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 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:
- 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 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 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.
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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