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Descanso Bay Regional Park

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Regional District of Nanaimo Park and official Salish Sea marine trail site.

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Site Data

Please find site data on Descanso Bay Regional Park on our main map.

Official information

Descanso Bay Regional Park is a primary marine trail campsite for both the Gulf Islands and Salish Sea marine trails by agreement with the Regional District of Nanaimo.

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From the Regional District of Nanaimo website, updated Oct. 5, 2017.

Camp by the sea all year round at Descanso Bay Regional Park on scenic Gabriola Island. Descanso Bay Regional Park is located at 595 Taylor Bay Road, only a short distance from the ferry terminal. The Regional Park offers 32 camping sites on a beautiful 40-acre oceanfront property. Two oyster bays provide many delights for kayakers and other boaters as well as picnickers, campers and hikers. The Regional Park is also adjacent to the 113 acre Cox Community Park which has a network of trails through a well established forest setting.

Park map:

Click here.

Reservations and Information:

To make a reservation please call 250-247-8255 (starting May 1st to September 30th). There is no reservation fee.

Camping Fees

High Season (April to September)
  • All sites: $17.00 per night
  • Extra vehicle: $8.50 per night
  • Extra vehicle consecutive-day stay pass: $55.00.
Off-season (October to March)
  • All sites: $10 per night
  • Extra vehicle: $5 per night
Non-profit youth group camping rate: $2.50 per head per night

Campground Rules

  • Reservations guarantee a campsite but, best efforts aside, not necessarily your choice of campsite.
  • Maximum 4 adults (18 yrs and over) per site and 8 people total. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
  • Maximum per site: 1 vehicle with a trailer or an RV; or 1 vehicle with up to 2 tents. Extra vehicle charge applies.
  • Dogs must be on leash including at campsites. Please pick up after your dog; deposit doggie-do bags into garbage dumpster.
  • Quiet time is enforced from 11 pm to 7 am. Generator run times are restricted to mid-day. At no time are disturbances accepted.
  • Alcohol is restricted to campsites; disruptive behaviour is not tolerated.
  • Campfires are permitted in campsite fire rings only. Please do not leave fires unattended, and do not cut or remove any underbrush, branches, shrubs or trees for use in a fire or for roasting food. Firewood may be purchased at the park.
  • Potable water is available throughout the park. Please do not wash at the water taps, leave taps running or waste water. NB: the sodium levels in the park water are higher than those recommended in the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines for persons on a severely sodium-restricted diet. For the average person, sodium levels are well within acceptable limits.
  • Park flora and fauna are protected. Please leave the trees, plants, flowers, sea weed and shells as they are: they are not surplus but each performing an important role in the park's ecosystem.

Campground info:

  • 3 primitive campsites
  • Pit toilets
  • No potable water
  • Accessible by Water Only
  • GPS Coordinates: 48.662781, -123.280474

History

The following is from BC Geographical Names:

Descanso Bay

"This is the Cala del Descanso ("Small bay of Rest") of the Spanish naval officers Galiano and Valdes, commanding respectively the exploring schooners Sutil and Mexicana, who circumnavigated what is now known as Vancouver island in the summer of 1792. The welcome anchorage for their small vessels was named "Descanso" from the fact of their discovering it at the close of a stormy day, 15 June 1792. On a pamphlet published in London by the Hudson's Bay Company, dated 1849, called "Colonization of Vancouver's island" this bay is named "Cala Descanso", and also on the map, dated 1854, accompanying Governor Douglas's "Report of a Canoe Expedition along the East Coast of Vancouver Island" (Royal Geographical Society, June 1853) and is mentioned in the text although he applies the name to the promontory, in which the bay is distinctly shown, not knowing apparently that "cala", nautically means "small bay". The name Descanso is also given on the official map of 1859, Lands and Works Department, Victoria, where the same error is preserved by applying the name to the adjacent land and not to the waters of the small bay. In the survey of Captain Richards, dated 1862, it is named Rocky bay. Original Spanish name restored, on the resurveying of the neighbourhood by Commander John F. Parry, 1904."

Source: Walbran, John T; British Columbia Coast Names, 1592-1906: their origin and history; Ottawa, 1909 (republished for the Vancouver Public Library by J.J. Douglas Ltd, Vancouver, 1971)

This is NOT the anchorage used by the Spaniards; recently-discovered sketches by Galiano demonstrate that his Cala del Descanzo is actually today's Pilot Bay. See "Acalá Galiano's sketchmaps of Gabriola" by Nick Doe, published in SHALE: Journal of the Gabriola Historical & Museum Society, Vol.1, No.1, pp12-21 (copy on file N.1.51).

Source: included with note

Nearby features of note:

Malaspina Galleries. Link to TripAdvisor reviews.

Gabriola Sands Provincial Park. BC Parks Link.

Snake Island. Important Bird Area. Link. Snake Island Wall (diving). Link. Snorkeling with seals. Link.

Entrance Island Lighthouse . Environment Canada Weather Station. Link History paper. Link.

Newcastle Island Provincial Park.

Nearby launch locations:

Descanso Bay Regional Park is a primary Salish Sea Marine Trail launch site as well as a primary campsite for the marine trail. This makes it uniquely positioned for day-use trips for Malaspina Murals, Entrance Island, Gabriola Sands Provincial Park, Snake Island and other nearby attractions. The launch is into South Cove with parking from the day use site. See the map for the location of these features. Please check with park management for potential restrictions and rules on overnight parking for non-campers.

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