Twenty five kilometers long and thirteen wide, Cortes’ northern area is rugged and wild, the domain of boaters and the site of several undeveloped marine parks. The south is more populated and the site of beautiful Smelt Bay and Manson’s Landing provincial parks. The most remote of the Gulf Island chain serviced by ferries, Cortes has several choice public areas. Visitors by car can swim at Hague Lake Community Park, boaters and motorists alike can enjoy Smelt Bay, with its meadows, bluff campsite, and beach; or historic Manson’s Landing. The boaters’ paradise is Squirrel Cove Marine Park, while less accessible parks include the expansive Von Donop Marne Park with its many bays and anchorages, a long favourite of boaters seeking seclusion and peace.
Smelt Bay Provincial Park – The only public campsite on Cortes, Smelt Bay is a beauty, with 22 tents and a beautiful, extensive setting over 40 acres. A day use/picnic area is found in the meadows, long a favourite with the locals who hold many community events here. The 4000′ of beachfront faces Marina Island. The park is 21 kilometers from the ferry dock.
Mansons Landing Provincial Marine Park – with its historic community store, government dock, and picnic and swimming opportunities, this 117 acre park is a welcome spot on a sunny day. The park also includes Hague Lake, which is just a short walk up the road. How often do you have the choice of fresh or salt water swimming within the same park? You might also like to try to discover the petroglyph on the beach south of here. The park was acquired in 1973.
Squirrel Cove Marine Park has long been a favourite of Desolation Sound boaters, who enjoy the sheltered anchorage, excellent holding ground, and salt water lagoon exploration as well as dinghy rides over the tidal creek. Motorists can’t quite get this far, but the small settlement of Squirrel Cove offers compensation. The general store here is well worth a visit, and fishing off the government dock has sometimes provided lunch.
Von Donop Inlet is marine accessible only. An old settlement is at the mouth of the inlet, with the inevitable fruit trees, lilac bushes and remains of a homestead.
Carrington Bay, another long inlet sweeping into Cortes’ northeast corner, culminates in an extensive lagoon, fun to explore by dinghy.
CRD and Community Parks:
Hague Lakes offers hiking opportunities.