Hiking, camping, climbing, diving and cycling are all very popular in the islands but it's the sea kayakers and sailors that have truly found Nirvana in the channels, bays and passages throughout the area. Protected waters provide access to quiet anchorages and shoreline campsites. Villages dot the islands shores allowing you to replenish supplies, explore the shops, dine in style and discover the area's unique culture.
The major islands which make up the Southern Gulf Islands are Salt Spring, Gabriola, Galiano, Mayne, Saturna and the Penders. The other islands in the group include Thetis, Kuper and Valdes along with dozens of smaller islands and islets.
Salt Spring is the largest of the Gulf Islands with an area of about 180sq km and a population of over ten thousand. With the tallest mountains in the region, the largest number of fresh water lakes, dozens of hiking trails, wonderful birding areas and excellent kayaking routes nature lovers are in heaven here. If you're in pursuit of culture the island's studio tour is an excellent introduction to the variety of artistic expression available. The performing arts are well represented with several theater groups, a wealth of musicians and some wonderful venues which range from pubs and small cafes to the islands cultural heart at ArtSpring
Boaters can choose from several marinas and anchorages, with Ganges Harbour being the number one destination. Marine services, nautical charts and a full range of amenities are available in the Ganges area. Restaurants and bars crowd the shore and are only a short dinghy ride away. The Gulf Islands National Park and the Provincial Marine Parks have a number of sheltered anchorages and public moorage.
The island has wonderful trails, many of which will take you to overlooks with exceptional views of the surrounding region. There are also less strenuous options ranging from creek side walks to hikes along ocean beaches and seaside cliffs.
Getting Here & Getting Around – There are three ferry terminals on the island, Vesuvius, Fulford and Long Harbour, all of which are serviced by BC Ferries. From Tsawwassen (Vancouver/Lower Mainland) you can reach the island by taking the ferry to Long Harbour (some sailings are direct, consult their website for details). The other option is to take the ferry to Swartz Bay (Victoria/Vancouver Island) then catching the ferry to Fulford Harbour (be sure to ask for a through fare when you purchase you're initial ticket - it provides a good discount). From Vancouver island you can take the ferry to Fulford as previously mentioned or you can take the Crofton - Vesuvius (Duncan/Vancouver Island) link further north on the island. You can also connect directly or indirectly (consult the BC Ferries website for route information) with Salt Spring, Mayne, Pender and Saturna. Gabriola, Kuper and Thetis (Valdes has no ferry service) are served by separate routes. Inter-island passenger ferry service is also available through Gulf Islands Water Taxi. Several regional airlines service the island as well. Boaters can take advantage of the anchorages in the protected area of Ganges and Fulford harbours as well as a number of other bays and coves around the island. Canada Customs (Canadian Border Service Agency) is located on South Pender Island. Check out their website for information on custom clearance and the CANPASS system. The new Salt Spring transit system launched in 2008, allowing you to access a large part of the island without the need for a car. The Silver Shadow Taxi Company provides taxi service on the island. And the newly
Galiano is one the first islands you'll see from the ferry as you make your way into the archipelago from the mainland. Named after the Spanish explorer Dionisio Alcalá Galiano who sailed these waters in 1792. The island is about 30km (20 miles) long and and less then 7km (4 miles) across at its widest point with a total area of approximately 57 square kilometres (22 square miles). The population hovers around one thousand people but swells considerably in the tourist season. Mountainous and for the most part covered with forest and field, the shorelines alternate between bluffs, beaches and rocky outcroppings. There is an abundance of wildlife (with the exception of cougars, wolfs and bears) particularly black trailed deer. The island is a boaters and kayakers destination and often visited by cyclists even though the roads are winding, narrow and hilly. A bicycle shop near the ferry terminal provides parts and repairs if you have a problem. You'll find a marina and moorage, along with kayak rentals in Montague Harbour. Hiking trails and beach walks abound, with many of the inland trails leading to exceptional viewpoints. If you decide to take a beach walk be sure you have a copy of the areas tide tables to avoid getting marooned or trapped by incoming tides. Front country camping is available at Montague Harbour Provincial Marine Park and primitive camping can be had at Dionisio Point Provincial Park (water access only - Porlier Pass should only be attempted by expert kayakers with solid knowledge of tides and currents). There are a number of regional parks on the island including Mount Galiano, Bodega Ridge and Bluffs Park.
The main centre on the island is Sturdies Bay which has groceries, liqueur, hardware, a gas station, a bakery, a book store and a number of restaurants. Accommodations can be found throughout the island and range from small B&Bs to splendid inns ,such as the Galiano Ocean Front Inn, which is also one of the islands spas.
As with most of the Gulf Islands, Galiano has a large number of artists and artisans which make their work available in the island galleries or in their own studios. Art on a Fence is a well visited showing of island artists work which takes place during the summer months. Other events of note are the Galiano Wine Festival and the Saturday Market.
Getting Here & Getting Around - There are BC Ferries from Tsawwassen (Vancouver/Lower Mainland) and Swartz Bay (Victoria/Vancouver Island) some of which are direct (taking about one hour) and some hop from island to island on route (slow but scenic). You can also connect directly or indirectly with Salt Spring, Mayne, Pender and Saturna. Gabriola, Kuper and Thetis (Valdes has no ferry service) are served by separate routes. Galiano's ferry terminal is located at Sturdies Bay at the south eastern tip of the island. Inter-island passenger ferry service is also available through Gulf Islands Water Taxi. Several regional airlines service the island as well. Boaters can take advantage of the anchorages in the protected area of Montague Harbour as well as harbours and bays. Canada Customs (Canadian Border Service Agency) is located on South Pender Island. Check out their website website for information on custom clearance and the CANPASS system. The Gulf Island Taxi Company provides taxi service on the island.
The Pender Islands are made up of South Pender and North Pender island which until 1902, when a short canal was dug, formed a single island. The Penders are located in the center of an island group composed of Saturna, Mayne and Salt Spring. The islands accommodate about two thousand residents, most of whom live on the north island. The islands total area is about 36km sq (14 sq miles). The BC Ferries Terminal is located in Otter Bay on the north island. The majority of the islands commercial establishments are located within the Driftwood Centre, which you'll find in the middle of the north island. A pharmacy, liqueur store, grocery store, post office, gas station, restaurants and a bank along with a number of other outlets are clustered here. Most island shops take debit cards and credit cards but check first to be sure.
You'll find trails for hiking in the Gulf Island National Park which makes up a large part of the islands protected areas. There are short trails in the Roesland area of the park and a more demanding trail network in the Beaumont section. The Beaumont trails allow you to hike up to the lookout on Mount Norman, the highest point of the island with a splendid view of the surroundings. You can also reach the campground at Bedwell Harbour from the road using these trails if you bring along a backpack. Beach walks are always an nice alternative to the inland trails but be sure you have a copy of the local tide tables to avoid getting marooned or trapped by incoming tides.
Kayak guides and rentals are available on the island and kayakers can launch from several points. Overnight campsites can be accessed from the water in Bedwell Harbour at the Gulf Islands National Park site (fee).
Boaters have a choice of two marinas at either Bedwell Harbour or Port Browning. Public moorage and anchorages are available in Bedwell Harbour along with the marina at Poet's Cove Resort.
Golfers can take advantage of the Pender Island Golf & Country Club which offers a nine hole course.
The islands have a wide variety of accommodations which should suite every taste and budget including the excellent resort at Poet's Cove. Front country camping is available at Prior Centennial Campground located on the north island within the Gulf Islands National Park. There are several island restaurants to choose from as well as a pub and bakery. Organic produce can be picked up fresh directly from the areas farmers at the Saturday market in the warmer months. Wine lovers should take a look at the offerings of the islands new winery. The healing arts are alive and well on the islands, where you'll find spas and a fitness centre as well as yoga classes.
Theater and musical performances are readily available, particularly during the warmer months. The islands population has a disproportionate number of artists and artisans who's work can be seen at the Saturday Market ,as well as in a number of galleries on the islands. The island also boasts a regional museum. You can spend Saturday mornings at the Community Hall Market during the summer months and if you're here in August, make a point of taking in the fall fair. The islands hold a lantern festival at New Years.
Getting Here & Getting Around - There are BC Ferries from Tsawwassen (Vancouver/Lower Mainland) which require one or more hops (they are all indirect and will take you just over an hour on the shortest route) but the route to Swartz Bay (Victoria/Vancouver Island) has some direct connections (taking about an hour). The island to island connections are slow but scenic. You can also connect directly or indirectly with Salt Spring, Mayne, Galiano and Saturna. Gabriola, Kuper and Thetis (Valdes has no ferry service) are served by separate routes. The BC Ferries Terminal is located in Otter Bay on the north island. Inter-island passenger ferry service is also available through Gulf Islands Water Taxi. Several regional airlines service the island as well. Boaters can take advantage of the anchorages and public moorage in the protected area of Bedwell Harbour, where you'll also find Canada Customs (Canadian Border Service Agency). Check out their website for information on custom clearance and the CANPASS system. The Pender Island Cab Company provides taxi service on the island.
Mayne island is located just below Galiano across Active Pass. The island is about 21sq km in area with a population just short of a thousand. Once a stop over point for rowdy throngs of prospectors and miners on the way to the gold fields of the Fraser, the island has become more civilized and laid back. Country charm, lovely scenery, accommodating people and a wonderful artistic community ensure that visitors keep coming back. Islanders love of the good things in life is reflected by the restaurants, pub and bakery as well as the art galleries and studios on the island. The ferry terminal is located at Miners Bay, a short distance from the main village of Miners Bay, where you'll find a post office, liquor store, bakery, an ATM machine, as well as a book store and grocer. Several islanders are involved with health and therapy and you can readily get a massage or take advantage of acupressure therapy.
There are a number of access points to the water where you can go for a beach stroll but be sure you have a copy of the local tide tables to avoid getting marooned or trapped by incoming tides. A short hike is available in the Gulf Islands National Park area around Bennett Bay. For something more strenuous take the trail up Mount Parke and take in the splendid view of the region from the islands highest point.
Kayakers have a number of launches around the island and there are rentals and guiding services available. Campers can take advantage of the private campground located on Seal Beach in the Miners Bay area. Active pass is not a good place for a paddle, since it's the main route through the islands for the ferries and has a lot of recreational boat traffic as well. In addition the currents are exceedingly strong in the passage.
Mayne Island is relatively small, which is an attraction to cyclist but be aware that the islands roads are twisty and hilly with many blind corners. Bike rentals are available on the island and most of the areas accommodation owners welcome touring cyclists.
A variety of lodgings are available ranging from B&Bs ,to inns, to the islands interesting hotel. Campers have two private campgrounds they can choose from. While you're here take a trip out to the Georgina Point Lighthouse, then head over to Diner Bay for a stroll through the Japanese Gardens, visit some of the galleries and be sure to take in the Saturday Market at the “Ag” Hall during the summer and early fall. The well know Salmon BBQ takes place each year in the fall as well.
Getting Here & Getting Around - There are BC Ferries from Tsawwassen (Vancouver/Lower Mainland) and Swartz Bay (Victoria/Vancouver Island) some of which are direct (taking about one hour) and some hop from island to island on route (slow but scenic). You can also connect directly or indirectly with Salt Spring, Galiano, Pender and Saturna. Gabriola, Kuper and Thetis (Valdes has no ferry service) are served by separate routes. Galiano's ferry terminal is located at Village Bay a short distance from Miners Bay. Inter-island passenger ferry service is also available through Gulf Islands Water Taxi. Several regional airlines service the island as well. Canada Customs (Canadian Border Service Agency) is located on South Pender Island. Check out their website for information on custom clearance and the CANPASS system. The M.I.D.A.S. Taxi Company provides taxi service on the island.
Saturna is the least populated (just over 300 people) of the major Gulf Islands and the most difficult to get to by ferry. Of course a visitor is rewarded for his extra efforts in getting here by the serenity of the island. That said, it doesn't mean that the island lacks for amenities, events and attractions. A cafe and pub are ready to serve you fine food and groceries and dry goods are available from the Saturna General Store. As of this writing there are no Banks or ATM machines on the island. There are a number of B&Bs as well as cottages which can be rented on the island. There is currently no camping on the island but that may change with the newly designated Gulf Islands National Park. Almost half the island is now a part of the Park, which includes the hiking trails and the lookout at Mount Warburton Pike.
The big island has a gallery tour for those interested in the arts. The Saturday Market is popular with locals and visitors alike and well worth a visit. If you're lucky enough to be on the island for Canada Day, don't even think of missing the great Lamb Barbecue, which takes place at Winter Cove Marine Park. In the fall the islands winery puts on a harvest festival which is a wonderful chance to sample some of their fine wines.
Getting Here & Getting Around - - BC Ferry service has some non-stop service from Swartz Bay (Victoria/Vancouver Island) but many of the ferries may make one, two or even three stops on route. To reach Tsawwassen (Vancouver/Lower Mainland) you must transfer at least once. You can also connect directly or indirectly with Salt Spring, Galiano, Pender and Mayne. Gabriola, Kuper and Thetis (Valdes has no ferry service) are served by separate routes. Saturna's ferry terminal is located at Lyall Harbour, the islands main village. Inter-island passenger ferry service is also available through Gulf Islands Water Taxi. Regional airlines service the island as well. Canada Customs (Canadian Border Service Agency) is located on South Pender Island. Check out their website for information on custom clearance and the CANPASS system.
Gabriola Island is the northern most island in the Gulf Island group. With a population of about 5,000, which swells considerably during the tourist season, it's the second largest in terms of population. Amenities and services include a gas station, liquor store, bookstore, bakery, pharmacy, grocery store. You'll also find several ATM machines if you run low on cash. The island like most of the Gulf Islands has an inordinate number of artists, musicians and performers. Theater, music performances and art shows are brimming with island talent. The Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving) Gallery Tour is well respected and well attended by art lovers, who can choose to visit with any number of the the over eighty artists who participate. The island is also famous for another creative medium far removed from the canvas of the traditional artist, the sand sculptor. Each year the competitors take to the beaches of Gabriola Sands and produce some spectacular creations.
Where to stay is not a difficult question on Gabriola. There are innumerable cottages, B&Bs as well as inns and resorts on the island. You'll also find public camping less than a kilometre from the ferry terminal (you can backpack in if you don't have a car). Private campgrounds can also be found on the island. While the choice of accommodations is broad don't make the mistake of heading out during the high season (as well as Thanksgiving, Easter and other long weekends) without a reservation, since the island can be booked solid. Restaurants have a variety of offerings which should suite most tastes and budgets. Local produce, which is often grown organically, can be found at the Saturday Market, which takes place during the warmer months.
While cycling is popular with visitors the islands roads are not ideal, many of which are narrow and twisty, with hills that can be discouraging to some. That being said, strong cyclists can tour the island in a couple of hours. The islands main road is a natural route since it loops around the the islands north and south shores, providing access to the islands great beaches and parks. Mountain bikers can take advantage of the trails and jeep track in the 700 acres of forest in the centre of the island. Hikers can also make use of the forest trails and logging roads. Beach walks are another option, particularly at the ocean front parks but be sure you get a copy of the local tide tables so you don't get marooned or trapped by incoming tide. Nature's artistry is on display at the Malispina Galleries, which can be accessed (at low tide) by hiking along the shores from Gabriola Sands Provincial Park or from a trail off Malispina Drive.
Boaters are serviced by two marinas and can find anchorages in Silva and Degnan Bay. Kayakers will find rentals and tour guides on the island and a number of launch points to choose from. Walk on ferry passengers can also take their kayaks with them for a small fee.
Gabriola boasts three provincial parks, Drumbeg, Sandwell and Gabriola Sands. Gabriola Sands is known for it's two sandy beaches and its access to the Malaspina Galleries. It's located just north of the island's ferry terminal. 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 until you see the park. Drumbeg has hiking trails and limited anchorage for boaters. It's accessed from South Road at the south eastern end of the island. There are also a number of regional parks including Descanso, just north of the ferry terminal where you'll also find public camping.
British Columbia Tourism
Gulf Islands Tourism
Visitor Information Centres
For detailed visitor information contact or visit the islands information centres which are staffed with friendly knowledgeable people.
The Gulf Islands are located in the southern reaches of the Straight of Georgia (just to the north of the San Juan Islands in Washington State) between the Vancouver Coast and Mountains region (the Lower Mainland) of southwestern BC and Vancouver Island, which lies just to the west of the islands.
Chamber of Commerce
Postal Services - Mail
Phone Directories Online - Telephone
If you're idea of Hostelling is pulling up a piece of the rug, in an urban fallout shelter, with a dozen strangers - think again. Hostels range from a place to unroll your sleeping bag, to something approaching resort like accommodations, in beautiful settings, with you're own private room. Prices are still unbeatable and the company is usually interested, and interesting world travelers. If you're a boarder or skier take note, there are hostels in most of the major resort areas throughout the country.
Victoria International Airport provides the easiest access to the Gulf Islands. Southwestern British Columbia's main port of entry by air is through Vancouver, which will add just a little more time to your traveling plans if you choose this approach. From Vancouver airport you can drive (contact Pacific Coach Lines for bus information) to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, which will provide you with ferry access to the islands. From Victoria airport it's only a short drive to Swartz Bay and ferry access out to the islands. There are a number of options for reaching each island depending on your route and itinerary. Have a look at the BC Ferries web site for details.
There are a number of regional airlines which can take you to the islands from Vancouver and Victoria. You can also secure a flight from the Seattle area with one of the regional companies. There are no airports on the islands so you have to take a water plane regardless of your point of departure. Have a look at our regional carries section for links.
Travel Reservations - Online
Cars can be rented at both international airports as well as in downtown Victoria and Vancouver. You'll also find car rental locations in many of the smaller centers throughout British Columbia. For campers and recreational vehicle rentals see our RV, Campers and Motor Homes section.
A valid drivers license from you country of residence is valid for up to three months in British Columbia. Seat belts must be worn at all times, by law, for adults and children over 40lb (18kg). The speed limits are as posted, with freeways generally allowing speeds up to 100km/h (62.5 mph), other highways 70 to 90 and side roads generally pegged at 50km/hr. You are permitted to turn right on red lights (once you've come to a stop and ascertained the way is clear) unless otherwise indicated. British Columbia has photo radar, so keep a light right foot. The province is particularly stringent about drinking and driving - don't!
British Columbia is very strict in ensuring pedestrians have the right of way, so be alert when driving. Approach crosswalks and street corners with caution. Much of British Columbia is mountainous and driving conditions can deteriorate rapidly. In many areas, particularly in the north or at higher elevations, snow is possible at any time of year. Check for road conditions and closures before setting out.
Note: Driving regulations and laws change frequently, please ensure you check with the proper authorities to get the latest information before driving in the province.
Special Note for Drivers Visiting BC
1) British Columbia is a very mountainous area and during the winter months road closures in some areas are common. Avalanche chutes as well as heavy snow falls are key factors. When you plan your trip inquire about the route and check weather conditions before you go. Chains are mandatory on some mountain roads at certain times of year.
2) British Columbia is crisscrossed by thousands of logging roads, which are often the only access to back country areas. These roads where never intended for private vehicles (which can be damaged just trying to negotiate the road surface) and may present very serious problems with snow, mud ruts and rocks. Many require chains and/or four wheel drive. Roads connected to active logging areas will certainly have logging trucks running through them - proceed with extreme caution or better still don't go!
3) Logging roads may be closed to private vehicles and many active roads are only open during weekends when the trucks aren't hauling. Contact the "Ministry of Forests" if you plans include travel on any of these roads. Logging roads are for logging trucks - period!
While bridges are the common method to traverse waterways in Canada, ferries play a very large role in British Columbia along the coast. The Gulf Islands are only accessible by ferry, private boat or air. The main ferry service runs from the mainland, south of Vancouver in Tsawwassen, to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island . Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay have service to the islands which also allows for inter-island connections. Ferry service is also available between Crofton (Duncan area) to and Vesuvius on Salt Spring Island and from Nanaimo to Gabriola. Ferries from Chamainus will take you to Thetis and Kuper Islands.
There are a number of other coastal ferry routes between Vancouver Island and the main land including an extended route north along the BC coast to Prince Rupert.
Salt Spring Island has initiated a local transit system in the form of a minibus in 2008. Routes connect the three ferry terminals, service Ganges and the immediate surroundings and are now expanding to other areas of the island. For more information have a look at the BC Transit website under Salt Spring Island as well as the Capital Regional District site.
Intra-Island travel is available through BC Ferries or the Gulf Islands Water Taxi. The Gulf Island ferries provide access to the provincial and urban bus networks. Have a look at the provincial and national bus links, the BC Ferries website as well as the urban transit links below.
Cities, Towns and Villages
Weather & Climate
The islands are blessed with a moderate climate that sees little or no snow in the winter months (usually). Summers are normally sunny and dry from June to November with the rains setting in in the winter. A lack of rainfall in the summer can be problematic and most open fires are banned during the dry season.
The islands are surrounded by a variety of beaches ranging from the beautiful sandy shores of Sidney Spit, to the round rock beaches of Southy Point or one of the numerous shell beaches which are scattered through the islands.
Casinos - British Columbia
Cinema & Television
Health & Beauty
British Columbia Celebrities, Performers and Personalities
Canadian Celebrities, Performers and Personalities
Media - Newspapers, TV, Radio, Magazines
Vineyards - Wine
|All web site contents copyright © 1995-2008 by White Cat Ventures Ltd.|
|Click here if you have arrived
at this page without
|the navigation bar on the left|