Popular Island World – Visit the Gulf Islands
The Gulf Islands are the most visited region on the BC coast. Close knit, over 200 islands with fascinating shorelines, warm waters and a sub-Mediterranean climate, protected cozy passages and new discoveries around every bend. National Geographic Traveler named the Gulf Islands one of the world’s best coastal destinations.
Try some sociable sailing… or don’t
On the water you’ll find like minded people — choose to enjoy a lively social experience or find a hidden bay all to yourself — either way the services and amenities you seek will be close at hand, along with sea lions, river otters, harbour porpoises, orcas, grey and humpback whales. On land you’ll find a unique Gulf Island blend of worldly sophistication, colourful culture, arts, fresh cuisine and generous hospitality, all with a funky island vibe.
Bring the kids
The Gulf Islands are the perfect destination for a family boating adventure. Many of the resort marinas cater to families, including affordable accommodation on land and family oriented activities. There are many accessible hiking trails and idyllic beaches, especially in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, which occupies part of many islands. One of the best ways to enjoy the sites and amenities of the islands is by bicycle. The snug waterways and contoured shores are perfect for kayaking. The water at beaches is warm enough to comfortably swim.
These islands are renowned for a culture that respectfully etches human settlement onto the land. Farming and food production are diverse and local products are proudly featured in stores and restaurants. Wineries and breweries abound. The World Famous Saturday Market draws visitors from far and wide. Don’t miss it! The thriving arts are visible everywhere. Iron out your sore muscles with a massage or wellness therapy, or drop in on a yoga class. You will probably wish you could live here.
There are innumerable things to do on-shore, but it will be the sailing between craggy islands, the discovery of that perfect cove and the hospitality of the Islanders that you will remember most.
A variety of water and bottom structures present endless opportunities to catch salmon or bottom fish. Choose a tidal rip in one of the many passes or mooch or jig in the calmer seas in the many deep bays. When the weather and tides are right, fish on the eastern side of the Gulf Islands for schooling salmon as they stage before nearing the Fraser River. The wide-open waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca are fertile grounds of salmon and halibut.
Pick an island, every island
The most northern of the Gulf Islands, Gabriola’s sheltered west side is a popular anchorage and alternative to nearby Nanaimo’s lively waterfront. Pages Resort and Marina and Silva Bay Resort offer berths and every type of comfort. Take advantage of dive charters, fishing charters, kayak rentals or golf in seaside splendor at Gabriola Golf and Country Club. If you brought a bike, you may visit the many studios, farm tours and beaches on a circle route. Don’t miss the Malaspina Galleries, which are beautiful wave-like sandstone formations that were created by millennia of water erosion. More info
Home to several natural parks and recreation areas, this rugged island is ideal for active adventurers. Follow the island’s forested hiking and biking trails, or explore the coastline with a kayak. Dionisio Point Provincial Park is a popular place to go swim, hike and explore tide pools. Enjoy fine West Coast cuisine at Galiano Oceanfront Inn and Spa or French homestyle dining at Le Berengerie. Montague Harbour offers snug anchorage and best sunsets. For an unforgettable experience, ride with Tommy Transit on the shuttle bus to Hummingbird Pub. The food is good, but it is the ride you will never forget. While ashore, sample the extraordinary array of galleries on the Galiano Art Studio Tour. More info
From the sea, this gem looks uninhabited, except for the sea lions. Sheltered coves and warm water beaches break its abrupt coastline. Swimmers will appreciate the warm waters of Campbell and Piggott bays, and hikers will enjoy the short but steep pull up to the viewpoint at Mount Parke at 255 metres and the trail to Campbell Point, overlooking Georgeson Island. With several circle routes, Mayne Island is a cyclist’s delight. The original settlement of Miners Bay is still a thriving hub, where visitors will find the Greenhouse Bar and Grill, located in an historic 1910 homestead, and the rustic Springwater Lodge, said to be the oldest continuously operating hotel in B.C. And you will discover a vibrant farming community at the Mayne Island Saturday Farmer’s Market. More info
Bring your hiking boots to this small island, where more than 60 walking and hiking trails provide a scenic network of sightseeing routes. Expect to see charming pastoral landscapes, including fields, orchards, old farmhouses and weathered cottages. Visitors can enjoy a challenging shore-to-sky hiking experience up to the summit of Mount Norman and be rewarded by beautiful panoramic views of the islands. Take a kayak to Princess Margaret (Portland Island) and paddle the quiet coves. Stop for lunch at Arbutus Point or Princess Bay, then make your way to close-by Russell Island and discover the stories of Hawaiians who settled there more than a century ago. More info
Salt Spring Island
The largest and most populated of the Southern Gulf Islands, this destination is a cultural enclave, featuring arts and crafts galleries, the World Famous Saturday Market, musical and dance performances, and a host of annual community events. Local foods and fresh seafood are on the menu at the many seaside restaurants at Ganges and Fulford Harbour. Farm and wine tours are available. Do you have children on board? Here’s an idea, see a movie at the funky Fritz movie theatre. Need to get the kinks out? Enjoy a massage or wellness therapy, or drop in for a yoga class. More info
There are no marinas on Saturna. There are many safe anchorages. This sparsely populated island has plenty to offer for nature lovers. Carefully explore tide pools to find starfish and small marine creatures, or join a guided kayak tour to spot larger marine life, including whales, otters, seals and more. A large portion of Saturna Island is protected by the Gulf Islands Marine Park Reserve and the island is renowned for adverturous hiking, boating, kayaking, back country camping, wildlife viewing including first class land based whale-watching at East Point, breathtaking viewpoints including Mt. Warburton Pike (the highest peak in the park reserve) and spectaular shorelines to explore. More info
Although small and with only 350 residents, Thetis Island has two excellent destination marinas, one with a pub and another with fresh foods and baked items. Its riddled shoreline is perfect for kayaking and circumnavigation in a day is possible. There are birds and sea life in abundance, the area is safe, the waters are protected, and there are countless spots to enjoy along the coasts of the many islands. The island has several hikes and a circular road system that is ideal for biking. Be sure to visit Domaine Jasmin Winery and Vineyard to sample hand-crafted dry Pinots. Pilkey Point on the northeast tip of Thetis is a popular place to picnic and swim on a summer evening, while watching the sun set.
Main image at top of page: Meet sailors from around the world, credit Destination BC/Adrian Dorst