Escape the City

Day trip to Newcastle Island Provincial Park

Despite being so close to a fairly large city (Nanaimo), a trip over to Saysutshun (Au’ si:em siyeyu), the Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park makes you feel like you’ve travelled for hours to some sort of car-free wilderness haven. This island is an easy day trip from Vancouver, or an excellent casual place to camp.

Take a little ferry boat over to the island and spend the afternoon walking the trails, exploring the beaches, or tracking down the abandoned quarry. Better yet, make it your mission to find the elusive albino raccoon, which is a unique species of the scavenging pest that only lives on Newcastle Island.

newcastle island

You can actually see Newcastle Island from the ferry when you’re docking in Nanaimo, but most people don’t even know it exists. If you’ve got a bike and panniers, the trip can be a great weekend away for relatively cheap. Take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo for $20, bike along the water to get to Maffeo Sutton Park and take the little boat across (another $10) and then arrive on the island and get ready to explore.

There’s a great trail that rings the entire island (Shoreline Trail), which is around 8km long. It would be an excellent place for a run as the trail remains relatively flat the whole time.

The Newcastle Island ferry runs relatively regularly during the summer and ends service at 9:10pm. You can also use it to head over to the popular Dinghy Dock Pub on nearby Protection Island for some day drinking. You could also try walking over, if you read the tides right…

If you plan on staying overnight, there are several camping spots available on the island, but reservations go quickly. Luckily, there’s usually at least one walk-in tent area that fits quite a few small tents for backpackers/cyclists/kayakers.

Need even more reason to go? It’s commonly stated that this island is “the most haunted island in the Pacific.” Many people have died in the mines beneath Newcastle, but the most famous ghost is Peter Kakua, a Hawaiian axe murderer who killed his wife, in-laws and infant daughter. No cemetery was available, so he was buried in an unmarked grave on the island.. His spirit is said to roam the beaches at dusk. There are many urban legends of teenagers disappearing, etc. A ghost that gets rid of teenagers? Awesome!

1 Comment

  • Jarren Butterworth
    April 19, 2022 at 10:29 pm

    I was camping here in the 90’s and saw an Albino raccoon. Do they have special genes there or something with a higher rate?


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