Gorge Harbour Marina Resort on Cortes Island!
Cortes Island, located on Canada’s west coast at the entrance to Desolation Sound, still remains one of British Columbia’s unspoiled destinations. Along with spectacular wilderness scenery and wildlife viewing, there are an abundance of beach walking, hiking and shellfish harvesting opportunities. Cortes Island is irrefutably one of the most beautiful destinations in BC, Canada.
History of Cortes Island
Long before Spanish explorers came to the west coast of Canada in the 1700s and gave Cortes Island its name, the island was inhabited by the Klahoose, a Coast-Salish people, who wintered on both sides of the island before permanently settling in Squirrel Cove in the 1800s.
In 1866, Cortes Island had its first white settler, Michael Manson, for whom Manson’s Lagoon is named. Due to the late arrival of electricity (1967) and Cortes’ first car ferry, Cortes Island is one of southern BC’s few remaining undeveloped destinations.
Hiking on Cortes Island
Today, Cortes Island has a year-round population of about 950 people inhabiting an area 13km by 25km, leaving plenty of ground for hiking and exploring. Gorge Harbour Marina guests are invited to enjoy a day hiker’s paradise!
Whaletown Commons: For sailors moored at the Gorge Harbour Marina, this is a great hiking spot as it’s within walking distance from the Marina. The lush and verdant Commons, with a salmon-bearing creek, is in the heart of Whaletown.
Walk to Whaletown: A paved road through pastoral countryside. Picturesque post office, and government dock in Whaletown. Visit potter Gary Fast (by chance or appointment), the church and the Louisa Tooker library (open Friday’s 1:00-4:00 or get the key from our post master).
Gorge Park – Hike the small park on the Gorge. This small Regional Park is a delightful oasis of “Quiet” in a beautiful rock bluff and treed area.
Easter Bluff: Pine and Juniper grow on Easter Bluff’s open, rocky bluffs. The approximate 200m climb grants a fantastic panoramic view of BC’s coast on a clear day. Cross Cortes Bay Road and hike the stony path that eventually connects Easter Bluff with Kw’as Park.
Kw’as Park: This is a 70 hectare ecologically-diverse park of new and old-growth forest around Hague and Gunflint Lakes. Explore wetlands by boardwalk and sun on open bluffs with arbutus and manzanita, then cool off at Swimmer’s Rock.
Green Mountain: For a 360º view of Cortes Island, the Coast Mountains on British Columbia’s mainland and the Vancouver Island Range, this moderately difficult hike offers a great vista of BC’s coastal wilderness.
Ha’thayim (Van Donop) Marine Provincial Park: Located on the northwestern tip of Cortes Island, this rugged 1277 hectares encompasses numerous lakes, a saltwater lagoon, an estuary as well as old-growth forest. Hiking and wilderness camping is permitted. Look for its trailhead near Squirrel Cove.
Maple Tree Hike: A short, but scenic walk, this is a narrow trail that winds its way through Klahoose land on Cortes’ west side toward a dead, but still standing, beautiful silver Maple Tree.
School-to-Sea Hike: This is a short interpretive trail that leads from the field at Cortes School to the Manson’s Landing Provincial Marine Park. It makes for steep hiking going from sea-to-school. Across from the Cortes School is the Cortes Island Archives Society that has a large collection of artifacts pertaining to Cortes Island and the surrounding islands, a beautiful display of photographs and settlement stories and a spectacular garden with heritage flowers.
Manson’s Landing Provincial Marine Park: With both sandy and rocky beaches, excellent swimming and easy grade trails around the lagoon, this is a perfect place for beach walks and tidal flat exploration. Five minutes of hiking leads from Manson’s Lagoon to the sandy beaches of Hague Lake.
Smelt Bay Provincial Park: Located on the southwestern part of Cortes Island, this park has an excellent exposure and is a fantastic place for long beach walks and wildlife viewing.
When hiking on Cortes, please remember that most small roads lead to private residences. Ensure you’re on the right trail and please respect homeowners’ privacy.
Shellfish Collecting on Cortes Island
Another past-time on Canada’s west coast is shellfish harvesting. Cortes Island has many good beaches: Manson’s Landing Provincial Marine Park, Smelt Bay, and Squirrel Cove. Gorge Harbour Marina guests may find the beach south of the government dock in the harbour most easily accessed from the Marina.
Things to be aware of: a British Columbia Sport Fishing License is necessary to harvest shellfish in tidal waters; there are legal limits; be aware that at times Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (‘Red Tide’) may be present. Read posted signs or check with the Department of Fisheries in Campbell River.
If you are visiting the Gorge Harbour Marina by boat, we offer car rentals to tour the island. (hourly, half or full day rentals)
If hiking isn’t on the agenda, Gorge Harbour Marina guests may find everything they need at the marina itself. Whether guests moor in the marina, sleep in the lodge or campground, Gorge Harbour Marina offers access to a wide range of amenities. As well as having an on-site store, guests can enjoy oceanside fine dining at The Floathouse Restaurant and leisure time at the pool and spa.
The Gazebo in the Campground is available for group functions such as Pot Lucks, Happy Hour, or barbeque. This must be booked ahead with the office and there is no charge to guests. There is also a seaside campfire/picnic area access for guests until 10:00 pm. Watch the sun go down while roasting marshmallows.
Kayak rentals are available on site or we will gladly recommend local kayaking operators who provide tours. The Gorge is spectacular for paddling and you are assured of a fantastic day. We also have boats available for fishing or local sightseeing. Take your family out on the water and explore the most spectacular scenery in BC.
The Gorge Harbour Marina offers a variety of excellent entertainment over the summer for children and adults. Please check our calendar for these fabulous events that range from Music Concerts to Oyster Bar Afternoons that are very popular with visitors as well as the local community.