Galiano & Mayne - South Isles Sojourn
Fav ride for all
I got lucky for this ride through the southern Gulf Isles. I had 4 days and 3 nights, and had glorious September sunshine throughout.
This is a relaxed ride, a chance to kick back and enjoy that special island vibe. Short riding distances from ferry terminals to fine campgrounds. No killer hills. There are some side trip rides, particularly on larger Galiano Island, and one can find excellent parks with hiking trails on both islands.
The main southern Gulf Islands, reachable by car ferries, are Saltspring, Pender, Galiano, Mayne and Saturna (see map below). I've been to Saltspring (also reachable by ferry from Crofton near Duncan) many times, mostly to check out the favourite campground at Ruckle Park. This trip I focused on Galiano & Mayne Islands.
Kicking back for a pub lunch at Springwater Lodge Pub, Miners Bay, on Mayne Island. Looking out on narrow, winding Active Pass, between Galiano and Mayne Islands, where local Island traffic, as well as ferries between Victoria and Vancouver, pass one by
Picture postcard coastal scenery at every turn
Enjoying that special Island vibe: sparse traffic, artisan studios, and local hospitality
Side trip rides, like the "Bluffs' along SW Galiano (see pic below), or north to Dionisio Park (see below)
Looking SW from atop the 'Bluffs' along SW Galiano Island. This is a dirt road connector, steep in places, through old forests - well worth the visit.
Ferries become a part of the island hopping experience. The pic below shows the ferry at Sturdies Bay at the SE tip of long (~30km) narrow Galiano Island. Just up from the ferry ramp is a tasty little Indonesia food stall, with the village a little further behind.
Ferry schedules can vary within the week and as seasons change. Some sailings involve stops at one or 2 other islands along the way. If you have a vehicle, reservations are a good idea at busy times. I enjoy the ferry rides. The scenery is glorious. One can relax, eat and drink. And one often meets other cycle tourists. Even the ferry staff usually seem friendlier.
Ferry terminal at Sturdies Bay, SE Galiano Island. Just up the hill is the little village, with shops, restaurants and coffee house.
Days for Ride:
I had 4 days and 3 nights. Due to ferry connections and the need to get to Swartz Bay and back, my first and last days were mostly on the move. If you were pressed for time, you could do this ride with one night on each Island.
On my full day on Galiano, I did a ride along the west shores up to the north tip, with a few side forays, trying to get into Dionisio Provincial Marine Campground. It turns out this is only accessible by water, with a rumoured track apparently on private land.
On the morning I left, my ferry was mid-day so I toured about for a few hours, and recommend checking out the 'Bluffs' (reached via Georgeson Bay then Bluffs Roads) and Bellhouse Provincial Park, near Sturdies Bay (reached via Burrill then Bellhouse Roads).
I also had some hours to ride about smaller Mayne Island. There's a fine little park and lighthouse on Georgina Point (via Georgina Point Road) at the NW, where Captain Vancouver camped back in 1794. Bennett Bay at the NE has a fine park, with trails you can ride in (reached via Fernhill then Bennett Bay Roads).
Lots of home-based artisan studios along the roads. This Glass Gallery was along Poirrier Pass Road. You could build a tour around visiting such studios
In terms of actual required riding time, it's pretty easy. From Sturdies Bay to Montague Harbour Campground is ~9kms. From Village Bay (Mayne Island terminal) to the campground on Seal Beach just west of Miners Bay is only about 3 kms. Hah!
The ride into Montague Harbour Campground does have a climb up to near 100m, but nothing too steep. If you do the ride up to the north tip, or up to the SW Bluffs, you'll get a few hills up to around 150m. Roads are sparsely trafficked and mostly paved.
On Mayne Island, the hills are even less daunting, staying well under 100m, unless you seek out Mt Parke, the island highpoint at 255m.
Sunset from my campsite along Seal Beach on Mayne Island, looking east to nearby Miners Bay. The private Mayne Island Campground has a dozen rustic canpsites strung out along basic trails into the woods, many right by the seaside. Worthwhile for the views and ambience. Reservations advised in season.
There's some excellent side trip options:
Rather than starting at Swartz Bay or Tsawwassen, you can connect to Galiano or Mayne via Saltspring Island, which can be reached via the Crofton - Vesuvius ferry from central Vancouver Island (near Duncan). On Saltspring, camp at Ruckle Park (a favourite campground), then catch a ferry to the other Islands from Long Harbour (Saltspring is big enough to have 3 ferry terminals). Crofton is not far from the incredible Cowichan Valley Trail (another favourite ride.
On my way out to Galiano Island, my ferry had a stop at Lyall Harbour (see pic below), terminal for Saturna Island, which I did not have time to visit. I talked to some other cycle tourists who strongly recommended Narvaez Bay Campground on east Saturna, managed by the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.
If you're riding up the Saanich Peninsula along Lochside Trail, you'll pass through Sydney and the ferry terminal for Anacortez on the American San Juan Islands. You could go international to explore a whole different Island world.
Terminal at Lyall Harbour, west Saturna Island. I want to come back some day to visit Narvaez Bay Campground on the east shores.
I went first to Galiano Island, with 2 nights at Montague Harbour Marine Provincial Park. The campsite, a new favourite, has 15 fine walk-in sites, many overlooking the harbour. There's a marina with small store and pub (giant ice cream cones!), an easy walk from the campground.
See the collage below - top left is a few minute walk from the campsite, showing the beach along a narrow isthmus over to the trails of Gray Peninsula. Top right was snapped from my campsite, showing boats moored in the harbour (this is a marine provincial park!). Bottom right shows a hidden bay on Gray Peninsula. Bottom left shows my campsite. Note the tent pad and the views over the harbour.
The Penelakut First Nation has lived on Galiano since early days, and other Coast Salish Nations have traded and visited. Today, Galiano Island has a population of around 1,200.
My final stop was at Mayne Island, separated from the east end of Galiano by narrow, bustling Active Pass. The population of permanent residents is ~1,100. The ferry terminal is at Village Bay at the SW. Much of the island is part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada.
Originally, Mayne Island was inhabited by members of the Tsartlip First Nation. Captain George Vancouver camped at Georgina Point in the NW corner of the island, in 1794. In the late 1900s, Mayne Island was the commercial and social centre of the southern Gulf Islands.
Check out the location and route map above. Don't forget to grab some fine, free maps for each Island when you're on your ferry over.
I started and finished this ride at Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, ~30kms north from Victoria, up the Saanich Peninsula. It's also possible to reach the Islands starting from Tsawwassen, the BC Ferry Terminal in South Vancouver. For more on getting to Swartz Bay, or the Mill Bay to Brentwood Bay connector ferry, check out the thumbnail link below.
From Sturdies Bay Ferry Terminal at the SE tip of Galiano Island, it's ~9kms to Montague Harbour Campground. It's a bit hilly, but the road is paved, traffic sparse, and you don't get much over 100m elevation. Follow Sturdies Bay Road off the ferry for approx 3kms, then branch left on Georgeson for 1+km, and right onto Montague Road for the final stretches. Access into the Provincial Park and campground is well signed as you get close.
To reach Miners Bay and Mayne Island Campground from Village Bay (Mayne Island terminal), just keep on Village Bay Road as you come up off the ferry, for roughly 2 kms, when you'll start to branch down into Miners Bay along Maple Drive. You'll shortly see (~150m) a sign to turn off to the left/west into Mayne Island campground on a hard pack dirt road (~600m in to seaside & residence where you register).
Check this out for more info on getting to South Island ferry terminals