The British Columbia Gulf Islands
Gulf Islands National Park Reserve -A New Legacy
A stunning island landscape of bays, valleys and high rock bluffs, scraped and shaped by the passage of glaciers, the Gulf Islands are by geographic happenstance also blessed by a warm Mediterranean climate. Many plant species are at their northern limit or are found anywhere else in Canada-like the magnificently gnarled Garry oaks and the red barked Arbutus. Tide pools shimmer with colourful and extraordinary sea creatures. A myriad of seabirds, orcas, porpoises, seals and sea lions thrive on the oceans bounty. Established in 2003, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve safeguards a portion of BC beautiful southern Gulf Islands Archipelago.
GI NPR continues to grow. In the spring of 2006, three light stations were transferred to the park from Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Georgina Point light station at the entrance to active Pass, established in 1885.Nutrient rich upwelling in the surrounding waters of Boiling Reef attract marine mammals and seabirds, making this area an excellent location for wildlife viewing. All three light stations are automated and continue to play a role in safe navigation of the southern Gulf Islands. also, East Point light station on sculpted sandstone cliffs on Mayne Island and and Portlock Point 1895 on the southeast shore of Prevost Island.
GI NPR of Canada is spread over a myriad of island, islets and reefs in the southern Strait of Georgia. Only for of the larger Islands, Saturn, Mayne, North and south pender are accessible by BC ferries. These islands are also home to several thousand islanders who are welcoming you to a very special place.
Its hard to imagine working the oars of a small rowboat between islands as a regular means of socializing with friends or taking produce to market , but this is what islanders did throughout the late 1800's and early 20th century. Coastal steamers, freight barges and ferries have all played a role in daily lives of islanders over the years. Boaters and kayaks have been great advocates for marine parks in the Gulf Islands. The marine parks forever society has worked with governments to raise funds to purchase private foreshore lands for the creation of marine parks. a Non profit society established by the council of BC yacht clubs.
Beneath your feet
The basic building blocks of the southern Gulf Islands were laid down millions of years ago. since then, volcanoes have erupted and earthquakes have shaken thing up . glaciers have run roughshod over the land scape, sea levels have seesawed, and tides, currents and winds have kept things moving.
Like most of Western Canada, the gulf Islands bear the tell-tale marks of glaciation. Glaciers re-worked the landscape many times between 25,000 and 11,000 years ago. At one pint, the land lay beneath a 1.8 km deep layer of ice. As the glaciers advanced and retreated, they left behind layers of glacial till- debris scraped from the land in their passing. Sidney Spit- the northern part of Sidney island- is composed of sands deposited as out wash in front of the advancing glaciers.
For the coast Salish First Nations, the ocean has always been their central source of food-a rich harvest of seals, sea lions, whales, six-gilled shark, porpoise, shellfish, halibut, salmon and other fish. duck hunting, trapping, hunting deer and small mammals and the harvesting o berries and plants are done in rhythm with the seasons. Resources are managed to ensure species maintain healthy populations. the Coast Salish people have special ties to the environment, a spiritual connection to the land, the earth and the water. Their knowledge of natural systems has been acquired over long periods of time and passed down from generation to generation through oral histories. First Nations scientific and traditional knowledge is being use in parallel with western science to help park managers make decisions on how to restore and maintain ecological integrity.
In quiet moments, the hills, valleys and sheltered coves may speak to you of the First Nations, explorers, settlers and early entrepreneurs who were drawn by the spirit and opportunities of the Gulf Islands. Traces of their passage rest in shell midden beaches, a forgotten rock quarry, an overgrown orchard. Even place names tell tales-of Spanish adventures, English mapmakers and pioneering families. More poignant stories lie hidden in places like D'Arcy Island, where Chinese lepers were once banished to sad isolation.
A Gulf Island sailing trip can be as short as two days. A comfortable trip which would allow us to sail the entire length of the Gulf Islands as far south as Pender Island and return to Nanaimo would be four days. I have booked Gulf Island trips as long as seven days. There are still many anchorages in the British Columbia Gulf Islands I have yet to anchor in!
The Gulf Island trip is a good first sailing experience for many people as there is no ocean swell because of all the islands. It is a good area to introduce boating and sailing to children as the waters are flat and only wind waves can develop. Takuli III is a large sailboat with a smooth, gentle ride and I have never had anyone experience motion sickness on board Takuli III while sailing in the Gulf Islands!
The Gulf Islands, with their ancient forests, rocky shorelines and miles of beaches teeming with marine life are remote, serene places that soothe the soul. Blessed with a balmy climate and an idyllic landscape, the Southern Gulf Islands boasts over 200 islands, and each are unique in character, but share a gentle, bucolic charm. Come and explore the western shores of the Strait of Georgia aboard Takuli III. Here is a rundown of the largest of the Gulf Islands:
Saltspring Island is the largest Gulf Island at 180 square kilometers and a population of 10,000 residents. The village of Ganges is the cultural and commercial hub of the island and this is where we visit. A great village to explore on foot, with waterfront walkways, docks, and pedestrian friendly streets with numerous art galleries and shops. There is a great outdoor market on Saturdays with organic produce, specialty foods and superb arts and crafts. It is one of the top ten markets in Canada. Don't forget to visit Nerissa, an eight foot high sculpture of a mermaid.
Mayne Island is 21 square kilometers and has a population of about 1,000. A great place to kayak and hike, with a 270 meter climb to the summit of Mount Parke Regional Park.
Galiano Island is 57 square kilometers with a population of nearly 1,200. Home of Montague Harbour, with its white shell beaches, rocky shorelines, a tidal lagoon, abundant wildlife and hiking trails are features of this 89 hectare park. You can also take the free shuttle up to the local pub from here and mingle with the locals! Mount Galiano can be hiked and also a hike up to the Bluffs, which rise to 341 meters and offer a view of the San Juan Islands, Mount Baker, the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island.
Saturna Island was named after the Spanish ship Saturnina, which sailed the area in 1791. With a population of 375 it is the smallest major island. Winter Cove Marine Park is a great place for a nature walk or hike and a tidal marsh is acclaimed by bird watchers. A climb to the top of Mount Warburton Pike is 497 meters. Much of Saturna Island is now a reserve of the Gulf Islands National Park and has been set aside for all to enjoy.
The Pender Islands are rugged and beautiful, with 37 beaches and coves tucked all along the coastline. Archeological evidence of settlements here date back 5,000 years. Mount Norman Regional Park features a steep two-kilometer trek to a 244 meter peak that grants fabulous views. There are 70 walking trails on Pender. Poets Cove Resort is worth a visit while anchored at Beaumont Park.
What better way to experience the Gulf Islands than by sailboat! With many anchorages and settlements to visit, our itinerary will be loosely followed to allow for daily interests. Many Gulf Island Marine Parks are scattered throughout this island archipelago and allow for quiet to strenuous hikes, beautiful vistas and shore line explorations. There are also small towns, settlements and marinas to visit.
Telegraph Harbour on Thetis Island is a nice anchorage with interesting walks and kayaking in the shallow water between Thetis and Kuper Islands. Pender Islands offer a rugged landscape, beaches, hikes and a chance to visit Poet's Cove resort on South Pender Island for a soak in the geo-thermally heated hot tub or swimming pool. There is also a first class restaurant and a fine pub here.
|One of the Gulf Island's most
popular marine parks, Pirates Cove Marine Park is located on the southeast corner of De Courcy Island, 16 kilometres southeast of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. There
are several middens in the park that indicate native use of the land going
back over 3000 years. The largest of these shell refuse heaps underlies the
present campground. Today, this rich intertidal area is still abundant
clams, oysters and starfish.
Recent history of De Courcy Island records the drama played out in the late 20's and early 30's when the island was home to the Aquarian Foundation, a religious cult led by the "downright evil" Brother Xll. Believing himself to be the Twelfth Master of Wisdom who would usher in a new age, Brother Xll convinced 800 followers to hand over their worldly possessions and follow him to De Courcy Island. Facing trial in Nanaimo in 1933 on a bundle of charges, Brother Xll and his cohort disappeared. The couple and the colony's fortune were never seen again. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike the 4 kilometer trail or explore the sandstone beaches and caves. As would be expected, swimming and kayaking are popular activities at Pirates Cove with great beachcombing on the east coast of De Courcy Island. Pirates Cove also offers a variety of opportunities for viewing wildlife.
Drumbeg Provincial Park is one of three provincial parks on Gabriola Island, situated at the east end of the island overlooking Gabriola Passage. The park is a favourite spot for swimming, fishing, picnicking and sunbathing. Shelving sandstone ledges pockmark the shoreline and enclose the small sandy beach. A grassy park, pit toilets, picnic tables, hiking trails and an information shelter are all provided. Through Gabriola Passage, the current can run at up to 8 knots. This small, interesting passage between the Strait of Georgia and the Gulf Islands is very popular with recreational boaters. Beautiful Gabriola Island offers excellent opportunities for kayaking, hiking, beachcombing and wildlife viewing. To the south of Drumbeg Park is Valdes Island, less than 250 meters across tricky Gabriola Passage.
The sailing can be excellent, protected by the many islands that border its waters. Daily traveling distances and times are just right to experience the many different islands. The Gulf Islands stretch from Nanaimo to Sidney on the Saanich Peninsula, covering over 50 nautical miles.
Stunning scenery and excellent facilities make the Gulf Islands an ideal boating destination. With all the islands to visit, it is not hard to find fun and varied activities. We can spend a couple nights at anchor in Marine Parks and other nights visiting villages such as Ganges on Saltspring Island or the town of Sidney on Vancouver Island. Sidney Spit Marine Park is a favourite of mine. We can also sail into the Saanich Inlet and visit Brentwood Bay and the famous Butchart Gardens. The Gulf Islands are a vacation destination of unparalleled natural beauty.
Montague Harbour Sunset
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