Welcome to the Gulf Islands
So you’ve decided to see why the Gulf Islands are consistently rated a “must-visit” destination — but how do you decide which ones to see first?
The islands share West Coast natural beauty and weather, and a culture forged from generations of independent-thinking residents, yet each has its own character, history and amenities, which are readily discerned through a visit or two.
They range substantially in size, population and services, but all of them offer safe, rural environments and an escape from the stress of a busy life. Please note that potable water is scarce on all of the islands, so that conservation is a must while you are visiting.
Read about each island in the pages that follow and see which one suits your fancy, or plan a trip around a cultural or recreational event.
Whatever you seek and whatever you discover, we know that once you’ve seen the Gulf Islands for yourself, you’ll stop wondering why they’re such a treasured part of the world.
Getting to and around the islands
Most people use B.C. Ferries to reach the main Gulf Islands on foot, bicycle or vehicle, travelling through some of the most stunning scenery in the world. See www.bcferries.com for everything you need to know about schedules, reservations and fares.
The Gulf Islands are well served by float plane companies for scheduled and charter flights.
Government docks and private marinas are ready for boaters year-round. Booking ahead is recommended during busy summer months.
Water taxi services provide some island connections.
Ways to get around vary from island to island. Besides taxi services and car and scooter rentals, Salt Spring Island has a public transit system. See busonline.ca or call 250-538-4282 for up-to-date bus info. Mayne and Pender islands have community buses too. For Mayne info, email email@example.com, or call/text 250-539-0851. Pender info is at penderbus.org. The Saturna Shuttle operates in summer months (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Galiano’s Hummingbird Pub and Galiano Inn provide some shuttle services too.
Pender, Mayne and Salt Spring islands also have car-stop systems for easier hitchhiking.
Where to stay on our islands
315 Robinson Rd, Salt Spring Island, BC
The Cottages on Salt Spring Island are your perfect home base to enjoy everything Salt Spring has to offer. Located on 35 acres on picturesque Bullock Lake and minutes from Ganges, the 25+ cottages offer both nightly and weekly rentals. Most cottages feature 2 king sized bedrooms, 2 ½ baths including one with soaker tub, fully serviced kitchens and large south-west facing decks to enjoy the sun and views.
753 Tumbo Channel Road Saturna Island, BC
Under new management, our post & beam 1 & 2 bedroom cottages are steps away from your private beach. Fall asleep to the sound of the waves cresting against the shoreline.
449 East Point Road Saturna Island, BC V0N 2Y0
Two waterfront rooms overlooking a quiet sandy beach. Ensuite bathrooms, separate entrances, private dining and sitting area. Room #2 has an adjoining room for families or larger groups.
443 E Point Rd, Saturna, BC
Four Winds Bed and Breakfast offers lovely, roomy one bed-room suites and a honeymoon suite. We are situated on the north side of Saturna with views of the North Shore and Cascade Range, Mount Baker and Tumbo Island Marine Park in the foreground.
Some Gulf Islands history
When Captain George Vancouver made his first Gulf Islands sightings in 1792, the area was already home to several First Nations people.
In recognition of its original inhabitants, the Gulf Islands region is often referred to as the “Salish Sea.”
A cultural resurgence is well underway among the region’s Quw’utsun, WSA’NEC and Penelakut people, with elders and knowledge keepers sharing indigenous ways of being in a variety of ways on their traditional territories. In the summer of 2016, male and female welcome poles were brought to the seaside at Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park by members of the Quw’utsun First Nation.
Captain Vancouver claimed the islands for the British Crown, and referred to them as being located in a “gulf.” While the Gulf Islands are clearly not in a gulf, the name stuck.
In the same year, Spanish and British cartographic expeditions also explored the area, intent on finding a passage to the northwest Atlantic.
As marine traffic between Victoria and the Fraser River area of the mainland increased, it became clear that a new map of the Strait of Georgia was needed. In 1858-59, another British cartographic expedition, on the HMS Plumper, was dispatched and more accurate maps were produced.
By now, pioneers had begun establishing settlements on the Gulf Islands. American blacks and Portuguese arrived in 1859 and carved out homesteads in fertile valleys on the north end of Salt Spring. Hawaiians, who were employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company or living in the San Juan Islands when they became U.S. territory in 1872, also settled on south Salt Spring and nearby islands.
Settlers from other parts of the world soon followed, establishing farms and small industries. Japanese residents created productive farms and fish salteries, which they lost during the internment of World War II.
A stunning Japanese garden at Dinner Bay Park on Mayne Island, and the Heiwa Garden in Peace Park in Ganges on Salt Spring Island recognize the contributions of Japanese settlers. New in Mouat Park on Salt Spring is a restored charcoal kiln used by Japanese pioneers.
124 Upper Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island, BC
This legendary Salt Spring landmark is the best place to meet people. We have a waterfront patio with spectacular views, weekly live entertainment, and the friendliest staff in B.C. The locals love our savoury menu, 14 craft beers on tap, pool table and the only dance floor on Salt Spring.
4605 Oak Rd, Pender Island, BC
Ph: (250) 629 3493
Port Browning Marina Resort is where old and new friends meet! Newly renovated and offering first class cuisine in the cafe and pub.