The First Nations people have lived on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands for centuries. Place names show a diversity of origins, including various languages of the First Nations people and European explorers, traders, and settlers. Thetis Island got its name from the HMS Thetis (in turn named after Thetis the Neriad, a sea nymph daughter of Zeus and the mother of mighty Achilles), a British 36 gun frigate that was on the Pacific station from 1851 to 1853 and surveyed the area.
Non-native pioneers first moved onto Thetis in 1873. In 1896 Lawrence Trail was built through the centre of the Island to provide access from Preedy Harbour to the Lawrence homestead on Pilkey Point. Thetis Island and Kuper Island to the south, home of the Penelakut First Nation, were originally joined by mud flats. In 1905 a "cut" was dredged for the first time to allow boat traffic through. This cut now provides a second, tidal access to Telegraph Harbour at the south end of the island.
Thetis Island is located in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia, between Vancouver Island and the mainland of BC. The Island is served by float plane from Vancouver and Victoria, and BC Ferries operates a scheduled vehicle and passenger ferry service from Chemainus to Thetis and Kuper Island, with a minimum of 10 daily round trip sailings.
Thetis Island Marina is nestled in Telegraph Harbour, between Thetis and Kuper Islands. As one of the best-protected, scenic locations in the Gulf Islands, it is the perfect spot to rendezvous, relax and enjoy. Thetis Island Marina offers full amenities, including a restaurant, pub, liquor store, post office, and convenience store. Moorage is available with shore power and there are expanses of lawn, a large covered area for gatherings, swings, shade trees, horseshoe pits and barbecue facilities. Thetis Island Marina and Ladysmith Yacht Club host an annual regatta in May which includes a race around both Thetis and Kuper Islands.
Thetis Island Vineyard is located on a ten acre, south-facing moraine-covered hill with views across the forest canopy to the Stuart Channel and Vancouver Island. The vineyard was first cleared and planted in 2000 by Colin Sparkes and family, who emigrated from Heidelberg in Germany. The winery is complete with an on-site store. The main product is the very popular Wild (organic) Blackberry Fruit Wine picked by the Kuper Island First Nations. Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Marachel Foch, Merlot, and Blueberry Fruit Wine are also made and sold here.
Pilkey Point on the northeast tip of Thetis is a popular place to picnic and swim on a summer evening, while watching the sun set.
Most visitors arriving by boat look forward to a walk to stretch their legs, and Thetis has a very quiet, safe road network to do just that. There is little traffic, and everyone is aware of foot traffic, and slows accordingly. Wave, and you will get a return wave. As you walk or ride around Thetis, keep your eyes open, as wildlife abounds. There are numerous deer that will often walk right before you across the road, or just graze alongside, paying you little attention. There are also eagles, owls and other birds in abundance. The best time to see eagles is in April and May, when they gather, and can be seen right in front of the marina fishing on the Kuper Island shore, and teaching their young hunting skills. They fly low enough over the deck so that you can see the colour of their eyes very clearly, making you wonder if they are sizing you up as they go. The pub and the store have a small local visitors guide which will show you the island, a road map, and a list of the various sights and services.
Kuper Island is a First Nations Reserve, home to the Penelakut Band. There are no commercial facilities on Kuper, and the normal convention is to be invited before going there. Many of the residents of Kuper Island visit Thetis regularly, and there are a group of talented carvers who are at the Saturday market in the summer, selling traditional native art. A genuine native carving makes a great gift or memento of your trip to the Gulf Islands.
The area around Thetis is one of the best anywhere for kayakers. There are birds and sea life in abundance, the area is safe, the waters are protected, and there are countless spots to enjoy along the coasts of the many islands. It is wise to check for private property before venturing ashore, as some islands are homes, and not open to public access. Ask a local here, and they can brief you on which islands are private. If you wish to rent a kayak, there are places nearby.
Diving is a popular and exciting pastime in the vicinity, and there are several divemasters who can organize and conduct an expedition for you. A dive tour wouldn't be complete without a picture in the cockpit of the Boeing 737 that rests on the ocean floor near here.
The horseshoe-shape geography of Thetis Island lends itself to relatively short out-and-back cycling trips on quiet, paved roads. The two most popular, after turning left from the ferry dock, are North Cove Road (5 km (3 mi) in one direction) and Pilkey Point Road (8 km (5 mi)). Both are inland, with Pilkey Point Road offering some ocean views, especially from atop Moore Hill and at Pilkey Point itself. The short, 300-foot climb up Moore Hill may challenge some casual cyclists. Thetis has no bike shops or off-road biking opportunities on public land. Ocean access is on public road allowances. Because there are no commercial facilities beyond the island's two marinas, cyclists should carry their own food, drinks, spare tubes and tools.
Thetis Island Marina
Thetis Island Community Website
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia