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Cortes Island, British Columbia

Sa'y'ilh (Gorge Harbour) ~ two waters in one

Gorge Harbour entrance

Sa’y’ilh (Gorge Harbour)


Like a saltwater lake. • Sa’y’ilh two waters in one - both applied to this place.

The outside of the harbour is called "Yi'piikwu". In former times the entrance to the harbour would freeze over in winter and the people had to break ice with their canoes to get through here. The inside area of Gorge Harbour is called "Sa'y'ilh" because the salt water mixes with fresh water from the numerous streams and springs-hense the 'two waters in one'. It dries up in low tide, and there is lots of oyster and clams available on the beach.

Source: Place Name Project - qathet Museum & Archives 

Gorge Harbour entrance

Cortes Island

Cortes Island, located on Canada’s west coast at the entrance to Desolation Sound, still remains one of British Columbia’s unspoiled destinations. Along with spectacular wilderness scenery and wildlife viewing, there are an abundance of beach walking, hiking and shellfish harvesting opportunities. Cortes Island is irrefutably one of the most beautiful destinations in BC, Canada.

Not to Miss Highlights...

  • Cortes Island Museum

  • Craft Shop Co-op

  • Old Schoolhouse Art Gallery

  • Cortes Island by Kayak or Boat (see tours)

  • Friday Market at Mansons Landing & Saturday market at Gorge Harbour

  • Smelt Bay at Sunset and Sandflats at low tide

  • Easter Bluff Hike

Tehq' ten (Whaletown)

The name "Whaletown: come from the fact that the place was used for whaling.   Tehq' ten means: "A sharpening place" used to bring whales here. 

Today, Whaletown is the BC Ferries arrival terminal and is a small community of about 200 people. 


While visiting, tune into CKTZ 89.5 fm for the Cortes Community Radio. 

For more information on Cortes Island visit Our Cortes


Cortes Island

Desolation Sound 

Gorge Harbour Marina is located near the entrance of the world famous Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park, and makes a relaxing stopover on sailing trips to and from this breathtaking destination.

Desolation Sound is part of the traditional territories of the Klahoose, Tla’amin , and Homalco Nations and owes its name to the solitude and isolation it offers. Considered to be the best cruising area in BC, and one of the top three best cruising grounds in the world, Desolation Sound is British Columbia’s largest marine park and boasts over 60km of remote coastline for tranquil exploration.

Sailing vacations in Desolation Sound have a mystical quality, with glacial green waters, dramatic fjords, steep evergreen forests, and encounters with wildlife such as the bald eagle, great blue heron and ancient murrelet. Marine mammals such as orcas, seals and sea lions are common on sailing trips in Desolation Sound Marine Park. As well, sightings of the sleek river otter darting in and out of water or the black bear ambling along the shoreline make Desolation Sound a favourite boating destination for wildlife lovers.

Imagine a sailing trip in the best cruising area of B.C. where each day begins with the soft hues of gold and apricot as the sun rises over the majestic, snow-capped Coast Mountains and ends gentle swaying while sheltered in one of Desolation Sound’s many well-protected anchorages.

Between sunrise and sunset, boaters enjoy a plethora of sailing vacation activities. Both freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing are permitted in Desolation Sound Marine Park. Dropping a line provides meals of fresh salmon and rockfish from Desolation Sound’s pristine waters, a highlight of any sailing trip.

And, of course, an ideal sailing vacation isn’t just for cruising and fishing, but also for swimming. As well as being the best cruising area in BC, Desolation Sound Marine Park is known for some of the warmest ocean waters found north of Mexico. Water lovers can dive right from the stern, row into a beach or rinse off under the spectacular 30m (90′) Cassel Lake Falls which plunge into the ocean from the lake above. 

In addition, a unique aspect of a sailing vacation in Desolation Sound is the access to onshore trails. With four lakes included in the Desolation Sound Marine Park, there’s as much to do above the high tide line as there is below. Boaters can pull a dinghy ashore for an afternoon of hiking in old-growth forest and swimming, or freshwater fishing, in one of the lakes.

Boaters can socialize and share sailing trip advice with other sailors at one of three popular anchorages and even restaurants around Desolation Sound Marine Park. Not only is Desolation Sound the best cruising area in BC for a sailing vacation, it is a veritable yachter’s paradise.

Visit BC Parks Desolation Sounds Marina Park for more information

Desolation Sound
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