Newcastle Island (Saysutshun by it’s aboriginal name) is just a 10 minute Ferry ride from the Nanaimo Harbour Front (near Swaylana Lagoon). It’s a provincial park. At one time there were two aboriginal villages on the island: Saysetsen and Clotsun – both inhabited by the Snuneymuxw tribe from January to April each year to take advantage of the herring run. April to mid-August they moved to Gabriola Island and then from there to the Fraser River (Vancouver) for the salmon run to return to Saysutshun (Newcastle Island) the following January.
The Snuneymuxw were aware of coal on the island and when chief Ki’et’sa’kun went to Victoria to get his gun repaired he noticed the blacksmith using coal and mentioned it at that time. For getting his gun repaired for free plus a bottle of rum, the chief returned a few months later with a canoe full of coal as proof. Two mines were sunk on Newcastle Island as a result.
There was also a sandstone Quarry on the Island from 1869 and a number of salteries (for salmon and herring) in the early 1900’s owned by first generation Japanese-Canadians. Two Japanese-Canadian brothers also started Nanaimo shipyards on Newcastle Island in 1918. Both the salteries and the shipyard were going concerns but in 1941 they were all taken away from their owners who were shipped to internment camps in the interior of BC.
I went over for a walk-about on Newcastle Island a few days ago. I managed to get over half an hour before the normal hours by going with the staff. It is about 10k around but I did a lot of wandering around besides so after 4 hours of hiking with a couple of cameras and a tripod in my back pack I was starting to get a bit tired.
Pictures taken on the hike are here: NEWCASTLE ISLAND.