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Gulf Islands Hopping
  Gulf Islands Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton

galiano_beach_logs.jpg And what will you do once you get to the Gulf Islands? You will hike, kayak, canoe, sail, dive, beachcomb, ride horses, paint or take pictures. Or you'll simply drive around and absorb, admire and envy the lifestyle of the residents and the million dollar views.

Galiano is the most absorbing of the Gulf Islands. A laid back island with a laid back collection of artists and craftsmen and local entrepreneurs. They used to congregate at Burrill's General Store until it was demolished. Fortunately, the storefront was saved and a newly-named coffee shop constructed behind it. Now everybody congregates at the Cafe Chaos.

Galiano is long and skinny with a road running from one end to the other. Most of the action is on the east side where and when the ferry docks. For a few moments there's a flurry of activity and then the throng disappears into the surrounding forests and beaches.

We stayed at a rustic B&B in Galiano. The owner had just returned from Thailand. She fed and entertained us with her exotic adventures and Thai recipes. I had the best sleep in ages at her inn. Next is Mayne. If you hang around Mayne long enough you might get a street named after you. Ed Williams, a BC Ferries employee, has lived on Mayne for over twenty years. The Parks Board named a local park William's Place because of his involvement with the beautification program.

Rocky and hilly Mayne Island has several restaurants, a photogenic agricultural hall, a cool museum and an 1988 church. I was surprised to see a taxi, the island's so quiet. The views from the top of Mt. Park are well worth the climb. Take a hike and see.

Lodging on Mayne (if you decide to spend the night) includes several B&B's, a very old hotel, a 10 acre waterfront resort with ocean views; and a motel with self-contained cottages so you can look after yourself.

The Pender Islands (the island is divided by a narrow strip of water) have amazingly diverse landscape. For example, on the north side of South Pender, the forest is thick and green and mossy, however, on the south side, the fields are golden, hot and dry. North Pender is busier and has twice the residents of Mayne and a good number of them are artisans working out of their homes. Look at bulletin boards at the mall for locations. We spent a night at a romantic B&B overlooking one of those million dollar views I mentioned earlier.

Salt Spring Island, the most inhabited of all the islands, has three ferry terminals. Vesuvius Bay, Fulford Harbour and Long Harbour. The 20-minute ferry ride from Vesuvius Bay will take you to Crofton on Vancouver Island where you can either go north to Nanaimo or south to Victoria for the ferry ride back to the mainland. Fulford Harbour sails to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island every 35-minutes. Ferries from Long Harbour go back and forth to Tsawwassen on the mainland.

Salt Spring has the most to offer tourists in the way of services and entertainment. It's a very progressive island, with gift shops, dive shops, a bank machine, a herb farm, Saturday outdoor markets, and a daily "spring to fall" arts and crafts affair that even attracts residents from other islands. In Ganges, the big city of the islands, the boardwalk at the waterfront complex bustles with street performers, seagulls and lingering visitors.

As expected, lodging on Salt Spring ranges from the posh to the simple.

Saturna Island has the least amenities mostly because ferry access to it is limited; however, the residents wouldn't have it any other way. The wild forests, farms and private estates, including a vineyard, really are a million miles away, even to those of us who spend a lot of time on the islands and know that isn't true. It only seems that way.

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