Thousands of visitors flock to Sointula on Malcolm Island BC each year. Despite its remote location, the town is a popular destination for tourists from around the world. Some come looking to enjoy its stunning natural landscapes. Others are eager to cast a line or go in search of some of the wildlife that calls coastal British Columbia home. Still more are drawn to Sointula’s unique history.
While the town is known for its tourism industry, it’s also home to some year-round residents. Many of the people that call Malcolm Island home come from a long line of families who helped turn Sointula into the town that it is today.
Wondering what life is like in remote British Columbia? Keep reading as we explore 5 things you might not know about living on Malcolm Island BC.
1. The Town Continues to Celebrate Its Finnish Roots
The town of Sointula has a long and storied past. First nation tribes first hunted and lived on the island and surrounding area more than a hundred years ago. The town’s earliest European settlers were a group of Finnish immigrants, who left the mines of Vancouver Island in search of a better life. They had a vision of founding a Utopian town on Malcolm Island. They named their settlement Sointula, which means “place of chord” in Finnish.
But the new town faced a number of setbacks early on. The settlers first arrived on the island in 1901, with a larger group joining the town a year later. But following a devastating fire in 1903, the town would fold in 1905, less than five years after it was first founded.
While many of the town’s residents moved back to Vancouver Island or elsewhere, some chose to stay. Their descendants continue to inhabit the island today. As a result, many of the residents trace their ancestry back to Finland and continue to celebrate many Finnish traditions today. From festivals and celebrations to the architecture, foods, and art you’ll find throughout the town, be sure to look for Finnish influences during your visit.
2. Sointula is Home to Just Year Round Residents
When you visit the town of Sointula as a tourist, it’s easy to forget that the town is home to more than just temporary visitors. But in fact, Malcolm Island is home to some 300 year-round residents.
You’ll likely get a chance to interact with some of Malcolm Island’s locals in the stores, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses in town.
3. You Might Share Your BC Ferries Ride With School Children
Because the island is home to some year-round residents, some of the same features and businesses frequented by tourists are also used by the locals. For instance, the BC Ferries shuttle people between Port McNeil on Vancouver Island and Sointula.
BC Ferries provides car and passenger service between Vancouver Island and Malcolm Island. It’s the most popular way for both tourists and locals to get between the two islands, and to get to Sointula from mainland Canada.
As a result, depending on when you choose to visit Sointula, you might just share your ride with locals, or even school children returning from activities and outings on Vancouver Island!
4. Locals Aren’t Afraid to Get Off the Beaten Path
Many visitors to Sointula come on foot. If you plan to stay in town or visit our island’s own luxury fishing resort, Sointula Lodge, you won’t need a vehicle to get around. Most of Sointula’s restaurants, shops, hotels, and vacation rentals are located just a short walk from the ferry port, making it easy to get around on foot.
If you do decide to bring your own car or rental car, know that there are just 11 miles of paved roads on Malcolm Island. However, there are many more gravel roads that snake their way around the island.
At just 15 miles long and 3 miles wide, it’s pretty easy to get around, even if you aren’t using GPS or plan on exploring some of the island’s unpaved roads.
5. The Co-op Continues to Be a Hub of the Community
While the original utopian settlement on Malcolm Island may have folded in 1905, the residents that chose to stay behind continued to build Sointula. In 1909, the Sointula Co-op was founded. It was originally a fishing co-op, and was created to help local fishermen make a living away from the larger canneries of Vancouver Island and beyond.
The Co-op has remained in operation ever since. This makes the Sointula Co-op the oldest continuously operating co-op in British Columbia. Today, it is a hub of the local community. You can shop for food, groceries, and even some souvenirs. There’s also a community board here that’s great for learning about local events and services.
Exploring Malcolm Island BC
Want to experience unique and beautiful Malcolm Island BC like a local? That isn’t tough!
The town’s hotels and vacation rentals located near Sointula’s port are great for immersing yourself in the island’s unique culture. You’ll be right in the heart of the action, and just a short walk from many of the island’s most popular attractions and activities. Check out our lodging guide today to find the perfect place to stay during your next visit.