Located in the Inner Harbour of Nanaimo
Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park is very easy to get over
to explore. Regular sailings leave at Maffeo-Sutton Park daily.
The service is run by Snuneymuxw First Nation starting in April
and runs right through to September.
Maffeo-Sutton Park is located right next to Front Street and Comox
Road. Parking is available at the park. If you are staying in one
of the waterfront hotels, just walk to the park along the Waterfront
Walkway. Once at Maffeo-Sutton Park, you can find flush toilets,
a children's playground, benches and a hot dog vendor.
The Newcastle Island Ferry is located at the small dock along the
rocks next to the harbour. It is a passenger-only ferry that has
both an outdoor and indoor seating area. The various captains and
staff are very friendly providing a very relaxing means of getting
to Newcastle Island.
The ferry sails to the island in about ten minutes. At a very leisurely
pace, it navigates to the east side of Mark Bay on Newcastle Island.
On the way the ferry passes through an area where people have boated
over and dropped anchor. If you want to boat over, there are also
public docks located next to the ferry slip.
Once docked you disembark up the loading ramp to a viewpoint. From
here you walk up to a trail past public washrooms to a beach for
swimming - a large grassy suitable for picnics, lying in the sun
and a children's play area. Beyond here is the park headquarters
and an old pulp stone quarry.
Located next to the park headquarters is the old historic Newcastle
Island Pavilion. The island's largest structure, the pavilion has
available a hall, BBQ pit, chairs and picnic tables and is available
through the Snuneymuxw First Nation. If you happen to have a large
group or are planning a wedding, this place is ideal. Contact the
Snuneymuxw First Nation for booking and fee information.
There are camping sites available at Newcastle Island with a group
site near the pavilion and individual sites farther away towards
Brownie Bay in the north. The sites here feature lots of privacy
complete with a picnic table, campfire rings and pit toilets close
by. Firewood is available and can be obtained through the park attendant.
Newcastle Island is great because various bike trails have been
set up around most of the island. For a ferry cost of only $2 (2006)
you can bring over your bike and ride around most of the coastline,
especially along the Shoreline Trail. This 7.5 km trail goes around
Newcastle Island and can be walked in about 2.5 hours at a brisk
The highlights along the walking and biking trails are numerous.
On the island you can find an abandoned sandstone quarry, mine shaft,
an old dam at Mallard Lake and a great viewpoint at Nares Point
called the Giovando Lookout. From here you look over towards the
north side of Departure Bay towards Nanaimo's Hammond Bay Road.
Besides the great ocean views the trails go through beautiful groves
of Douglas Fir, Garry Oak and Arbutus trees. The forest is habitat
to a number of animals including various birds, deer and raccoons.
You can view them eating shell fish along the water's edge.
One thing that is very comforting on Newcastle Island is that the
trails are fairly well-marked with mapped signs at most trail intersections.
There is a pdf map available from Snuneymuxw First Nation that highlights
the trails' names plus interesting stops dealing with the history
of the island.
Protection Island is located right next to Newcastle Island towards
the east from the ferry dock and Brownie Bay. At low tide if you're
careful you can walk across the channel separating Newcastle and
Protection Island. There are some public access points located at
points along the shoreline.
Dock Floating Marine Pub
Once on Protection Island there is a roadway that can take you around
the island. Here you can find walking trails, three parks; Smugglers,
Pirates, and Gallows Point as well as Smugglers Lake and Beach.
Canada's only floating pub, the Dinghy Dock Marine Pub, is on Protection
Island and is located across from the Newcastle Island Ferry Terminal.
If you would like to come over direct from Nanaimo to Protection
Island, the "Protection Connection" ferry leaves the Inner
Harbour daily. Catch the ferry at the southeast end of Seawall Walk
near the Commercial Boat Basin. The last "Protection Connection"
ferry leaves the Dinghy Dock at 12 midnight in the summer and at
11 p.m. in the winter.