This park at the end of Stewart Road used to be a kids camp run by the United Church. The church put it up for sale in 2010. The Nanaimo District/Nature Trust of B.C./Nanaimo Area Land Trust saved it from becoming a subdivision when they bought it and turned it into a park in 2011. I've wanted to dive here for awhile since the marine chart shows a drop to about 100 feet close to shore, but until the park was created, public shore access wasn't possible. After finding out about the new park, I drove up from Victoria (Feb. 23, 2015) to see if it was a reasonable spot to get in the water for a dive. The local divers must be keeping this place a secret since I've never heard of anyone diving here and I didn't know what to expect.
There's a parking area and a trail leading to some small bays. The trail is about as long as the trail to the popular McKenzie Bight access point.
This picture shows the area at low tide. When I showed up for my first dive, the tide was higher and this area was mostly covered with water making it possible to swim out of the bay.
In the bay at high tide, the visibility was crystal-clear. The bay was full of oysters and one area was covered with sand dollars. A seal was hanging around just outside the bay.
seal in the distance
Once past the rocks at the entrance to the bay, there was a slope of rubble covered with bottom kelp and some larger rock reefs. This went down to about 45 feet deep, where a wall dropped down to about 90' deep. Visibility outside the bay in the shallows was a hazy 20', but deeper down, it improved to about 50'.
large tire
bottom kelp
rock reef
burrowing cucumbers
burrowing cucumbers
I reached a large rock reef that dropped down on the far side to about 90' deep. There were some large boot sponges and feather stars on this wall.
top of the wall
feather stars
At the base of the wall, there was a sand and rocky-rubble area stretching out. I swam out a bit and my maximum depth here was 98'. There were more boot (chimney?) sponges out here and I was surprised to see lots of tiny yellow cloud sponges on the flat bottom. In some areas they were spaced out every few feet. I also came across an old anchor.
sea pens
sealion swimming away
As I was swimming back up the wall to head back to shore 2 sealions charged past, but I wasn't quick enough for a proper photo.
top of the wall
reefs at the top of the wall
boulder in the shallows
nudibranch on a sponge
When I reached the outside of the bay, the tide had fallen so much that there was a dry rocky barrier stretching across its entrance. The bay was now a closed-off, shallow lake. I had to take off my fins and climb over the rocks to get into the bay and swim back to shore. I did a second dive to take some video in the afternoon. By this time the tide had fallen so much that the bays were mostly dry and there was a long hike to the water over the slippery boulders. I think this is a great dive when the visibility is good. I'm planning on coming back, but I'll make sure to check the tide table and come back at a higher tide.