Quadra Island was home to the Coast Salish peoples until the arrival of Captain George Vancouver in the late 18th-century. He came to Cape Mudge in 1792 and found a settled community with long houses, boats, and approximately 350 residents. It was not his arrival, however, that drove them out, but rather an invasion by other First Nations people in the early 19th-century. The We Wai Kai band of the Kwagiulth continue to live in the village of Cape Mudge today.
Quadra Island was named after Don Juan Franscisco de la Bodega y Quadra, the Spanish Naval Officer and close friend of George Vancouver. The island remained a pristine wilderness until the 1880s, when it became known as one of the few Gulf Islands where both logging and mining could be profitable. The Lucky Jim mine opened in 1903 and for a time yielded tonnes of gold and copper ore. A fish-canning plant also flourished in the early 1900s, at its heyday employing between 200-300 workers. It burnt down in 1941 and was never rebuilt. By 1904, Quadra had two post offices, a school, hotel, lumber camps, mills, and a mission. A passenger ferry started in 1949 and a car ferry in 1960.
Today, Quadra Island is home to a lively close-knit community of 2,700 people from all walks of life and all parts of the world. The We Wai Kai band of the indigenous Laichwiltach People, (Kwakwak'awakw First Nation) reside at Cape Mudge (Yaculta). Nearby Quathiaski Cove is the main port of arrival and commercial hub of the island. Picturesque Heriot Bay serves as the departure point for the ferry to Cortes Island and other boat services to the outer Discovery Islands.
The Discovery Islands are a group of rugged, forested islands located 150 km (100 mi) north west of Vancouver. Quadra Island is served by a 10-minute ferry service via Campbell River on Vancouver Island.
Heriot Bay is the picturesque hub of the east side of Quadra Island, facing the dramatic views of the mainland coast. It is the port of departure for the regular ferry service to Cortes Island. There are an abundance of things to see and do including the art gallery, Government Wharf, boat & kayak rentals, camping, and more. Heriot Bay is also the point of departure for the north end of Quadra Island which includes, Granite Bay, Bold Point, Surge Narrows, Walcan, Main Lakes Chain, Open Bay, Village Bay Lake and many of the hiking trails that criss-cross the upper end of the island.
Cape Mudge village (Yaculta) is located on the south west shore of Quadra Island in a picturesque bay looking across Discovery Passage. The village is surrounded by 1,100 acres of temperate rainforest and is home to the We Wai Kai band of the Laichwiltach People, part of the Kwakwak'awakw First Nation. The rich culture of the Kwakwak'awakw is showcased in the reknowned Museum at Cape Mudge. The adjacent Artists & Carving Centre provides a spectacular facility for the creation of new works.
The Nuyumabales Cultural Centre has a significant collection of historical artifacts, ceremonial regalia, and carvings and is a major attraction for students of native history and culture. On the waterfront is the Ah-Wa-Qwa-Dzas (Gathering Place) built in Spring of 2007. A collection of old totem poles around the Nuyumabales Cultural Centre always inspires visitors. Modern native artists carve at Cape Mudge Village. A new canoe shed on the waterfront near the administration building houses a magnificent canoe (launched in 2004) - the first to be carved in 100 years.
The Cape Mudge Lighthouse, staffed and operational, is accessible by road and is also linked by trail from Cape Mudge Village. Located on the south end of the island, it is near the site of the original native village visited by Captain Vancouver in 1792. Here petroglyphs from centuries ago can be seen at low tide.
Main Lake Park is home to some of the largest freshwater lakes found on the islands of the Georgia Basin. Highlights of this park are: the giant douglas fir trees around Stramberg Lake, the canoe camping circuit through the lake chain, the portage route to saltwater at Yeatman Bay and hiking the old roads and backcountry routes through the forest.
Rebecca Spit Marine Provincial Park - a narrow hook of land on the east side of Quadra Island - is an excellent area for beach exploration and picnicking. Sandy beaches line both sides of the 2-km spit at this popular day-use park overlooking sheltered Drew Harbour, a favorite anchorage for boaters. Walking trails lead along both sides of Rebecca Spit and offer ample opportunities for exploring the beach, which contains a high concentration of driftwood. Swimming, fishing and kayaking are all popular activities at Rebecca Spit's large picnic area. Facilities include picnic tables overlooking the beach, a grass playing field, wheelchair accessible pit toilets and fresh water.
The waters around Quadra Island have yielded some of the largest salmon ever caught on BC's west coast. Although much of the activity is centred in nearby Campbell River on Vancouver Island, there's plenty of action around Quadra, particularly at Quathiaski Cove, where the ferry linking Quadra and Campbell River docks. Anglers also congregate in the waters off Cape Mudge, Copper Bluffs and April Point, and at the entrance to Quathiaski Cove around Grouse Island. Good fishing is also found in the protected waters around Rebecca Spit Marine Provincial Park, where a popular public boat ramp is located. Inland on Quadra, cutthroat trout are numerous in the freshwater regions of Village Bay, Mine, and Main Lakes.
Hiking opportunities are plentiful on Quadra Island, whether you enjoy a gentle stroll or a more vigorous all-day hike. Islanders volunteer their time to maintain and expand the network of over 200 km (125 mi) of trails on the island. Quadra's hiking trails traverse a wide range of terrain, including beaches, broad open meadows, mountains, and forests. Pick up a copy of the Quadra Island Trails Map for trail descriptions and directions. Guided hiking tours are also available.
Quadra's rich marine environment and extensive freshwater lakes system provide many choices for boaters and anglers. The sheltered waters on the east side of Quadra are ideal for sea kayaking. Local kayak companies offer day, multi-day, and mothership tours, as well as rentals. With full service marinas and safe anchorages, Quadra is a popular sailing destination close to Desolation Sound. The island is surrounded by hot fishing spots, luring many anglers back year after year. Enhance your island experience by going on a guided fishing, sailing, or wildlife-viewing boat trip.
Blessed by some of the clearest waters in the world inhabited by a diverse array of marine plant and animal species, Quadra is a mecca for scuba divers. The HMCS Columbia was sunk off Quadra's shoreline in 1996, creating an artificial reef for underwater life. Named one of the top locations for diving in the world by the Jacques Cousteau Society, Quadra offers a variety of dives for people of all ability levels. Local dive companies offer charters and equipment rentals.
One of the best ways to see Quadra, cycling is a relaxing island activity. You can choose to tour Quadra's scenic roadways or to explore the many trails on the island, ranging from easy to challenging. Many interesting sights are within a short pedalling distance of Quathiaski Cove or Heriot Bay. Guided cycling tours and rentals are available.
Browsing galleries and studios can provide a relaxing alternative to outdoor activities. The creative spirit is strong here and is reflected in the quality work produced by the Island's artists and artisans. Studio tours are available.
Quadra Island Tourism
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia