Cortes Island: August, 2006
I'll admit that this is not really about a vacation but about a day's outing from Campbell River (CR). The trip began with a 10-minute ferry ride from CR to Quathiaski cove on Quadra Island, then a 15-minute drive to Heriot Bay, followed by a 45-minute ferry ride to Whaletown on Cortes. You might wonder about this approach since Cortes is close to the Mainland. But the mainland road ends at Lund, well to the South, and the area East of Cortes is known as Desolation Sound, a great place for pleasure boats but no place to build a road.
Cortes was named by Hernando Cortez in 1792. It's 25 km. long and 13 km. wide. The permanent population is about 950 but it swells during the Summer months to include well-heeled people with Summer retreats.
The scenery is spectacular on all sides, with the Coast mountains rising to 7800 feet, there's snow to be seen even in August. The waters are clear and there's that unmistakable scent of the ocean in the air.
Although the area is popular with boaters (the Seattle Yacht Club maintains floats at Manson's Landing), casual tourism does not appear to be a major industry. The well equipped campgrounds seem sparsely used but, at $25/night and at least three ferry trips to reach Cortes from Vancouver, you'd be unlikely to bring a 5th-wheel for a weekend or even a week.
There's a different lifestyle on Cortes. Everyone you meet is laid back, friendly and chatty. The coffee in the coffee shops is marked "all organic", the paper serviette in the restaurant contains unbleached recycle and post-consumer waste, one store is named "Cortes All-Natural Foods Co-Op", there are no banks, only a Credit Union. The coming entertainment at the Community Hall was someone who would play chimes and gongs. I began to wish I'd driven my Volvo instead of Eleanor's Forester. I could have driven it over a dirt road to get it dusty, covered my iron ring with a band-aid and fit right in. We saw no "Private" or "No Trespassing" signs around the Island. Our map helpfully suggested "if a road is unmarked, it's probably somebody's driveway".
The elderly minor vessel MV Tenaka shuttles between Heriot Bay and Whaletown Harbour just six times each day, carries about 40 cars and is severely limited in it's capacity for large trucks. Tourists generally dislike long waits for a ferry, and the high cost. Fortunately, B.C. Seniors do not pay passenger fares when they travel Mon. to Thurs., but we do pay for our cars, $36.15 for our round trip to Cortes. This route must be a real money loser for B.C. Ferries.
View from the deck of the Gorge Harbour Floathouse restaurant where we enjoyed an excellent lunch; seafood chowder, open-faced, grilled seafood sandwich, gelato and tea.
Squirrel Cove holds an outdoor market on Wednesdays and Sundays but there are only a few stalls and few customers. The folk music was live.
Heriot Bay Inn, Heriot Bay on Quadra Island
Eleanor takes in the view