This photo of our dock on Cortes Island looking up towards Mt Denman was taken by my neighbour. That's me in green and my friend in red. It is done with a telephoto lens so the mountain does look much closer than it really is. Mt Denman happens to be my favorite mountain on the coast of British Columbia. Sat on top twice... only room for 2 people on the tip!
The most northern of the Northern Gulf Islands and a Discovery Island as well, Cortes guards the entrance to Desolation Sound, the ultimate destination and culmination of the wonders of the Gulf Islands.
Not only is Cortes the most northerly island in the group, but also it is the most remote and requires two ferry rides from Campbell River BC on Vancouver Island to reach.
Cortes is also part of the Discovery Islands, a group of these Northern Gulf Islands including Quadra Island plus some not serviced by BC Ferries, like Reed Island.
The biggest island is Quadra Island BC while the most populated in the summer is Hornby Island off of Denman Island.
Saturna Island is another in the list and all are favored for island vacations.
Saturna, by the way, has one of the biggest Arbutus trees on the Gulf Islands.
To get to Cortes Island, you take the ferry from Campbell River, BC to Quadra Island. A quick 10 minutes to drive across and then you catch the 45 minute ferry to Cortes.
And that is a superb ferry ride when you can see snow capped mountains all around with islands nestled into the sea as you cruise across to Cortes! Sunset time on the ferry while crossing, now that is a special delight!
You can also get here direct from Vancouver via the British Columbia Sunshine Coast. But your car won't make it! You can get as far as Lund BC, which lies just before the Malaspina Peninsula. From there you can take a water taxi or kayak to Cortes.
You can also fly in by seaplane from Seattle or Vancouver to Manson's Landing or Cortes Bay.
Cortes Island is a large island but only the southern half is populated leaving large wilderness areas on the island.
The permanent population of about 1000 is scattered sparsely with concentrations on the south end near Manson's Landing, The Gorge, a large protected inland waterway entered through a narrow cliff entrance, and the Whaletown and Squirrel Cove areas.
Its remoteness creates a strong island identity and community. It has several fresh water lakes that are perfect for swimming in the summer.
Truly abundant wildlife finds a home on this BC Gulf Island. Countless deer, some cougars and wolves and the very occasional brown bear (that swims over from the mainland) share the island.
Eagles, seals and other bird and water critters love this island just like us!
The shape of Cortes Island is remarkable with its ruggedness, deep inlets, points and bays. In the winter the storms that come roaring up the Straight of Georgia hit the island with their full force creating some spectacular Arbutus trees (also known as Madrona trees) and Manzanita trees which cling to the southern and western exposures.
Cortes Bay is home to both the Seattle and Vancouver Yacht Clubs. Boaters come from all over the west coast to these warm inland waters for the wilderness experience and incredible coves, beaches and rugged islets.
Manson's Landing and lagoon delight with its warm sandy beaches and tidal flats. Smelt Bay, famous for its sunsets, faces Vancouver Island and its snow capped mountain range behind Campbell River and Courtenay. Many locals and guests show up to catch the sunsets.
Whaletown is a deep bay where the ferry boats arrive. Named for its past as a whaling center, it is now a rustic quiet area just north of the Gorge, a large protected enclave where many boaters spend the night. The Marine Dental Clinic floats there in a house boat and has a superb dentist.
Squirrel Cove is the closest entry way to Desolation Sound, a paradise of unpopulated wilderness islands, bays, fjords and rugged snow capped mountains, including the pyramid shaped, Matterhorn-like, Mount Denman at the end of Desolation Sound.
And what a wonderful hike to the summit of that mountain! A leisurely day's kayak paddle to get there. And a grueling hike the next day up to the left side saddle.
A glorious night there and then the summit day. And what a view! All the British Columbia Gulf Islands scattered like little dots below! Read more on the Mt Denman button.
Squirrel Cove is opposite Refuge Cove on Redonda Island. Refuge Cove is the last stop for fuel, food, laundry, liquor and fancy food and coffee before moving onwards up Desolation Sound or Bute Inlet.
You can get all this and quite a bit more including propane and gas, boating, hardware and fishing supplies and food at the General Store in Squirrel Cove. And the Cove Restaurant has amazing food and an outside deck for evening enjoyment.
So whichever location you choose both are worth spending time. By the way, the gas station in Squirrely has the best views of any I have seen! And the Craft store hosts the finest crafts and more from Cortes and the outer islands. If you want a unique craft gift then this is the place.
The Cortes Island Oyster and Seafood Festival happens each May long weekend on Saturday. It is a must visit if you love seafood. All you can eat buffet and the best oysters in the world.
You can find Cortes oysters in the finest restaurants in Canada, New York, Tokyo and more. The young 18 month old fresh ones are unbelievable. Yummy big time!
And the BBQ'd oysters and the clam chowders make your stomach sing with glee!
Hollyhock Retreat Center on the Smelt Bay side of the island makes its home on Cortes, attracting guests from all over for its workshops.
If you want some amazing natural foods' feasts, please call and make a reservation. It is buffet style, so bring your own wine. Often in the evening after dinner you can join in for concerts or presentations by workshop leaders.
An eclectic mixture of characters add charm to the island, many well educated and successful in their former lives before coming here, often beginning new lives expressing latent talents and interests.
Bodywork and yoga experts abound on Cortes so if you have the time do indulge. Check the local phone book and posters for more or just ask a local for tips.
In July, the Cortes Music Festival happens at The Gorge Marina. It's free and a delight featuring both off island and local musicians, followed by a dance in The Gorge Hall, Cortes Island's famous venue for its rustic charm and high energy gigs.
And every Friday at Manson's Hall you will find the Friday market outdoors and indoors for garden fresh food, baked yummies, crafts, local art and more. Not to be missed!
Manson's Landing is the heart of the island with medical clinic, post office, bank machines, stores, the Natural Foods Coop and Cafe Bakery, and more.
But the best of the island awaits your discovery...it's the outdoors, the beaches, heights, forests, waterways and kayak adventures that will fill you with memories.
Perhaps now you can see why Cortes Island wins my prize as my favorite island!
And strangely enough, Cortes is the end of the northern zone for Arbutus trees. Once you go north of Cortez Island, the weather changes and you get into the rain zone, too far from the Sunshine Coast. The Madrone trees quickly disappear.
Sample the links below...
Cortes Info... Our Cortes.
All about Cortes happenings now... CortesIsland.com.
Hollyhock (retreat centre)...Hollyhock.
Misty Isles Adventures (kayak & sail charters)...Misty Isles Adventures.
T'ai Li Lodge (lodge rental, camping, kayaking & sail charters)...T'ai Li Lodge.
and you can find me on Airbnb... sometimes I have space in my guest cottage. It's on the southeast corner... the farthest east (right side) on the map.
If you have been to Cortes or live here, then you gotta have a great story or pictures you can share...
...whether the whales, the mountains, the warm summer waters, the lakes, the storms, the beaches, the Arbutus trees, your boating or kayaking experiences or whatever!
Or perhaps your favorite bed and breakfast or camping trip or wildlife. Or maybe the characters and islanders who make this place their home.
Whatever it is or simply WHY I LOVE CORTES ISLAND, please share it here!
It's easy to do and lots of fun!
And you'll have your own web page to send friends and family to check out.
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...
Cortes Island rainforest
This is my desktop picture. It is taken of the rainforest outside my window on Cortes Island.
Cortes Island - my long distance love Not rated yet
Let me begin by saying that I have never visited Cortes Island, and yet I know lots of things about it. The reason for this is simple: I work for a travel …
Finding the Owl Feather on Cortes Island Not rated yet
Yesterday I was taking a meditative walk, breathing through my nose deeply as I made my way out to Mary Point, which is a twenty minute walk from Ron's …