The south end of Gabriola Island was first visted by the Coast Salish to hunt and fish during the hot summer seasons. Ancient petroglphs can still be found carved into the sides of numerous sandstone cliffs. The remains of a former First Nations village can be seen extending over a kilometre on the shoreline, and artifacts are still routinely found. The name of the island is derived from the Spanish name 'Punta de Gaviota' (Cape Seagull), which was given to the island by Spanish explorers in the late 18th century. This name was later corrupted into "Gaviola" and eventually "Gabriola" by other settlers.
Today, Gabriola is known as the "Isle of the Arts" as it is home to dozens of world-renowned and emerging artists. Beaches, waterfront parks, theatre, music and the many art galleries and studios draw visitors to experience this charming island.
Gabriola Island is about a 20 minute ferry ride from Nanaimo, Vancouver Island. Gabriola is one of the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, situated in the Strait of Georgia, between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland. Other access to the island is by float plane, or your own boat.
This volunteer-run community museum tells the story of this small island in the Strait of Georgia, its climate, plants and animals; the petroglyphs carved by its aboriginal inhabitants; its discovery by Spanish explorers and later occupation by European immigrants.
Drumbeg Provincial Park is a popular attraction for tourists. The sandstone beach has tidal pools teeming with life, beautiful driftwood, as well as magnificent diving and snorkeling opportunities. Gabriola Sands is a picturesque park with two sandy beaches and manicured lawns.Sandwell Provincial Park, with its long sandy beach and views of the Strait of Georgia, is a favourite destination for visitors to Gabriola Island. At low tide, you can walk down the beach to view a prehistoric petroglyph carved into the sandstone rocks, east of the day-use area.
A popular attraction on the Island is the famous Malaspina Galleries. The product of thousands of years of erosion from wind and rain, the "galleries" have formed a beautiful cave-like sandstone formation measuring 90 m (295 ft) by 3.5 m (12 ft) overlooking the water, which visitors to the beach can safely walk under and explore.
Trails criss-cross Gabriola and you'll see them everywhere. Pick up a Trail Map at the Information Centre. Beach access markers are found around the island. These trails will take you to the shoreline. Some favourites are the Yogi and River Place Trails, Petroglyph Trail, all the trails in the 707 acre Community Park, Rollo McClay Park to Wild Cherry Terrace, Coast Road Beach Access, the trails to Sandwell Provincial Park, and the Twin Beaches Headland Loop. There is also some great walking is Drumbeg Park.
The natural and artificial reefs around Gabriola Island boast some of the best marine life diving on British Columbia's coast. Gabriola Pass and Dodd Narrows are two of the most popular drift dive locations. Breakwater Island and Rogers Reef include over 200 marine species, including resident Wolf Eels and Octopus.
Kayaking on Gabriola Island is a popular activity. The natural beauty of Gabriola and the surrounding ocean makes every trip out on the water a spectacular experience that is sure to leave you with everlasting memories. Gabriola Island offers both guided kayaking tours and kayak rentals.
Gabriola is known as "The Isle of the Arts" and for good reason. It's home to possibly the highest concentration of artists in Canada, covering almost every discipline: glassworks, blacksmithing, painting, photography, pottery, jewellery, woodcarving, literature and music. Galleries and private studios scattered around the island welcome visitors.
Gabriola Golf and Country Club is a challenging golf course carved around picturesque Hogan Lake and featuring twisting fairways with nine undulating greens.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia