BC Parks campsite, Official Salish Sea Marine Trail site. Pirates Cove Marine Provincial Park
From BC Parks updated Oct. 12/17:
About This Park
Beautiful and serene Pirates Cove Marine Provincial Park on De Courcy Island is a popular destination for boaters exploring the southern Gulf Islands. Located off Nanaimo on south Vancouver Island, the park protects a natural environment perfect for a variety of recreational activities, including kayaking, camping, picnicking, swimming, hiking, beach exploration and wildlife viewing. Pirates Cove Marine offers a sheltered anchorage for boaters, as well as two dinghy docks – one on either side of the cove.
This scenic marine park has a colourful natural and cultural history. Its settlement history ranges from extensive First Nations use to a homestead for the Aquarian Foundation, a religious cult led by Brother XII, who convinced 8,000 followers to give up their worldly possessions and follow him to De Courcy Island in the 1920s and early 1930s. Several middens in the park indicate First Nations use of the land dating back more than 3,000 years. The largest of these shell refuse heaps underlies the present campground. Today, this intertidal area is still abundant with a variety of shellfish and marine life.
Pirates Cove Marine offers a variety of excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Common marine mammals include harbour seals (year-round) and Steller’s and California sea lions (common from late August through the mid-May). The fortunate may catch glimpses of harbour porpoises or orcas, as well as Gray and Humpback whales in the summer. River otters also frequent the park and are most easily seen in the early morning. A stroll around the Pylades Trail in the park will likely result in a sighting or two. Watch for areas of flattened grass that otters have used for slides or sun-bathing.
Birdwatchers will find Wilson’s warblers, Pacific-slope flycatchers, Black oystercatchers, White crowned sparrows and other species breeding in the park. Bald eagles, Great blue herons and scores of others use the park for foraging and resting.
Special Features: Unusual sandstone rock formations line the shoreline at Pirates Cove. Poison oak can also be found along steep rock outcroppings in the cove.
Park Size: 31 hectares
- All shell middens are protected under the BC Archaeological and Historic Sites Protection Act – Do Not Disturb Them.
- Park regulations prohibit the discharge of sewage or grey water while moored in Pirates Cove.
- Fires are not permitted in the park or on the beach at any time due to the lack of firefighting equipment available on the island. Be prepared to bring a portable stove for cooking.
- There is no mooring fee in place in Pirates Cove.
Location and Maps
Any maps listed are for information only – they may not represent legal boundaries and should not be used for navigation. Location Map
This park is marine accessible only. Adjacent to Pylades Channel on the southeast tip of DeCourcy Island. Beach area on Ruxton Passage-16 km southeast of Nanaimo on south Vancouver Island. It is accessible by boat through Dodd Narrows from Nanaimo up through the Gulf Islands from Victoria and Vancouver boaters would come through the Gabriola Passage. Boaters can reference marine chart #3475 for more information on this area. The closest communities are De Courcy Island, Nanaimo, Gabriola Island and Ladysmith.
Maps and Brochures
Any maps listed are for information only – they may not represent legal boundaries and should not be used for navigation.
Nature and Culture
Activities Available at this Park
This park is a popular destination for ocean kayakers, who use Pirates Cove as a destination area or a rest stop prior to traveling further north or south through the Gulf Islands. The sheltered waters around the Gulf Islands make it a good spot for paddlers of all abilities. The waters around the park also offer excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Several commercial kayak operations on Vancouver Island offers rentals and tours to this area.
Anyone fishing or angling in British Columbia must have an appropriate fishing licence.
There are 5 km of easy hiking trails that weave around and through the park, passing through mature second-growth Douglas fir as well as, arbutus and Garry oak.
Brother XII Trail: Length 800 metres. Approximate walking time: 15 minutes. This trail is a shortcut of the Darkwoods Trail through the interior of the park leading to the camping area.
Darkwoods Trail: Length 1 km. Approximate walking time: 20 minutes. This trail cuts through the middle of the park through a Douglas fir ecosystem with mossy sandstone outcroppings. This trail links up to the Pylades Trail and the camping area.
Pylades Trail: Length 3 km. Approximate walking time: 1 hour. The Pylades trail circumnavigates the shoreline around the park, offering spectacular views of Valdes Island and Pylades Channel.
For your own safety and the preservation of the park, obey posted signs and keep to designated trails. Shortcutting trails destroys plant life and soil structure.
Pets on Leash
Pets/domestic animals must be on a leash at all times and are not allowed in beach areas or park buildings. You are responsible for their behaviour and must dispose of their excrement. Backcountry areas are not suitable for dogs or other pets due to wildlife issues and the potential for problems with bears.
There is no designated swimming area at this park, however swimming occurs on the sandy south beach. There are no lifeguards on duty at provincial parks.
Pirates Cove offers a variety of excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Common marine mammals include harbour seals (year-round) and Steller’s and California sea lions (common from late August through the mid-May). The fortunate may catch glimpses of harbour porpoises or orcas, as well as Gray and Humpback whales in the summer. River otters also frequent the park and are most easily seen in the early morning. A stroll around the Pylades Trail in the park will likely result in a sighting or two. Watch for areas of flattened grass that otters have used for slides or sun-bathing. Birdwatchers will find Wilson’s warblers, Pacific-slope flycatchers, Black oystercatchers, White crowned sparrows and other species breeding in the park. Bald eagles, Great blue herons and scores of others use the park for foraging and resting.
A cold water hand pump is located on the south beach.
This park has a day-use/picnic area, located adjacent to the camping area. Facilities include a cold water hand pump (this water should be boiled, filtered or treated prior to consumption) information shelter and composting toilets. Five kilometres of hiking trails are accessible from the day-use area.
Pit or Flush Toilets
This park has two composting toilets, located at the north end of the park and the south end of the park near the camping and day-use areas.
Pirates Cove Marine Provincial Park offers 6 walk-in campsites with tent pads, located just above the south beach.
Please practice “Leave No Trace” camping ethics. Garbage facilities are not provided; visitors must pack out all of their garbage.
Please ensure you camp and hike in designated areas. Human disturbance of vegetation leads to erosion of the sensitive shoreline and the potential destruction of archeological sites.
Fees for overnight camping apply year round and are payable at self-registration vaults located near the water pump or through the Backcountry Registration System.
Backcountry Camping Fee: $5.00 per person / night for all persons 6 years of age or older.
BC Parks Backcountry Registration System allows you to purchase a backcountry camping permit before leaving home. Although the system does not reserve a campsite, the system provides visitors the convenience of prepaying for their trip and not having to carry cash. We encourage all visitors to register online so we can reduce the need to collect fees in the field.