Wallace Island is a favourite of many cruisers, and it’s easy to understand why, it’s a great place to explore. The majority of the island is a Marine Park, with only a few remnants of private property from its past. Like many Gulf Islands, Wallace Island is rich with history that you don’t necessarily realize. I remember my first trip to Wallace Island, knowing very little about it and leaving wanting to find out more.
The park is approximately 220 acres, offering lots to explore, including a hiking trail from tip to tip. The island offers two anchorages, Conover Cove and Princess Cove. Both anchorages are lovely, but you’re especially lucky if you get a spot in Conover Cove. Both anchorages have their points, Conover Cove has a shallow entrance that you may need to check the tides for before entering or departing, and both offer different protection from the wind.
Wallace Island offers places to camp and outhouses, and with it being close to Salt Spring Island it’s a great place to take friends. The Fernwood public dock is a short boat ride from Conover Cove, and you can even pick up a coffee, baked good and a pizza before you go at the Fernwood Road Cafe!
The marine park is part of the Park Host Program, and in the summer months the Maple Bay Yacht Club assists with monitoring the park and helping boaters who visit. This past fall with assistance from provincial grans, K2 Services and the Maple Bay Yacht Club, the stern ties in Princess Cove were renewed! The Marine Parks Forever Society have done and continue to do great work in BC!
Wallace Island isn’t far from Salt Spring Island or Galiano Island, but when you’re there you feel a world away. I’m only aware of the island’s history going back to early to the 1900’s, but I know there’s a wealth of history prior to that.
Some history behind various names:
- The island was originally chartered as Narrow Island, but was later renamed after Captain Wallace Houston. Captain Wallace Houston served on the HMS Trincomalee which was in the area back in 1853. The HMS Trincomalee was a 38 gun frigate, built in Bombay India for the British Navy.
- Conover Point was named after the Conover family that owned for a period of time.
- Panther Point was named after a shipwreck back in 1874. Panther Point is a rocky reef, and a coal ship destined for Nanaimo ran aground in 1874.
- Chivers Point was named after Jeremiah Chivers, a previous owner of the island.
The island was owned by a Scotsman, Jeremiah Chivers. He lived on the island alone, never married and died in 1927. In 1936 there was a boys camp on the island, and from there I’m not sure if there was another owner prior to the Conovers purchasing the island.
From 1946 to sometime in the 1960’s the island was owned by the Conovers, a couple from California with a dream to own an island.
There’s two great book written by the David Conovers. Once Upon an Island and One Man’s Island, great book written that shares the tales of what it’s like to live off the grid on an island. Owning your own island may sound glamorous, but when you start to think about what your day to day looks like it’s a little different. The Conovers sold the island to a group from Seattle Washington who formed a holding company in the 1960’s, and then in 1990, they sold to the Provincial Government who then turned it into a park. The Conover family have created a Facebook page, showing lots of historical photos, and another great glimpse into the life of the Conover’s.
There’s various signs of previous owners on the island, from structures to an old truck. The Conover family had a dream of owning a retreat on the island, and there are still signs of their dream. In Conover Cove, the structure still stands with a fireplace, a bookshelf, and now boaters have taken the tradition of hanging something with their boat name from the ceiling. There’s also an old truck parked forever in a field, as well as a few other structures around the island.
Wallace Island is one of my favourite islands, I admit I don’t get the opportunity to go often, but when I do I absolutely love it!