Newcastle Island, located just a few hundred meters offshore from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, has been called one of the most intriguing parks in British Columbia. In fact, the entire island-all 336 hectares of it-is a park, filled with steep sandstone cliffs and forested with Douglas fir, Garry oak, arbutus and dogwood. And it’s an ideal day trip from The Harbour City, Nanaimo.
So What’s a “Pickle Boat”?
Your adventure starts downtown, at the Maffeo Sutton Park overlooking Nanaimo Harbour on vancouver island. Catch a Victoria Harbour Ferry—or as the locals call these cute little passenger boats, “Pickle Boats”—and enjoy the 10-minute ride.
Or if you prefer to paddle, set out for the short trip in a kayak. Try the launch site on Newcastle Avenue near Benson Street. Look for a sign for the Queen Elizabeth II Promenade, just south of the Nanaimo Yacht Club.
The Island’s Backstory
Newcastle Island is part of Snuneymuxw First Nation Traditional Territory. The Snuneymuxw, a Coast Salish people, valued the island as a place to gather traditional medicines and often celebrated marriages on its Brownie Bay. There is evidence of at least two First Nations villages but both were abandoned before coal was discovered on the island in 1849. Eventually, the coal mining companies abandoned the place, too.
The 1930’s brought happy times to Newcastle Island. That’s when the Canadian Pacific Railway transformed it into a luxurious recreational park, complete with a dance pavilion, teahouse, picnic areas, changing houses, soccer field and wading pool. Overnight guests stayed in an old ship tied to the dock at Mark Bay. It thrived as a popular venue for company picnics and Sunday outings until World War Two, when the vessels to deliver guests to the island were allocated for military use.
New Visitor’s Centre
Today, the dance pavilion has been grandly restored as a visitor’s centre and it’s an activity hug. In the summer months, a park interpreter provides perspectives on the island’s unique human and natural history. The Newcastle Island Pavilion Bistro serves breakfast and lunch. You’ll find equipment rentals there, too.
Appropriately, the structure has a 2700 square foot sprung dance floor and regularly scheduled dances are held on summer weekends.
Use Your Arms And Legs To Explore The Island
Get to know the island’s densely-forested trails by foot or bicycle. Relax on the island’s gravel beaches. Amble the sandstone shores. Learn more about the First Nations history with a salmon bar-b-que dinner and cultural interpretation, and even ride in a traditional war canoe.
Links For More Information
Researching a trip to Newcastle Island is easy on the Internet. Begin with an overview of the Island. Check the Newcastle Island ferry schedule. You can view the Newcastle Island Pavilion Bistro menu and get details about the Salmon bar-b-que. Read about the history of the island in a new book by Bill Marilees entitled “Newcastle Island – A Place of Discovery” (ISBN 1-895811-58-9).
Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Amazing Vancouver Island and a clickable link back to this page.