The group of islands off the southern coast of Vancouver Island are known as the Gulf Islands (after the Gulf of Georgia, which separates them from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland). These islands, ranging from tiny islets that are marine or eco-reserves for certain sea bird populations, to the larger islands: Saturna, Mayne, Galiano, North and South Pender, Valdez, Thetis and Kuper Islands, and of course the largest and probably best known island of all: Saltspring Island. These islands can be easily and safely be reached in Birds of a Feather's Zodiac Medline III
- North and South Pender Islands are the closest Gulf Islands to Victoria with lovely beaches, artisans with private studios and a renownwed summer country market on Saturdays.
Saltspring Island is the largest and most populated of the Gulf Islands, with a permanent population of about 6,500 people which swells to more than 20,000 during the summer, partly from people enjoying summer homes, but also from many thousands of boaters who make Saltspring Island one of ther favorite visitng places.
Artists, farmers, chefs, mechanics, romantics, retirees and dreamers have been drawn to its shores and have recognized it, as one of the world's best places, to visit.
Renowned for its artistic community and creativity, the town of Ganges on Saltspring is one of North America's best small arts towns. With gallery and artists' studios offering the visitor a wide choice of high-quality arts & crafts from paintings to pottery and weaving to woodwork. Saltspring also has its own currency that can be purchased and spent on the island!
For an interesting history of Saltspring Island, go here...
Saturna Island is the most remote and least populated (350 people) of the major Gulf Islands, sticking out into Haro Strait and also the last stop on the ferry run. It’s a place where you can shake off the dust and grime of city living completely – nearly half of its land mass belongs to the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. Homes and farms are concentrated around East Point Road, which runs the length of the island between the ferry terminal and East Point.
People may be scarce on Saturna but wildlife is wonderfully abundant: deer, feral goats, River Otters, predatory birds and much more. Highlights of the landscape include interesting sandstone formations, a long stretch of undisturbed, old-growth forest and Mount Warburton Pike.
Mayne Island (population: 880) lies about midway between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland. Its location made it a natural rest-stop for miners on their way from Victoria to the Cariboo gold fields in the late 1850s and early 1860s. Significant settlement of the island began during that era and many of the community’s most interesting buildings and historic sites date back to the late 1800s. Today, Mayne has a distinctly rural character. Developed areas are small, dispersed and laid out along narrow country roads. Much of it is still thickly forested. The island is best known for the collection of turn-of-the-century buildings at Miners Bay and the superb kayaking conditions afforded by its many sheltered bays and nearby islands and islets.
Galiano Island (population: 800), the driest of the Southern Gulf Islands, lies just east of busy Salt Spring Island and southwest of the BC Mainland. It has a reputation for friendliness and hospitality. Being the first stop on the way from Vancouver through the Gulf Islands, Galiano tends to have more summer homes with owners from the mainland. That said, the island has a significant population of artists and artisans who are inspired by the island’s natural beauty. The island’s dramatic coastline features sheer cliffs; sand, pebble and white-shell beaches; sheltered bays and unusual sandstone formations. Douglas fir, arbutus and rare, native Garry oak thrive in the dense, inland forests.
San Juan Island, in the USA, is just a fifteen minute ride from Dieter's Birds of a Feather dock... The island features the same mix of natural beauty and wildlife as the other islands in the gulf, and has a town on the east side -- Friday Harbour -- that is popular with tourists and residents alike. For a fascinating overview of the "Pig War" of 1858, which finally settled the route of the international boundary between the Unites States and the then colony of Vancouver Island, go here ...
Orcas Island, just to the east of San Juan Island, is also a popular spt for tourists and visiting boaters. There's a wonderful Saturday market and if you are into art, there are many local artists. You can go hiking. There's lots of good places to eat. Best of all, it's just a wonderful place to relax and enjoy nature. if you go please don't miss the drive up to Mt. Constitution. You have a view of all the islands from Canada to Bellingham (on a clear day!). The town of Eastsound has great shopping and the island has some truly stellar restaurants.