Kayaking to Wallace Island

Leaving Horseshoe Bay on a crack-of-dawn ferry gets us kayaking on  Wallace Island Marine Provincial Park by noon. Since my last blog-post from Thetis Island, we’ve wanted to kayak-camp on Wallace.

Summer ferries run hourly from Crofton, Vancouver Island to Vesuvius, Salt Spring Island

First in line at Crofton ferry facing Salt Spring Island

From Nanaimo, it’s an hour’s drive south to Crofton where a group of Cowichan kayakers are headed our way on a daytrip.  They lead us to Hudson Point, a kilometer north of Fernwood Dock on Salt Spring’s northeast side.

‘Turn right, left, right, left,’ says Richard before we convoy across the top of Salt Spring Island.

That final left bookmarks our end target, the Fernwood Road Café where we’ll do as they say:  ‘eat, drink, relax, socialize’.  Open seven days a week from early June til end of August, the locals say it’s worth it.

We drive down Hudson Point’s short hill to unload the boat and the car, pack the boat, leaving the car on the street.  The Cowichan kayakers show us how. (I assume they’re members of the Cowichan Kayak and Canoe Club; we’re so busy packing we miss their affiliation.)

Once we’re loaded, we cross a relatively-calm Houstoun Passage, named after Captain (and surveyor) Wallace Houstoun, to the island bearing his Christian name.  A red-marker buoy beckons and points like an index finger to Conover Cove, a half-hour paddle in moderately-calm water. We’ve wind-weather-tide checked it out.

I’ll read David Conover’s Once Upon An Island* on our return.  For now, we bi-pass the in-and-out of boats moored in Conover Cove.  We bi-pass Princess Cove and the eleven acres of private land.

Harbour seals soak up the sun; we zoom in and on.

Honour their space. I’ve zoomed in for this scene.

We meander 45 minutes north past lounging seals on the diminishing rocks or reefs with a rising-tide at our backs.

“The pups are five weeks older and wiser since our last visit, and just as playful!”

The trail that crosses Wallace comes out at Chivers Pt. visible with the sun on it to the right side of photo

Members of the Cowichan Kayak and Canoe Club take turns into Chivers Point, kayaking to Wallace Island

We pull in to Chivers Point, just around the top of Wallace.  Don’t blink your paddle, or you’ll miss it.

Jeremiah Chivers was an 1860s (likely Cariboo) gold rusher who staked a retirement claim here, dying at 92 on the island.

The eight CKCC kayakers land two by two between folding tongues of rock on the sandy-pebbly beach.  To any other passers-by, we’d appear to be a full slate: ten people and  nine tent pads, but our Cowichan friends aren’t staying.  Its mid-afternoon and the oasis is ours.

We pop our $20 registration into the slot for wilderness camping ($5/person/night), a small price to pay for the data and funds needed to provide trail maintenance and a fully-equipped and vented pit toilet: a broom, TP and hand sanitizer at your disposal!

Kayaking to Wallace Island and hiking, too

A ‘Kayaking to Wallace Island’ stretch-o’-the legs

Walkers visit us from Conover Cove, three miles out then back—a ten-kilometer round trip through the woods.  And since we’re the only campers there…

“Where’s your boat?”  “Where are you from?”  “How did you get here?”

The Wallace Island trail--you can't get lost

There’s really only one trail

A resident harbour seal patrols.  The tide rises and falls.  Kingfishers chatter.  We position camp chairs to admire diverse wind-and-wave patterns on sky-and-water.  For lunch, it’s crackers, canned oysters and apple sauce.  For dinner, it’s OMG burgers with a sweet pepper relish and a glass of Chablis.  The night passes peacefully with raccoons   chittering– rolling and splashing beach rocks. Our food’s safely stashed in the cache thanks to BC Parks.

Kayaking to Wallace Island has its rewards

Sunset from Chivers Point

We round South Secretary on a morning high tide, through the gap alongside the larger, North Secretary, over to Jackscrew Island to view an outdoor totem gallery. Nearing high tide is a good time to float in for a closer look.  They’re a milk-and-dark-chocolate-brown-stained hue.  We spot bear, frog, hummingbird, human and eagle. Colourful and contemporary, with ancient motifs.

Aboriginal motifs are represented along Jackscrew Island's shoreline

top to bottom: man, eagle, frog, bear eating salmon

My favorite is the powerful neck, torso, and thighs of Welcome Man*— arms outstretched, palms open, standing square (almost pigeon-toed) a serious expression.  The cedar hat covers his shoulder-length hair; the cedar tassel covers his modesty.  The wood grains match his sinews.

Welcoming Man outstretches arms from Jackscrew Isld en route from Southey Pt., Kayaking to Wallace Island

The Welcome Man: * Emily Carr painted a 1913 rendition in silhouette* This one’s in 3-D

Welcomes were serious occasions historically, sometimes meant to intimidate. We take our welcome seriously too. This is a private island and without permission from the caretaker, we stay offshore.  Our kayak floats in a half foot of water, up-close yet not-too-close.

Kayaking on Wallace Island and surrounds

Oyster catchers’ catch

We finish our circumnavigation of Wallace Island our last day.  The river otters and black-tailed-deer  aren’t showing their faces.  Galiano Island’s Bodega Ridge four-kilometer-high rock face smiles at us across Trincomali Chanel.  We round Panther Point (like most water features, it’s named after the ship that sunk here) and spy a pair of oyster catchers.

Conover Cove's driftwood display

Kayaking to Wallace Island: Conover Cove’s  inscribed driftwood memorabilia

Stretching legs at Conover Cove, we revisit what was once the Conover family’s island resort complete with cabins, store, boating rentals and a recreational hall.  Camaraderie is still here, shared over driftwood art, engraved with visitors’ names, dates ‘n’ ditties.

Driftwood museum and eight open field campsites at Conover Cove with a cabin relic from 1940s-50s holiday resort

Follow your inner quail at Fernwood Road Cafe

Chowdown: Fernwood Road Cafe

Crossing back to Fernwood Road Café, we’re ready for an apple-dried cherry-pecan-blue cheese salad with delectibly-nibbly apple cider dressing. A cap on this expedition: a cap on kayaking to Wallace Island.



For more tips on kayaking to Wallace Island, I recommend this excellent blog, David Barnes’ Kayak Rogue.

  • Having now read Once Upon An Island, I highly recommend it as well.

4 thoughts on “Kayaking to Wallace Island

  1. Hey Joan, glad to see you made it to my wonderful backyard. Wallace is one of my favorites and most of last spring I used it as a training paddle doing laps around the island in preparation for paddling the Yukon River Quest. Thanks for the linking to my post on the subject as well. I must get back to adding to my blog…stay tuned!

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