- Best of Vancouver and Victoria
- Vancouver Island: High Tea to Low Tide
- Vancouver’s Totem Poles
- Vancouver’s Best Hiking
- Family Fun in Vancouver & Victoria
- Focus on Vancouver and Victoria
- Vancouver Weekend Getaway
- Victoria Weekend Getaway
- A Tour Through Time
- Inside Passage Cruises
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- Winter Fun in Vancouver & Victoria
Named for a Spanish explorer who sailed through the Strait of Georgia over 200 years ago, Galiano Island is surrounded by beautiful beaches and rocky coves with protected waters that are perfect for kayaking. Combine its natural charms with a well-maintained provincial park, an excellent array of tourist facilities, and 1,000 friendly residents and you come up with one of my favorite places in the province.
Sights and Recreation
Climbing out of Sturdies Bay, roads tempt exploration in all directions. Take Porlier Pass Road to reach Montague Harbour Provincial Park, protecting an 89-hectare (210-acre) chunk of coastal forest and a beach of bleached-white broken seashells. You can walk out along the beach and return via a forested trail in around 20 minutes. At the end of the beach are middens, manmade piles of empty shells that accumulated over centuries of native feasting.
The island is dotted with many less-obvious access points, many of which aren’t even signposted. The beach below Active Pass Road is typical; look for power pole numbered 1038 and make your way down the steep trail to a protected cove. Ask at the information center or your accommodation for a full listing of similar spots.
The best way to explore local waterways is with Galiano Island Kayaking, based at the marina in Montague Harbour (250/539-2442, www.seakayak.ca). Three-hour guided tours, either early in the morning or at sunset, are $55. Another tour takes in the local marinelife on a six-hour paddle for $85. Those with previous experience can rent a kayak for $58 per day for a single or $80 for a double.
Accommodations and Food
Many of the travelers you’ll meet on the ferry trip to Galiano will be staying for a week or more in an island cottage. If this style of vacation sounds ideal, check www.galianoisland.com for a choice of rentals, but do so well before planning your visit because the best ones fill fast.
Set on Sturdies Bay waterfront is the Bellhouse Inn (29 Farmhouse Rd., 250/539-5667 or 800/970-7464, www.bellhouseinn.com, $155–215 s or d), an 1890s farmhouse that has been taking in travelers since the 1920s. Each of the three guest rooms has water views and the most expensive features a hot tub, private balcony, and fireplace. Rates include a full breakfast and personal touches such as tea or coffee delivered to the room before breakfast.
The campground in Montague Harbour Provincial Park (10 km/6.2 mi from the ferry, mid-Apr.–mid-Oct., $15) is one of the best in the Southern Gulf Islands. Sites are set below a towering forest of old growth cedar and fir trees and open to a white shingle beach that is aligned perfectly to watch the setting sun. As with all provincial park campgrounds, facilities are limited to picnic tables, pit toilets, and drinking water.
To immerse yourself in island life, plan on dining at Galiano Grand Central (2470 Sturdies Bay Rd., 250/539-9885, Mon.–Thurs. 7 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 7 a.m.–9 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.–5 p.m., $15–23), which is decorated in lumberjack artifacts and has seating ripped from old buses. Free-range eggs are the prime ingredient in most breakfasts, which are huge. Sandwiches and burgers dominate the lunch menu. In the evening, the blackboard dinner menu reflects whatever is in season. Wireless Internet is free and there is often live music playing in the background on weekends.
Getting to Galiano Island
BC Ferries (250/386-3431) schedules four sailings daily between Swartz Bay and Galiano Island (adult $9.45, child $4.75, vehicle $28 round-trip) as well as a packed schedule of interisland sailings (adult $4.90, child $2.45, vehicle $9).
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition