David Suzuki's Nature Challenge
Out-There Logo
Gulf Islands National Park
Out-There - www.out-there.com - Home
  Beached Kayak at Sidney Spit  

Gulf Islands National Park was established in May 2003 to protect areas of the spectacular Gulf Islands. The regions exceptional beauty and excellent climate have attracted a lot of development in the last thirty years. The protected status that comes with the park will ensure that some of the wonders of the area are preserved for future generations. While some segments of the islands are built up, you'll still find many secluded and wild places to explore. Indeed some of the areas only facilities are designated campsites and pit toilets.

Spread out over a dozen islands the park is located in the Straight of Georgia, which separates Vancouver Island from the mainland (and the City of Vancouver).The islands can only be reached by water or float plane. This of course makes them ideal for boaters and kayakers.


On the shorelines watch for River Otters, Mink, Sea Lions, Oyster Catchers, looking up you might see a Bald Eagle or a Peregrine Falcon. Killer Whales can sometimes be seen off shore, which surprise and enthrall boaters as they pass through the channels.

  Boats in the Bay   Rum runners were known to use the area in and around the park in the nineteen twenties to hide their contraband as they tried to smuggle it across the nearby American border. The park's islands were also a stop over points for the miners making their way to the Caribou during the Gold Rush. Former American slaves, Hawaiians and chinese are some of the the diverse early settlers in the area.  

Note: Many of the small islands and islets in the park have restricted access consult with the park for more information.


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 south eastern reaches of Saturna Island. Outside the park areas the rest of Saturna Island is private property. Saturna Island Map from Out-There

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 northeast of Sidney Island. Outside the park areas the rest of the island is private property.

McDonald Campground - Saanich Peninsula (Vancouver Island) - Front Country Camping, Sea Kayaking (nearby). Located on the south eastern 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 campground is also nicely positioned as a jump off point for exploring the park as well as the Saanich Peninsula and Victoria.

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 is to be had to the top of Mount Norman (244m elevation gain), which will reward you 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. Outside the park areas the rest of the islands are private property. Pender Islands Map from Out-There

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. Outside the park areas the rest of the island is private property.

Princess Margaret (Portland Island) - Camping (accessible by water only), Sea Kayaking, Hiking. The Island has three campgrounds located around the islands perimeter. There are hiking trails that cris cross the island and provide a terrestrial connection to each. There is no fresh water available at this property. The Island lies just south of Salt Spring Island not far from the mouth of Fulford Harbour.

Prior Centennial Park - See Pender Islands

Saturna Island - Camping (accessible by water or on foot only) There are five campsites (accessible by water) on Cabbage Island which is just off Saturna's shores (see seperate listing). There are also seven more sites available at Navaez Bay which can be accessed on foot along a 1.7km path. You have to carry in all of your gear.

Sidney Spit - Walk in Campsites (accessible by water and passenger ferry), Hiking, Sea Kayaking Located almost due east of the Town of Sidney, access is via a day ferry which will transport you over to the island for a day at the beach, or for a longer period 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 campsite, which is located beside the islands old brick factory. You'll also have a chance to observe one of the most unique shorelines we've ever encountered - a brick beach. Outside the park area the rest of the island is private property.

Note: Water may not be available and what there is should be boiled (or treated) - bring your own supply of drinking water. All campers must be registered at a designated site before the last ferrry leaves the island. Group Camping is available on Sidney Spit. Contact the park for details.

Out-There - www.out-there.com - Home

Provincial Parks in the Gulf Islands (outside the  National Park)

The provincial and regional parks listed are not a part of the Gulf Islands National Park but you might want to include some of them when you visit, particularly if your a boater. For more information click through on the individual links or the BC Parks link for the provincial parks or the Capital Region District link for the regional parks.

Dionisio Point Provincial Park (Coons Bay) - Galiano Island - Walk-in Camping (accessible by water only), hiking, 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. 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). Polier Pass has very strong currents. BC Parks Galiano Island Map from Out-There

Montague Harbour Marine Provincial Park - Galiano Island - 40 Front Country Campsites, 15 Walk-in Campsites, Drinking Water, Hiking Trails, Picnic Area, Beach, Boat Moorage - From the ferry terminal follow Sturdies Bay Road and keep right on Montague Road which will take you into the park. BC Parks Galiano Island Map from Out-There

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 Parks

Ruckle Provincial Park - Salt Spring Island - 8 Front Country Campsites, 78 walk-in Campsites, hiking, sea kayaking. 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.From the Fulford ferry terminal take Fulford Ganges Road a short distance, then turn right on Beaver Point Road (there are signs) which will take you into the park. BC Parks Salt Spring Island Map from Out-There

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, at Chivers Point, Cabin Bay and Conover Cove. BC Parks

Note: These parks are not part of the Gulf Islands National Park but are within the southern Gulf Islands group.

Regional Parks

Descanso Bay Regional Park - Gabriola Island - 32 Front County Campsites, 595 Taylor Bay Road, 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. Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) Map of Gabriola Island from Out-There

For information on kayak camping at the regions marine parks, see our Sea Kayaking section.

Gulf Islands



There are no cycling trails in the park but the surrounding island roads are a popular destination with cyclists. These include the Penders, Mayne and Saturna Island which can be reached by ferry which will also take your bikes over for a fee. Cyclists can take advantage of the National Park campgrounds on the Penders. While not a part of the park Galiano, and Salt Spring Island also see a lot of touring cyclists which visit mostly in the high season. You can rent bicycles on most of the large islands. None of the parks trails are open to cyclists.

Note: While the islands country roads are a popular with cyclists, you'll find a a fair bit of traffic in the summer months on many of the larger islands. In addition many roads have blind corners, no shoulders and significant hills.

Gulf Islands



The parks hiking trails are not fully undeveloped. You'll find hiking trails on Sidney Spit, Portland Island (Princess Margaret), Russell, South Pender, Rum Island, Tumbo, Cabbage, D'Arcy and Saturna Islands.

Portland Island - One of the parks best hikes with trails that cut across and encircle the island. There is camping but no developed facilities on the island making it a great place to explore.

Sidney Spit - The hiking trails are a mix of open field, forest and wonderful beach walking along the two arms of the islands' sandy spit. Take advantage of the islands walk-in campground and stay for a weekend to allow you to explore the whole island.

Isle-de-Lis - A mix of bluffs and forest greet the hiker on this small island's trails. The trail system takes you on a route that circles the whole island.

Penders - Roesland - Roe Lake has a trail which will take you around the lake and you can also follow the footbridge out to Roe Islet. Beaumont on the south island allows you to hike up Mount Norman (245 metres), which provides excellent views of the park and surrounding islands.

Saturna - Hiking trails can be found at Winter Cove, Narvaez Bay, Monarch Head, Lyall Creek (moderate difficulty, 40 minutes one way), and Tumbo Island. You can also hike up the winding road of Mount Warburton Pike (500 metres) where you'll find excellent views of the the surrounding region.

Mayne Island - The small area covered by the park on Mayne includes a short hiking trail.

Note: Some of the islands may have hiking trails outside the park.

Out-There - www.out-there.com - Home



The Gulf Islands are one of North America's best areas for sea kayakers, with fascinating coves, bays, beaches and reaches in a largely protected ocean setting. The parks campsites are located on a number of islands, allowing you to use the park as an overnight destination, a weekend get away or an extended vacation. Kayakers should be thoroughly familiar with cold water conditions, tides and navigation and be equipped properly before setting out.  Weather can turn suddenly in the area so check and monitor marine weather forecasts. Boat traffic is significant in the islands during high season and large ferries move through the area constantly. Some of the islands waters have strong tidal currents (some running far faster than a kayaker can paddle) and rough waters, consult with the park about you're planned route before setting out.

Beaumont Park - Bedwell Harbour off South Pender, Water Access Only. The park has 11 walk-in campsites, picnic areas, toilets, an anchorage and a Canadian Customs office in the high season. There is no fresh water available at this property.
Supplies are available at nearby Bedwell Harbour Village.

Cabbage Island - North east of Tumbo Island, Water Access Only. The park has 5 walk-in campsites, a beach, a picnic area and toilets. There are also a number of buoys for moorage off shore. Tumbo island is just off of Saturna Island. The east side of Tumbo is exposed to the waters of the broader straight.

D'Arcy Island - East of the Saanich Peninsula and south of Sidney Island in Haro Straight, Water Access Only. There are several buoys for mooring and a small beach. The park has rustic campsites for overnight stays.

Prevost Island - Located off the end of Salt Spring's Long Harbour northwest of Pender and southwest of Galiano Island.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.

Princess Margaret (Portland Island) - South of Salt Spring Island not far from the mouth of Fulford Harbour. The Island has three campgrounds located around the islands perimeter. There are hiking trails that cris cross the island and provide a terrestrial connection to each. There is no fresh water available at this property Satellite Channel which seperates the island from Salt Spring is the major ferry route in the Gulf Islands.

Sidney Spit - East of the Saanich Peninsula on the north end of Sidney Island.The park is known for its exceptional sandy beaches. There are 35 buoys for moorage along the shores of the park and 26 walk-in campsites, vault toilets and picnic areas.

Isle-de-lis (Rum Island) - Between Stuart and Sidney Island, Water Access Only. The park has a few walk-in campsites as well as some walking trails.

There are also a number of excellent Provincial Park campsites in the area which you can also take advantage of.

Discovery Island Marine Park - East of Victoria off of Oak Bay where Haro meets Juan de Fuca Straight, Water Access Only. There are no designated campsites but their is an area for camping. Vault toilets are available. No moorage for boaters. While this is a popular kayaking destination the open water crossing from the mainland can be treacherous - best bet hire a guide.

Note: If you're not an intermediate or expert paddler, you should hire a guide. Many of the camping areas do not have potable water so ensure you bring along an adequate supply. Some of the channels see constant ferry traffic. These large boats move much faster than they appear to and often can't see something as small as a kayak. Correct timing of channel crossings is essential!

For a listing of the Provincial Parks in the Gulf Islands follow the link.


Winter Adventure

While the park is open in the winter, it is located in an area of British Columbia that sees little or no snow in an average year. Better to bring your hiking boots rather than you're cross country skies. Kayakers with cold weather experience and the proper equipment may find the park of interest in the winter. Hikers will find the trails to be extremely slippery and might want to avoid bluff trails particularly. Forest hiking is more precarious in the winter when winds are up and large blow downs are not uncommon. Be aware that winter weather is generally more extreme than what you'll find in the warmer months and a whole lot wetter.

If you just have to get you're snow fix Mount Washington is just to the north on Vancouver Island and the grand daddy of them all Whistler is just north of Vancouver on the mainland.

Out-There - www.out-there.com - Home


Maps of the Gulf Islands

Gabriola Island Map - From Out-There

Galiano Island Map - From Out-There

Mayne Island Map - From Out-There

Pender Island Map - From Out-There

Salt Spring Island Map - Ganges Village Map - Ruckle Park Map - From Out-There

Saturna Island Map - From Out-There

Sunset Trip to Saturna Island
Interactive Map of the Gulf Islands National Park

View Larger Map




Getting Here

The Gulf Islands are only accessible by water or by air. Regular scheduled ferry service is available from Swartz Bay (Victoria) or Crofton (Duncan) on Vancouver Island as well as from Tsawwassen (Vancouver) on the lower mainland of British Columbia. A short hop in a small plane will also take you to some of the park's islands from Victoria, Vancouver or even Seattle. Victoria can be accessed from Washington State via regularly scheduled ferry service.


Sidney Spit can be accessed by passenger ferry from the Town of Sidney on Vancouver Island just below the main car ferry terminal a Swartz Bay and just north of the Washington State ferry terminal. Kayakers can launch from this area (Saanich Peninsula) to paddle out to the park but caution should be used regarding tidal currents - contact the park for more information.

Getting Here By Private Boat

The Gulf Islands are a very popular cruising destination. Boats can be anchored in the parks waters but special care should be taken in areas with eelgrass beds. Twenty One Moorages are available at Sidney Spit, fifteen at Beaumont (South Pender), and ten at Cabbage Island off Saturna all of which allow only one boat per buoy and require a fee. You'll find limited space in the high season at the dock on Sidney Spit where over night fees are charged by the foot. Docks for accessing the islands by dinghy can be found at Royal Cove and during the peak season at Princess Bay and Portland Island. The following nautical charts will be useful - 3441, 3442, 3462, 3476, 3477 and 3478. Some marinas in the area are as follows:


Gulf Islands

Gulf Islands Main Page | Gulf Islands | Salt Spring Island | Galiano Island

Guides, Instructors, Outfitters (Gear Rental)

There are companies on most of the main islands which provide kayak tours, as well as rentals and instruction. Some of the islands don't have any park land but do provide good access to the park by kayak. There are a number of compsites outside the park which are maintained by the provincial park system. The Gulf Islands is a part of the BC Marine Trial. Some of the islands have bicycle rentals available.




Gulf Island Scenes
Gulf Island Life
Salt Spring Directory
Salt Spring Fall Fair
Salt Spring Market Photo Gallery
Salt Spring Studio Tour


Regional Links

Gulf Islands
Gulf Islands Guide
Gulf Islands Online
Discover Vancouver Island - Gulf Islands


Surrounding Regions

Out-There's Gulf Islands
Out-There's Vancouver Coast and Mountains
Out-There's Whistler
Out-There's Vancouver Island
Out-There's Victoria

Tourism Victoria
Tourism Vancouver
Vancouver Island

Vancouver Coast and Mountains

Out-There - www.out-there.com - Home
Gulf Islands

Gulf Island National Park

2220 Harbour Road, Sidney
Vancouver Island
British Columbia
V8L 2P6

All web site contents copyright 1995-2011 by White Cat Ventures Ltd.
Click here if you have arrived at this page without
the navigation bar on the left