Gulf Islands Region
Things to do on the Gulf Islands:
- Make it an art tour by visiting galleries, weekend markets and numerous country road home studios, secreted away in idyllic settings.
- Launch an ocean kayak from beaches, boat launches and public docks to explore miles of coastline, 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 cyclists to exercise all due caution.
- 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.
Salt Spring Island
Welcome to what the Washington Post has called “the coolest island in Canada.” Life on the most populated (just over 10,000 full-time residents) of the Gulf Islands is centred in Ganges, a bustling harbour town known for its shops, galleries, restaurants and a truly legendary Saturday market. Peace and pastoral quiet is the norm elsewhere on this postcard-scenic refuge. Hike Mount Maxwell’s cliffside trail, picnic at Beddis Beach, dine by the water in Fulford Harbour and tour the island on two wheels. Check into the Visitor Centre for details on the North End and South End loop tours. Then relax and stay awhile in one of dozens of B&Bs or after pitching a tent oceanside near Ruckle Heritage Farm, BC’s oldest working farm.
Things to do on Salt Spring Island:
- Welcome to the unofficial arts capital of the Gulf Islands. Such is Salt Spring’s international reputation that author John Villani named the Island the ninth-best art spot (population under 30,000) in North America. Pick up a map of 30-plus home studios at the Ganges Visitor Centre (with its signature orange door).
- A marvellous array of local arts and crafts is available daily throughout the summer at the Salt Spring Arts Council’s cooperative ArtCraft gallery. Nearby in Ganges is ArtSpring, an intimate venue for music, theatre and dance performances staged throughout the year.
- Shop, people-watch and mingle with the colourful crowd at the legendary Saturday Market in Ganges from Easter weekend to the last Saturday in October. Around 140 vendors offer nothing but items made, grown or baked on Salt Spring.
- Discover the refined pleasures of locally grown and prepared food at any of the Island’s relaxed restaurants, cafes and pubs. Take home canvas shopping bags packed with artisan breads, cheeses, salmon, lamb, apples, hazelnuts and wine – all produced locally.
- The Salt Spring Fall Fair is one highlight on a lively annual community event calendar that also includes the New Year’s Polar Bear Swim, the Folk Dance Festival, the Eco-Living and Home Tour, Ruckle Park Day, the Round Saltspring sailing race, Organic Apple Festival, Harvest Ball and Halloween Spooktacular.
Uncrowded even during peak season, Mayne and its landmark lighthouse are a first Gulf Island sighting for ferry passengers as they sail into Active Pass from the BC mainland. Enjoy a handful of good restaurants, shops and galleries while knowing that uncomplicated restorative rest is the island’s best medicine. Cycle past the sheep farms. Visit a remarkable animal rescue facility. And take a contemplative stroll through a Japanese memorial garden. Book ahead: Accommodations are limited.
Things to do on Mayne Island:
- Discover Mayne’s colourful past at the 1896 Plumper Pass Lock Up (its former jail, now a museum); the Springwater Lodge, which has been operating as a hotel continuously since 1892; and St. Mary Magdalene Church, built in 1898 and still hosting Sunday services. The Island’s signature lighthouse at the mouth of Active Pass will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2015.
- Take the cardio challenge when hiking along a woodland trail to Mayne’s highest viewpoint at Mount Parke Regional Park.
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.
Hastings House Country House Hotel
A small waterfront luxury country resort, spa and restaurant sitting waterfront, on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. Enjoy luxury lodging, fine dining, wellness and relaxation in a casually-elegant atmosphere. Explore British Columbia’s natural beauty, Salt Spring’s mild climate and the warmth and creativity of its people.
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’ 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. In 2011/12, BC Ferries transported 20.2 million passengers and 7.8 million vehicles on over 186,000 sailings.
BC Ferries’ goal is to always offer passengers a memorable travel experience. Vessels serving customers on BC Ferries routes between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, the Southern Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast offer a wide range of passenger services – onboard and at the terminal. The mix varies from one vessel or terminal to the next but the goal is always the same: to make your voyage comfortable and enjoyable. On your trip across the water, be sure to look for a variety of onboard amenities like the Coastal Cafe, the Pacific Buffet, the Seawest Lounge and Passages Gift Shop.
BC Ferries has a several appetizing dining options available onboard that vary from one vessel to the next. The Coastal Cafe has an assortment of hot and cold items such as Bread Garden sandwiches, wraps and sushi, White Spot Burgers Onboard, Captain Kids Meals and options from the Healthy Choices Program like a selection of fresh salads. For passengers looking for an elegant dining experience with spectacular ocean views, the Pacific Buffet offers a variety of gourmet choices for an all-inclusive price.
If you are looking to do some onboard shopping, Passages Gift Shop is a great place to find gifts and souvenirs inspired by the West Coast of British Columbia. Passengers will find a wide selection of jewelry, clothing, toys, books and even gift certificates. Simply want to relax onboard? Enjoy the scenic coastal views from the Seawest Lounge – this is the perfect place for passengers looking for a quiet, comfortable and peaceful experience onboard.
There are various passenger services available at our terminals that vary from one terminal to the next. Larger terminals feature markets and coffee shops, play areas and other amenities, while smaller ones have facilities suited to travellers on shorter, inter-island crossings – many with kiosks run by local businesses.
On select routes a guaranteed reservation may be purchased on a first come, first serve basis.
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