The Chesterman Beach Treasure Hunt

Imagine the thrill of digging up an actual buried treasure chest! A charming tradition in Chesterman Beach, British Columbia, brings folklore to life.

Buried treasure on Chesterman BeachPhoto: Mike Lane

Digging For Buried Treasure on Chesterman Beach

There is a story told around beach bonfires at night on Canada’s western shores that goes like this: It seems that many years ago, a Spanish treasure ship was blown off course and was in danger of foundering off Vancouver Island. The captain ordered that the treasure be rowed ashore and buried above the tide on a stretch of sandy beach.

One morning a few years ago, some children and their parents were walking on Chesterman Beach in Tofino, B.C., when the kids spied a small cedar plank, half covered in seaweed, with writing on it. Because there had been a storm the night before, it was reckoned that the plank became dislodged from a forgotten hiding place. They were able to read the simple words that directed them to a large nearby rock which the treasure was said to be buried under.

After a dash back home to get shovels, the adventurers dug as directed and dragged up a large, centuries-old chest with iron hinges and leather straps. Inside were silver-plated, sparkly trinkets such as jewels, as well as pearls and old coins such as pennies. Mixed in were small toys including a wind-up music box, a flute, small cars, shells and even a very old doll.

Inscribed in the chest’s lid were instructions for sharing the swag. Kids under ten were allowed to keep two items each, but any treasure removed had to be replaced by something of equal value. The chest was to be secretly reburied on the same spot. The treasure map was to be left in the sand for other kids to find. Our family did as directed and buried the chest where we had found it. The grandkids left the cedar plank with writing in a spot where other kids were sure to find it.

The next day, we watched from a distance as another group of parents and kids, all armed with shovels, hollered and shouted as they dragged the chest on to their nearby blanket. What a wonderful time everyone had! One of the parents has started a Facebook group called “Chesterman Beach Treasure Hunt” to share photos and stories of the joy of finding real buried treasure.

Check out more fascinating British Columbia and Canadian Rockies legends!

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