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Gulf Islands

galiano_waterview2.jpg The Southern Gulf Islands in British Columbia only seem a million miles from civilization; really, they are only a stone's throw away and easily reached via BC Ferries from Tsawwassen on the mainland or Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. Depending on the route you choose, most are reached in under two hours.
Islands with public transportation are Salt Spring, the north and south Penders, Saturna, Mayne and Galiano.
Salt Spring has several shopping malls, lots of art galleries and local craft shops, lots of good restaurants, and a wonderful walkabout pier bustling with folks in the summer season enjoying the fresh food markets and live entertainment. Salt Spring is the most "touristy" of all the islands.
The Penders may now have a bank and a subdivision, however, there are still plenty of country roads to explore and pristine beaches to comb where you won't see a soul. The two islands are connected by bridge and delightfully diverse in landscape from desert cactus to evergreen hills.
Saturna is the island with the least ferry sailings, therefore, the one with the least visitors. It is the only island that I have not stepped foot on, but to hear it from folks that live there, it is one of the prettiest. I heard that the local winery produces fine wine and that the annual barbecue attracts neighboring islanders and landlubbers from the mainland.
Mayne Island is my favorite. Well, I live here, so what can I say? We have a bakery that serves delicious sweets and other eats, a coffee bistro with art work on the wall, a deli that makes pizza once a week, and a unique boutique that sells everything from camisoles to hand-made candles to curtains. Our local hall is the place for community events, concerts and flea markets; our thrift store is always packed on Saturdays; the new library has an excellent assortment of books, and there are a number of arts and crafts shops scattered about in private homes. Check out the bulletin boards for directions to these treasures and donít miss our minerís museum.
Galiano Island is the most visited island from the mainland (Salt Spring is the most visited from Vancouver Island). The long narrow island is clearly one of the most scenic in the southern group. During the summer months, the beaches hum with the sounds of guitars and singing voices if not nightly then certainly on Friday and Saturday nights. The rest of the time, guided fishing tours cater to the constant flow of foreign visitors who arrive with their poles, their tackle boxes and coolers for a serious day of fishing. ( These tours are usually pre-booked and a guide is waiting for them at the ferry dock.)
Judging from all the sailboats dropping anchors everywhere, all the islands, with their hidden coves and abundant marine wildlife along the shores, are a boater's haven.

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