Gulf Islands / San Juan Islands
Made up of over a dozen large islands, the Gulf Islands is interspersed with a multitude of islets too numerous to count. This west coast Gulf Island paradise is a small taste of the Mediterranean, blended with a unique Canadian flavor.
The Gulf Islands enjoy less than 30 inches of rain per year. They lie southwest of the Strait of Georgia, between Campbell River to the north and Victoria to the south. This necklace of islands is surrounded by sheltered waters, strong tides, and dramatic coastlines.
Desolation Sound Marine Park possesses a magical magnetism that draws boaters and paddlers from distant shores. Most of those who arrive aboard ‘stinkpots’ tend to congregate in popular anchorages, such as Prideaux Haven, Tenedos Bay, and Grace Harbour, much as ‘fifth-wheelers’ converge on RV parks. Be a little more imaginative and you’ll find plenty of isolated bays and campsites throughout Desolation Sound’s more than 37 miles (60 km) of coastline.
Safe anchorages in Desolation Sound Marine Park, at the confluence of Malaspina Inlet and Homfray Channel, include:
A long and narrow sheltered bay located on Gifford Peninsula in Malaspina Inlet. The inner part of Grace Harbour is completely protected from all winds and seas. There are a few wilderness camping spots at the end of the bay, and a series of hiking trails. Follow the trail at the northern end of the harbour to a small, peaceful, freshwater beaver lake. Facilities include pit toilets and an information shelter.
Galley Bay and Isabel Bay or other bays provide anchorage for cruising boats and landing spots for kayakers wishing to explore ashore or set up camp for the night.
Thors Cove is outside the Park – with a southeast wind blowing up Okeover Inlet and out Malaspina, this same wind will blow up Lancelot Inlet as a southerly and almost directly into Thors Cove as a westerly. The best protection in these circumstances can be found in the extreme south end of the cove or directly behind a tiny inlet near the south end.
The current runs quite quickly through the narrow twisting channel which opens up inside Theodosia. Theodosia Inlet is almost a lagoon – good anchorage is available throughout the Inlet as well as behind this islet.
Several temporary anchorages are possible near the head of Wootton Bay with good protection from the nighttime westerly but somewhat exposed to anything from the south or southeast.
Mink Island is outside the park boundaries but is still a very popular anchorage in Desolation Sound. The outer anchorage is fairly deep and completely open to the east. Shallower, more protected anchorage is possible behind a small islet near the head of the cove.
Bold Head shelters this beautiful bay south of Prideaux Haven, in Homfray Channel. Favoured anchorages in Tenedos Bay are inside the island on the bay’s northern shore, or at the head of the bay, near Unwin Lake. A pleasant stroll along a trail leads to Unwin Lake, an ideal fresh and warm water swimming spot. Facilities include campsites, pit toilets, and an information shelter. Kayakers and campers can explore nearby Mink, Curme and Otter Islands.
Strategically located as a base for boaters to explore the Sound, this anchorage is an elongated bay dotted with islands, small coves, and passageways. Prideaux Haven is one of the most beautiful anchorages in Desolation Sound. This is a marvelous place to explore by kayak, paddling among small coves, inlets, and islands. Ashore, interesting tidal pools and marshes will enthrall you with an abundance of marine organisms, birds, and waterfowl.
Melanie Cove and Laura Cove
These are favored anchorages for boaters, although anchorage is available at a number of locations along the shoreline. Because of pool tidal circulation, the anchorages of Desolation Sound Marine Park are no-discharge zones; visitors must use holdings tanks or shore-side facilities where available. Boaters should also bring their own drinking water and boil any surface water prior to consumption. The park contains several parcels of private land. Kayakers should note in particular that the land at the head of Portage Cove is private, and there is no access across the Gifford Peninsula at that point.
The pristine waters of Desolation Sound are surrounded by steep evergreen mountains, all teeming with the wildest of wildlife. One of the prime attractions of these waters is their warmth in summer months, which makes them ideal for swimming and snorkeling. The scenery is less severe than many of the other sheer-sided waterways along the central coast, although just as majestic. Snowcapped peaks of the Coast Mountains soar from the tideline to heights of 7,875 feet (2400 m).
Many yachtsmen regard the Desolation Sound area as not only the most beautiful and varied cruising area in BC but equal to, if not better than any other area in the rest of the world. In the variety of spectacular scenery, warm summer climate, an abundance of shelter and anchorages, this area is a microcosm of all that is best about saltwater cruising in British Columbia.