Smelt Bay Provincial Park
Attention Visitors – Important Notice!
Please read the wolf safety guidelines.
Cougars have also been seen in the area. Keep your pets leashed and children closely supervised.
Please read the wildlife safety guidelines.
About This ParkLocated on the southern peninsula of Cortes Island, the park is named for the capelin fish that spawn ashore by the tens of thousands. Females lay up to 65,000 eggs on the shore in late September and early October, which hatch in 2 to 3 weeks. These small silver-green, sardine-sized fish draw a variety of other marine life to the area, including salmon, seals, sea lions, seabirds and otters. Gulls, Bald eagles, cormorants, herons and oystercatchers can also be seen here.
This scenic park features a beautiful pebble beach that extends from the park frontage at the south end of Smelt Bay around the shoreline to Sutil Point. The beach is backed by mounds which are believed to have been built by Coast Salish First Nations as a form of defense.
Smelt Bay is the only provincial campground on remote Cortes Island, offering 22 spacious campsites laid out in a wonderful setting in the woods overlooking Smelt Bay.
Established Date: January 18, 1973
Park Size: 20 hectares (18 ha upland, 2 ha foreshore)
| Campground Dates of Operation
All dates are subject to change without notice
|Opening and Closing Campground Dates:
||May 12 to October 1 (no camping during the off-season)|
|Campground Dates with Full Services and Fees:||May 12 to October 1|
|Campground Reservable Dates:||May 12 to September 4|
|Total Number of Vehicle Accessible Campsites:||24|
|Number of Reservable Campsites, if applicable: (all remaining sites are first-come, first-served)||9|
|Note: The above information is for the campground only. Park users can still walk into the park if conditions such as weather permit. Check the "Attention Visitor Notice" above for park alerts.|
ReservationsAll campsite reservations must be made through Discover Camping. When reservations are not available all campsites function as first-come, first-served.
Campsite reservations are accepted and first-come, first-served sites are also available.
Location and MapsPlease note: Any maps listed are for information only – they may not represent legal boundaries and should not be used for navigation.
Smelt Bay is located on the southwest side of Cortes Island, 15 km south of the Whaletown Ferry Terminal on Sutil Point Road. This park is accessible by boat and by car via a ferry from Campbell River on central Vancouver Island to Quadra Island (approximately 15 minutes), then by another ferry from Quadra Island (Heriot Bay) to Cortes Island (Whaletown), approximately 45 minutes. Once on Cortes, follow signs to the park. Boaters can reference marine chart #3538 and #3539 for more information about this area.
Nearby communities include: Squirrel Cove, Whaletown, Cortes Island, Quadra Island, Campbell River.
Maps and BrochuresAny maps listed are for information only – they may not represent legal boundaries and should not be used for navigation.
Nature and Culture
- Cultural Heritage: Smelt Bay was established in 1973 to protect existing native cultural sites and to provide camping and day-use opportunities. The mounds behind the beach are believed to have been built by First Nation peoples for defense purposes.
- Conservation: Smelt Bay is named for the capelin fish that spawn ashore by the tens of thousands. Females lay up to 65,000 eggs on the shore in late September and early October, which hatch in 2 to 3 weeks. These small silver-green, sardine-sized fish draw a variety of other marine life to the area, including salmon, seals, sea lions, seabirds and otters. Gulls, Bald eagles, cormorants, herons and oystercatchers are also found here.
- General Wildlife, Marine and Outdoor Ethics Information
- Management Planning Information
- The approved master plan for Smelt Bay Provincial Park [PDF 1.14MB] is available in PDF format.
This is NOT the original management planning product. This document has been scanned from the original format of the plan. It may contain some formatting changes, however the content is consistent with the original.
Activities Available at this Park
Pets on Leash
Facilities Available at this Park
To preserve vegetation and ground cover, please don’t gather firewood from the area around your campsite or elsewhere in the park (this is a ticketable offence under the Park Act). Dead wood is an important habitat element for many plants and animals and it adds organic matter to the soil. You can conserve firewood and air quality by keeping your campfire small. Limited burning hours or campfire bans may be implemented. Be prepared to bring a portable stove for cooking.
View the Annual Drinking Water System Reports [pdf]: Smelt Bay Campground and Smelt Bay Overflow Parking