D'Arcy Island - Trip Description
Total trip distance: 36.0 kilometres (22.5 miles)
Minimum (day-trip) distance: less than 15 km (return trip from Island View Beach)
Coordinates (WGS 84):
N49 34.051 W123 16.380 - Campsite
- No. 3313 Small-Craft Charts: Gulf Islands (various scales)
Canadian Topographic Maps:
One of the southern most islands in the Gulf Islands, D'Arcy Island is a mecca for paddlers. From it's wide, gently sloping gravel beaches to the terrific, sheltered campground, and impressive Gulf Island views, D'Arcy Island not only provides a fantastic paddling destination but also provides some very rich, interesting history.
From 1891 until 1924, the City of Victoria used the island as a leper colony. The residents were mostly Chinese immigrants who were exiled to live the remainder of their lives on the island. A total of 49 people were exiled to the island during those 34 years -- the most residents on the island during this time was nine. For a period of just over a year, there was only one resident.
Supplies of food, clothing, gardening provisions, and coffins for the dead were dropped off every three months. The colony's residents maintained an orchard, a vegatable garden and raised pigs, ducks and chickens. Water was collected from rain barrels and from a boggy marsh just north of the current campground location. There are remains of building foundations on the west side of the island where caretakers lived. The lepers lived in buildings located near where the campground is now situated.
There is a single-track path that circumvents the island, allowing for an easy scenic hike of about 4 kilometres. The path passes directly past the caretakers ruins as well as the boggy area on the east side of the island where lepers got their water.
The campground is located in a very sheltered bay on the east side of the island and has ten designated campsites, three of which are a short distance from the others and would make a nice spot for a small group. There is a fee for camping on the island with a collection box near the beach. There is no fresh water on the island, so you'll need to bring your own drinking water. There is a pit toilet near the campground.
For more information about D'Arcy Island, see the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada website.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Opposing current and wind direction can create very dangerous wave conditions. Be aware of tide and current flows, and marine weather conditions. Depending upon chosen route, this trip may require crossing wide expanses of open water and should not be attempted by novice paddlers.
There are several locations from which to begin your journey to D'Arcy Island, the nearest and most direct would be from Island View Regional Park in Saanich -- this starting point will require an open crossing of nearly six kilometres so weather and paddling abilities will be a factor.
For this trip, we put-in at Tulista Park (beside the Sidney/Anacortes ferry), south of Sidney, and made the trip to D'Arcy Island by way of Coal and Sidney Islands. There is a boat launch and washrooms at Tulista Park and parking is free. To get to Tulista Park travel east on Beacon Avenue from the Patricia Bay Highway and then turn south on 5th Street (5th Street turns into Lochside Drive right near Tulista Park). Travel approximately .75 kilometres, the park entrance is located on the east side of the road.
Trip date: February 19-20, 2005
Weather: Sunny, high winds at night, cold in the evening
Water condition: Rippled seas
Tides/currents: On the return trip we had the current going against us
Submitted by: Dan Millsip
Images copyright: Dan Millsip