Discovery Island Marine Provincial Park occupies the southern portion of Discovery Island, located near the southeast tip of Vancouver Island, 3 miles east of Oak Bay.
Discovery island was named in 1846 by surveyors in honour of the 18th-century British Explorer Captain George Vancouver, who navigated the coastline of British Columbia between 1792 and 1794 in his ship HMS Discovery. The adjacent Chatham Island was named after his escort ship, Chatham.
The lighthouse at Sea Bird Point, the eastern end of Discovery Island, marks the junction of Haro and Juan De Fuca Straits. These two straits form the border between Canada and the United States. The lighthouse was built in 1886 and manned for 110 years before being fully automated in 1996. Sea Bird Point was named after an American paddle steamer which caught fire and was run aground in 1858 to save the lives of the crew.
Designated as a park in 1972, the uninhabited and undeveloped 61-hectare Discovery Island Marine Provincial Park was once inhabited by First Nations people and resident lighthouse keepers. The island was once the home of the donor, Capt. E.G. Beaumont, who died in 1967 after living on Discovery Island with his wife for nearly half a century. Evidence of their once beautiful home and gardens overlooking Rudlin Bay can still be seen.
The main attraction of the beautiful and natural Discovery and Chatham Islands is the terrific paddling in the area. From Victoria, paddlers can launch their kayaks at Cattle Point, just north of Oak Bay Marina at the sign marked Cattle Point Scenic Loop, the Oak Bay ramp off Beach Drive, and Smuggler’s Cove (Maynard Bay) on Ten Mile Point. Paddlers wishing to circumnavigate Discovery and Chatham Islands (6 miles/10km) should allow a full day for exploring.
Kayakers paddling between Oak Bay and Discovery Island will be delighted by the wildlife on and around the guano-stained Chain Islets archipelago, a sensitive seabird nesting area and ecological reserve. Great Chain Islet is home to harbour seals, glaucous-winged gulls, pelagic cormorants, pigeon guillemots and black oystercatchers. Visitors are not allowed to land on the Chain Islets.
These waters can be treacherous, as strong currents and frequent winds create dangerous conditions, including rip tides. As the currents in Plumper Passage and Baynes Channel run from 3 to 6 knots, crossings are best made at slack tide. Adventurers embarking on day excursions should be well versed in the skills of navigation, self-rescue, first aid and wilderness camping before setting off. Discovery Island is a popular kayaking destination for school and kayak instruction groups, who are always accompanied by experienced paddlers.
This beautiful marine park, a favourite overnight camping spot, offers campsites in an open field bordered by wind-sculpted Garry oak and arbutus trees. Basic facilities include a pit toilet, information shelter, and picnic tables. The island has no potable water. Open fires on the upland and foreshore are not permitted, and a self-registered camping fee (May 1 – September 30) is payable on an honour system into a self-registration vault at the information shelter. Discovery Island Marine Provincial Park is open year round. During the off-season, there is no fee and no services.
Recreational activities: sea kayaking, hiking, wilderness camping, swimming and fishing.
There are gravel beaches and a few walking and hiking trails along the shores and through fir and arbutus woodlands. The trail system runs from the lighthouse on Sea Bird Point to Commodore point and across to the western shore of the park. Hikers can ascend the 38-metre Pandora Hill for improved views of the area and spectacular sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains. Spring sees a splendid display of colour as wildflowers blossom in the woodlands and meadows.
Boaters should note that there is no moorage or safe anchorage at the park – the closest safe harbour is located in Oak Bay. Mariners should also exercise extreme caution, as the main access to the park is via the rock and reef-strewn Rudlin Bay, which is exposed to wind and wave from Juan de Fuca Strait.
The northern portion of Discovery Island, the adjacent Chatham Island, and some of the smaller islets nearby, are Indian Reserve lands under the jurisdiction of the Songhees Band, and should not be entered without permission. The public should not access the private roads on these lands. Paddlers should explore the Chatham Islands from the water only.
Discovery Island is home to otters, bald eagles, and sea lions, and is a pupping area for harbour seals.
Winterstorms regularly funnel up the Juan de Fuca Strait and pound the islands, as evidenced by the weather-beaten vegetation and trees along the south shore of Discovery Island. Logs and flotsam pile up on the shoreline and are driven above the high watermark by the worst of the storms.
Discovery Island Marine Provincial Park is located offshore from Oak Bay near Victoria, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
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