Gulf Islands, BC
I’ve spent most of my summers boating through BC's amazing coastline. We would spend our days island hopping, jumping in the icy water to cool off, and exploring tidal pools along the shorelines. Our Gulf Islands are one of my favourite things about BC and if you have the opportunity, definitely take advantage take time to visit a few of them.
Starting in Montague Harbour, the Crane and Robin is a great pub that always has hearty food options (specifically the fish tacos are wonderful). It perches over the bay and is a perfect place to watch the boats come and go. Galiano is home to the foodie haven Pilgrimme restaurant. This restaurant really is in its own league and if you are looking for an extraordinary food experience in the woods, then this is it. Set in a small cottage, this culinary team creates outstanding dishes using local and foraged ingredients. My dinner at Pilgrimme goes down in my top ten food experiences ever. At Sturdies Bay (where the ferry lands), you will find a schoolbus, which always has the music cranked, transporting customers to the Hummingbird Pub.
Galiano is also home to Bodega Ridge. A small, beautiful resort that is home to self-contained log cabins spread along 22 acres. Bodega Ridge hosts many weddings and retreats and is a delightful place to nestle in and unwind. It books up fast, so get your cabin reserved early. Montague Provincial park also has a little campground that is a perfect place to explore.
PENDER ISLAND (NORTH & SOUTH)
Pender Island is one of our go to locations in the summer. There is enough to do so you aren’t bored but it’s quiet enough to just sink into the beauty of the island. If you are going to stay overnight, I would recommend grabbing an Airbnb (use my link for a discount if you are a new airbnb user) or VRBO. Alternatively, The Woods on Pender has a collection of renovated Airstreams as well as a delicious restaurant. The other place I would recommend staying is the Currents at Otter Bay. These cottages are perfect for families and it has a private marina which works perfectly if you are on a boat.
Whenever on Pender, we always stop at Sea Star Estate Farm and Vineyards. This crew produces some amazing wines that have been making waves across BC. They often have a taco truck parked on the property and it is easy to burn a few hours with a bottle in their gardens. Twin Island Cider is just down the road from the winery and is a new player to the Pender Island scene. Fortunately, they are fitting right in and producing amazing cider from the heritage orchard on their property.
Saturna is one of the smaller islands, however it continues to me back year after year. I don't anticipate that many people will be able to get there as the ferries are infrequent but I wanted to be sure to include it because it really does offer those that are looking for some “true rest” a great option. If you mange to get yourself to Saturna, do yourself a favour and get to the East Point Lighthouse Park. My family visits this park at least half a dozen times each summer. Imagine walking through tall grasses filled with wildflowers while overlooking miles and miles of pristine ocean, teeming with wildlife. East Point is a well known Orca spotting location and with any luck you may see a few passing by. My favourite part of this park however, is the Petroglyph/pictograph. If you continue walking along the path, up the hill towards the cell tower, you will see the remains of an old pool that was built into the cliffside. Just above that you should be able to see a Petroglyph of a women holding a baby. While this has not been dated officially, most believe it to be remnants of the First Nations that called Saturna home many decades ago.
Saturna is relatively unpopulated and may be the perfect place to rent a small cabin and unplug for a weekend. But be aware, that there really is limited amenities on this island. Wild Time Coffee House is a true representation of the Gulf Island spirit. This cafe has found its home in a double decker bus. They have delicious coffee and amazing breakfast sandwiches.
SALT SPRING ISLAND
Salt Spring can be almost unbearably busy on the weekends in the summer. However, it’s many creatives and little jewels tucked in the hills make up for the craziness. The Salt Spring Island market takes place every Saturday from April to October. The market is a haven for finding all sorts of homemade goodies – think soaps, jewelry, cleaning products, candy, pizza, baked goods, and ice cream. The market is located right in Ganges Harbour so if you are arriving by float plan or boat, it is an easy access. If you have a car then you really can unlock all of Salt Spring Island’s treasures! Leaving Ganges, drive along Lower Ganges Road. You will soon pass Foxglove Farm and Garden Supply. It’s lots of fun to wander through the outdoor maze of plants. If you have a car and some time, take a drive up Mt. Maxwell. The views are incredible and in the summer, the journey is surrounded by wild foxgloves.
I highly recommend that you look at the Salt Spring Studio Tour. This self-guided tour (you'll need a vehicle for most of them) showcases some of the most wonderful artists/artisans on the island. I've listed my favourites below:
This little shop is set high up on a hill with a lovely view overlooking their lavender fields. The modern building design is filled with wonderful scents of not just lavender but a whole host of magical finds.
This cidery makes its cider from the wild apple and pear trees across Salt Spring Island. It has a beautiful deck and in the summer its a perfect place to sit and enjoy the sunshine.
Salt Spring Island has a few wineries, but Salt Spring Island Vineyards is one of the best. Not only is the wine delicious, the grounds are spectacular and they often have live music playing. On a summer day, arrive early afternoon armed with a picnic blanket and some snacks. Get yourself a patch of grass and grab a bottle of wine and you've created the perfect island day.
This little gallery is perhaps my favourite on the island. The space rotates through different exhibitions so be sure to check their website or Instagram before visiting. On the property is also an BnB (a restored airstream trailer) and a wood sauna to enjoy. I highly recommend looking into staying here during your visit!