Sunday, August 16, 2009

Smelt Bay campground, Cortes Island

Because there is very little online about the campground we stayed at for three nights, I thought I'd write a blog post about it. Hopefully those interested in staying at the Smelt Bay campground in Smelt Bay Provincial Park on Cortes Island, British Columbia, will find this of value.

Main point: the campsites are very very small! There are 23 campsites in total, only one of them a "single". The other sites are all doubles, which means that you are placed immediately adjacent to another campsite with only a row of small boulders separating you from the other site. Therefore, if you want any semblance of privacy at Smelt Bay or if you want some room and are pulling a pop-up trailer, you must reserve two sites. Then you'll be in good shape because for the most part all the doubles are separated from other doubles by a decent length of woods. These double sites are great if you're traveling with another party. Most of them are, I'd estimate, about 30ft long x 20ft deep (I may have those dimensions a bit off) and many have small, somewhat secluded tent spots accessible by a set up concrete stairs up into the woods. If you've gone ahead and taken one of the eight reservable sites in advance, you'll be given a site that's at the entrance to the campsite road loop. These aren't bad sites, but when you arrive you may want to relocate to a nicer "first come, first serve" site further down the road. Campfires are rarely (ever?) allowed because of fire hazard.

Smelt Bay campground is a wonderful, small, secluded place and from what I could tell from our visit, relatively underutilized. The ocean and Smelt Bay itself is a short walk down from the campground and features an extensive sand and pebble beach. Smelt Bay is named for the fish that spawn ashore by the tens of thousands in late September and early October. Unfortunately, we were too early for that sight.

If you've never been to Cortes, you'll find the island is sparsely inhabited, compared to others of the Gulf Islands. Groceries are available at Mansons Landing, about 2/3 of the way from the ferry to the campground. There's both a more conventional grocery store and a wonderful vegetarian coop plus a relatively new restaurant that looks great (we didn't eat there). At the coop, prices listed are for members--non-members pay 15% more. If you're going to spend more than $200, it makes sense to pay a onetime membership fee.
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