Beautiful and serene Pirates Cove Marine Provincial Park on De Courcy Island is a popular destination for boaters exploring the southern Gulf Islands. Located off Nanaimo on south Vancouver Island, the park protects a natural environment perfect for a variety of recreational activities, including kayaking, camping, picnicking, swimming, hiking, beach exploration and wildlife viewing. Pirates Cove Marine offers a sheltered anchorage for boaters, as well as two dinghy docks – one on either side of the cove.
This scenic marine park has a colourful natural and cultural history. Its settlement history ranges from extensive First Nations use to a homestead for the Aquarian Foundation, a religious cult led by Brother XII, who convinced 8,000 followers to give up their worldly possessions and follow him to De Courcy Island in the 1920s and early 1930s. Several middens in the park indicate First Nations use of the land dating back more than 3,000 years. The largest of these shell refuse heaps underlies the present campground. Today, this intertidal area is still abundant with a variety of shellfish and marine life.
Pirates Cove Marine offers a variety of excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Common marine mammals include harbour seals (year-round) and Steller’s and California sea lions (common from late August through the mid-May). The fortunate may catch glimpses of harbour porpoises or orcas, as well as Gray and Humpback whales in the summer. River otters also frequent the park and are most easily seen in the early morning. A stroll around the Pylades Trail in the park will likely result in a sighting or two. Watch for areas of flattened grass that otters have used for slides or sun-bathing.
Birdwatchers will find Wilson’s warblers, Pacific-slope flycatchers, Black oystercatchers, White crowned sparrows and other species breeding in the park. Bald eagles, Great blue herons and scores of others use the park for foraging and resting.
Special Features: Unusual sandstone rock formations line the shoreline at Pirates Cove.
Park Size: 31 hectares
Pirates Cove Marine Provincial Park offers six walk-in campsites with tent pads, located just above the south beach.
Fees for overnight camping apply year-round.
Backcountry camping fee: $5 per person per night (age 6+)
The BC Parks backcountry permit registration service allows you to purchase a backcountry camping permit before leaving home. Although this does not reserve a campsite, it provides the convenience of prepaying for your trip and not having to carry cash. We encourage all visitors to register online so we can reduce the need to collect fees in the field.
If necessary, fees are payable at self-registration vaults located near the water pump.
A cold water hand pump is located on the south beach.
There are 5 km of easy hiking trails that weave around and through the park, passing through mature second-growth Douglas fir as well as, arbutus and Garry oak.
Brother XII Trail: Length 800 metres. Approximate walking time: 15 minutes. This trail is a shortcut of the Darkwoods Trail through the interior of the park leading to the camping area.
Darkwoods Trail: Length 1 km. Approximate walking time: 20 minutes. This trail cuts through the middle of the park through a Douglas fir ecosystem with mossy sandstone outcroppings. This trail links up to the Pylades Trail and the camping area.
Pylades Trail: Length 3 km. Approximate walking time: 1 hour. The Pylades trail circumnavigates the shoreline around the park, offering spectacular views of Valdes Island and Pylades Channel.
For your own safety and the preservation of the park, obey posted signs and keep to designated trails. Shortcutting trails destroys plant life and soil structure.
Please note: This park is marine accessible only. Adjacent to Pylades Channel on the southeast tip of DeCourcy Island. Beach area on Ruxton Passage-16 km southeast of Nanaimo on south Vancouver Island. It is accessible by boat through Dodd Narrows from Nanaimo up through the Gulf Islands from Victoria and Vancouver boaters would come through the Gabriola Passage. Boaters can reference marine chart #3475 for more information on this area. The closest communities are De Courcy Island, Nanaimo, Gabriola Island and Ladysmith.
This park proudly operated by:
K2 Park Services Ltd.
1 877 559-2115
BC Parks honours Indigenous Peoples’ connection to the land and respects the importance of their diverse teachings, traditions, and practices within these territories. This park webpage may not adequately represent the full history of this park and the connection of Indigenous Peoples to this land. We are working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to update our websites so that they better reflect the history and cultures of these special places.