A Mayne Island Experience
Gulf Islands Travel Tale
by Lorry Patton
Driving hundreds of miles into the interior may give you solitude, but it will never give you the
sense of security or the feeling of unhurriedness and comfort that you'll experience the moment
you step on shore of Mayne Island.
Located in the chain of islands scattered within the Georgia and Juan de Fuca straights between
the coasts of Washington state and British Columbia, Canada, Mayne Island is about as far from a
traffic light and a dead bolt as is the fantasized futuristic 12-mile bridge that might one day
connect it to the mainland.
This is not to say nothing "bad" ever happens on the island. One summer, a visiting teen pilfered
from her grandparents, someone untied harbored boats at the pier and speeders were chastised for
not paying attention to the school zone. Regardless, most residents still leave their cars unlocked
when attending to business at the local shops or gathering at the Manna Bakery Cafe for a treat
and a coffee.
There are no banks on Mayne Island, no street lights and no traffic jams, but there are plenty of
places to eat. Some, like the Manna Bakery Caf‚ and Mayne Inn Restaurant, serve double duty.
One, by baking delicious breads and pastries to feast on and the other by providing a clean sheet
and a comfy pillow to lay on. Some, like the Mayne Mast, are there strictly to feed the nine
hundred or so inhabitants on this approximately 13 square miles island. The islanders have their
favorites and they frequent them regularly
During the summer months the ferry dock crowds incredibly. Then, as if by magic, the visitors
vanish. They are off somewhere, either hiking in the forests, digging for clams, or beachcombing
on the beaches. On a sunny summer Sunday, you'll see them riding horses and bicycles or simply
driving around absorbing the silence and natural beauty of the island. Some roads lead to beach
access with views of Vancouver's skyline. Some roads meander by ocean vistas where otters
frolic and eagles spread their wings. Other roads cut through thick stands of cedar, fir and alder
and curve around rolling farmland where sheep and geese graze tranquilly. There are no
predators on Mayne Island (unless you consider the racoon a predator), and deer roam freely and
bravely along the roadside. Across the blue skies turkey vultures (yes, turkey vultures), swoop
and glide on air currents while singing chickadees and wrens flitter between twisted red-barked
arbutus and flowering honeysuckle. The pecking rat-tat-tats of woodpeckers the size of Woody
resound in the woods.
These scenes change little year to year. If anything, the island is probably more tranquil now than
it was in the days of the 1858 gold strikes, when prospectors whooped it up on their way to the
Cariboo mines. A tiny museum, housed in the 1896 Plumpers Pass Lockup, uses photos and
artifacts to describe their boisterous stopover and to describe the lives of the farm pioneers that
There are other remnants from the past, too, and three are especially appealing to photographers:
the 1897 St. Mary Magdalene Church, the 1940 Active Pass Lighthouse and the Agricultural Hall
built around the 1900's. The church still holds services, the hall is still used for most community
events such as the yearly flea market, summertime bingo and bridge, and the lighthouse is still a
History surrounds Springwater Lodge, too. In full view of "active" Active Pass, it is reportedly
the oldest continually operating hotel in British Columbia. According to the sign at hotel's
entrance, the hotel was built in 1892. It looks and feels that way.
It's a good feeling ... this side-effect of Mayne Island. Maybe a little lazy, a little laidback ..
maybe too secure and comfortable a lifestyle... definitely unlike the locked-up traffic-laden
existence just twelve miles away.
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