It’s not very obvious and you have to go in search of it, but the Fanny Bay Conservation Area is worth the trouble. Located 23 km (14 miles) south of the city of Courtenay on the Island’s east coast, the 160 hectare (395 acres) conservation area offers a wide variety of habitats, an easy, level walk and beautiful views of water, mountains and big sky.
We explored this pretty spot when the wild roses were in bloom, so there was an extra bonus of their heady fragrance all along the 1.6 km (1 mile) pathway.
The Fanny Bay Conservation Area is bordered by Highway 19A (the Old Island Highway), the pretty community of Ships Point and Fanny Bay’s infamous Wacky Woods. The area is home to more than 140 species of birds, which vary throughout the year depending on the season. Deer, elk, river otter, beaver, mink and muskrat also inhabit the region.
The conservation area encompasses a mix of wildlife habitats that include a sheltered bay, mud flats, intertidal and fresh water marshes, grassland, forest and woodland swamp. There is a viewing platform along the pathway that opens up wider vistas of the surroundings.
This walk is a great spot to take youngsters for a good leg stretch and an exploration of the wildlife that lives in the Fanny Bay Conservation Area – even the shortest little legs should be able to traverse the wide, flat pathway, and the youngest of the young will no doubt take great delight in discovering the wildlife secrets there.. It’s a great spot, too, if you are looking to enjoy a peaceful al fresco lunch – it seems to be little-known and thus offers much in the way of tranquility.
You might also find yourself wandering through George Sawchuk’s Wacky Woods – a crumbling but intriguing outdoor art installation that will have you wondering at the mind of the man who created it. The Wacky Woods actually infringe on part of the forest component of the Fanny Bay Conservation Area, so they are pretty easy to find and explore, and they certainly add to the interest of a walk there..
There are a couple of easy access points to the Fanny Bay Conservation Area. You can head north on Highway 19A (The Old Island Highway) past the Fanny Bay Community Hall and about 50 feet north of Jacob Road you will see a yellow gate across a trail on the east side of the highway. The trail leads along the Fanny Bay waterfront and there are several branches off to the right to access the Wacky Woods. Or, turn on to Ships Point Road (at the Fanny Bay Community Centre), follow Ships Point Road to Little Way, turn left on Little Way and then left on Bates Drive. The
Wacky Woods trailhead (which is unmarked) will be at the end of Bates on the right hand side. This is probably the safest access if you don’t want to have to cross the highway, and there is easy parking there. It also puts you immediately into the magic of the Wacky Woods rather than having to hike along the waterfront trail.
GPS co-ordinates for the Wacky Woods access point are:
Lat.: 49.494506 Long.: -124.813274
49° 29′ 40.2216” N 124° 48′ 47.7864” W