Places to Visit in the Southern Gulf Islands Before Summer’s End
British Columbia’s beautiful Gulf Islands are the most visited region on the BC coast. Made up of over a dozen large islands, the Southern Gulf Islands are interspersed with a multitude of islets too numerous to count. Every island has its’ own unique flavour. Visitors to the Islands are always struck by their natural beauty: quiet roads where you will meet more deer or otter than motorists, vast stretches of uninterrupted shoreline with quaint lighthouses; stands of Arbutus, Douglas Fir and Garry Oak; beaches and vast ocean parks. And you don’t have to take our word for it, National Geographic Traveler named the Gulf Islands one of the world’s best coastal destination.
Salt Spring Island: Salt Spring Island is the largest of the Southern Gulf Islands and the one with the most varied facilities. At Salt Spring’s hub is the bustling village of Ganges with supermarkets, stores, galleries, banks, and a wide selection of restaurants and pubs with evening entertainment. Ganges is also famous for its gigantic Saturday farmers’ market – a cornucopia of food, fabric, arts and music spilling across the downtown park.
Gabriola Island: The most northern of the Gulf Islands, Gabriola’s sheltered west side is a popular anchorage and an option other than Nanaimo’s lively waterfront. Make sure to check out the Malaspina Galleries, which are beautiful wave-like sandstone formations that were created by millennia of water erosion. Silva Bay Resort and Pages Resort offer berths and every type of comfort. Explore land and sea with dive charters, fishing charters, kayak rentals or golf in seaside splendor at Gabriola Golf and Country Club.
Galiano Island: This island is home to several natural parks and recreation areas, and is ideal for active adventurers. Dionisio Point Provincial Park is a popular place to 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 a snug anchorage and incredible sunsets.
Pender Island: Bring your hiking boots to this island; visitors can enjoy a challenging shore-to-sky hiking experience up to the summit of Mount Norman and be rewarded by panoramic views of the islands. Bring a kayak to Princess Margaret (Portland Island) and paddle the tranquil coves. Stop for lunch at Arbutus Point or Princess Bay, then make your way to close-by Russell Island.
Mayne Island: 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 trek up to the viewpoint at Mount Parke and the trail to Campbell Point, overlooking Georgeson Island. You will also discover a vibrant farming community at the Mayne Island Saturday Farmer’s Market.
Thetis Island: 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 unique shoreline is perfect for kayaking and circumnavigation in a day is possible. The island has several hikes and a circular road system that is ideal for biking. Pilkey Point on the northeast tip of Thetis is a popular place to picnic and swim on a summer evening, while watching the sunset.