The largest and most populated of the Discovery Islands in BC, Quadra Island is nestled between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia. Quadra Island is a popular destination for visitors from around the world, and is best known for its natural and beautiful wilderness scenery, and its excellent salmon and freshwater sportfishing.
The mild temperate climate, rural lifestyle, pristine environment, breathtaking coastal scenery, and the friendly people of Quadra all add to the charm of Quadra Island. The diversity of people, professions, lifestyles and pastimes is what makes Quadra Island a truly great place to live or visit.
Quadra Island was named after Don Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, the 18th Century Spanish Naval Officer and close friend of Captain George Vancouver. Just over two hundred years ago, Captain Vancouver made contact with the aboriginal people on the island, sending yawls to sound the now-named Discovery Passage before bringing in his ship Discovery, anchoring off present day Cape Mudge.
Quadra Island has three main communities: Quathiaski Cove, the commercial hub of Quadra and the most populated; Heriot Bay, the picturesque gateway to the Discovery Islands and mainland inlets, and Cape Mudge (Yuculta), home to the We Wai Kai band of the Kwakwak’awakw (Kwagiulth) First Nation. Most of the permanent residents of Quadra live on the southern half of the 35-km-long island.
Its sheltered coves and inland lakes are home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including black-tailed deer, river otters, harbour seals, sea-lions, cormorants, snowy owls, the great blue heron, and the elusive peregrine falcon.
The Visitor Centre is located next to the Quadra Credit Union in Quathiaski Cove, and is open from mid-June until the Labour Day weekend (the first weekend in September).
Location: Quadra Island is located in the Discovery Islands of British Columbia. Quathiaski Cove on Quadra Island is reached by a mere 10-minute ferry ride across Discovery Passage from Campbell River on Vancouver Island. BC Ferries also links Heriot Bay on Quadra Island to Whaletown Bay on Cortes Island, a 45-minute journey. Both ferries transport vehicles.
Heriot Bay: Long before Campbell River was settled, there was a significant community established at Heriot Bay. For many years the wharf at the Heriot Bay Inn was a major stop for various steamships travelling up and down the coast. The resort was the first in Heriot Bay, established in 1894, with the hotel soon becoming a social centre for residents and workers of the Discovery Islands, and for visiting travellers. Heriot Bay still serves as the harbour for ferries across Sutil Channel to Whaletown on Cortes Island, and boat traffic to and from the Outer Islands and Inlets. The Outer Islands include Read Island, Maurelle Island, Sonora Island, Stuart Island, East Redonda Island, West Redonda Island, East Thurlow Island, West Thurlow Island, and the Rendezvous Islands.
Granite Bay in northwest Quadra was once a significant settlement, and in the 19th century served as a base for one of the largest logging operations in the district. At peak operations of the Hastings Company in the 1890s, the settlement boasted a beach camp, log dump, general store, post office, school, hotel, brothel, and a government dock where the Union Steamships called to deliver passengers, mail, and supplies. The Lucky Jim Mine located three miles from Granite Bay opened in 1903 and yielded tons of gold and copper ore before it petered out. Granite Bay is quiet today, but is experiencing a resurgence of new residents and outdoor adventurers.
Arts and Crafts: Resident artists and craftspeople make the island a fine place to sleuth around for pottery and other creative, handmade wares. The Quadra Island Studio Tour in June steers visitors to Quadra’s galleries and studios run by carvers, spinners, weavers, glass blowers, potters, painters, sculptors, photographers, furniture makers, quilters, jewellers, blacksmiths, woodworkers, leatherworkers, and stained glass artists. Studio Tour tickets and a detailed map of the island are available at the Visitor Centre in Quathiaski Cove, just up the road from the ferry dock.
First Nations Culture: Ancient stone drawings called petroglyphs can be seen along the high-tide line at We Wai Kai Beach and Francisco Point at the southern tip of the island.
Cape Mudge Lighthouse celebrated its 100th birthday in 1998, and is well worth a visit. The lighthouse is the only one in BC that is accessible by road and is still staffed and fully operational. Linked by a trail to Cape Mudge Village, the lighthouse is located below the bluffs visited by Captain Vancouver in 1792. Petroglyphs from centuries ago can be found at extremely low tide just south of the lighthouse. To access the lighthouse, depart the Quathiaski Cove ferry terminal on Heriot Bay Road, turn south on Cape Mudge Road, then follow Lighthouse Road to the lighthouse. Tours are available in good weather in spring and summer.
Pop in to the Saturday Quadra Island Farmers’ Market (May to September) in Quathiaski Cove, behind the Quadra Credit Union, where vendors’ tables are loaded with unique local crafts, fresh farm produce, and freshly home-baked delicacies.
Events: There a number of festive events worth attending on Quadra Island. The Quadra Garden & Quilt Tour offers the chance to learn about the native flora and see the beautiful island gardens up close. Held every two years on even-numbered years. Quadrapalooza is Quadra Island’s Arts and Music Festival, held annually in August at the Quadra Island Community Centre. The weekend-long family event showcases a huge selection of diverse Canadian artists on a multitude of different stages. Quadra Island Studio Tour in June promotes the community of visual artists on Quadra Island, providing the public with a glimpse into the working studios of Quadra Island’s many artists. Quadra Island Festival of Chamber Music continues the tradition of extraordinary music and breathtaking venues, featuring guest musicians from across North America under the direction of Artistic Director, Philip Hansen, principal cello of the Calgary Symphony. Quadra Island Fall Fair is held annually in September at the Fair Grounds. Quadra Island May Day celebration is Quadra Island’s oldest celebration, having been celebrated since 1898. The annual community event is held on the Saturday after the May long weekend at Rebecca Spit.
Quadra Salmon Eco-Centre invites visitors to view the educational displays and learn more about salmon and watersheds, and what you can do to help and protect them. Have fun participating in the hands-on activities and daily fish feeding. Open Wednesday to Sunday in July and August, at 2071 hyacinthe Bay Road, just north of Heriot Bay. Operated by the Quadra Island Salmon Enhancement Society. Free admission.
Adventure Companies on Quadra Island provide hiking, diving, sea kayaking, boating and sailing tours, revealing the hidden secrets of the Discovery Islands, Desolation Sound, and the sheltered inlets of the BC mainland coast.
Boat Launches: There are three public boat launching ramps on Quadra Island, located at Quathiaski Cove, Heriot Bay, and Rebecca Spit in Rebecca Spit Marine Provincial Park.
Kayaking: Exploring offshore waters in a sea kayak is the best way to discover the islands, sheltered coves and protected channels. The fascinating waters around tightly packed Quadra, Cortes, Maurelle, Read, and Sonora Islands will provide hours of enjoyable paddling. You should be well versed in the reading of tidal-current charts to safely explore these waters. Check the listings below for local companies offering sea kayaking services.
Canoeing & Kayaking around Vancouver Island and the BC Islands.
Canoeing: An alternative to saltwater paddling around Quadra Island is a small chain of freshwater lakes in the interior of the island that are perfectly suited to canoeing. In summer, the water in the lakes warms up as water levels drop. You may well find that you’ll have to haul your canoe through a narrow channel connecting Village Bay Lake and Mine Lake. You can bypass this section by launching directly into Mine Lake and heading for the prettiest part of the route that leads from Mine to Main Lake, the largest of the lakes in this chain. Sandy beaches on small islands and in cozy bays are delightfully welcoming spots to land and pass a sunny day, with hardly any other paddlers with which to share this slice of paradise. If you land on the northeast side of Main Lake, you’ll find not only a sandy beach but also a short walking trail that follows an old logging road to Yeatman Bay, north of Surge Narrows on Quadra’s coastline. To reach the launch site, take West Road north from the ferry landing at Quathiaski Bay to Heriot Bay. Keep heading north on first Hyacinthe Bay Road and then Village Bay Road. Launch at the bridge in Village Bay or continue another 1.5 miles (2.5 km) farther north along Surge Narrows Road to Miners Bay.
Fishing: The waters around Quadra Island have yielded some of the largest salmon ever caught on BC’s west coast. Although much of the activity is centred in nearby Campbell River on Vancouver Island, there is plenty of action around Quadra, particularly at Quathiaski Cove, where the ferry linking Quadra and Campbell River docks. Anglers also congregate in the waters off Cape Mudge, Copper Bluffs and April Point, and at the entrance to Quathiaski Cove around Grouse Island. Good fishing is also found in the protected waters around Rebecca Spit Marine Provincial Park, where a popular public boat ramp is located. Inland on Quadra, cutthroat trout are numerous in the freshwater regions of Village Bay, Mine, and Main Lakes.
Scuba Diving: The clear waters and profusion of colourful marine life off Quadra’s shores make the area one of the best and most challenging destinations for scuba diving. Diving in Discovery Passage can only be attempted during slack tide. The currents are very strong and are phenomenally rich in nutrients and oxygen, sustaining an awesome array of marine life. There’s no wreck like an old wreck. That’s what the 366-foot former navy destroyer HMCS Columbia is fast becoming. She was scuttled by the Artificial Reef Society near Maud Island on the west coast of Quadra Island. Divers should check with the Underwater Archeological Society of BC, or dive shops and marinas in Campbell River, for more details. The small island of Steep, off the southwest coast of Quadra Island, is rated as one of the best dives in the world. The northern tip of Steep Island is best dived at the end of an ebbing tide, ensuring a fabulous dive amongst a profusion of colour and marine life.
Diving around Vancouver Island and the BC Islands.
Camping: There are no provincial campgrounds on Quadra Island, but there are private campsites, including the We Wai Kai Campground at Rebecca Spit, run by the Cape Mudge Band. Campsites are located on the beach at Drew Harbour, or in a quieter forested location across the road, a short walk from the beach. A provincial campground is located at Smelt Bay Provincial Park on neighbouring Cortes Island.
Hiking: Rolling forested hills are criss-crossed with over 200 kilometres of hiking trails. Some trails are long established, while some have been made recently, and many are former logging grades. All of the trails are managed by Recreation Sites and Trails BC (formerly maintained by the BC Forest Service) and are well signed posted. Hike up Chinese Mountain for a panoramic island view. The pleasant forested Morte Lake Trail is an easy hike; the Chinese Mountain Trail is for the more experienced hiker.
Mountain Biking: Logging on the island has left countless backroads, rail beds and challenging trails, attracting mountain bikers to Quadra. The more popular trails are the Morte Lake Trail, the Main Lake-Yeatman Bay Trail and the trails around Mt. Seymour. Ask for the mountain bike trails map at the Visitor Centre.
Golf: New in summer 2012, Quadra Island Golf Club offers fairways set in Quadra Island’s natural beauty, with standing stone formations, wetland, and forest scenery. The intriguing layout in exceptional surroundings has resulted in a nine-hole gem that draws you into the fellowship of golf and nature (Par 36, 3,219 yards from the blue tees). The golf course includes a clubhouse overlooking a pond and a driving range. Located on Heriot Bay Road, overlooking Sutil Channel and the BC mainland coastal mountains. Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Rebecca Spit Marine Provincial Park lies on the east side of Quadra Island at sheltered Drew Harbour, almost 6 miles (9 km) from the ferry landing at Quathiaski Cove. The park is a popular picnic spot as there are more picnic tables here than on any other island, and a prettier sandy beach than almost anywhere else on Quadra. Anglers launch from the boat ramp here, and beachcombing and swimming are popular.
Octopus Islands Provincial Park is both remote and accessible at the same time. Nestled among the maze of islands through which the waters of Johnstone Strait funnel into the Strait of Georgia, the Octopus Islands are most easily reached from Quadra Island. From the ferry dock at Quadra’s Quathiaski Cove, journey east by road across island to Heriot Bay. This is one of two good places to launch kayaks, along with Village Bay farther north. Tidal currents around Quadra Island are notorious for their strength, particularly at Surge Narrows on the east and Seymour Narrows on the west. Paddlers should avoid Seymour Narrows completely and only transit Surge narrows at slack tide.
Main Lake Provincial Park on the east side of Quadra protects an exceptional biological area, with over 72 bird species and 234 plant species. Wildlife in the park includes wolves, cougars, owls, Bald Eagles, hawks, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, and wintering swans. Recreation includes hiking, wilderness camping, canoeing and kayaking. A panel of pictographs in red ochre on Main Lake records past native presence in the park.
Small Inlet Marine Provincial Park is located at the northern tip of Quadra Island, accessed by boat from Granite Bay. The remote park protects second-growth forest and two small lakes, with Small Inlet providing a protected anchorage in all weather conditions. Boaters also utilize the anchorage to wait for slack tide, allowing safe passage through the tidal rapids of Discovery Passage, Okisollo Channel and the Hole in the Wall.
Surge Narrows Provincial Park is located at the junction of Quadra Island, Maurelle Island and Read Island. Tidal currents around Quadra Island are notorious, and can roar through Surge Narrows at 16 knots, and up to 14 knots on the ebb. Random wilderness camping is permitted on the upland portions of the park, which is undeveloped and has no facilities. Access to Surge Narrows is by boat from Heriot Bay or the Hoskyn Channel Landing.
Read Island Provincial Park on the southern tip of neighbouring Read Island protects old-growth and second-growth forest, bog and fertile lowlands, and variety of wildlife. Park visitors will find plenty to do, including kayaking, wilderness camping, scuba diving, and swimming in the ocean or in fresh water at Rosen Lake. Access from Heriot Bay or Hoskyn Channel Landing.
Journey by boat to Mitlenatch Island Nature Provincial Park, where you’ll find a bird-watching and wildflower paradise located 8 miles (13 km) northeast of Saratoga Beach. Mitlenatch is home to the largest seabird colony on the Strait of Georgia, principally 3,000 pairs of glaucous-winged gulls. Other nesting species include pelagic cormorants, pigeon guillemots, and black oystercatchers. Specially-designed trails for wildlife viewing lead across the middle of the island between Northwest Bay and Camp Bay to an observation blind. This area is characterized by open meadows carpeted with wildflowers from April through August. Access is restricted to other parts of the island where rocky uplands are forested with trembling aspen, a species more frequently seen in the BC Interior. Their presence, along with prickly pear cactus, is a result of the semi-arid conditions here in the rain shadow cast by the Vancouver Island Mountains.
Take the ferry from Heriot Bay across Sutil Channel over to Whaletown on Cortes Island. The placid lakes, beaches, and rugged gorges make Cortes Island one of the most impressive of the Discovery Islands, blessed with its own distinctive charm and a wide variety of things to see and do.
Campbell River on Vancouver Island is the closest large community to Quadra Island, and the port of departure for the scenic 10-minute ferry ride to Quadra. Campbell River is big as Vancouver Island cities go, and hosts a busy arts and culture scene. Campbell River is located in a region rich in natural resources, with towering West Coast forests that have fostered a growing forestry industry and provide great scope for outdoor adventure.
Island Hopping: Travelling between the Southern Gulf Islands and Northern Gulf Islands can be accomplished in small hops. Each of these islands is a world unto itself, each with its own history, culture and colourful characters – each island deserves at least a day or two for exploring.
The Quadra Island Recreation Society is a non-profit organization providing details of Community Events and other information useful to residents and visitors.