Coastal Islands, Pacific Northwest
Cortes Island is reached by ferry from Vancouver Island and Quadra Island. This Island is a wonder to behold with its lagoons, forests, wildlife and of course, its sandy white beaches.
The island is located at the northern end of the Salish Sea, between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland.
Long before the Spanish and English explorers reached the Pacific coast of North America the region was home to the indigenous coast Salish first peoples. The Klahoose first nation’s traditional territory stretches from Cortes Island to Toba Inlet. The Klahoose had winter campgrounds on the island and settled in Squirrel Cove permanently in the 1800s after their Toba village was flooded.
The island currently has about 1000 year-round residents, with most living on the southern half. Cortes is approximately 25 km long and 13 km wide.
There are many recreational activities to do on Cortes. Hague Lake is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and fishing for an ancient strain of trout (no motor boats allowed). The hiking and biking trails are just incredible and very uncrowded and there is a beautiful place to camp in Smelt Bay Park.
The seas around Cortes Island is a sailing and kayaking mecca with some of sweetest views around, you are quite likely to see whales and seals along with bears on the shore here.
Nearby Mitlenatch Island is a Provincial Marine Park. There are local guides to take you by charter to this marine park and depending on the time of year there may be sea lions, humpback whales, orcas, nesting gulls, cormorants, harbor seals, eagles and abundant blooms of wildflowers, even cactus, and swimming garter snakes!
Gorge Harbor has a great marina, and there are government wharves at Cortes Bay, Whaletown, Squirrel Cove, Manson’s Landing, and Gorge Harbor.
Cortes has a large selection of artists who are very talented, you can find drum makers, potters, painters, carvers, and other artisans who live and work on the island. The Cortes Craftshop in Squirrel Cove is a co-op of island artists and craftspeople that showcases local work and Island galleries and gift shops also sell local art and crafts.