Protection Island is a rare and beautiful kind of place; it's rare because it's a little island right in the city's harbour, with no bridge leading to it. Imagine the result: a typical Georgia Strait island with tall forests and sandstone tidepools, but only a five minute boat ride from downtown.
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Protection Island is beautiful to look at, but it is also the culture of this place that draws visitors. This is a community where people know their neighbours, and if you don't say hello to the guy pushing a wheelbarrow down the street (most residents, no matter how wealthy, don't have a car on this side), you might as well be wearing a "tourist" sign.
The Dinghy Dock is a floating pub on the side of Protection Island that faces downtown Nanaimo.
The pub serves seafood dishes as well as standard pub fare, and has a family (restaurant) section. Musicians enjoy performing here, so you'll often find intimate live acts at the Dinghy Dock.
You can get here in your boat (there are slips for customers), or you can take the Protection Connection ferry, a converted BC Ferries lifeboat, from downtown (near Port Place Mall on the waterfront). The crossing takes less than ten minutes in the little boat, which carries about 30 people comfortably.
There is an interesting blend of types of people here, too, characteristic of the gulf islands in general; there are hippies and rednecks and yuppies, all living in reasonable harmony. There are disputes, but they are handled with the kind of respect that's typical in intimate neighbourhoods.
Protection Island is so gorgeous, with its dense woods, and beaches that turn exotically sandy when the tide is out. There are heron rookeries in the arbutus groves, where the herons protect their young from predatory eagles by croaking in unison, an intimidating prehistoric chant. Seals and otters also circle the island, which is great for all the kayakers that come exploring, or who commute to the city by water every day.
Protection Island is the smaller of the two islands in Nanaimo Harbour. The other is Newcastle Island, a massive and densely forested Provincial historic island park.
You can walk to Newcastle Island from Protection Island at low tide!
What a daunting task it is to move to this lovely island! There is no bridge, and no regular ferry that can carry a vehicle. But don't be discouraged - you can hire a barge to bring your effects, but it will cost you a pretty penny. Barge services can run up to $300 per hour, so islanders and would-be islanders typically do everything they can to find people interested in sharing the barge. For instance, "You use it to get your old car off the island, then I'll use it to bring my stuff over."
Once your barge lands on Protection Island, it may be a chore to get your stuff to your new place. Try to arrange to use someone's truck (some people keep cars and trucks over there), or, if your new home is near a dock, use dollies and wheelbarrows. Nobody will look at you funny.
Open in Google Earth (kmz file)