Located on the southern peninsula of Cortes Island, the park is named for the capelin fish that spawn ashore by the tens of thousands. Females lay up to 65,000 eggs on the shore in late September and early October, which hatch in 2 to 3 weeks. These small silver-green, sardine-sized fish draw a variety of other marine life to the area, including salmon, seals, sea lions, seabirds and otters. Gulls, Bald eagles, cormorants, herons and oystercatchers can also be seen here.
This scenic park features a beautiful pebble beach that extends from the park frontage at the south end of Smelt Bay around the shoreline to Sutil Point. The beach is backed by mounds which are believed to have been built by Coast Salish First Nations as a form of defense.
Smelt Bay is the only provincial campground on remote Cortes Island, offering 22 spacious campsites laid out in a wonderful setting in the woods overlooking Smelt Bay.
All campsite reservations must be made the BC Parks reservations system. When reservations are not available all campsites function as first-come, first-served.
This park offers vehicle-accessible campsites in a beautiful forest setting. This campground is ideal for tenters and smaller RVs. Smelt Bay Campground is 100% by reservations only for this season. There is no first-come, first-served camping available. If campsites are not reserved they may be used as first come first served on a nightly basis. There is no overflow camping available.
This park has a day-use/picnic area, located adjacent to the beach. Facilities include pit toilets, a grassy picnic area, parking lot, an information shelter and a sand and pebble beach that is good for marine exploration at low tide. Nearby Mansons Landing Provincial Park offers additional day-use opportunities.
This park has pit toilets in the day-use area and campground.
A cold water tap is located in the campground. Taps are shut off during the off-season.
A natural, gravel boat launch for small boats is available at higher tides. This boat launch is located on the beach at the northwest corner of the park.
While fires are allowed, we encourage visitors to conserve the environment by minimizing the use of fire and using stoves instead. Campfire rings are provided at each campsite. Firewood can be purchased from the Park Operator. Fees for firewood are set locally and may vary.
To preserve vegetation and ground cover, please don’t gather firewood from the area around your campsite or elsewhere in the park (this is a ticketable offence under the Park Act ). Dead wood is an important habitat element for many plants and animals and it adds organic matter to the soil. You can conserve firewood and air quality by keeping your campfire small. Limited burning hours or campfire bans may be implemented. Be prepared to bring a portable stove for cooking.
Ocean swimming. There is no designated swimming area at this park. There are no lifeguards on duty at provincial parks.
Canoeing and kayaking in the calm waters of Smelt Bay. Paddlers can set in from the beach or at the natural gravel boat launch at higher tides. This boat launch is located on the beach at the northwest corner of the park.
Saltwater fishing for salmon and rock fish can be good at this park. Fishing is permitted as per provincial and federal fishing regulations. All anglers should check the current regulations issued by Fisheries and Oceans Canada prior to fishing. Anyone fishing or angling in British Columbia must have an appropriate licence.
Pets/domestic animals must be on a leash and under control at all times. You are responsible for their behaviour and must dispose of their excrement. Backcountry areas are not suitable for dogs or other pets due to wildlife issues and the potential for problems with bears.
Bicycles must keep to roadways. Bicycle helmets are mandatory in British Columbia.
Please note that bicycles with electric assist motors (e-bikes) are not allowed on the trails within Smelt Bay Provincial Park. E-bikes are restricted to park roads and areas where motorized use is permitted. The only exception to this policy will be for authorized and identified trail maintenance bikes conducting work on behalf of BC Parks.
Smelt Bay is located on the southwest side of Cortes Island, 15 km south of the Whaletown Ferry Terminal on Sutil Point Road. This park is accessible by boat and by car via a ferry from Campbell River on central Vancouver Island to Quadra Island (approximately 15 minutes), then by another ferry from Quadra Island (Heriot Bay) to Cortes Island (Whaletown), approximately 45 minutes. Once on Cortes, follow signs to the park. Boaters can reference marine chart #3538 and #3539 for more information about this area.
Nearby communities include: Squirrel Cove, Whaletown, Cortes Island, Quadra Island, Campbell River.
This park proudly operated by:
Quality Recreation Ltd.
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.