The Gulf Islands
These five idyllic islands (think white-shell beaches, artisans' studios and organic farms) on the sheltered eastern side of Vancouver Island are just a ferry ride away. Pick from popular Salt Spring or one of the less-travelled islands like Pender Island, Mayne Island, Galiano Island or Saturna Island, each with their own unique charm.
Ideal for outdoors
Hiking, biking, kayaking and savouring the scenery top most Gulf Island to-do lists. Even getting there, on a scenic BC Ferry sailing from Swartz Bay, is part of the adventure. Discover the hills, beaches and isolated inlets of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, a multi-island park protecting unique eco-systems. On Salt Spring Island, explore the 1872 homestead and seaside trails of Ruckle Provincial Park, or drive to the top of Mount Maxwell for sweeping views of Vancouver Island.
True farm to table
The Gulf Islands support a large, varied and thriving agricultural sector. The diversity of landscapes and the Mediterranean-like micro-climates enables a wide variety of agriculture to flourish here. The Gulf Islands' country inns, chef-owned restaurants and waterfront pubs serve and celebrate local fare, from famous Salt Spring Island lamb to artisan-made goat cheeses and locally brewed beer. Or go straight to the source: sip Chardonnay at a sea-view vineyard, meet the goats at a cheese farm, and sample the wares at a farmers' market.
Everything sold at the Salt Spring Island Saturday Market is made, baked or grown on island. With about 150 vendors selling everything from jewellery, pottery and fabrics to bread, cheese and herbs, it's one of the biggest and best-known markets in the province. Galleries, craft shops and artisans' studios abound on every Gulf Island. Pick up a studio tour map and visit artists in their studios, and then browse village galleries.
Many artists have settled in the islands, drawn by the calm beauty and exquisite light. The creative atmosphere also attracts visitors who find that island hopping over a week or so is a great way to soak it all in. More than 40 artists and artisans live on Salt Spring Island alone.