by Jennie Sutton
This was trip #4 for me during the Covid Summer of 2020! As Cortes Island has a smaller population, accommodation is limited and most are quite expensive. There is at least one campground but this summer was about “glamping” and not camping!
Kayaking possibilities:- I was given some good information by Barry Copeland who has camped on Cortes and done some kayaking and hiking there.
Coulter Bay - is on the West coast with good road access, the last section being gravel. It has an easy launch site, with some mud at lower tide heights. Parking is along the road, and there is no through traffic.
Cortes Bay - the best launch site is at Blind Creek boat launch on Cortes Bay Road. There is very limited roadside parking for maybe 3-4 vehicles.
Squirrel Cove - is on the East coast and has a very easy launch with lots of parking. A great place for heading to the Discovery Islands, Desolation Sound, Copeland and Savary Islands. There is a grocery store there with limited supplies.
Three of we ladies stayed at the Cortes Island Motel near Mason’s Landing, in a basic one bedroom self-contained unit. Due to Covid, we were the only guests there! It was a short walk to lovely hiking trails in Kw’as Regional Park.
Day 1 - Getting to Cortes via Quadra Island takes most of a day from Victoria and one needs to time catching the two ferries!
Day 2 - Launching at Coulter Bay we paddled North along the shoreline on a falling tide. Between Quartz Bay and Van Donop Inlet the intertidal life was amazing and highly recommended! …millions of small green urchins, the most purple sea stars I have ever seen, red sea cucumbers, leather stars and some giant plumose anemones. We had fun playing in the rapids at the entrance to Von Donop Lagoon. There is not enough water to paddle into the lagoon unless at a higher tide. We had lunch there, amongst 3-layer deep oyster beds! After exploring into the inlet, we headed back…a 14 n. mile paddle on glassy seas! We could see the wildfire smoke haze building to the south and it was starting to create overcast skies locally.
Day 3 - Launching at Cortes Bay, we again enjoyed some nice intertidal life as we followed the shoreline out of the large bay and paddled south. We circumnavigated the Three Islands which were an obvious seal haul-out, with lots of Oystercatchers and Surf Scoters. Crossing to Twin Islands, we explored the shoreline and had lunch at a small bay East of Echo Bay. The famous Twin Island Lodge where Queen Elizabeth II has stayed is very low key, sprawling wood structure. Would love to see inside! Cortes Island Museum did have a 3 day kayaking trip available through Misty Isles Adventures, staying at the lodge. http://www.cortesisland.com/tideline/go9548a/Twin_Islands_Kayaking We could not find the designated campsite on the small islet north of Twin Islands. This 10.5 n. mile paddle had lovely vistas of both the Coastal Mountains and the Vancouver island mountains. The summer smoke haze created high overcast skies and eerily glassy calm seas.
Day 4 - Hiked in Kw’as Park, visited Mason’s Landing and Hollyhock. At a non-Covid time, there would be Farmer’s markets and more stores open to explore.
Hiking - lovely trails in Kw’as Regional Park, with lake views, a trail to the summit for vistas. There are many springboard cuts in old logged tree stumps throughout the park. One can purchase a trail map for $3 at some stores or at the campground store at Gorge Harbour.
Hollyhock Learning Centre is a world-renowned complex with accommodation, meals and courses on self development, health, etc. The facility was closed but we managed to get permission to visit the gardens where they grow a lot of the food. https://hollyhock.ca
Eating out- The Floathouse Restaurant has good food and lovely views of Gorge Harbour. When open, the public can also eat at Hollyhock.