia
Box 129, 23433 Mavis Avenue
Fort Langley, BC, V1M 2R5
Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
2220 Harbour Road
Sidney, BC, V8L 2P6