Cortes Island’s sun-soaked white-sand beaches are the center of the summer social scene.
Our fresh lake waters are warm and pleasant, perfect for kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddle boarding. Motorized boats are not allowed on either Hague Lake or Gunflint Lake, preserving their tranquility and natural beauty.
Though the water of the Salish Sea is colder than the balmy lakes, many Cortes Islanders swim in the ocean -- some are crazy enough to do it year round! Whether you're a swimmer, a wader, or simply someone who enjoys wandering the edge of the surf, collecting sea shells, our beaches offer plenty of beautiful locations to walk the shoreline. At low tide, the walks from Smelt Bay to Hollyhock Beach or to Mansons Landing are beautiful and peaceful, following along the flank of the forest.
Keep your eyes open for wildlife on the shoreline - you'll certainly see herons, oystercatchers, gulls, and ducks; if you're lucky, seals, eagles, otters, even orcas!
What's your favourite Cortes Island beach?
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Smelt Bay Provincial Park
Accessible via a short and flat ten minute walk through the forest, Hank's Beach is a protected park facing southeast, towards the Coastal Mountains. Arbutus and Manzanita trees cling to the bleached bluffs here, just above enormous tree trunks brought to shore from the winter storms. It's a favourite Cortes 'secret spot'.
One of Cortes Island's longest beaches, Hollyhock Beach looks out east towards the Mainland mountains and south to Twin Islands and the Salish Sea. Home to resident bald eagles and herons - and full of oysters and clams - Hollyhock Beach is perfect for a calm dip with exquisite views of the Coastal Mountains.
The tidal beach at Mansons Lagoon is a great place to explore, swim and hunt for clams. Located where the freshwaters from Hague Lake flow into the ocean, Mansons Lagoon is dense with sea life. Local's tip: bring a raft -- at the right tide, you'll be taken on a relaxing ride around the lagoon's central island.
Important Information about Collecting Shellfish
Cortes Island has plenty of beaches well-stocked with bountiful shellfish life. Please note that a British Columbia Sport Fishing License is necessary to harvest shellfish in tidal waters, and that there are legal limits. A license can be purchased on-line at the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website. Please note, any posted closures regarding biotoxins and contaminants. Also, be aware that there are numerous beaches under private leases where recreational harvesting is not permitted.