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Cortes is a British Columbian island off the west coast of Canada, part of the traditional territories of multiple First Nations people in the Discovery Islands at the northern end of the Salish Sea.
Originally home to the Salish First Nation, Cortes Island was mapped by Spanish explorers in the late 18th Century, led by Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conqueror of Mexico. The island now accommodates 1,000 full time residents: a variety of artists, writers, young professionals, families, bohemians and retirees, owing to its wide appeal. The majority of visitors are drawn to its tranquillity, offering an easily reachable, quiet solitude from the busy mainland cities. Making up the island are three small settlements: Whaletown, found just by the ferry dock; Manson’s Landing, surrounded by sublime beaches; and Squirrel Cove, an anchorage facing the beautiful waterways of Desolation Sound Marine Park.
For outdoor adventure types, Cortes doesn’t disappoint. From secluded beaches to winding forest paths, a hike through the island shows you many landscapes. Kwas Park’s Hague and Gunflint lakes, which are frequented by black-tailed deer, are ideal for summertime swims, too. Easter Bluff hilltop boasts one of the finest views of the mainland Coast Range, with particularly pleasant weather experienced all year round thanks to the island’s position in the rain shadow of Vancouver Island. Kayakers may encounter seals, orcas, dolphins and otters, while numerous birds such as herons, oyster catchers and cormorants are usually spotted onshore.
As well as multiple musical events throughout the year, the cultural calendar of Cortes is filled with fantastic events like the Seafood Festival in May, Museum Garden and Studio Tour in June and Sandcastle Day in August. With a strong handcrafts community, you can also enjoy the bustling outdoor markets in each village, where local artisans, fishermen and artists sell their produce.
Getting to Cortes Island by ferry is the best choice of transport, owing to the high number of crossings every day, lasting under an hour. Operated by British Columbia’s leading ferry company, the journey departs Heriot Bay, arriving in Whaletown on the west coast of Cortes, giving you easy access to the island’s attractions.