Bays, Pacific Northwest
Vancouver Island has many bays that dot the coastline. Some are small, others are quite large; some are occupied, while others are wild & pristine – all are incredible! Some like Maple Bay and Cowichan Bay are quite beautiful with history.
Maple Bay is a wonderful little community located in the Cowichan Valley on southern Vancouver Island. Maple Bay is home to marine activity all year round. The sheltered haven of the Bay is situated in Sansum Narrows, which separates Vancouver Island from Saltspring Island.
The Bay is serviced by Salt Spring Air and Harbor Air. They fly regularly scheduled flights a day from Maple Bay Marina, to Vancouver, Ganges harbor on Salt Spring Island.
There are plenty of hiking trails here and the bay itself is a most awesome place to explore by kayak or boat. There are lots of parks here to visit, parks like Eve Park, Maple Mountain Centennial Park or the Osborne Bay Park plus many more areas with hiking trails. Maple Bay area is a great place to spend a day or two.
Cowichan Bay is located on the east coast of southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Its a wonderful little bay with a very pleasant village running along the shore. There are great places to dine, wonderful shops to browse and one of the most incredible maritime museums you will ever see, its build on an old wharf and is just jammed full of so much of the local history that you will find yourself spending hours exploring it.
The Bay was first settled by the Hudson’s Bay Company who built a trading post and fort here in the 1850s. The Bay was the first community settlement north of Victoria, the life was tough in the early days and it was adventurous individuals who moved here to homestead, log, and fish.
By the late 1890s, a store and hotel were up and running, and by 1900 the Bay was a tourist mecca with boats full of city folks arriving weekly. The place was booming, the bay was always full of boats.
Originally both Cowichan Lake, that is located up the river and the bayside village were known as Kaatza, in the Cowichan language, it is the word for big lake. The Cowichan Bay area is the traditional land of the Cowichan First Nation.
Today, the village of Cowichan Bay and the surrounding area is home to historic buildings, artists, friendly shops, and farmers markets. The bay is still a mecca for tourist who mostly arrive by boat.
Cowichan Bay, with its bed and breakfast lodgings that are built right out over the water on stilts, its wonderful shops and restaurants, its float house community and historic wharf/ museum is something everyone should see.
Situated in the Sayward Forest, Elk Bay is one of the nicest developed recreation sites with access to the ocean that can be found on the island, there is a great chance to see whales and other marine life, right from the shore and the scenery is awesome. At Elk Bay, there is the main camping area with the boat launch and then there is a smaller, two unit site located on the other side of the creek, great for group or more private camping. Looking towards the sea, you will find incredible views looking across Discovery Passage to Quadra and Sonora Islands and the mountains beyond.
Some of these bays were once logging camps, but have now turned into recreational sites for fishing & camping, like Elk Bay, Little Bear Bay, and Rock Bay. Others are in parks, like Lowrie Bay, Hansen Bay, Grouse Bay, and San Josef Bay with its sea stacks.
The Cape Scott Provincial Park is located at the northwest end of Vancouver Island and contains many fascinating bays and beaches. One of the more noticeable bays is San Josef Bay with its sea stacks. Many people visit the bay just to see these formations. The area has had a first nations presence here for some time. Middens and other remains of settlements serve as evidence that they have been using the area for thousands of years.
The first European settlers began arriving in 1897 and began to settle, attempting to build farms in what is now the provincial park. They had a difficult time trying to work the land and left after a few years. They left behind cleared patches and fields that are now semi-wild as well as many place names, including Hansen Lagoon, and Nissen Bight. You can find fruit trees growing in many places and sometimes see the remains of settlers cabins that have, for the most part, returned to the land.
The sea stacks at San Josef Bay are beautiful. Water surging through the sandy passages at high tide has slowly eroded the softer outer rock, leaving behind only the harder formations. Sea stacks typically form when wave action eats away the surrounding soft rock. They can only be found in San Josef Bay on Vancouver Island. They are quite beautiful.
As part of Cape Scott Provincial Park, San Josef Bay is easily accessible on well-maintained trails and boardwalks. From the nearest parking lot and trailhead, there is a three-kilometer hike. Its an easy hike on level ground, the trail could easily handle a buggy or even a wheelchair.
The road in from port hardy is quite long but fairly well maintained, but please drive, with caution as these roads are active logging roads. Turn your lights on and give these trucks the road, they can’t stop very easy and they depend on you to drive carefully. Give them the right away.
Not to be missed, are bays that rivers flow into, like Kelsey Bay and Cowichan Bay and some are a starting point for awesome hiking adventures.
Located where the Sayward Valley joins the ocean on North Vancouver Island in British Columbia, is the small coastal port of Kelsey Bay. Kelsey Bay is accessed by a 12 km paved road off the Island Highway. Kelsey Bay is under one hour from Campbell River in the south and about 2 hours from Port Hardy to the north. Kelsey Bay can also be reached by boat via Johnstone Strait.
Kelsey Bay was at one time the southern terminus for the B.C. Ferries Inside Passage route, then in 1978, when Highway 19 was extended north to Port Hardy, the terminal was moved to Port Hardy.
Kelsey Bay is now a put in point for sport fishing and tourism. From here you can access a wonderful area of islands and inlets, a great place to put in a kayak, a great place to start a wilderness adventure that you will never forget.
Fall and winter are good times to visit the Salmon River estuary to view winter waterfowl. Spring is also a delightful time due to the prolific nesting around the estuary. At one time the Salmon River estuary was home to the island’s largest wintering population of Trumpeter Swans, which are still numerous here. The village maintains the path along the estuary to make your viewing experience even more special.
Kelsey Bay harbor is the only small craft harbor located between Campbell River and Port McNeil. It offers a loading ramp, a derrick, a breakwater system, and a boat launch ramp is located at the end of the old BC Ferries’ parking lot. There are several small stores to stock up on supplies and a few great little eateries to grub up in. Places like the cable cafe, this building is built with welded walls of old logging cable, will stand for many years to come.
The Salmon River is a popular river for exhilarating river rafting and canoeing in the Sayward community, and the lakes and rivers in the area offer a range of canoeing and kayaking routes. When I was a young man, my friends and I, in January, would put our canoes in at the bridge at big tree creek and spend 4 days canoeing down the Salmon River, enjoying some incredible sights like elk and bears as well as some awesome fishing. It was cold, with snow and sleet, but the river would be running high and this is what we were after, love running the winter rapids.
The Sayward Forest Canoe Route covers almost 50 km of lakes east of Sayward. Allow three to four days to complete the circuit, which begins on Campbell Lake. Wisdom has it that the best approach to the route is to journey in a counterclockwise direction, putting in at the boat launch on Mohun Lake in Morton Lake Provincial Park. The well-marked route continues through 10 lakes before returning to the park.
Road access to most of the lakes within the canoe route means that paddlers can pick and choose from a variety of put in and take-out points. I was employed by the BC Forest service in the 80s and was a member of a team who worked one winter on this route, it was a great chance to enjoy this canoe route.
The nearest large provincial park to Sayward is Schoen Lake Provincial Park, considered by some to be the most beautiful camping area and lake on Vancouver Island, offering wilderness hiking, canoeing, fishing and spectacular mountain scenery.
This campground will take your breath away. The mountains in the area are some of the most spectacular on the island.
Vancouver Island is a great place for a journey into the wilderness! Take a hike on one of our seaside trails or put a kayak in and have an adventure. The island has many bays just waiting for you to explore.