Origin of place name: John Thomas Gowlland (1838-74) was 2nd master aboard HMS Plumper and Hecate, under Captain George Richards. According to the Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names, he was a graduate of naval college and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He was involved in survey duties on the BC coast from 1957-62. He was drowned doing survey work in 1874 in Sydney, Australia.
According to geographer Robert Galois, Gowlland Harbour's First Nation name was Gwigwakulis, which translates to "whale between the two."