Thetis Island

Pilkey Point on Thetis Island
Pilkey Point on Thetis Island

Thetis Island is one of the Southern Gulf Islands, and connected by a frequent small ferry from Chemainus on Vancouver Island. Thetis Island has around 350 year-round inhabitants, and more during tourist season. Residents live in verdant isolation on its largely undeveloped, Douglas fir covered shores. With beautiful shorelines, crystal clear waters, and a stunning rural setting, Thetis Island is well worth a visit. 

This tiny island, about 10 square kilometers (or 6.2 square miles), enjoys a relatively pristine existence due to the fact that much of its land is owned by three Christian camps, one of which is the international Capernwray who have a school and conference centre on Thetis Island, which is hard to miss upon arriving at the island’s ferry terminal as it is a huge mock Tudor building rising over the spectacular beach and park-like grounds. With plenty of rewards for stopping. St. Margaret’s Cemetery beside Capernwray is worth a stroll. Take the public walkway in front of the camp to one of the most beautiful final resting places anywhere. The cemetery has some very interesting and historical gravestones. A small booklet you can purchase on Thetis contains tales of many of them.

Although Thetis has no commercial centre there are shops, artists’ studios, cottage industries, marinas, rental cottages and bed and breakfast homes offering afternoon tea, views, browsing and relaxation. Beyond the marinas, there aren’t any commercial facilities or eateries, so stock up on food and drinks before heading out to explore. Note that there is no public garbage disposal on Thetis Island, so please take your garbage with you.

Thetis Island amenities include:

For those with an adventurous spirit, kayaking, hiking and cycling are great activities to do on the island, as well as water activities such as swimming, diving or boating.

Telegraph Harbour is a popular destination for those coming by sea, by plane or by road. The post office, local store and other amenities can be found here, along with views of shallow Canoe Pass, where watching traversing boats getting stuck on the sandbars on an outgoing tide is part of the fun! The pass is actually a narrow canal dredged in 1905 which now separates Thetis from Kuper Island, a First Nations Reserve.

The shallow waters of Telegraph Harbour are actually warm enough for swimming in summer. Thetis Island enjoys a Mediterranean style climate, with warm, dry summers and low rainfall. Visitors are asked to use water mindfully and be cautious about wildfire risks, including respecting fire bans which are posted by the marina. Please note that outdoor burning permits are required from April 1st until October 31st. 

The island can quickly be explored by car, or more leisurely by bicycle or on foot, but be aware that some of the roads are narrow and unpaved, with some blind corners and tricky spots. Expect to encounter cyclists and share the road.

Thetis was named after a British frigate which moored at Esquimalt in the 1850’s. Adjacent Kuper Island carries the name of the boat’s captain.