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Hesquiat Harbour, BC

Cougar Annie’s Garden, one of British Columbia’s most historic homesteads, is situated alongside the northern shore of Clayoquot Sound 32 miles from Tofino and accessible only by boat or floatplane.

The seven cabins and Central Hall, (collectively called the Temperate Rainforest Field Study Centre), located on a hill above the garden with views to the Pacific horizon, are available on an exclusive basis for short-term stays (minimum two nights, minimum group-size four).

After a 20-minute floatplane trip (included in the fare – see website) guests offload on the beach and hike 15 minutes through the garden and onwards to the field study centre.  Gear and supplies are transported via vehicle.  Guests arrive self-contained, bringing food, towels and sleeping bags (or sheets and pillowcases – a limited number of sleeping bags are available as blankets).  Central Hall has a fully-equipped kitchen, potable water, and a dining table that seats 24.  There is no internet or cell phone reception, and no power or running water at the cabins.  The limited solar power at Central Hall runs a refrigerator.  There are outhouses and no shower facilities on site.

Hiking trails and boardwalks exist on the property in addition to the two-kilometer mesmerizing maze of moss-covered pathways within the garden and the expansive accessible shoreline around Hesquiat Harbour. Rae Lake, a short walk from the cabins, has a swimming dock and canoes.

Visits are organized through Boat Basin Foundation, a registered Canadian charity (Charity Registration # 88805 5423 RR0001). Groups, size 4-29, are invited to overnight, with exclusive use of the facilities. Overnight visits are a charitable activity of the Foundation.

Additional Information

Gardener, postmaster, pioneer, cougar slayer.
Cougar Annie’s legacy thrives.

A trip to this West Coast pioneer homestead, and one of BC’s oldest rural gardens, is unlocked with a special combination. If you have a keen appreciation of cultural and natural history, and a healthy dose of stamina, you may want to follow in the bootsteps of Cougar Annie.

The Boat Basin Foundation is the not for profit organization that operates Cougar Annie’s Garden, for more information including how to get to Cougar Annie’s Garden click here.

Her long life reads like a list of extraordinary feats, all achieved in the wilds of our coast. Best known as Cougar Annie, Ada Anne Rae-Arthur (Lawson) moved from Vancouver in 1915, with her first husband (we mention this for a reason) and three children in tow. After sailing up Vancouver Island’s coast from Victoria on the Princess Maquinna, they arrived in remote Hesquiat Harbour, 30 kilometres north of modern-day Tofino, loaded their belongings in a dugout canoe and paddled to Boat Basin at the head of the harbour.  Annie settled there and didn’t move out until she was 95 years old.

You could say that she kept busy. Annie outlived a total of four husbands and trapped and shot well over 50 cougars and black bears, first as a means of defence and eventually for a bounty offered by the Province of British Columbia. She gave birth to 8 more children, ran a general store and hand-cleared five acres of bush to grow gardens and run a small farm.

In 1968, Peter Buckland, a Vancouver investment broker and amateur prospector, was hiking through the bush and met Cougar Annie. From that point on, he started visiting her regularly. Annie eventually coerced Peter to purchase the property and hire caretakers to assist her. Over the ensuing 19 years Peter worked daily to beat back the jungle that overtook the garden when Cougar Annie became old. The garden is now a maze of over two kilometres of mesmerizing moss-covered pathways. Peter established a charitable organization, Boat Basin Foundation, to own the garden through donation of the property. To provide a place where visitors can stay and appreciate this special cultural and natural history, the Foundation constructed the Temperate Rainforest Field Study Centre – seven cabins and a central building – on a ridge overlooking the garden and outwards to the Pacific horizon. The Foundation invites groups to visit either on day trips from Tofino or for total immersion on overnight stays.   

Cougar Annie’s larger-than-life story (including how she met most of her husbands and why she moved to Boat Basin in the first place) has been told in a musical play and in the prize-winning book, Cougar Annie’s Garden by Margaret Horsfield. Her legend lives on, in much the same setting as in Cougar Annie’s time, over 100 years ago.

This heritage site, accessible by boat or air, is a testament to what it takes to survive, and thrive, in our coastal wilderness.  Interested in visiting?  Contact the Boat Basin Foundation directly.



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