Valdes Island is located in the Southern Gulf Islands, across Porlier Pass from Galiano Island, between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland.
The island supports a small community of residents at Starvation Bay on the north shore, but the majority of the population of the island consists of part-time vacationers. A third of Valdes Island is a First Nations Reserve for the Lyackson First Nation at Shingle Point.
The Lyackson First Nation is a small, Central Coast Salish Hulq’umin’um community of fewer than 200 members presently based in Chemainus on Vancouver Island. There are approximately 60 archaeological sites on the island, evidence that First Nations People have used the island for nearly 5,000 years. Visitors are requested to respect Native property and the sacred and protected archeological sites and burial grounds on the island.
Valdes Island is named after the Spanish naval officer Cayetano Valdez y Bazan, who first visited the area in 1792 as a lieutenant serving under Captain Alexandro Malaspina on the Descubierta. Valdes returned in 1792 as captain of the Mexicana to explore the area with Captain Dionisio Galiano aboard the Sutil. Valdes and Galiano both commanded warships captured by the British in the Battle of Trafalgar.
The island covers an area of 9 square miles (23 square kilometres), and is 1 mile (1.6 km) wide and 10 miles (16 km) in length. Aside from a short stretch of beach at the southern end of the island near Porlier Pass, Valdes Island is surrounded by steep cliffs and deep water.
There are no water or electrical services on the island, and roads are restricted to forestry logging roads.
Location: Valdes Island is located in the Strait of Georgia, sandwiched between Gabriola Island and Galiano Island in the Southern Gulf Islands, approximately 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Vancouver. There is no ferry service to Valdes Island; access is by boat and floatplane. Water taxi services may be available from Chemainus, Gabriola Island, or Nanaimo.
Wakes Cove Provincial Park offers hiking trails and a protected anchorage, providing shelter for kayakers and boaters. Spectacular day trips offer opportunities for hiking, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. The 205-hectare park is in the coastal Douglas fir ecosystem, protecting a mix of old-growth Douglas fir, Garry oak and arbutus trees, as well as several endangered plant species.
The natural Sandstone Galleries along the north shore of Valdes Island are arguably the most magnificent sandstone formations in the Gulf Islands. The best way to view the formations and caves carved by thousands of years of winter storms is by kayak.
Kayaking affords the kayaker close-up views of the wonderful sandstone formations that abound in the Gulf Islands. The towering sandstone cliffs of Valdes Island and the nesting seabird colonies in the islands are highlights worth visiting.
Scuba Diving: Strong currents surge through Porlier Pass, located between Galiano and Valdes Islands. Explore the wreck of the 105 ft tug Point Grey or shore dive at Pringle Park and Coons Bay. The undersea life is abundant, with large ling cod darting among green and purple sea urchin, nudibranch, Puget Sound king crab, war bonnet, white pulmose and a variety of rock formations. There are many superb dives in the area, and charter operations abound.
Northwest of Valdes Island is Gabriola Island, one of the enchanting Gulf Islands, known as Petroglyph Island for its wealth of ancient native stone carvings.
On the adjacent east coast of Vancouver Island is the community of Chemainus, known for the huge heritage murals painted on the sides of buildings, which transformed the small coastal mill town into the world’s largest outdoor art gallery.
De Courcy Island is located in Northumberland Channel, between Valdes Island and the east coast of Vancouver Island. Like many of the Gulf Islands, De Courcy Island contains an interesting mixture of plants – some coastal, and some more typically found in the dry interior of BC. Rocky Mountain Juniper, satin flower and poison oak are all species that are much more widely spread in the interior than they are on the coast, but they thrive here in the dry summers of De Courcy Island.