Clayoquot Island/Stubbs Island


A Brief Story of Clayoquot Preserve on Stubbs Island by Ken Gibson

Stubbs Island, was named after Captain Napoleon Fitz Stubbs.
Captain Stubbs circumnavigated Vancouver Island with Mr. Barrett-Lennard aboard the yacht Templar in 1861. Many local points were thus named: Lennard Island, Templar Channel, Barrett Island as well as Stubbs Island. The word Clayoquot comes from the First Nations word :Clea-o’ meaning another or different; ‘aht’ means people or village. Hence ‘Cla-o-quaht’ means people different from what they used to be, or warlike. The principal village of the Clayoquot Native Band (now spelled Tls-o-quot) is at Opitsaht across from the village of Tofino. Opitsaht means ‘the people who live in the winter sun’.

The Europeans settled in Clayoquot, on Stubbs Island.
Clayoquot became one of the first trading posts outside of Fort Victoria around 1860. In the 1890’s, Clayoquot was under the jurisdiction of the Hudson Bay Company and ships bound for the Bering Sea were outfitted here with the Victoria Sealing Company footing the bill. At times, it was not uncommon for sixteen schooners to be moored out from the island.


In 1898 Walter Dawley built the first hotel on Clayoquot and opened a store to service the early settlers.
It was the first hotel on the Coast: the original hotel burned in 1908 and a similar was rebuilt immediately. In 1918 this second hotel burned and was replaced with a third, smaller structure that eventually became the first beer parlour on the West Coast of Vancouver Island under the management of Major George Nicholson. In approximately 1937, the island was bought from the Dawley family by Betty Farmer and she talked her sister, Jo Brydges, into moving here from Victoria. Betty loved to garden in true English fashion. While Betty spent time in the garden, Jo mainly looked after the household chores but she did venture into the forest where her preference was a wild garden that blended with nature. The remains of both gardens are still found today.

Mary Grieg, of Royston, often visited Betty and Jo on Stubbs Island.
Mary was also a gardener and would bring tender plants to the island. She recognized, as had George Fraser, that this was not only the wettest place to garden but the warmest. Stubbs Island boasts the warmest climate this side of California (San Francisco is cooler.) due to its proximity to the Japanese current and the 5,000 feet high mountains which prevent arctic outbreaks. Mary Grieg is to be credited with many of the long-term plants that we see today on Stubbs Island.

The present owner has continued making Clayoquot a natural wonderscape.
In recent years, a commendable effort has been forthcoming by Susan Bloom, the present owner, with the horticultural expertise of friends and managers, Sharon Whalen and Chris Taylor. Stubbs Island is now knows as Clayoquot Preserve with an emphasis on plants and trees. For the past five years, a visit in the fall by interested propagators from the Victoria Rhododendron Chapter has resulted in many broad-leaf plants being donated to the Preserve. Plants such as R.sino grandeand R. macabeanum are thriving well in the damp rain forest.

Stubbs (Clayoquot) Island in the forefront with Clayoquot Townsite (Tofino) in back.


Tour Clayoquot Preserve in May.
For your tour in May, you are warned you could need warm, water-proof boots, warm clothes with perhaps a squall jacket. I always say ‘Tofino is damned good or damned bad’ – never underestimate mother nature, just try to meet her half-way.

This land is known as ‘the wild side’ and, as we take the boat behind Felice Island, you would be able to see Japan, if you had eyes that could see that far.

Ken Gibson
Tofino, BC, Canada is grateful to Ken Gibson, long-time resident of Tofino and an invaluable source of local information, for this article about Clayoquot Preserve on Stubbs Island, just offshore from Tofino, BC, Canada.

Stubbs Island is also now known as Clayoquot Island. One of those local things.

Clayoquot Preserve on Clayoquot Island aka Stubbs Island is open to the public every long weekend in May: it is known as both Clayoquot Preserve and Clayoquot Island Preserve. For your tour of the island pack a lunch, then go to the First Street Government Dock and get on one of the local boats for your free ride over to Stubbs Island. Take the day to explore the gardens and trails of the island – it is a true West Coast experience.