Mount Norman, Pender Island Photo: Kim Walker
There are over 300 Southern Gulf Islands located off the shores of south-eastern Vancouver Island in the Salish Sea, however only the larger ones of Galiano Island, Mayne Island, Saturna Island, North and South Pender Islands and Salt Spring Island support a local population. These islands are famous for exceptional arts and crafts, country inns, excellent restaurants, parks, hiking, kayaking, cycling and breathtaking scenery.
The main Islands are accessible via BC Ferries from Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island and Tsawwassen on the BC Mainland (in the summer several sailings go to each island daily). Check out the BC Ferries schedule and book your trip accordingly.
Visitors to the Islands are always struck by their natural beauty: quiet roads where you will meet more deer or otter than motorists, vast stretches of uninterrupted shoreline with quaint lighthouses; stands of Madronna, Douglas Fir and Garry Oak; beaches and vast ocean parks. Small farms supporting organic gardening and a large natural seed repository reflect the history of the islands agricultural past including vineyards that are commanding international recognition.
Book some time at a spa and be pampered, taste local culinary delights and sip on a glass of local wine. Plenty of markets and festivals take place on the Islands especially during the summer. Here you can meet the local artisans, listen to music and taste some home-grown tasty snacks.
And artists. The BC Gulf Islands have attracted a varied and talented group of artisans. The local studios of potters, painters, weavers and spinners, wood carvers and fabricants produce products that are distributed worldwide. Music is a major part of the islands community conscience and local groups, when not on the road, play to a local audience in small pubs and cafés, bringing with them enormous talent from other parts.
Gulf Islands National Park Reserve consists of lands on 16 islands, plus numerous small islets and reef areas in British Columbia’s southern Gulf Islands. With a total area of 33 km2 (including a 25-metre intertidal zone), it is Canada’s 5th smallest national park. The waters surrounding or adjacent to park lands, extending 200 metres seaward from the natural boundary of the lands, are also protected and managed by Parks Canada.
Gabriola Island is also one of the Southern Gulf Islands and is included under the community of Nanaimo in Central Vancouver Island.