Island time on the Southern Gulf Islands

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Southern Gulf Islands – BC’s best backyards are back in business. How about a visit to Salt Spring Island, Pender, or Galiano – or maybe all three.

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I have fond memories of past visits to these islands but this time everything was better, mainly because I had been locked up for so long.

Galiano Island

We drove to Montague Park and strolled the white seashell beach and the seashell mounds are proof that native settlements were there thousands of years ago. For the best views, head south to the cliffs – you can drive to the top of the tall, rocky cliffs and see Mayne Island right in front of Active Pass.

A white seashell beach in Montague Park, Galiano.
A white seashell beach in Montague Park, Galiano. Photo by Jane Mundy

With free time before our guided kayak tour, we rummaged through the Montague Marina gift shop and bought a few books on the island.

After a lesson at the quay with Galiano kayaks our party of six paddled close to the shore, past prickly pears and other succulents growing from incredible rock formations, made even more fascinating with Ben Miltner, our kayaking instructor’s geology commentary.

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When the wind picked up, we hid in a bay on Parker Island.

Kayaking connects people; he brings them together but at a distance. “Unless you’re in a kayak for two, which can lead to divorce,” Miltner laughed.

Kayak instructor, Ben Miltner of Galiano Kayaks.
Kayak instructor, Ben Miltner of Galiano Kayaks. Photo by Jane Mundy

We checked in the Hostel Galiano in a few minutes we were browsing of Atrevida dinner menu. I am excited to see local and forage items and the nettle soup with poached duck egg did not disappoint. (Nettles are not available until spring, but they are involved in the gleaning project, partnering with residents to pluck excess fruits and vegetables.)

Despite the COVID protocol that has moved Bodega Ridge from the indoor dining room to the counter service at Restaurant Nimma Nimma, an outdoor shipping container, pre-ordered “heat and eat” meals prepared by Chef Elmark Andres and delivered to your log cabin – with a large stack of logs by the fireplace – are exceptional.

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Our “Rise and Shine” kit, complete with freshly squeezed orange juice, sourdough and delicious chocolate-lavender waffles, was enough to keep us going until dinner.

Products come from their vegetable garden and local farms, and fresh seafood from Tofino. I will come back to this island for Chef Elmark’s only cooking.

If you are a city dweller, Bodega’s rustic cabins surrounded by vast expanses of green space are heaven. “Green Acres is the place to be, farm life is life for me…” we screamed at the top of our lungs and no one heard us.

Bodega Ridge on Galiano has seven freestanding log cabins, all with three bedrooms, living room, full kitchen, and one bathroom.
Bodega Ridge on Galiano has seven freestanding log cabins, all with three bedrooms, living room, full kitchen, and one bathroom. Photo by Jane Mundy

It’s nice to see a row of canned garlic scapes in the Sturdies Bay Bakery the window. Judging by the people busy sipping lattes with their croissants and huge cinnamon buns, this is a local hot spot.

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Fueled on sugar and caffeine, we drove Porlier Pass Road to Marcia DeVicque Glassworks, which drew us like crows to the shiny things.

It’s a dynamo and a wealth of information about the island, the glass and the gardens… “I live in paradise, I do what I want and I meet people from all over the world,” she says.

And like children on an Easter egg hunt, we discovered Marcia’s glassware in havens hidden in her wonderful woodland garden.

At the Sturdies Bay ferry terminal, Cara greeted us from her booth with a puzzled look when we asked if this was the queue for Pender Island (we were the only vehicle). “Pender? She asked and frowned like we were crazy. It shocked us before she burst out laughing. The inhabitants of the island are different.

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Pender Island

Easiest to reach with BC Ferries, Pender Island has coastal forests, secluded beaches with 40 public ocean access points, 60 forest trails to explore (including a hike to Mt Norman from 244 meters, “Norm” for locals) and lots of peace and quiet.

One of the many lookouts near Pender Harbor.
One of the many lookouts near Pender Harbor. Photo by Jane Mundy

We drove the main road, flanked by gnarled strawberry trees, to the Roseland Museum and an orchard with a sign saying: Picking Fruit and Nuts from Orchards Welcome. Treat trees with gentleness and respect… limit of 6 pieces per type of fruit pick only apples, pears, cherries, plums, quinces and walnuts.

Drive around we drooled too muchr manicured farms, ppeople are proud of their property. Small shops and farm supportsselling everything local, from eggs and vegetables to candles and creams, run by the honor system. Carol put $ 20 into the money box and bought a t-shirt and wax for the dog’s paws.

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The cove of the poets, with its upscale cottages and private hot tub, is a country dwellers’ paradise.

A chalet at Poets Cove Resort
A chalet at Poets Cove Resort

“I feel great,” said my friend Carol as she threw her French cashmere scarf over her shoulder and made her way to Syrens Bistro & Lounge.

“Do you think they are very happy to see tourists again? The people are so friendly and they go out of their way to make us happy, ”said Carol as we tasted Poke Nachos (wonton and wasabi fries) and a few craft beers.

Salt Spring Island

If you’re not quite ready for prime time, a dream glamping experience awaits on Salt Spring Island. Surrounded by forest is a 16-foot-wide Bell tent, raised off the ground by a platform, with a queen-size bed and a daybed, and I haven’t slept so well since my teenage years. The outdoor kitchen has hot water and everything you need for cooking: shop at Ganges Thrifty’s or Country Grocer.

Hike in Duck Creek Park.ccccccrjeenivbifvcjdthvnlncehjijubflvifethkv
Hike in Duck Creek Park.ccccccrjeenivbifvcjdthvnlncehjijubflvifethkv Photo by Salt Spring Tourism

You can run around the starkers and snorkel in your private pond with fresh, cool water. Further on the platform is a composting toilet, sauna and a wonderful outdoor shower with hot water on request. A short walk takes you to wooded Duck Creek Park.

If you don’t want to drive, take the bus to the “city center” at the ferry terminal and take the Vesuvias bus line. Airbnb “Superhost” Aija Steel will pick you up. Like everyone we met on this trip, she goes “above and beyond” for the guests.

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