Map above is ferry routes within Gulf Islands. Click to view.
About the municipality
The east boundary of the Municipality of North Cowichan runs roughly from Chemainus to Maple Bay along the east coast of Vancouver Island. Chemainus, Crofton, Maple Bay and Genoa Bay are smaller communities with at least one launch, giving access to the Gulf Islands Marine Trail and the Salish Sea Marine Trail.
Salt Spring Island is accessible from Crofton, BC by small ferry. Visit our main map to find launch sites on this island to give further access to BC Parks campsites and the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve to the south of Salt Spring.
Thetis Island is accessible from Chemainus. See suggested tours below for a day tour or a multi-day tour.
Maple Bay accesses a beautiful bay and Sansum Narrows. To the south of Sansum is a provincial recreation site called Musgrave Point. Or simply tour the fiord-like waters around Maple Bay.
The map above shows BC Ferries' routes through the Gulf Islands.
Crofton is accessible through a multiple-ferry system originating at the main Terminal of Tsawwassen (see photo abov). It can be busy in the summer so allow time to travel to the islands you will visit. You will need to travel to Salt Spring Island to take another ferry to Crofton.
The municipality of North Cowichan is approximately a 45-minute to 1-hour drive from the Departure Bay ferry in Nanaimo. This ferry travels between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay. Alternately, you can catch a ferry from Tsawwassen to Duke Point outside of Nanaimo. It's roughly a 45-minute drive to North Cowichan.
Duncan and North Cowichan can also be accessed from Swartz Bay, a ferry terminal, north of Victoria. This is a longer drive over the Malahat.
Generally, most of the launches have nice easy paddles.
Easy day trips:
Launch at an official BC Marine Trails launch at the Maple Bay ramp or Maple Bay beach (just north of the ramp). This is an extraordinary day paddling past mountains or around the bay.
Launch from the town of Crofton and explore Osborne Bay. It's a cozy short trip.
Moderate day trips:
If you have the time and you check the weather conditions consider a long day to Burgoyne Bay Day Use site from the Maple Bay ramp. Burgoyne Bay is a provincial park and a treat to visit.
Consider a ferry trip to a local island, such as, Thetis Island, and spend time exploring exquisite coastlines. Thetis Island can be circumnavigated in a full day. The channel between Thetis and Penelakut Islands should be navigated in a high-low tide and higher.
It's quite possible to paddle from Maple Bay to Musgrave Point Provincial Recreation Site and then south into the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, visiting Russell Island, an historical homestead, and then continuing to a Portland Island Campsite.
Visit Salt Spring Island and launch from Long Harbour and begin a journey through the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, starting at James Bay.