Written by guest blogger Lori Henry, of LoriHenry.ca
With not a soul in sight, I scanned the ocean for a sign of life: 100-metres away, a boat trawled slowly past, probably hoping to catch some fish. I had hiked through an ecological reserve on Galiano Island in British Columbia and was catching my breath on the beach with the crisp air of the Pacific Ocean. The ferry ride from Vancouver had only taken one hour, but I felt like I had the world to myself.
Hiking on Galiano Island
I was able to hike a few trails while on the island recently. My favourite, mentioned above, was Dionisio Point Provincial Park, at the northeast tip of Galiano. (Boat access only; camping available.) The forest in this park was the most intact and dense of the areas I saw and is infrequently trekked through compared to the rest of the island.
Another gorgeous hike is through Bodega Ridge Provincial Park, 328 meters above sea level (one of the highest points of the island, although a road takes you up to this level). The trail follows a ridge for six kilometres, with a view over Trincomali Channel and as far as Vancouver Island. Locals also told me that the shoreline trail in Montague Harbour Marine Provincial Park, called the Grey Peninsula Loop, is an easy jaunt through dense forest and along white shell beaches. (TIP: the picnic area is a favourite local sunset-watching spot.)
For arguably the best view, you have to climb up Mount Galiano, 311 metres above sea level. From the top, you can see some of the other southern Gulf Islands. There are a few trails within Mount Galiano Park, so depending on which route you choose, they can take between 30 and 90 minutes.
If you don’t feel like hiking but still want a killer view, drive into Bluff Park and the road takes you to a lookout over Active Pass, where the ferries (and whales) pass by. I didn’t have time to hike through this park, but there are several trails that look worthwhile.
Wildlife Viewing and Kayaking on Galiano Island
Over the two days I spent on Galiano recently, I saw a whale, bald eagles, deer, frogs, a raccoon, hummingbirds and even a mouse (on a trail). A prime spot for seeing whales and eagles is in Active Pass, on the southeast part of the island.
A resident told me that sea lions are often seen in this waterway, gathering on a rock when the tide is low: drive south and then west from Sturdies Bay (the ferry terminal) to Mount Galiano Park. Follow Active Pass Drive until you reach Cemetery Road. Park your car and walk just past the cemetery. You’ll soon come across a bench overlooking the water: have a seat and wait for the sea lions to come!
Kayaking is also a great way to see wildlife and the waters are calm in Montague Harbour. Ron Ladd takes people out on guided tours (including children 10+), usually for three-hours, but he’s happy to create custom tours, too. Galiano Kayaks also does guided tours and rents equipment for those who want to get out on the water on their own.
Farmers’ Market on Galiano Island
To fuel up before your outdoor adventures, there’s a farmers’ market every Saturday (10am to 12pm) featuring local produce, seafood, baked goods, plants, art and jewellery. The town gathers at Galiano Lions Park, just south of Sturdies Bay ferry terminal and beside the Skate Park. There’s also live music and you can have brunch here, too.
The main farmers’ market of the Gulf Islands is on Salt Spring Island, also on Saturdays (9am to 4pm). It sprawls out over Centennial Park in Ganges and features even more farmers and artisans. A water taxi connects Galiano to Salt Spring on Saturdays in July and August.
A note on transportation:
It’s best to have a car on Galiano Island, so you can reach the many hiking trails and explore beyond Sturdies Bay. But if you don’t bring one, there are three Smart cars available for rent from the Galiano Inn & Spa. (Reserve early, as they’re popular.) You can also rent mopeds by the hour or day.
There is no taxi service, although two shuttles buses do run during the summer months: one between Hummingbird Pub and Montague Marina (evenings) and the other from Galiano Inn & Spa to Montague Marina. Look out for the posted signs on the island with schedules for both.