UPDATE (December 2019)
The Sea Lions have moved on from the location mentioned below. There is a rumour that they may be still in their pack and now located across from the French Creek Marina. Once I get confirmation about this, I will officially rewrite this article with the new information.
While reading a local magazine, I happened to come across an article about the California Sea Lions currently ‘stationed’ in Fanny Bay. Further research revealed this particular area is the best spot to view sea lions on Vancouver Island!
Although my first inclination was to wait until the weekend so that we could go as a whole family, hubby included, after looking at the dismal weather report for Saturday and Sunday, I thought to myself “why not right now”!?.
After packing some essential snacks, and setting the tunes to our favourite driving songs, the kids and I were ready for our mini road trip to Fanny Bay.
During the drive along the inland highway there was a bit of doubt running through my mind that the Sea Lions would still be there. For although the magazine was current, who really knows how long they stay in a particular area?
Thankfully our excitement and eagerness to see the big beasts up close was warranted!
The gravel parking area is easily found to the right of the Government Wharf, just off the main highway.
As soon as the car engine is turned off you can hear their unique bark. Open the door and you will smell their pungent aroma. Walk to the end of the wharf and you will be in for quite a sight!
A rather large colony of Sea Lions hang out on the man-made floats just off the end of the Government Wharf. Each winter they amass in great anticipation of the spawning herring, which happens in February. However they are obviously quite at home in Fanny Bay, for I later learned that Sea Lions can be spotted here at almost any time of year.
It is not unusual for Sea Lions to sleep 8 to 12 hours at a time. They are binge feeders, eating all they can when food is plentiful, and then rest for long periods of time. This is why you will most often see them lazing on the pontoons, rather than swimming in the water.
My daughter commented on their smell. My son held his hands over his ears at their loud bark. I, however, was awestruck by the sight of them lazing in the faint Spring sunlight looking like a pile of fat kings. I made another mental tick to the ever-growing list of why I LOVE living on Vancouver Island!
A Little More About Fanny Bay
Located on the Eastern most coast of Vancouver Island between Parksville and Courtney (on Hwy 19A – or the “Oceanside Route”), Fanny Bay is a sleepy little village more known for the delicious oysters that come out of the waters of Baynes Sound. But if you too are looking to take in the wonders of California and Stellar Sea Lions, this is the place to do it!
If you want to make your trek to Fanny Bay really worth while, head a bit further south to the Deep Bay Marine Field Station. They offer public tours, and it is a great place for family fun, and hands-on exhibits of marine life found in Baynes Sound and the Salish Sea.
Where do you think the best spot is to view sea lions on Vancouver Island? Let me know in the comments below.
Pin this for future reference!
We are staying near the French Creek marina. This morning there were several “rafts” of sea lions and many eagles. We have seen a few in the past month but never this many and never in rafts. Perhaps a sign of the coming herring run?
Ooh yes, I bet you are right. The herring run should start happening within a few weeks!
My cousin lived just up the road from the government dock in Fanny Bay, and you could hear the sea lions day and night. Her dogs bark actually changed from it’s regular little havenese bark to sounding like the sea lions.
Oh wow! That’s incredible. I am sure they are glad the sea lions moved on.
We just stopped out at French Creek Harbour and the sea lions were still there! We went around 4:30pm and there were fishing boats unloading their days catches and the sea lions were very active. A very cool experience and we grabbed some fresh caught salmon at the sea food shop in the harbour too! Thanks for the tip!!!
That’s wonderful to hear, Kelly! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us.
We stopped by Fanny Bay yesterday, and learned from a local that the fishermen got fed up with the Sea Lions (quite messy, apparently) and have chased them off. She said they now hang out a ways further up the shore (but I can’t say just where that is).
Oh, shoot! I had heard a rumour that they were no longer there. Thank you, I will update the article. I do believe that they have moved onto French Creek, but I haven’t been able to confirm this yet.
We recently moved to Parksville and this was a real treat to hear them and only a 5 minute drive down to the marina to see them.
That’s great to hear! Yes, I still feel it is a treat to see them and we’ve been on the Island for almost 10 years!
In the harbour of French Creek we saw about 50 Seelions lazing around!! Being noisy and stinky!
Fun! Yes, French Creek harbour/marina is also a great place to see sea lions.
Not so good when you live there and have to listen to the noise all hours of the day and night, and the smell!
No, I suppose it isn’t! Are they there most of the year? Or do you get a break once in a while?
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So fun! What majestic beasts. I miss the west coast.
No matter how many times I see them, it just never gets old.