Joe Squire

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Out and About Thetis Island

This thickly forested Northern Gulf Island off the west coast of the British Columbia mainland is the smallest and least populated of all the Gulf Islands. Covering only 10 square kilometres, Thetis is primarily rural and maintains a community-minded spirit even though it is within close proximity to many major urban centres, such as Vancouver, Victoria, and Seattle.


FACTS FOR THE VISITOR

Every Island has a story …

Thetis Island was named for early surveyors of the area aboard the British frigate, H.M.S. Thetis. This boat was moored at Esquimalt from 1851 to 1853. The adjacent Kuper Island bears the name of Thetis’ captain. These two islands were originally joined by mud flats, but in 1905 a cut was dredged for the first time, which allowed boats to pass through this channel. Pioneers first established themselves on Thetis in 1873. Over 100 years later, by 1986, Lawrence Trail had been built through the centre of the Island to provide direct access between Preedy Harbour and the Lawrence homestead on Pilkey Point.

Who lives on Thetis?

There are about 340 permanent residents and many summer cottage owners that enjoy Thetis Island. Most of the island’s residents are involved in the arts or are enjoying their retirement with Thetis Island as their backdrop.

Where is it and how do I get there?

Thetis Island is 6 kilometres from the closest point on Vancouver Island, 56 kilometres west of Vancouver, 80 kilometres north of Victoria, and 32 kilometres south of Nanaimo. There is easy access by a small ferry from Chemainus on Vancouver Island every 90 minutes daily. It’s hard to miss the mock Tudor building that houses Thetis’ ferry terminal so take a minute to enjoy this, the first stop on your Thetis Island itinerary. Check the BC Ferries web site at www.bcferries.com or call 1-888-BCFERRY (BC) or (250) 386-3431 (Victoria).

When should I go?

The mild, Mediterranean-like climate of Thetis makes this an ideal location for visiting year round. Warm winters and dry summers attest to the fact that Thetis lies in the rain shadow of Victoria and visitors will note that the climate is much less rainy than that of neighbouring Vancouver. 

What should I do when I get there?

Although Thetis has no commercial centre, the island still has a number of important amenities to offer the visitor, including: 2 marinas (one with a pub and restaurant, the other with a café), artist’s studios, accommodation, a variety of community services, convenience stores, nurseries, and an abundance of recreation opportunities. But with all of this to do, don’t forget to take some time to relax in this pristine and leisurely environment!

What are some of the Island’s unique features?

Crime-free ...

Thetis Island is proud of its status as virtually crime-free, making this an ideal and safe location for families to visit. 

Discover the Water ... 

Telegraph Harbour on Thetis Island is an area not to be missed! Take in the views of Canoe Pass, an area so shallow that boats are often moored here unintentionally until the tide rolls in! This pass has separated Thetis from Kuper Island, a First Nations Reserve, since 1905. If you are visiting in the summer, you can take a refreshing dip in the warm Harbour. For winter tourists, you may want to stick to warmer pursuits, like strolling the roads of the island or golfing a round on the Mt. Brenton Golf Course at Chemainus.

Explore on Foot ...

The entire island can be seen best via bicycle tour or on foot, no need for a car! St. Margaret's Cemetery beside Capernwray is a beautiful place for you to explore the historical gravestones that make up this final resting place for Thetis’ ancestors. While out and about, you will enjoy the Douglas Fir, Terrestrial Herbaceous, and Garry Oak ecosystems that make up this Cascadia bioregion (meaning coastal, Pacific Northwest).

Private … and Privately Owned

Most of Thetis is privately owned, apart from a small stretch of beach and roadway. The island is mainly used by the three Christian camps found here and has no public land or parks. Thetis is dedicated to tranquility, community, and natural beauty.