Attention, island adventure enthusiasts! There’s a stunning island and marine park just a few hundred metres offshore from Nanaimo, and it’s open to visitors year-round. So if you’re looking for a provincial park to visit that’s as rich in history as it is lush nature, it’s time to put Saysutshun (Newcastle Island Marine) Park on your map.
A rich history
Engulfed by steep sandstone cliffs and Garry Oak trees, the area has immense cultural value to the Coast Salish Peoples who, for centuries, occupied the site of Saysutshun Village from September to April every year. Each spring, the Salish communities would hop to Gabriola Island to fish for cod and gather clams and tubers, according to BC Parks.
In 1849, coal was discovered on the island and the area became a hotspot for coal mining and sandstone extraction.
By 1910, Japanese Canadians dominated the fisheries on the island. They established a small settlement just north of Shaft Point, where they operated a saltery and shipyard until 1941 – when many were forcibly sent to internment camps elsewhere in the province.
The park even served as a ‘pleasure resort,’ according to BC Parks. In 1931, the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company bought the island and built a dance pavilion (now the visitor centre), teahouse, picnic areas, change houses, and a wading pool.
Today, there are many amenities for visitors to enjoy at the park. This includes cold water taps, an adventure playground, a large picnic area, and 18 walk-in campsites.
Visitors can also explore a 22 km well-developed network of trails, which lead to multiple historic points around the island. BC Parks says that there is evidence of at least two Salish villages, which can be observed through recovered artifacts.
The park can be accessed via a 10-minute ferry ride from Nanaimo.
So there you have it, BC! Just because it’s not summer doesn’t mean you can’t still have an exciting island adventure.
Where: Newcastle Island, BC
Information on Saysutshun (Newcastle Island Marine) Park is from BC Parks and is accurate as of publication date.