A sandy beach containing a significant archeological midden encloses a brackish marsh at Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary. Exceptionally rare in the Gulf Islands, the marsh - a mix of fresh water runoff from forested uplands and salt water from incoming tides - supports a unique collection of plants. Great Blue Heron, Western Grebe and Belted Kingfisher are just some of the bird species visitors see in the marsh. The site has become a sanctuary for migrating and breeding populations.
With Medicine Beach, the wetland, and nearby bluffs protected, the sanctuary offers the community an exceptional living classroom, where visitors can learn of the ecological relationships between upland forests, marsh and tidal flow, and the importance these delicate connections have to wildlife. The beach is a favourite among the community and visitors alike for picnics and walks along the ocean, with easy access from Old Bedwell Harbour Road. The bluff trail offers a magnificent view to and beyond the mouth of Bedwell Harbour.
First Nations peoples have been coming to the Penders to hunt, fish and gather for more than 5,000 years. A shell midden stretching the entire length of the beach points to the importance of Medicine Beach to Coast Salish people. The name Medicine Beach is thought to reference the area as a medicinal herb gathering site. It may, however, refer to the beach as a place of spiritual healing.
The upland areas surrounding Medicine Beach were logged and grazed in the early 1900s. The property was purchased by the Atkins family in 1970 and used as a seasonal retreat until it was protected for the benefit of the Pender Islands community in 1995 as a nature sanctuary.
The Atkins family sold the property to the Pender Islands Conservancy Association at a price significantly below market value, making the property affordable to the island-based non-profit group. The Conservancy raised more than $500,000 for the project, with the help of several conservation agencies, including the Islands Trust Fund. Once purchased, the Conservancy transferred the property to the Islands Trust Fund to be protected forever as a nature sanctuary.
Medicine Beach has long been enjoyed by the Pender community as a place to walk, swim, or lounge by the oceanside. Please help us protect the sensitive plants that grow here by staying on established trails. Please keep some distance between yourself and the any birds or waterfowl in the marsh to prevent disturbing or scaring the migrating birds. Also, please keep pets on leashes and away from the wetland while visiting the sanctuary.
Thanks to the efforts of the Pender Island Conservancy Association, visitors can climb a set of stairs up to the top of the bluffs overlooking Medicine Beach and enjoy the view of the wetland and beach, as well as Bedwell Harbour and beyond. Please take extra care when near the cliff edge.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada and Habitat Acquisition Trust hold a conservation covenant on Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary and the Pender Islands Conservancy Association acts as the on-island management group on behalf of the Islands Trust Fund.
The Islands Trust Fund's primary management priority for this protected area is to protect the sensitive wetland and bluff habitat from trampling and damage. To preserve this place as a sanctuary for a diversity of bird species, the Conservancy works throughout the year to educate visitors about the importance of not disturbing the migrating and resident birds. The Islands Trust Fund and Conservancy are also monitoring and removing invasive species that might choke out native species in the wetland. The management plan for the Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary can be viewed here.