Access Prime Nature & Wildlife Photography on Denman Island
A great locale for nature and wildlife photography, one quarter of Denman Island is protected green space, including four provincial parks, plus nature reserves, wetlands, and many public trails.
Just a 15-minute ferry ride from Buckley Bay on Vancouver Island (under an hour from Courtenay or Nanaimo), you can get that remote wilderness feeling on 51 square km of farmland and forest, all within the protected confines of 69 km of coastline. With only 1100 residents, you are likely to be the only one in sight on beaches or trails, especially in the off-season from October to April.
Five nature and wildlife photographers share what they love about Denman Island, B.C. and the special places to explore with your camera.
Denman Island professional photographer and illustrator Paul Bailey has photographed in many international locations, published his photography in numerous magazines and books (including his 2018 book Denman Naturally), and taught photography at North Island College. He says, “Denman has lots of nature photo opportunities depending on the season and the interest of the photographer: forest, seashore, marshes and lakes. It’s a varied buffet of flora and fauna and I enjoy photographing all of it.”
A favourite area for many photographers is Fillongley Provincial Park, which provides access to trails through old forest, a creek, an estuary and Lambert Channel shoreline.
Photographer and artist Tashi Draper of Flowing Art Studio on Denman Island says, “The creek that flows through Fillongley Provincial Park always has the unexpected. The light coming through the trees along the creek offer beautiful water reflections in the fall and winter after the trees lose their leaves. The Denman Island shoreline provides us a window into the beauty of the ocean’s abundance in the spring when the herring roe is collected on the shore plants.”
Photographer, artist, and playwright Dante Ambriel, and co-owner of Flowing Art Studio, finds winter on Denman Island to be very interesting. She keeps a photo journal and had these reflections on her photo The Winter Tango taken at the Beadnell Creek Estuary at Fillongley Park: “We spent all those winter days that January on Denman -outside – shooting photographs. Ice formations and light refractions, floating ice shards, reflecting the flying clouds overhead, in pools of clear water, the grasses, the frozen plains, the textured ice turning the photos into abstract radiant patterns.”
Ambriel has also had beautiful results during the herring run in late February, when the water turns milky blue-green.
Denman Island wildlife photographer Gerry Ambury provides many wildlife photos for the Association of Denman Island Marine Stewards (ADIMS), and the Denman Conservancy Association (DCA), and says, “Denman Island is a great place for nature and wildlife photography, as there is such a great variety of subjects, wildlife, marine life, birds of all sizes, and plenty of flowers and forest. My favorite locations are anywhere along a shoreline, or deep in the woods – that kind of covers anywhere on the Island!”
Dennis Forsyth also contributes photos to the DCA and offers workshops and nature walks focusing on local birds. “Denman Island is a wonderful place for any wildlife photographer. Through DCA’s efforts we are blessed with a lot of protected areas to wander about in. While I am primarily a bird photographer, otters, deer, and other wildings get my attention regularly. Recently I have been out in some of our forests photographing this year’s amazing eruption of wild mushrooms.”
Forests, farmlands, seascape, natural rugged beaches and distant mainland mountain views are all accessible on Denman Island. Forests include old growth Douglas fir, second-growth cedars and fir, Alder groves, and mild-weather-loving arbutus.
Even the Island’s roads are picturesque, winding along ocean cliffs or tunneled through thick forests.
Seascape and Shoreline
The diverse natural shorelines vary between rugged rocky outcrops, cliffs, pebble and boulder beaches. At low tide you can discover sandy stretches and sheets of sandstone, limestone and cracked mudstone, and access to Sandy Island Marine Park, North of Denman Island, (locally known as Tree Island).
Predators like bears and cougars are rare, so you can relax and focus on Denman’s gentler wildlife: black-tailed deer, eagles, a multitude of birds in their natural habitats. Deer are abundant, find them any time of day while driving (use caution!) or walking on roadside trails, but they are especially active at dusk & dawn.
From land or on the water, Harbour seals and river otters are regular sights. But each year during the Herring Run in late February or early March, thousands of birds and mammals visit Lambert Channel off Denman Island for the feast. The water turns milky blue from the herring spawn, shorelines are abundant with herring roe, and large concentrations of eagles, seagulls, ducks, local Harbour seals, Stellar sea lions, humpback whales and California Sea Lions come to feed.
With low population and no roadside streetlights, Denman Island is perfect for viewing night skies.
There is still something irresistible about cows and sheep in a field. Drive around the island to discover the many fields, farms and livestock.
WHERE TO GO:
- Fillongley Provincial Park
- Boyle Point Provincial Park
- Morrison Marsh Nature Reserve
- 50 hectares contains several old logging roads for walking, bird watching and nature appreciation, and connects with trails inside Boyle Point Provincial Park.
- Home to more than 80 bird species including Great Blue Herons, Hutton’s Vireo, Band-tailed Pigeons, and red-legged frogs. Beaver, mink, otter and Pacific chorus frogs live there as well.
- Morning Beach Park
- Sandy Island Provincial Marine Park
- Central Park
- Lindsay-Dickson Nature Reserve
- 134 acres of protected forested land
- Denman Island Park & Protected Area
- Pickles Road Marsh
- Home to a multitude of birds including osprey, bald eagles, great horned owl, Cooper’s hawk and Trumpeter swans. To preserve this protected habitat, wildlife is best viewed from the Pickles Road Bridge.
Enjoy exploring Denman Island and capturing beautiful nature and wildlife photographs and memories!
We would love to see your nature & wildlife photos of Denman Island.
Getting to Denman Island – Just a 15-minute ferry ride from mid-Island Buckley Bay!
Places to STAY on Denman Island – Accommodation options on Denman Island include several Bed & Breakfasts, a centrally-located hostel, and an oceanside provincial campground. Lodging is limited, so be sure to book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Places to EAT on Denman Island – Homegrown and homemade are the food themes on Denman Island, and though eat-in options are limited, particularly on off-season, you can stock up on supplies at farm stands, the Saturday Farmers’ Market and the General Store, or visit one of these three eateries:
- Earth Club Factory Bistro & Guesthouse 7 a.m.-3 p.m. (with occasional special dinner nights)
- Chuckwagon Friday, Saturday, Sunday 12-7 p.m.
- Corlan Vineyard Lunches Tuesday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.