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Home / Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands / North Central Vancouver Island / Tahsis


Tahsis from Lookout, British Columbia

The Village of Tahsis is set amidst a rugged landscape on the western edge of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The lush rainforest, steep fjord-like mountains that slope down towards the Pacific Ocean draw many adventurers to experience this pristine coastal area.

Tahsis provides an abundance of outdoor activities that will delight and thrill the most discerning outdoor enthusiast - hiking, caving, saltwater and freshwater fishing, kayaking, scuba diving, surfing, kite boarding and more.

Exploring the Tahsis Original Townsite provides a glimpse of the area's history and a spectacular view can be had from Tipperary Park at the top of Princess Victoria View. Walking trails, boardwalks, salt marshes with wildlife viewing platforms are all a short walk from the centre of town.


Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Tahsis is situated in the north-central region of the Island. Vancouver Island can be reached via ferry from Port Angeles and Seattle in the U.S. and from Tsawwassen and West Vancouver on the mainland of BC. Ferry schedule information is available from BC Ferries.

From Victoria or Nanaimo ferry terminal take Island Highway (Hwy 19) to Campbell River. Turn west on Hwy 28 at Campbell River to Gold River and on to Tahsis via the "Tree to Sea Drive".  Driving distances are: 421 km (263 mi) from Victoria, 310 km (193 mi) from Nanaimo and 157 km (100 mi) from Campbell River. From Campbell River, it is approximately a 3-hour drive to Tahsis.

Things to See and Do
  • Hiking

Tahsis View, British ColumbiaThere are hiking trails near Tahsis with different levels of difficulty. Trail maps are available. An easy hike is the Leiner Bouldering Trail just outside Tahsis east of the Leiner Bridge. There is ample parking and the loop walk is approximately 30 minutes. Several trails can be accessed from West Bay Park at the end of town including Coral Cave and the Lookout. These two destinations take 3 - 4 hours for an experienced hiker but the breathtaking views of Tahsis Inlet are well worth the effort. The Maquinna Trail is a rugged route east of Tahsis. The Woss Lake Grease Trail follows the ancient trade route used by First Nations and is 12 km (7.5 mi) in length. The trail follows the flat valley bottom and Tahsis River, then climbs steeply at the headwaters reaching a height of 550 metres (1,800 ft) before descending to Woss Lake. The Nootka Trail hugs the west coast of Nootka Island and offers an unsurpassed wilderness hiking experience. Hikers will traverse beaches, secluded bays and stunning headlands jutting into the Pacific Ocean. Most people take five days or longer to complete the walk.

  • Kayaking

Tahsis Kayaking, British ColumbiaKayaking is popular in the Tahsis River and Leiner Estuary where both wildlife and scenery delight. Tahsis Inlet and Nootka Sound are excellent day trips with kayakers going out on the morning tide and returning on the evening tide. Friendly Cove (Yuquot) is an all-day paddle from Tahsis. This historic site is where Captain Cook first navigated to the West Coast of British Columbia. Esperanza Inlet and Nuchaltlitz is a one day paddle. Kayakers can take a break at Esperanza then continue on to the Garden Point and Rosa Island just off Nootka Island.

  • Caving

Tahsis Caving, British ColumbiaCavers come from all over the world to explore the more than 50 km (30 mi) of tunnels and passages in and around Tahsis. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of Upana Caves near Gold River but guides are required for most other caves. The Upana Caves were formed by an underground stream and are 300 metres long with many entrances. These caves were used in the movie "Huckleberry Finn". Coral Cave is the most accessible near Tahsis. It is over a kilometre long, requires some climbing and should not be used during rainfalls. Caves are constantly being discovered in this area. Lights, helmets and proper footwear as well as warm clothing and gloves are required in all caves.

  • Scuba Diving & Snorkelling

Tahsis Underwater, British ColumbiaScuba divers can dive from the municipal dock in Tahsis to see 6-gill sharks as they come out of the depths to feed on spawning salmon. A rare coral grove at Mozino Point in the Tahsis Narrows displays intense colour. Carpets of pink strawberry anemones, Puget Sound King Crabs and Cloud Sponges are found in Tahsis Narrows.

Snorkeling is popular in the late summer and early fall in the Tahsis and Leiner Rivers when the salmon return to spawn.

  • Surfing

Spectacular surfing waves can be found on the outside edge of Nootka Island, the Brooks Peninsula and Hesquiat Peninsula. Stunning beaches, waterfalls and coastal mountains provide the backdrop.

  • Wildlife Viewing

Tahsis is well-known for its birdlife from migratory hummingbirds that gather in the town of Tahsis from March to late June, to wild swans, Bald Eagles, tufted puffins, the great blue heron, petrels, loons, black brants, teals, pintails and many more.

Orca whales, porpoise, gray whales and humpbacks are found in the Nootka area as they migrate along the coast.
Black bear, elk, cougars, wolf and deer are found in the area and drivers are asked to be careful as wildlife are frequently found along the road.

  • Fishing

Saltwater Fishing is very popular in the Nootka Sound and Esperanza Inlet with fishers coming from all over the world to catch salmon, halibut, ling cod, snapper and rockfish. Shellfish are also found in abundance.

Freshwater fishing is also popular with many lakes within an hour's drive of Tahsis. Some of the lakes are stocked with rainbow and cutthroat trout. In the Conuma River there are excellent fishing opportunities for steelhead and trout. The spring and fall are the best times for lake fishing.

A Step Back in Time

The Village of "Tahsis" or "the gateway" is located at the head of Tahsis Inlet, on the west coast of British Columbia. The First Nations peoples have lived in this area for some four thousand years however, native villages sprang up about two thousand years ago as the population increased.

While the Spanish were the first Europeans to arrive in Tahsis in 1774 followed by Captain Cook of England in 1778, it was in 1792 that Captain Juan Bodega y Quadra of Spain and Captain George Vancouver of England paid honour to Chief Maquinna, as the most important chief in Nootka Sound. On his return journey to Nootka Sound from Tahsis, Captain Vancouver named the island, "Quadra and Vancouver's Island" now just called Vancouver Island.

The fur trade remained the main economic driver of the area until the early 1900s when logging was introduced. Many companies attempted to establish sawmills in the area but it wasn't until the 1940s that a successful operation took hold providing a thriving new economy for the Village of Tahsis.

Tahsis expanded in the 1950s with two churches and a school. The road from Tahsis to Gold River was opened in 1972 and Tahsis was incorporated as a municipality. Whilst the population of Tahsis grew to 2,500, once the mill closed in 2001 the population declined and today there are some 300 permanent residents living in Tahsis. Sport fishing, outdoor recreation and tourism are the main economic drivers today.

The Tahsis Museum provides a look back into the past of life in this small town, starting from its beginnings to the current day. The museum houses Nootka First Nations culture, the natural history of the area and the development of logging.

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Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia

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