Photo and Story by Audrey Wilson

There's always something new to discover at Nanaimo's own marine park

Lat/Long: 49° 10.8' N, 123° 55.8' W

In my youth, summers in Nanaimo were not complete without a visit to Newcastle Island. Just a short boat ride away, it offered beautiful beaches, hiking trails, a rich history and an enticing shoreline. My mom and I would save our coins for the ferry fare and, eager with anticipation, savour every moment of the ride. We spent hours beachcombing, clambering over the beautifully marked and unusually-shaped sandstone boulders that make up the shoreline, finding small sea treasures, and investigating the tide pools from the ferry dock around to Kanaka Bay. We would return home exhausted, sunburnt and feeling as if we had been away to a summer resort.

For my own daughter, it was very much about swimming at those same beaches. Sitting in the cut between Newcastle and Protection islands at low tide, we dug for clams, played in the sandy mud and waited for the water to flood in from both directions to meet us in the middle. Floating on our backs, we would face the ocean and watch the ferries go by, then about-face to take in the view of Nanaimo Harbour and Mount Benson. As time passes all too quickly, it is now my adult daughter who accompanies me to the island. On our 27’ US Yachts sailboat Wee Dream it is easy to pick up a mooring buoy and spend a fun summer night swimming and walking the shoreline.

So imagine my surprise, after all these years, that when we took up kayaking we found yet more of Newcastle to explore. From Newcastle Island Passage, the many sandstone boulders that were once unreachable are now easy to view and explore. The channel is marvellous habitat for starfish, herons, sea lions and seals. At low tide, we can portage across the cut or simply rest and await the rushing flood tide. Off Nares Point we can enjoy riding riding ferry waves.

Once again, Newcastle has rewarded us with an exceptional summer outing, made even more special by the company we kept and the memories we took home with us.

Audrey Wilson’s first boating experience was living aboard as a child with her parents in the late’60s. She and husband Calvin bought their US Yachts 27 in 2011 and are discovering the joys of sailing around Nanaimo and the Gulf Islands.

Photo Caption: A stunning view of the Strait of Georgia from Newcastle Island's sculpted sandstone shoreline.
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