Destinations the Gulf Islands

Wallace Island Provincial Marine Park

Tuesday, January 20, 2015S.V. CAMBRIA

I like an anchorage with a story to tell, so it’s no surprise that Wallace Island Marine Park in the southern Gulf Islands landed on our radar. What is surprising, though, is that it took six years to get there.

Located between Galiano and Saltspring Islands in Trincomali Channel, little is written about Wallace Island before the arrival of David and Jeanne Conover, a newly married couple from Southern California who purchased it in 1946 for CA$20,000 (approximately US$200,000 today) to build a vacation resort.  At the time, Wallace Island was a remote location and the living conditions were difficult.  The Conovers had little experience or know-how but, through a series of ups and downs that are recounted in a book later written by David called “Once Upon an Island”, they achieved their dream and built the Royal Cedar Cottages.  The resort was made up of ten structures including guest cottages, the Conover’s home, a recreation hall and some support buildings. Most of them are gone today but there are three cottages still standing, one of which is open and has become home to decorated driftwood and flotsam left behind by visiting boaters.

The resort and most of the island were sold in the mid to late 1960s to a group of teachers out of Seattle.  The Conovers kept 5.25 hectares in Princess Cove where they built a new house.  Jeanne moved to Victoria so their son could attend high school while David lived on the island to pursue his new dream – writing full-time.  She went back and forth for a while, but they eventually divorced.  In the meantime, disagreements amongst the new owners led to a court dispute and the island was once again put up for sale. In 1990, through the efforts of the provincial government and BC MarineParks Forever, it was purchased and a new marine park was created.  However, the land in Princess Cove remains private.

While Wallace Island Marine Park is no longer a remote destination, it can still only be reached by private vessel and has several anchoring options – the most popular are Conover and Princess Coves.  We didn’t anchor in Conover Cove because it’s shallow and tight, so we don’t have any first-hand information to share other than to say there’s a BC Park’s dock on the eastern shore with room for several boats (36’ feet or less).  The cost is CA$2 per metre from May 1 through September 30 (fees are not collected during the off-season). 

Princess Cove, to the north, is a quieter option with more room and depth for visiting boats but, like Conover Cove, requires care when entering to avoid the rocks and reefs that surround the entrance.  Once inside, you’ll find good protection from wind with good holding in depths of approximately 7 metres (23 feet).  Swinging room, however, is limited and stern-tying is the norm, especially in the busy summer months.  The land and docks along the eastern shore are private, but there’s a dinghy dock along the west side of the cove for shore access.

The park has a good trail system that will take you from one end of the island to the other through a low forest with several small beaches and coves to explore along the way.  The interior trails are well-maintained and easy to walk with little gain in elevation so they’re suitable for children, but the ones that follow the coastline feel like they were blazed by goats at times.  The onshore facilities are limited but include walk-in campsites, picnic areas and pit toilets. 

Disclaimer:  This blog article is not to be used for navigation.  It is solely an opinion based on our personal experience in Princess Cove during settled weather conditions.  Consult charts and cruising guides carefully before entering and anchoring.

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