Magical, mystical and, quite frankly, marvelous Cortes Island sits like a jewel on the edge of the known world. Far enough away to be a proper journey, close enough for be an invigorating day trip from Vancouver Island, although a longer visit is always recommended.
When Cortesians visit Vancouver Island we often hear a wistful “I’ve always thought I’d like to visit Cortes Island,” accompanied by a far away look.
Cortes Island welcomes visitors. Among our gems are expansive, accessible and very walkable beaches, richly laden rainforest and view trails, lake swimming, exquisite gardens, a museum, small galleries, a number of meditation/spiritual education centers, and a plethora of body and soul healing practitioners.
The spirit is embraced by the landscape. An early sun rises over the mainland mountains and sets in a glorious display of golden rays and brilliant sparks behind the mountains of Vancouver Island – weather permitting of course. But even an overcast or rainy day is uplifting. We’re in a rain shadow so we receive less rain than our neighbours to east and west.
The trip to Cortes Island begins the transition to “away”. The sweep of blue water, island havens and misty softness of distant mountains, all rest easy on the eyes and heart. Only the occasional tiny rooftop suggests habitation. This is not to suggest that Cortes lacks a population. Approximately 1100 independent, resourceful and creative folks call Cortes permanent home. The availability of a major holistic retreat center, a Buddhist retreat and meditation centre, and a weekly Japanese brush painting meditation are among the many contributions to a spiritually aware community.
The ethics and balance of spiritual practice permeates much of island life. Such practice supports a collective approach to environmental issues and business operations, exemplified by the Friends of Cortes Island Society and our rapidly growing natural food cooperative, supplied in part from local organic gardens.
Attracted by the ambiance of the island and seasonal work at a large retreat centre, Cortes has a remarkable number of physical and soul therapy practitioners that keep the island population in trim, practices that are also available to visitors including life coaching, aromatherapy, acupuncture, homeopathy, crystals, card readings, and a wide variety of massage therapies including Thai, cranial sacral, hot stones and certified massage therapy. Oh, and there’s yoga too! Your choice – Iyengar, Hatha or Bikrams.
Food is not overlooked in the concerns of body and soul, with a cornucopia of freshly baked pies, muffins, cookies, squares, scones, pizza, filo pastries, stuffed pita and other tasty treats displayed at our Friday Manson’s Market and Sunday Market at Squirrel Cove. In fact, markets are becoming a way of life on Cortes with a new one starting at the Gorge. In overflowing baskets and bins, seasonal local fruit and veggies also appear at these markets, an ideal chance to sample or make a gourmet meal.
If it’s blackberry season, there’s lots of easy to reach blackberry patches to provide the old-fashioned experience of picking your own, scratches and sunburn thrown in at no charge.
With full tummies, one can bask in the sun on Smelt Bay Beach or take a kayak paddle. On offer, a bioluminescence paddle conducted in the dusky evening when each kayak stroke is awash in dancing sparkles. Art classes and retreats, touch painting and gallery visits are another possibility, igniting the inner creative fire, letting brushes and colour fly free.
Cortes Island is so much more than a wistful dream. Next time you hear someone mention Cortes Island, perhaps you’ll say, “Lovely island! I was there just last week!”
Dianne Bersea cspwc AFCA, is an accomplished professional artist and sixteen-year resident of Cortes Island. She paints, writes, teaches art and operates a B & B with art retreats.