Gulf Islands Region
Things to do on the Gulf Islands:
- Art tours visiting the local artists and craftsmen, browsing galleries and celebrating art fairs.
- With miles of breathtaking coastline, tranquil bays, sheltered coves, uninhabited islands, dozens of beaches to launch from, moonlight paddles, ocean kayaking is a popular outdoor activity. Equipment rentals, lessons, tours, and guides are available.
- The Gulf Islands offer a wealth of opportunities for walking, hiking and cycling and all of the islands have hike-to points that grant stunning views: 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.
- This area is perfect for boating and sailing vacations, and some of the most pristine natural areas can be reached only by boat. The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is a brilliant focus for a boating vacation and covers 33km² of parkland on numerous islets, reefs, and islands. Nature cruises, boat charters, sailing tours, and saltwater fishing charters are all great ways to get out on the water.
- Cycling is a popular way to tour the islands. Country roads lead from ferry docks to villages with farm and flower stands, artisan studios, tranquil beaches, lush green parks, and viewpoints along the way. Many of these islands are quite hilly, so expect some cardio challenges. Gulf Island roadways have narrow or no shoulders, so cyclists should watch for vehicles, cycle single file, and wear high-visibility clothing and helmets.
- Numerous diving areas are accessible from the shore areas on these islands, or you can charter
a boat and dive offshore sites.
- Nine-hole golf courses are located on Salt Spring, Gabriola, Galiano, and Pender Islands.
- Year round festivals and events are on the go to enjoy on all the islands.
Salt Spring Island
Welcome to “the coolest island in Canada” (Washington Post). Life on the most populated (just over 10,000 full-time residents) of the Gulf Islands is centred in Ganges, a bustling harbour town featuring a legendary Saturday market and a colourful array of independent shops, galleries and acclaimed restaurants. Elsewhere all is peace and pastoral quiet. Dine by the water in Fulford Harbour, hike Mount Maxwell’s cliffside trail and visit the island’s north end at Southey Point. Stay at one of dozens of B&Bs or pitch a tent oceanside near Ruckle Heritage Farm, BC’s oldest working farm.
Things to do on Salt Spring Island:
- This Island’s art galleries and studios have attracted international attention and it has been named the 9th best art “town” in America with a population of fewer than 30,000 by arts writer John Villani in his book on the 100 best art towns in America.
- The Visitor Centre in Ganges, with its signature orange door, is where you can pick up a self-guided studio tour brochure (more than 30 stops!), along with other information.
- In the summer, you’ll find many arts and crafts at ArtCraft. At ArtSpring — the local theatre — music, theatre, and dance performances are staged throughout the year.
- Salt Spring Island’s culinary talents have also earned international attention and attract foodies from many areas. Sample delicacies, including artisan breads, cheeses, salmon, lamb, and wines, by visiting the artisans, browsing shops, cruising the Saturday Market, and dining in the many restaurants. The Saturday Market operates from spring through fall and offers fresh farm products, homemade treats, and arts and crafts.
- The annual Fall Fair, which takes place on the third weekend of September every year, celebrates its 116th anniversary in 2013. Other great events include the Polar Bear Swim, Ruckle Park Day, Folk Dance Festival, Round Salt Spring sailing race, Eco-Home Tour, Jazz Fest, Lavender Festival, Treasure Fair, Fulford Day, Organic Apple Festival, Harvest Ball, Halloween Spooktacular, and Light-Up.
Uncrowded even during peak season, Mayne is the postcard island with its signature lighthouse directly across from Galiano as ferries sail into Active Pass from the mainland. Good restaurants, shops and galleries are here yet most visitors seek unadorned rest and relaxation. 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 in the several historic buildings, including the 1896 Plumper Pass Lock Up — the former jail — which is now a small 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 services every Sunday. At Georgina Point Heritage Park, part of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, the Active Pass Lighthouse has been signalling ships since 1885.
- Visit Mount Parke Regional Park for hiking or cycling tours and great views.