The northernmost Gulf Island, Cortes is challenging to visit but well worth it. Your first ferry from Campbell River on Vancouver Island darts frequently across Discovery Passage to Quadra Island, a mere 10 minute trip but across some of the trickiest waters anywhere. A short drive on Quadra brings you to Heriot Bay, where you board a smaller but hardier ferry for the 45 minute trip to Cortes. Six ferries a day sail on to Whaletown Bay on Cortes. Waters here can also be quite rough, as the crossing is relatively open.
A population of about 900 that doubles in summer live on the island’s 130 km.. Much of the northern half of the island belongs to logging concerns, and population growth is slight due to the distance of the island from large centres of population and employment opportunities.
The Klahoose, an indigenous people, live in Squirrel Cove.
Cortes is popular with recreational boaters exploring Desolation Sound. There are several marinas and protected anchorages and marine parks around the island, Gorge Harbour, Squirrel Cove, Von Donop Marine Park, Cortes Bay.
The island has many services; stores, restaurants, a bank, campsites, accommodation, and great swimming at popular Hague Lake. A provincial park, Smelt Bay, offers camping, day use areas, and an expansive beach and meadow area where outdoor celebrations are often held by the locals. Salt water swimming is good here too.
The island was named in 1792 by Spanish naval officers, presumably after Hernando Cortes, the conqueror of Mexico.