A Day Trip to Protection Island

Chris & I took a passenger ferry to Protection Island, a virtually car-free residential island in the Nanaimo Harbour…

Our most recent day outing was to Protection Island, which is just off the coast of Nanaimo.  This was a spontaneous trip – neither Chris or I had heard of Protection Island until that same morning when we were looking for something different to do.  I found it on Trip Advisor while looking for activities in Nanaimo.  It was a fun and interesting discovery!

The drive from Victoria to Nanaimo took less than two hours.  We parked the car at the Nanaimo Harbour and walked along the scenic Harbour Walkway to fill time before the ferry departure to Protection Island, which occurs every hour.  The small ferry, dubbed the ‘Protection Connection’ was more like a water taxi.  We shared the boat with a combination of tourists and Protection Island residents.  The residents were identifiable by their pull carts filled with groceries and the punch cards they used to pay for their trip; we paid $9 for a return trip.

About ten minutes after departing Nanaimo Harbour, we pulled up to the Dingy-Dock Pub, the island’s only commercial business and the main draw for visitors.  It was a gorgeous day and Chris and I sat out on the floating dingy-dock and ate crab cakes while watching the boats go buy and soaking up the warm sunshine.  Our server came over on the same ferry as us, and we all agreed that she had a pretty sweet daily commute!


After our lunch, we set out on a walk around Protection Island.  We soon realized that the island has a pirate theme going on.  All the streets, which are gravel roads, have pirate themed names like Treasure Trail and Captain Cook Lane.

As I already mentioned, the pub is the island’s only business, but there are a couple hundred lovely homes on large wooded lots.  Most of the houses seem fairly new and are built in West Coast style.  I didn’t take many photos of the homes, but here is one humble cabin tucked in the woods.


Protection Island is also home to huge cedar and fir trees, arbutus and Gary oaks, abundant colourful flowers, and an idyllic sandstone coast line.  And did I mention there are no cars?!  The residents all seem to get around on golf carts.  The complete lack of vehicle noise made the place very quiet, and the birdsong very apparent.  We saw some residents working in their gardens, and one guy on a bike, but that was about it for people beyond the Dingy-Dock Pub.


We spent about an hour on Smugglers Beach.  As has become the pattern, I explored the beach while Chris had a nap in the sun.


I suspect that most of Protection Island residents are retirees, but there are definitely families with children living here as well.  The island has a small playground, a baseball field, a fire hall, a community hall, and a large community garden, with a sign inviting guests to help themselves to the produce laid out on a table and to leave some for others.  A bulletin board at the pub (shown below) explained that the island has its own community association that deals with matters like garbage and recycling.


Most places we go, I end up fantasizing about what it would be like to live there, and Protection Island was no exception.  An island with no vehicle ferry service means a lot of extra factors to consider – a big mind shift for those of us reliant on our cars.  What a huge lifestyle change it would be!  It would probably be a little too quiet for Chris and me to live on Protection Island at this point in our lives, but we will definitely go back to visit!



Thanks for reading! If I piqued your curiosity about Protection Island and would like to learn more, here are a couple sites you may be interested in:

Tourism Nanaimo – Protection Island

Ahoy Guest House

Protection Island Real Estate




Author: Prairie Drifter

Chris & Teri are a Canadian couple who are embarking on a move from Morden, Manitoba to Victoria, B.C. Although Chris & Teri had a really good life in Manitoba, they were craving adventure, challenge, a milder climate, and a more active and urban lifestyle. So even though it meant giving up steady jobs and moving far away from dear friends and family, they are making the leap across the country to establish a new life together on Vancouver Island.

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