There’s so much to see on Vancouver Island. But did you know there’s a group of islands in between Victoria and Vancouver? These Southern Gulf Islands are perfect destinations for day trips or the weekend. You can get to any of these islands by taking the ferry from Swartz Bay and hopping over. Check www.bcferries.com for fares and schedules.
One of the biggest Gulf Islands is Salt Spring Island. Perfect for a day trip, you can visit the town of Ganges and walk around experiencing the Salt Spring vibe, relaxed and stripped bare of all the city problems. Try to go on a Saturday for the Salt Spring market. You can also go to Mount Maxwell – which is great for beautiful views on top. But be careful – you can either walk or drive to the top, but there’s no asphalt and lots of bumps.
Mayne is a big island with lots to explore. You can get around hitchhiking if you want and there are specific stops where you can be picked up and dropped off. There’s a small brewery which is worth visiting as well as the Plumper Pass community park which has a lot of trails to explore. The Sunny Mayne Bakery Café has all the yums and yams you want to replenish your energy before you head back to Vancouver Island.
Small but beautiful, this island is great for a day trip. They rent out bicycles by the ferry terminal and you can bike around the island to the East Point. You’ll find a lighthouse there and you can see the open waters, where sometimes wild life will great you. There’s one general store on the island where you can purchase some yummy food (huge portions!) and drinks before you cycle around. By the time you get back to the ferry terminal, return your bikes and have a bite at the Saturna Lighthouse Pub. You deserve it!
For all the outdoor lovers, go visit Pender Island. Hike up Mt. Norman, which gives you stunning views of all the surrounding islands. Visit Roseland park (a former resort) where you’ll find abandoned cottages where you can peek inside. You can also walk around Roe Lake, perfect for a picnic. If you’re early, grab lunch at Jo’s Place, which is known for its modern take on comfort food and just so darn good!
Another island for nature lovers is Galiano Island. Is hiking your favourite thing in the world? You’re in luck, because this island has everything you need. You can visit Mount Galiano (stunning views), Bodega Ridge Provincial Park (more stunning views), Bluff Park and Bellhouse Park for stunning hikes and nature. And if you’re hungry, try Babes In The Woods Eatery for mouthwatering taco’s and pizza.
And that’s it for the Gulf Islands! Please note that some of these islands don’t have public transport. Still, the islanders are a friendly bunch and will pick up hitchhikers when needed (Mayne Island has actual hitchhike pick-up stops) and drop you off where you need to be. If you have a car, you can drive around the islands pretty easily and visit the more remote areas. Either way, it’s going to be a (day) trip to remember.