Gulf Islands Region
Dream an island getaway to life in the heart of the Salish Sea. Make that islands plural, each with a distinctive character, yet all sharing unspoilt natural beauty and a sublimely tranquil pace of life. The characters who reside here are pretty unique too: writers and musicians, B&B owners and retired millionaires, earthy neo-hippies and spiritual seekers. No matter their background, everyone has set their clocks to “Island Time,” and that means no fuss, no rush (at least until it’s time to catch the next ferry out).
The southern Gulf Islands stretch along Vancouver Island’s eastern coastline from Saturna near the Canada/U.S. maritime border north to Gabriola offshore from Nanaimo. A half dozen of the larger islands are home to vibrant communities and are full-service vacation destinations for weekenders and long-stay visitors. Several hundred more smaller, uninhabited islands serve ocean kayakers, pleasure boaters, seabirds and slumbering colonies of sea lions.
Getting here by ferry or floatplane is part of the adventure and practical proof that you’ve made the great escape. Settle in to the welcoming embrace of a B&B, inn, resort or campground, then do as little or as much exploring as you like – either actively (hiking, biking, kayaking) or in more relaxed fashion while birdwatching, beachcombing or catching rays in a deckchair.
Inhale the fresh air and scenery. Snap photos of apple orchards, sheep-filled fields and the panoramic views along cliffside hiking trails. Wander through rare Garry Oak and Arbutus ecosystems. Hang out with the locals in coffee shops and pubs while learning best-kept island secrets direct from the source.
Meet creative folk in galleries and home art studios. Linger over regionally sourced food and drink on oceanfront patios. Or simply find a quiet spot on land or by the sea to picnic with loved ones and/or a good book.
Holidaying on a Gulf Island guarantees rest and relaxation – healthy, creative or pampered, it’s up to you. These three options mix and mingle at spas and wellness facilities specializing in all manner of holistic therapies – hydrotherapy, sea-salt scrubs, Reiki, aromatherapy, reflexology, mineral baths and more. Book one-time sessions or dedicate an entire vacation to optimizing mind, body and soul. Sign up for yoga classes or a meditation retreat. Daily exposure to nature on the water or in the vast green spaces that have been smartly preserved for future generations speeds the relaxation process.
Concerts, readings, theatre productions, culinary offerings, gallery openings and a busy spring, summer and fall schedule of festivals – literary, musical, nautical, arts and apples included – keep residents and visitors entertained. Buying local is a pleasure at weekend markets where artisans, gardeners, farmers, cooks and musicians strut their island style.
Immerse yourself for a weekend or longer in a refreshingly different way of life. Enjoy a variety of easily accessible experiences. And stack up the quality time with friends and family. Guarantee: Once you’ve visited one island, you’ll want to collect experiences on them all.
Things to do on the Gulf Islands
- Visit galleries, weekend markets and numerous home studios secreted away in idyllic backroad settings.
- Launch an ocean kayak from beaches, boat launches and public docks to explore tranquil bays, sheltered coves and uninhabited islands. Equipment rentals, lessons, and guided tours are available.
- Bring a camera and sense of awe to numerous scenic viewpoints including Mount Maxwell, Mount Erskine and Ruckle Park on Salt Spring; Mount Warburton Pike on Saturna; Mount Galiano and Bluffs Park on Galiano; Mount Parke Regional Park on Mayne; Mount Norman on Pender; and Orlebar Point on Gabriola.
- Boaters cherish the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and its 33km² of parkland spread across numerous islets, reefs and islands. Get out on the water with nature cruises, boat charters, sailing lessons and saltwater fishing charters.
- Cycle a diverse range of landscapes – flat country roads, challenging climbs and fast descents included – on each of the Gulf Islands. Linger in coffeeshops, pedal past forest and farmland and expect some serious cardio workouts. Caution: Narrow roadways require caution from cyclists.
- Wade into the ocean from any available shoreline for scuba diving adventures or join a guided expedition to popular dive spots.
- Swing a club with the locals at charming nine-hole golf courses on Salt Spring, Gabriola, Galiano and Pender Islands.
- Schedule a visit for any of numerous festivals, concerts, theatre productions and special events held year-round on each of the islands.
Experience Vancouver Island from a new point of view with a breathtaking seaplane adventure. Enjoy a 20 minute Victoria panorama flight featuring unique views of the city & the Olympic Mountains in the distance. Day trip to the world-renowned Butchart Gardens or downtown Vancouver. A variety of exciting tours await. Discover British Columbia’s spectacular coastlines with Harbour Air Seaplanes. Harbour Air Seaplanes also offers frequent and convenient scheduled flights connecting downtown Victoria, downtown Vancouver, Richmond (YVR Aiport), Comox, Nanaimo, Sechelt and the Sunshine Coast, the Gulf Islands and Whistler (seasonally). Travel like a local and experience a true West Coast tradition. We are proud to be North America’s first carbon neutral airline.
British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. (BC Ferries) is one of the largest ferry operators in the world, providing year-round vehicle and passenger service on 25 routes to 47 terminals, with a fleet of 35 vessels. The company provides an essential transportation link that connects coastal communities and facilitates the movement of people, goods and services throughout coastal British Columbia. BC Ferries has a several appetizing dining options available onboard that vary from one vessel to the next.
BC Ferries’ diverse service area includes connections between the Vancouver Mainland and Vancouver Island; from Vancouver Island or the Vancouver Mainland to many small island communities; from Prince Rupert on the province’s north coast to Haidai Gwaii and to Port Hardy.
Fly with Kenmore Air from Seattle, Washington over 45 spectacular Northwest destinations. Daily scheduled seaplane flights leave from Seattle's downtown Lake Union to Victoria's Inner Harbour, Nanaimo, the Gulf Islands, Sunshine Coast, Desolation Sound, Blind Channel and the Northern Inside Passage. Skip the ferry lines & and avoid long lines at the boarder. With Kenmore Air you'll be in Victoria in about 45 minutes. It's fast, convenient and stress-free! Charter flights are also available!