At 35 km (22 mi) long and covering 310 sq km (120 sq mi), Quadra Island is the largest and most populous of the Discovery Islands, which lie between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia.
A short ferry ride from Campbell River takes you through whale-and dolphin-rich waters to this island of ancient temperate rainforest.
Human activity on the island dates back over 2,000 years and is thriving. Salish and Kwagiulth First Nations communities still exist here today. A misguided search for the fabled Northwest Passage brought Spanish and British ships to these treacherous waters in the late 18th century and contact began. Today most of the descendants of the native bands live at Cape Mudge on the south of the island, where visitors can experience a flourishing artistic community. Quadra is also home to many well-known contemporary artists, writers, potters and other artisans, and a growing community of alternative health practitioners.
With its rich woodland, diverse topography, and plentiful wildlife, Quadra Island has become a huge draw for outdoor enthusiasts. There is an extensive system of lakes and rivers for kayaking and canoeing and many paths and trails for hiking and mountain biking. Guided bird watching and fishing charters run in the summer months, as do seaborne whale and bear watching trips. Its sheltered coves and inland lakes are home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including black tailed deer, river otters, harbor seals, sea-lions, cormorants, snowy owls, the great blue heron and the rarely seen peregrine falcon.
Its relative remoteness at the top of the Strait of Georgia helps this island community retain an idyllic charm. Aboriginal and European people live side by side, and whilst tourism is growing it is not overwhelming.
Population: 2,650 (2006)
When to go: All year round although the ferries can get crowded in the May to August period.
How to get there: By ferry from Campbell River or Cortes Island.
Highlights: The Kwagiulth museum in the village of Cape Mudge, which houses an unrivalled collection of old totem poles.
Any of the studios of the 120 or so artists who live on the island. Nature watching and rambling.
You should know: Several operators offer whale and wildlife watching tours around the island. Recent research has shown the faster zodiac style boats to have an injurious effect on whale populations, so if you are booking a tour, a slow boat may seem less thrilling but you will be doing less damage to this fragile environment.