Nestled on the rugged west coast of Canada, the Discovery Islands Archipelago is a hidden gem waiting to be uncovered by adventure seekers, nature enthusiasts, and anyone in search of a pristine, off-the-beaten-path experience. This remarkable group of islands, strung like pearls along the eastern edge of British Columbia’s coastline, offers a world of natural beauty, wildlife, and outdoor recreation that is sure to leave a lasting impression. Let’s delve into the enchanting Discovery Islands Archipelago and shed light on its fascinating history, captivating landscapes, and the myriad of activities that await those who choose to explore this coastal wonderland.
The beautiful city of Campbell River, BC – the gateway to the Discovery Islands Archipelago.
A Brief History
The Discovery Islands are named after Captain George Vancouver. On his famous voyage in the late 1700s onboard his ship the HMS Discovery, he explored and mapped the Pacific Northwest coast. The archipelago consists of 20 major islands, with some of the most prominent being Quadra Island, Cortes Island, Read Island. This stunning area is rich in Indigenous history and has been inhabited by the Wei Wai Kum, We Wai Kai, Klahoose, Homalco, and Kwiakah First Nations for thousands of years. The influence of Indigenous culture and heritage is still very much present in the Discovery Islands and adds great depth and significance to the experience of visiting.
Ancient pictographs on Cortes Island, BC. Photo by Andy Scheffler.
Stunning Natural Beauty
The Discovery Islands are renowned for their breathtaking natural beauty. Towering coastal mountains, lush rainforests, crystal-clear waters, and an abundance of wildlife make this archipelago a photographer’s dream. While exploring, you’ll be treated to awe-inspiring vistas at every turn. Whether you’re on a whale watching tour or simply taking a leisurely stroll on a beach, you’ll be surrounded by the splendour of the Pacific Northwest.
Rugged coastline near Campbell River, BC. Photo by Andy Scheffler.
The Discovery Islands are a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. The region is home to a diverse range of animals, both on land and in the water. While hiking through the old-growth forests, you might spot black bears, deer, and various bird species. In the surrounding waters, you can join a whale watching tour where you can witness pods of orcas, humpback whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, and a plethora of marine birds. You can also travel from Campbell River into Bute Inlet to watch grizzly bears fishing for salmon on a Grizzly Bear Expedition. The incredible biodiversity of this region makes it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in ecotourism.
Orcas are frequently sighted around Campbell River, BC.
One of the primary draws of the Discovery Islands is the wide array of outdoor activities available to visitors. The archipelago is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering opportunities for hiking, kayaking, fishing, sailing, and scuba diving. Whale watching from Campbell River in particular offers a unique opportunity to view this untamed, rugged coastline. If you’re a diver, you’ll be delighted by the clear waters and the abundance of marine life that thrives beneath the surface.
Whale watching tours in Campbell River are an excellent way to see the coast and the wildlife that live here! Photo by Tony Austin Photography.
While the natural wonders of the Discovery Islands take centre stage, there are also opportunities to delve into the cultural fabric of the region. You can visit local museums and art galleries in Campbell River and Quadra Island, and interact with the indigenous communities that call these islands home. Learning about the history, traditions, and contemporary life of the people of the Discovery Islands adds depth and perspective to your visit.
From its rich history and stunning natural beauty to its abundant wildlife and outdoor activities, this region offers something for everyone. If you’re looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life, and a chance to immerse yourself in the tranquil wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, the Discovery Islands are the perfect destination. So, pack your bags, set your course for this coastal wonderland, and get ready for an unforgettable journey through one of Canada’s best-kept secrets!