Gulf Islands

Situated in the southern region of the Straight of Georgia, the islands lie between Vancouver on the mainland and Victoria on Vancouver Island. Ferrys between Tsawassen and Swartz Bay travel through the islands, making their way through active pass between Galiano Island and Mayne Island, then just north of the Penders and south of Salt Spring.

 
 

The islands are separated by an endless array of channels and reaches, with bays, coves and inlets along almost every stretch of shoreline. Beaches can be found everywhere, some sandy, some rocky and some formed from fragments of storm battered seashells. There are a goodly number of parks dotting the islands, many of which can only be reached by water and have campsites which are just perfect for sea kayakers and sailors.

For the most part the islands are mountainous with spectacular views of the area to be had if you're willing to do a little hiking. Cyclists may have a less appreciative take of the islands rolling terrain but bike touring along the country roads and through the small villages is still a big draw for many.

Only Salt Spring can boast any significant fresh water recreation, with Cusheon and St. Mary Lake being popular spots for paddlers. Please note their are no waterways available for motor boats on any of the islands.

 

Parks

NATIONAL

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

Only recently designated as a National Park Reserve, the park encompasses a number of the smaller islands as well as sections of the larger islands. Princess Margaret (Portland Island) Island, D'Arcy Island, Russell Island, Tumbo and Cabbage Island are now all a part of Gulf Island National Park. In addition sections of Sidney, the Penders, Prevost, Mayne, Saturna (a large area of the island) and Galiano are included in the park. In addition a number of tiny islands and islets are also included in the park. In total the park encompasses over 15 islands in the archipelago.

Beaumont - See Pender Island

Cabbage Island - Camping (accessible by water only), Hiking, Sea Kayaking. The Island is tucked into the top of Tumbo Island which lies just north of the southern reaches of Saturna Island.

D'Arcy Island - Camping (accessible by water only), Sea Kayaking, Hiking The island, which was once used as a leper colony for the Chinese, is located just south of Sidney Island and to the east of Vancouver Island.

Isle de Lis - Rum Island - Camping (accessible by water only), Sea Kayaking, Hiking. Hikers can follow the areas trail which travels all around the island. The island was once used for smuggling illicit alcohol during prohibition in the United States. The island lies just to the north of Sidney Island.

McDonald Campground - Saanich Peninsula - Front Country Camping, Front Country Camping, Sea Kayaking (nearby). Located on the edge of Vancouver Island just above Sidney, the campground is used by kayakers and travelers who are waiting of the next day's ferry sailing. The park is also nicely positioned as a jump off point for exploring the Saanich Peninsula and Victoria.

Mayne Island - Hiking. The park covers a short section of the peninsula at the north of Bennett Bay, as well as all of Georgeson Island which lies just off shore. Note: There is currently no camping allowed in these areas.

Mount Norman - See Pender Islands

Pender Islands - Front Country Camping, Walk-in Camping, Hiking, Sea Kayaking. Front country camping is found on the north island at Prior Centennial, which also has a short hiking trail. The walk-in camping area is located on South Pender Island at Beaumont/Mount Norman. An excellent, but challenging hike will bring you to the top of Mount Norman (244m elevation gain), where you'll be rewarded with excellent views of the Gulf Islands. The Roesland/Roe Lake area has hiking (but no camping) as well as a small fresh water lake. The Pender Islands consist of South Pender Island and North Pender Island, which are separated by a narrow man made channel, with a short bridge connecting the two.

Prevost Island - Camping (accessible by water only), Hiking, Sea Kayaking. The island has separate areas set aside as part of the National Park. The area with camping and hiking trails is located at the north end of the island at Selby Cove and James Bay. Prevost Island is located off the end of Salt Spring's Long Harbour northwest of Pender and southwest of Galiano Island.

Princess Margaret (Portland) Island - Camping (accessible by water only), Sea Kayaking, Hiking. The Island has three campsites located around the islands perimeter. There are hiking trails that criss-cross the island and provide a terrestrial connection to each. The Island lies just south of Salt Spring Island not far from the mouth of Fulford Harbour.

Prior Centennial Park - See Pender Islands

Russell Island - Hiking A small island located just on the edge of Fulford Harbour off Salt Spring Island has an interesting history involving Hawaiian settlers, the last of which left the island not long ago. The island has a short hiking trail as well as picnic facilities and privies. No camping is permitted, the island is for day use only.

Saturna Island - Hiking, Sea Kayaking Nearly half of Saturna Island, one of the larger islands in the area, is now set aside for use by the National Park. This encompasses Lyall Creek, Mount Warburton Pike in the centre of the island and Winter Cove and Narvaez Bay along the islands shoreline. The island is located just southeast of Mayne Island. There is a winding dirt road which will take you to the summit of Mount Warburton Pike and splendid views of the surrounding islands. Lyall Creek has a hiking trail which leads to a waterfall. Both Narvaez Bay and Winter Cove have hiking trails. Note: There are currently no designated camping areas on Saturna Island but this may change.

Sidney Spit - Walk in Campsites, Hiking, Sea Kayaking Located almost due east of the Town of Sidney, the island can be accessed by a day ferry which will transport you over for a day at the beach or a longer stay at the islands campground. There are a number of hiking trails, which will take you around the island (through the forest and to the various beaches) as well as out to the end of the western most sandbar (7.5km return). Campers have a about 1.0km to pack their gear in (at the time of this writing the park also supplied carts for this purpose) to the parks camping area which is located beside the remains of the island's old brick factory. You'll also have a chance to observe one of the most unique shorelines we've ever encountered, a brick beach.

Tumbo Island - Camping (accessible by water only), Hiking, Sea Kayaking. The island has a linear, as well as a loop trail with camping available just a short distance off shore on Cabbage Island. Tumbo Island is located just to the north of the southern reaches of Saturna Island.

 

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
2220 Harbour Road
Sidney, BC
Canada
V8L 2P6
Phone:
250-654-4000

National Marine Conservation Area - The creation of a National Marine Conservation Area is currently under study.

Parks Canada

Note: The park's islets and reefs as well as three of it's islands are off limits to visitors, these include Anniversary, Brackman and Georgson Islands. In addition the park may encompass or border private property, please make a point of respecting these areas.

Links

Alpine Tours - Provides foot passenger ferry service to Sidney Spit
Gabriola Island Tourism

Galiano Island Tourism
Gulf Islands
Mayne Island Tourism
Pender Islands Tourism
Saanich Pennisula
Salt Spring Island Tourism

Saturna Island Tourism
Sidney Dive & Surf - Saanich Penninsula
Sidney Kayaking Centre
Sidney Island
Town of Sidney

Note: The water in the parks should be boiled before drinking. Kayakers are advise to bring there own supply of potable water. Fires are restricted in many areas with small cook stoves being the recommended method for cooking. Contact the individual parks for details.


 

PROVINCIAL

Bodega Ridge Provincial Park - Galiano Island - Hiking (no camping) The park is well know for it's ridge hikes which will take you up over 240 meters to the top of the cliffs and provide excellent views of Trincomali Channel and Salt Spring Island. From the ferry terminal follow Sturdies Bay Road to Porlier Pass Road which will bring you up island and into the park. BC Provincial Parks

Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park - Salt Spring Island - Hiking, cycling, kayaking (no camping). The park stretches along the shores of Burgoyne Bay up the slope of Mount Sullivan on the islands west side just below the cliffs of Mount Maxwell. You can hike or cycling along the trail just above the bays shoreline where you'll have find an nice stand of Garry Oak, or paddle the protected waters of the bay (the waters outside the bay can have strong currents and are best left to the experts). BC Provincial Parks

Dionisio Point Provincial Park (Coons Bay) - Galiano Island - Walk-in camping (accessible by water only), hiking, biking, sea kayaking, scuba diving, sandy beaches, marine life observation. There are 30 walk-in campsites (no reservations) and a designated sea kayaking camping area. The campsites have access to water (in season, which should be boiled before drinking) as well as vault toilets. While the park has good sea kayaking and scuba opportunities in the surrounding waters, very strong currents Porlier Pass require expert knowledge and skills to negotiate. The park is located at the northwestern tip of Galiano Island, access is from the water only (marine charts #3442, #3461, 43, 61 and 73). BC Provincial Parks

Drumbeg Provincial Park - Gabriola Island - No Camping Drumbeg has hiking trails and limited anchorage for boaters. It's accessed from South Road at the south eastern end of the island.BC Provincial Parks

Gabriola Sands Provincial Park - Gabriola Island - No Camping abriola Sands is known for it's two sandy beaches and its access to the Malaspina Galleries, it's located just north of the ferry terminal. BC Provincial Parks

Mount Maxwell Provincial Park - Salt Spring Island - Hiking, No Camping The park is located on Salt Spring Island in the Gulf Islands. The park has exceptional viewpoints which overlook Fulford Harbour and Sansum Narrows providing a broad view of the Gulf Islands as well as parts of Vancouver Islands coastline. There are a number of connections to other area trails which lead down the mountain many of which are not shown on the island maps so make careful note of your route if you wander off to explore. Take Fulford-Ganges Road from the Fulford ferry terminal and head towards Ganges. About 1.5km before Ganges (approximately 11km from Fulford) head west along Cranberry Road and then continue on along Maxwell Mountain Road to the parking lot. The parking area is about 9km from the Fulford-Ganges Road and a part of this section is not paved and can be rough. From the Fulford ferry terminal follow Fulford Ganges Road towards Ganges and watch for the sign for the turn off on Cranberry Road. Head west on Cranberry to Maxwell Road (at this writing the upper part of which is not paved) which will take you into the park. BC Provincial Parks

Montague Harbour Marine Provincial Park - Galiano Island - Front country camping, walk-ins, (no backcountry), hiking, sea kayaking, white shell beaches. The park has 25 front country campsites as well as 15 walk-ins - reservations are accepted. The campsites have access to water (in season) but there are no showers or sani-dump. You'll also find a group camping site, contact the park for details. The park has recorded over 125 bird species and is a stop over point for many during the migration periods. Thirty five anchor points are available in Montague Harbour for boaters (the maximum length for boats at the dock is 11 metres or 36 feet) - there is a fee for anchorage or docking. From the ferry terminal follow Sturdies Bay Road to Georgeson Bay Road then take a right on Montague Road which will take you into the park. BC Provincial Parks

Pirates Cove Marine Provincial Park - De Courcy Island - Camping (accessible by water only), Hiking, Kayaking, Whale watching (seasonal) Located south east of Nanaimo just to the south of Gabriola Island. The park has 12 campsites, hiking trails and areas for swimming. BC Provincial Parks

Ruckle Provincial Park - Salt Spring Island - Front country camping, walk-ins (no backcountry), hiking, sea kayaking. The park has over 15km of interconnected trails which will take you along the ocean shore, through wooded areas, wetlands and beside the heritage farm where you can take in the pastoral scenes of sheep grazing beside split rail fences. There are 78 walk-in campsites in the park overlooking the ocean and running along the forests edge. The park also has 8 front country sites which are accessible by car. The campsites have picnic tables, access to water and pit toilets. Reservations are not accepted for the camping sites. The park is located on Salt Spring Island in the Gulf Islands. From the Fulford ferry terminal take Fulford Ganges Road a short distance, then turn right on Beaver Point Road (there are signs for the park) which will take you into the park. BC Provincial Parks Map of Ruckle Park Ruckle Provincial Park

Sandwell Provincial Park - Gabriola Island - No Camping Sandwell has a typical Gulf Island pebble beach as well as a shell midden. You can reach the park from the ferry terminal by taking North Road to Barret then turn left on Bond and just keep going tell you see the park. BC Provincial Parks

Wallace Island Marine Provincial Park - Wallace Island - Camping (accessible by water only), Hiking, Sea Kayaking. Located between Galiano and the north end of Salt Spring Island in Trincomali Channel. The park has three camping areas accessible by water at Chivers Point, Cabin Bay and Conover Cove. The best sea kayak approach is probably from Salt Spring Island from the Fernwood area. Please respect the private property on the island. BC Provincial Parks

Note: The water in the parks should be boiled before drinking. Kayakers are advise to bring there own supply of potable water. Fires are restricted in many areas with small cook stoves being the recommended method for cooking. Contact the individual parks for details.

Location Map for Gabriola Island Parks
Location Map for Galiano Island Parks

Location Map for Mayne Island Parks
Location Map for Pender Islands Parks
Location Map for Salt Spring Island Parks
Location Map of Saturna Island Parks


REGIONAL

Capital Regional District Parks
Nanaimo Regional District Parks

Descanso Bay Regional Park - Gabriola Island - 32 Front County Campsites, 595 Taylor Bay Road, Open All Year. From the Ferry the turn off for Taylor Bay Road is less than a kilometre on your left as you drive onto the island. Nanaimo Regional District Parks

Mount Park Park - Mayne Island, Hiking, No Camping From the ferry terminal take Village Bay Road to Fernhill then take a right onto Montrose Road which will take you to the parking lot for the trailhead. The trails can also be accessed via Kim Road off Felix Jack Road. You'll find maps of the trails as well as a description of the park on the Capital Regional District website.

Note: The water in the parks should be boiled before drinking. Kayakers are advise to bring there own supply of potable water. Fires are restricted in many areas with small cook stoves being the recommended method for cooking. Contact the individual parks for details.

Location Map for Gabriola Island Parks
Location Map for Galiano Island Parks

Location Map for Mayne Island Parks
Location Map for Pender Islands Parks
Location Map for Salt Spring Island Parks
Location Map of Saturna Island Parks


 

Parks in the Surrounding Region - Vancouver Coast and Mountains

Garibaldi Provincial Park - Backcountry Camping (no front country), huts, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing Located in the Sea to Sky corridor of the Coast and Mountains off Highway 99. The park surrounds and forms the back drop for Whistler resort. A spectacular unspoiled wilderness area it is readily accessible to those with the back country skills and stamina... more

Cypress Provincial Park - Backcountry Camping (no front country), hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding and downhill skiing The park is 3,012 hectares in size and is located within a stones throw of the city of Vancouver off Highway 99. On a clear day, the lookout situated on the road into the park provides a spectacular view of the city and beyond... more

Mount Seymour Provincial Park - Backcountry camping (no front country), hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, horse trails, snowshoeing, snowboarding and downhill skiing The park overlooks Vancouver and on a clear day provides a spectacular view of the city and if you're lucky the 10,000ft peak of Mount Baker. The park is located on Mount Seymour Road just north of the parkway, 15 km north of Vancouver, just off of Hwy 1 in North Vancouver. Outside of the ski centre this is wilderness area just 30 minutes from Vancouver... more

Golden Ears Provincial Park - Reservations, front country camping, backcountry camping, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, horse packing, canoe camping, sea kayaking, swimming A spectacular park 48km east of Vancouver off highway 7. The park has easy car access with trails into the backcountry and several significant peaks which can be reached by park trails. The park butts up against Mount Garibaldi Park at its north boundary providing a seamless corridor of untouched wilderness surrounding the populous lower mainland... more

Note: Golden Ears isn't in the Sea to Sky corridor but it's listed here since it forms the southern boundary with Garibaldi Park and along with Garibaldi it provides some of the most accessible wilderness recreation possibilities in the lower mainland.

Alice Lake - Reservations, front country camping, hiking, swimming The park has 88 front country campsites. The park has its own trail network and with a short drive you can easily get access to the backcountry trails which will take you to the Black Tusk and Diamond Head areas of Garibaldi Provincial Park. The park is fften used by campers intending to visit Whistler, which is less than and hour by car. Make sure you have reservations in the high season. From Vancouver take the Lions Gate Bridge into West Vancouver then head up Taylor Way to the Upper Levels Highway and head west towards Whistler. The park is just off Hwy 99, approximately 13km north of Squamish.

Brandywine Falls Provincial Park - Reservations, Front country camping, hiking trails, waterfall The park is located just 11km south of the town of Whistler on Highway 99 from Vancouver. The waterfalls are spectacular and well worth a visit. The park is perhaps the best base base camp you'll find for exploring Whistler, Garibaldi and the surrounding areas. Reservations are a must in high season. From Vancouver take the Lions Gate Bridge into West Vancouver then head up Taylor Way to the Upper Levels Highway and head west towards Whistler.

Nairn Fall Provincial Park - Front country camping, hiking, swimming, waterfall The park has over 80 front country campsites available. The Nairn Falls after which the park is named are a spectacular site at 60m in height. The park along with Brandywine Falls and Alice Lake are often used by campers who need a base station from which to explore Garibaldi Park or Whistler. Reservations are a must in high season. The park is located just off Highway 99 approximately 32km north of Whistler. From Vancouver take the Lions Gate Bridge into West Vancouver then head up Taylor Way to the Upper Levels Highway and head west passed Whistler.

Porteau Cove - Reservations, front country camping, scuba diving, sea kayaking There are 44 Front Country and 15 Walk-in. A lot of the parks campsites are situated right on the water. The park and the surrounding area are well know to have great scuba diving. The park is locate on the shores of Howe Sound on Hwy 99 south of Squamish about 9km from Britannia Beach. From Vancouver take the Lions Gate Bridge into West Vancouver then head up Taylor Way to the Upper Levels Highway and head west towards Whistler.

Shannon Falls - Hiking, water falls From Vancouver take the Lions Gate Bridge into West Vancouver then head up Taylor Way to the Upper Levels Highway and head west towards Whistler.

Stawamus Chief - Front Country Camping, Climbing, Hiking A world class climbing destination, the park has some of the best, most accessible big wall climbing in North America. From Vancouver take the Lions Gate Bridge into West Vancouver then head up Taylor Way to the Upper Levels Highway and head west towards Whistler. The park is just across from Squamish.

Managed Lands - Gulf Islands  

 

Forests in British Columbia

BC Forest Service Recreation from the BC Forest Service

BC Forests have over eleven hundred camping sites scattered throughout the province. Some are managed and some are user managed, with some of the managed sites charging a fee for camping. In addition the Forest Service has a large network of trails it oversees, which include some of the finest hiking in the province.

 

 

Provincial Ecological Reserves - Gulf Islands & Vancouver Island

British Columbia Ecological Reserves

Click on the link above for information on any of the following reserves.

  • Anne Vallee - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Ballingall Straight - Gulf Islands
  • Bowser - Central Vancouver Island
  • Brackman Island - Southern Vancouver Island
  • Beresford Island - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Checleset Bay - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Clanninick Creek - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Claude Elliott Creek - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Cleland Island - Central Vancouver Island
  • Comox Lake Bluffs - Central Vancouver Island
  • Canoe Islet - Gulf Islands
  • Duke of Edinburgh - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Galiano Island - Gulf Islands
  • Haley Lake - Southern Vancouver Island
  • Harmony Bay - Southern Vancouver Island
  • Hudson Rock - Southern Vancouver Island
  • Klanawa River - Southern Vancouver Island
  • Ladysmith Bog - Southern Vancouver Island
  • Megan River - Central Vancouver Island
  • Misty Lake - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Mount Derby - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Mount Elliot - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Mount Maxwell - Southern Vancouver Island
  • Mount Tuam - Gulf Islands
  • Mount Tzuhalem - Southern Vancouver Island
  • Nimpkish River - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Oak Bay Islands - Southern Vancouver Island
  • Nitinat Lake - Southern Vancouver Island
  • Race Rocks - Southern Vancouver Island
  • Robson Bight - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Rose Islet - Gulf Islands
  • San Juan Ridge - Southern Vancouver Island
  • San Juan River Estuary - Southern Vancouver Island
  • Sartine Island - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Satellite Channel - Gulf Islands
  • Saturna Island - Gulf Islands
  • Solander Island - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Sutton Place - Central Vancouver Island
  • Tahsish River - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Ten Mile Point - Southern Vancouver Island
  • Trial Island - Southern Vancouver Island
  • Tsitika Mountain - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Tsitika River - Northern Vancouver Island
  • Woodley Range - Southern Vancouver Island

    Click on the link above for information on any of the reserves listed.

Lakes and Rivers

Most of the Gulf Islands are without significant fresh water lakes (swimmers shouldn't worry since ocean beaches abound - if you can live with the water temperatures) with the exception of Gabriola and Salt Spring Island (which has several). St Mary Lake in the northern region of Salt Spring is the areas largest lake, and along with lovely small beaches for relaxing, provides a great place for an easy paddle in a canoe or kayak. There are a number of resorts along the lakes shoreline but be forewarned, they may be booked long before high season in the summer. Early reservations are a must to avoid disappointment.

 

Blackburn Lake - Swimming, Salt Spring Island
Bullocks Lake - Salt Spring Island
Cusheon Lake - Swimming, Salt Spring Island
Cusheon Creek - Salt Spring Island
Ford Lake - Salt Spring Island
Hoggan Lake - Gabriola Island
Maxwell Lake - Swimming, Salt Spring Island
Roberts Lake - Salt Spring Island
Roe Lake - North Pender Island
St Mary Lake - Swimming, Salt Spring Island
Stowell Lake - Swimming, Salt Spring Island
Weston Lake - Swimming, Salt Spring Island

There are no rivers on the islands, although you'll find streams and creeks, several of which have hiking trails following along side.

 

Mountains and Hills
  • Baynes Peak (Mount Maxwell) - 605m, Salt Spring Island
  • Bruce Peak - 709m, Salt Spring Island
  • Burchell Hill - 800ft, Thetis Island
  • Hope Hill - 648m, Salt Spring Island
  • Lively Peak - 650ft, North Pender Island
  • Mexican Hill - 835ft, Valdes Island
  • Mount David - 935ft, Saturna Island
  • Mount Erskine - 440m, Salt Spring Island
  • Mount Galiano - 1090ft, Galiano Island
  • Mount Maxwell - See Baynes Peak, Salt Spring Island
  • Mount Norman - 890ft, South Pender Island
  • Mount Parke - 840ft, Mayne Island
  • Mount Sullivan - 630m, Salt Spring Island
  • Mount Tuam - 630m, Salt Spring Island
  • Quadra Hill - 745ft, Galiano Island
  • Reginald Hill - 235m, Salt Spring Island

 

 

Resources

Gulf Islands

Accommodations & Lodgings
Restaurants, Dining and Bars
Events, Festivals and Attractions
Tourism, Culture & History
Travel & Transportation

Victoria, Vancouver Island & the Discovery Islands

Accommodations & Lodging
Restaurants, Dining and Bars
Tourism
Events, Festivals and Attractions
Transportation & Travel
Tourism Victoria
Tourism Vancouver Island - Victoria & the Gulf Islands

 

Vancouver Coast & Mountains

Whistler

Out-There's Whistler Main Page
Whistler Tourism

 

Out-There's British Columbia
British Columbia Tourism

Related Links

 

Links of Interest

 

Out-There's Destinations

 

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