In August we experienced the best three days we’ve had in Canada so far. I will look forward to next summer just to have another few days like the three we spent in beautiful Main Lake Provincial Park on Quadra Island. It was an amazing long weekend, I’m still longing a bit for it!

Quadra Island

After stocking up with supplies in Campbell River we lined up for the short 10-minute ferry to Quadra Island, one of the Discovery Islands that lies between the north-western Vancouver Island coast and the mainland. We were heading for Main Lake Provincial Park, a place that offers a six lake system, with boat-access-only campsites. I found out about this place during research at work; one of the few sites I’m allowed to view at work is the BC Parks website! It took us about 25-30 minutes to reach the Provincial Park launching site, along paved and unsealed (logging) roads.

quadra island ferry vancouver island

main lake provincial park sign quadra island

quadra island main lakes canoe route

Main Lake Canoe Route

Though we had planned to go to Quadra for a while, we didn’t decide on going to Main Lake during this three day weekend until recently. We had originally intended to attempt the Sayward Canoe Route which is a three/four day 50km circular canoe/portage route near Campbell River, but decided that we probably weren’t ready for that since we’d only used the canoe on day trips so far.

Turns out that Main Lake was a very good choice. Since almost (95% of) the whole lake system is a Provincial Park, there is no roads (or houses/cabins) surrounding the lakes, not even logging ones like so many other lakes in this area. The lakes also have a speed/power limit on them, so big boats cannot go here. This made it just the most awesome place; it was so quiet and uncrowded, and it was a nice feeling knowing that a tour bus or large boat couldn’t just arrive and change it for us!

quadra island main lakes beach campsite

quadra island main lakes camp canoe

quadra island main lakes canoe camping site

quadra island beach campsite free camping

Launching at Main Lake

I haven’t got any photos of our launch from the car park since we were concentrating on loading up the canoe…and also worrying about the wind and waves!! It was a beautiful day and in our naivete, we hadn’t really thought about the lake being too windy to canoe. It wouldn’t usually have been such an issue on a day trip but we had a canoe full of camping gear and food that was weighing us down.

We originally had planned to head further away from the car park for our first night but after an hour or so of hard paddling, we decided to stop at a campsite at the other end of the Main Lake-Mine Lake connector. It ended up being a very good decision – we ended up with an awesome campsite on the best beach in the Park!

quadra island camping main lakes bc

campfire bc main lakes quadra island

quadra island main lakes sunset

The best campsite, Main Lake

There were a few other established campsites next to us but we had the pick of the bunch since we arrived first at around 3.30pm. The others did not have a picnic table so we did well there! Set well back into the forest and away from the water was a pit toilet, so we had all the facilities we needed. The best part? We stayed here for FREE.

Hiking to Yeatman Bay

After having a nice paddle with the loons, we aimed for the eastern edge of the lake. Here there was access to a hike which would take us to the coast of the island; to the ocean! (Well, OK, the Strait, but it was saltwater for sure).  The hike was a fairly easy 1.6km route through the forest, and then we were greeted by this view of Yeatman Bay. The island in front is Maurelle Island, another of the Discovery Islands. We scrambled across the rocks to the right-hand side to reach a headland – we were hoping to see whales but we not in luck this time! It was cool enough to see both salt and fresh water so close to each other.

maurelle island view quadra island main lakes

main lakes canoe route quadra island


canoe cam main lakes quadra island

Swimming and snorkelling in Main Lake

Back on Main Lake, we circumnavigated the lake stopping a few times to explore and scout out the other campsites. We decided we had the best one so later went back to camp pretty happy! Back at camp…..a hot few hours on the beach and some snorkelling in the lake. It reached 30 degrees that day, making the water a pretty lovely temperature – cold enough to cool off in, but warm enough to be nice.

quadra island swimming main lakes


gemma jr main lakes canoe quadra island bc

Little Main Lake

The next morning, we paddled the other way – to the west of Main Lake. There’s a stream here that connects to Little Main Lake. Our campsite neighbours and their visiting friends had also headed this way and we joined them for lunch on a rocky outcrop on Little Main Lake. On the way to Little Main Lake they’d had to do two trips since they had two dogs with them (who weren’t big fans of water). We offered the services of our canoe on the way back….and I soon found myself with close company behind me!

I’d seen other people canoeing with dogs before and it looked fun; pretty glad I got to try it! Every time I changed sides, Moby put her head on the opposite side. Jean Robert offered to take one of our neighbours’ kayaks back

Once on the other side of the river channel, I took a seat on our neighbour’s friend’s motorised raft (I’m sure there’s a proper name for these, can’t think of it right now!) that they had reached the river channel on and enjoyed a relaxing trip back to camp. The canoe got a lazy ride back too.
little main lake stream quadra island
canoe paddling dog main lakes quadra island
jr kayak quadra island main lakes
canoe paddling dog quadra island main lakes
towed canoe main lakes quadra island
raft main lakes quadra island

Time to go home

After a bit more sunning and swimming (and not to mention some DIY clay spa treatments) we got ready to go home. We left our site at 7pm, making the most of the weather and prolonging our trip as much as we could! We didn’t leave Quadra quite so soon though, we managed to catch the sunset at the Cape Mudge lighthouse before leaving the island on the 10pm ferry.

I hope I managed to do justice to our short break in Quadra; it really was such an amazing trip. We’re considering going back next summer and staying here for a good few weeks or even a month. It’s also inspired us to definitely try the Sayward canoe circuit and other canoe/camping trips in Canada.
Back to Main Lake for now though: what a place; so beautiful, quiet, tranquil, great facilities and, somehow, completely free. I’m still amazed that this trip only cost us about $20 worth of petrol and a ferry ticket! Main Lake would be a great place for groups to go canoeing/camping; anyone feel like visiting us next summer?!
cape mudge lighthouse quadra island
views from cape mudge quadra island


One half of a Canadian/British couple currently based in New Brunswick, Canada. Gemma is happiest with a kayak/canoe paddle in her hand, on the trail or planning the next big adventure.