Cortes was mapped by Spanish explorers in the late 1700s. It was named for Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca, infamous as the conquistador of Mexico. Long before the Spanish and English explorers reached the Pacific coast of North America the region was home to the indigenous Coast Salish First Nation.
Cortes Island can be reached via a 40-minute ferry ride from Quadra Island which is accessed by a shorter 10 minute ferry crossing from the City of Campbell River on Vancouver Island.
The island currently has about 1050 full-time residents and most live on the southern portion. Cortes is approximately 25 km long and 13 km wide. Few people live on the island. You can walk along the side of the road and anyone can drive by and offer you a ride, even if you aren’t hitchhiking. They are also very polite and curious about what is going on outside of the island.
There are a number of events and festivals on Cortes Island throughout the year. The Cortes Island Seafood Festival at Squirrel Cove and Cortes Day are fun events for the whole family with a parade, competitions, games, and food booths. Another event to watch out for is the sandcastle competition which is held in August.
It’s easy to catch sight of wildlife on ruggedly beautiful Cortes. The island boasts many beautiful beaches and lagoons that are perfect for privacy. In the summer, I am told, the island people like to swim and tan naked. I could adjust to that very quickly but unfortunately we were there in March - too early for that kind of experience. You supposed to do what the locals do - that is the way you really feel the place on your vacation.