Discovery Islands

Island hopping in a kayak


A little tougher


BC’s Discovery Islands are off the east coast of Vancouver Island, and are prime for exploring. Camping and kayaking around beaches and marine parks lead to crazy beautiful views and hiking spots at every turn. For a few nights, all you’ll have to worry about is who’s setting up the tent and who’s paddling.


Discovery Islands

Quadra Island, Comox-Strathcona J, BC, Canada

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Time from Vancouver (car and ferry)

5 hours



Planning your trip

The details you need for a weekend escape

Plan ahead

Before you leave, register with BC Parks’ backcountry registration system. Click on Desolation Sound Marine and you’ll be able to pay for a permit ($5 a head for anyone over six years old.) Once that’s sorted, drive and ferry to Campbell River and from there, ferry again across to Quadra Island.

Trade your car for a kayak

Just south of the main town on Quadra is Heriot Bay, which makes for an ideal first destination. Once there, ditch your vehicle and hop in a kayak. If you haven’t brought your own, or rented one from MEC in advance, there are three local options for this: Quadra Island Kayaks, Spirit of the West Adventures and Nimbus Paddles. From here on out, your boat will be your preferred mode of transportation. If you’re new to kayaking, look into guided tours, or check out intro kayaking and marine navigation MEC workshops to gain skills and know-how before you launch into the water.

Paddle to Cortes

From Heriot Bay, paddle to Cortes Island for lunch and tour around the small town located on the coast of the island. Keep an eye out for wildlife, like sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks.

Take a dip in the ocean

Cortes has many beaches that – in the right season, of course – are great for swimming. Check out Smelt Bay Provincial Park, a kid-friendly beach that is great for swimming and beachcombing at low tide. Or, stick around for the evening and watch the sunset from here as well.

Sleep under the trees

Kayak on over to Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park, where the camping permit you purchased before you left will come in handy. Note that the permit doesn’t actually guarantee you a spot on the campgrounds, so you’ll want to time your trip wisely so you can snag one of the 11 designated camping spots. Your best bet is the Middle Copeland campsite, which can be accessed easily by kayak from Cortes.

Essential Gear

Find what you’ll need to have fun on the islands.

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