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B.C.'s lousy with islands... but we might just have a new fave.
I know Quadra Island a little tougher to get to than its Gulf Island brethren, but who said great things always come easy? Besides, the journey on BC Ferries over to Nanaimo (an hour and 40 minutes from Horseshoe Bay) followed by a jaunt up Island Highway (90 minutes to Campbell River) is hardly torture: between the sail over and the winding tree-lined thoroughfare, it’s basically door-to-door west coast wilderness.
And so, despite the three-plus hours of travel I’ve logged already, I find myself in the teeny Campbell River ferry terminal (or is it a parking lot?), staring at my destination across the water and already feeling that take-a-load-off feeling. A 10-minute ride on the commuter ferry (or is it a barge?) and I’ve arrived at what will turn out to be my new favourite island. (Sorry, Hornby!)
Quieter than its more accessible B.C. island counterparts, Quadra hits that off-the-grid-but-not-too-off-the-grid sweet spot with a peppering of health food stores and quirky local pubs to keep you occupied between paddles in the harbour or leisurely hikes along the coast—ideal if you’re someone like me who likes a hearty dose of nature served up alongside modern convenience (and pizza).
Here’s how to make the most of your next weekend getaway.
Make Taku Resort your home base for the weekend. The property has been run by the Wong family for 30 years now , and they’ve got the island hospitality thing down to a science. Service is cheery and chill (caretakers bop around on golf carts with adorable toddlers in tow) and a recent renovation by Mango Design Co. means the A-frame cabins, terrace units and roomy beach-house suites all have a fresh new coastal modern look. Plus, paddleboard and kayak rentals await at the end of the marina for when you’re ready to stop soaking in the views of Desolation Sound and experience it firsthand.
The Wongs’ own accommodations (designed by the late patriarch and celebrated Canadian businessman Milton Wong) overlook the property, and house an impressive art collection in addition to the family. Sign up for one of the cooking classes on offer and you’ll find yourself checking out the giant kitchen firsthand, but see if you can snag yourself an invite up onto the house’s green roof: it was landscaped by the legendary Cornelia Oberlander. Come dinnertime, there’s also the option to cook up a storm in the communal Stone House, which opens up right onto the beach.
Snag some electric bikes from Island Cycle—the little motor will give you a much-needed boost on the hillier parts of the bike-friendly roads—and head over to Rebecca Spit. The narrow park splits the Salish Sea and Drew Harbour for waterfont views on all sides. Picnic on the rocky beaches with supplies from one of the island’s two Tru-Value Foods grocery stores or, if you happen to catch it when it’s actually open, a snack from the park’s sporadically operated Trout and Trivet food truck (which serves an intriguingly hodge-podge mix of Mexican entrees and paninis that draws an enthusiastic fanbase.)
There are only 2,500 people living on Quadra, so that means development has been sparse… and the hiking trails plentiful. You could head to the popular Chinese Mountains hike, but to explore like a local, book a guided hike—you’ll find yourself heading down barely touched backroads and splashing around in secluded swimming holes.
Toast a successful hike with a stop at South End Winery. Yes, the tasting room looks like a charmingly ramshackle toolshed, but the picnic supplies in the fridge are precisely curated—grab a pack of smoked scallops to snack on alongside a glass of the 2018 Virga.
Over on Cape Mudge, the Nuyumbaleese Cultural Centre showcases a wealth of First Nations’ artifacts and treasures, and the carving shed next door is actively producing beautiful totem poles for celebration, commemoration and welcome. Petroglyphs carved into stones throughout the area are an excellent reminder that the Kwakwaka’wakw People have been making their home here for over 3,000 years.
After a little culture, it’s off to Q Cove Plaza to poke around the bookstores and craft shops for hippie treasures—if you don’t even browse for locally crafted wind chimes, have you even really been on an island? Or, there’s the option to just settle in at Clove for some creative housemade pizzas (the Sweet Heat incorporates cranberries, jalapenos and bechamel sauce) and Vancouver Island brews on the patio while you watch the locals come and go. Got a few more hours on your bike rental? Download a map and head off on a self-guided tours of the island’s art studios.
If you’re looking for a nightcap and some local culture, stroll over to the Heriot Bay Inn Pub. Here, you’ll find karaoke, bingo and live music (“sassy Latin grooves” are on the calendar regularly this July), or even a TED-talk style lecture from one of the locals, part of the tongue-in-cheek “University of Quadra.” Consider us schooled.