British Columbia Destinations

Way Back Wednesday | Wallace Island Marine Park

Friday, November 11, 2016S.V. CAMBRIA



It’s Way Back Wednesday, an opportunity to dig through the files and pull out an old blog post to shed some new light on it. It’s a bit of a cheat, really: Reposting something old rather than writing something new. But so much information gets lost in the mix that it’s also an important part of the process. It's also not Wednesday. That's because today was going to be "Flashback Friday" until I realized my Wednesday blog hop, Word of the Week, is supposed to be posted on Fridays (which makes more sense, really).

Over the years, I’ve written several posts about anchorages we’ve stayed in. Each one includes anchoring information (i.e. holding, protection, GPS coordinates), historical information and a list of things to do. To date, I’ve done 26 of these (they can all be found on our Destinations page) and they’re some of my favourite posts. For the next six months, I’ll be highlighting one every Friday (from south to north) and adding a few new ones in where I can. First up, Wallace Island Provincial Marine Park in British Columbia’s beautiful Gulf Islands (originally posted here on January 20, 2015):

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 among 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. Anchorages offering more privacy can also be found along the entire stretch of the island in Houstoun Passage during settled conditions and off Panther Point at the southern end in an unnamed bay.


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. 


Note:  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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4 comments

  1. What a great destination! Is there a car ferry? The automobile club sponsorship makes me wonder!

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    1. Lol. Nope, no ferry service. But there is an old truck rusting out in one of the fields . . . I wonder if they kept up their auto club membership.

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  2. I never seem to know what day of the week it is, so when I saw your blog post title I assumed it was Wednesday until I read it. I love the story behind the island.

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    1. Yeah, I got a little confused last week but I'm ahead of the game and ready for the next one . . . I think.

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