South Islands Sojourn

Lucky me.

I headed off to cycle tour the southern Gulf Islands for 4 days and 3 nights, and ran into nothing but sunshine. The trip involved modest cyling distances, great campgrounds, picture postcard views and that special Island vibe.

The southern Gulf Islands are north of the Saanich Peninsula, to the north of Victoria. I'd regularly visited Saltspring (check out Ruckle Park, a favourite campground). I settled on Galiano and Mayne Islands for this trip.

I did a good amount of indulging myself on this leisurely tour. This pic is from the terrace of Springwater Lodge pub at Miners Bay on Mayne Island, where I had lunch & watched the world go by

I was coming down Vancouver Island from Duncan, so caught the short ferry hop from Mill Bay to Brentwood, which left me 25+ kms SW of the BC Ferry Terminal at Swartz Bay. There are signed cycling routes on well-groomed trails, or secondary roads with cycling lanes. The Lochside Regional Trail has a combination of both, and gets cyclists comfortably from Swartz Bay to Victoria, and the Galloping Goose trail network, with seaside views along the way.

Ferries become a part of the island hopping experience. The pic above shows the ferry at Sturdies Bay at the SE tip of long (~30km) narrow Galiano Island. Just up from the ferry is the village with shops and several restaurants.

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.

I started with Galiano Island, with 2 nights at Montague Harbour Marine Provincial Park (see pic collage above). The campsite, a new favourite, has 15 fine walk-in sites, many overlooking the harbour. There's potable water and outhouses, and an overflow tenting area (I gather reservations are a good idea in season). There's a marina with small store and pub (giant ice cream cones!) in the harbour, an easy walk from the campground.

Back to the collage above - 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 mooored 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.

The island is big enough, with backroads up over the island spine in the NW, that you can get in some good riding if you explore. I rode up to the north tip, but was unsuccessful finding my way into Dionisio Marine Provincial Park Campground, which appears to only be reachable by water. I also rode the SW coast, over a wonderful short forested stretch called the Bluffs (where I took the pic above). ​One passes lots of artisan studios: one could build a whole tour around checking out the local artistic side.

Sunset from Seal Beach, a km west of Miners Bay on Mayne Island. I stayed in a lovely little private campground with sites reached by trails amid the trees overlooking the seaside.

Next it was on to Mayne Island, separated from the east end of Galiano by narrow, bustling Active Pass. Mayne is a smaller island, possible to ride about in a half day. 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. Mount Parke in the south-centre of the Island, at 255m, is the highest point.

Roadside glass gallery along Poirrier Pass Road, NW Galiano Island (one of many artisan studios)

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.

From Bennett Bay, east Mayne Island

On my way out to Galiano Island, my ferry had a stop at Lyall Harbour (see pic below), the terminal for Saturna Island, which (alas!) I did not have time to visit. I talked to some other cycle tourists who had ridden out to the east coast of the island to Narvaez Bay Campground (some fine photos at the linked site), managed by the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. They were keen on the ride and the remote, scenic campground, which I'll visit on a future trip (meanwhile, I'd welcome hearing from others who may have visited).

The small map at the bottom left below shows the general area of the south Gulf Islands. The larger map shows Galiano and Mayne Islands, and my bike rambling routes.

That's enough for this round. This was a joy of a trip - easy going, full of comforts, that special island vibe, and lots of unbelievable scenery.

The final pic below is from Bellhouse Provincial Park, near Sturdies Bay on Galiano Island. Glorious views on a memorable day.

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