It’s hard to imagine these beautiful islands ever having an off season. I’m talking here about the Gulf Islands off of Vancouver, British Columbia . Lush with evergreen trees and rocky beaches, these emeralds in the sea beckon year round. Personally, I LOVE the off season for travel just about anywhere. Sure, I have to put up with some less than ideal weather from time to time, but the off season is a great time to relax away from the crowds. And crowd avoidance is high on my ‘must have’ travel list.
Taking BC Ferries from Tsawwassan on BC’s mainland to Galiano Island, Pam, Kelly and I depart as the sun drops below mountainous Vancouver Island. After spending some time on the outer decks, soaking in the fading light to the South, we head inside to escape the chill. Plus, it was dark out there! Not much to see along the Strait of Georgia except distant lights at night. We seat ourselves in the forward section of the boat, Pam and Kelly reading over local information provided on the boat, chatting amongst ourselves but not that quietly.
“Are you staying on Galiano Island?” asked the girl who’s seat we had accidentally invaded while she was up.
“Just for one night and then we have an early ferry reservation in the morning for Pender Island. We’re bummed we don’t get to stay longer,” we let her know.
“Oh, you HAVE to stay longer than that. And the boats between islands don’t take reservations, so you could just grab a later one. Here, let me check.” She then pulled out a ferry schedule and proceeded to decipher the sometimes crazy arrangements of islands and boats and directions to let us know there was a 5:45pm boat the same day. And if we missed that one, there was one around 8pm.
It turns out Kayho worked at the information booth on Galiano Island and was indispensable in suggesting multiple activities and hot spots to hit around the island. Not only had she found us extra time on the island, she had also filled it with local attractions, many of which we’d never think to visit without her recommendation. If you’re reading this, Kayho, Thank You!!
Without having a summer time visit to compare it to, I’d say Galiano is definitely quite in the off season. Many of the B&Bs we passed were still open and all of the parks were accessible, though. On Kayho’s advice we hiked out to Pebble Beach to find it deserted (and we’d later find, thanks to an article in the New York Times, that this beach can be clothing optional in the warmer months). The Bluffs; deserted. The hidden spot Kayho suggested with panoramic views to the North, where I subsequently sliced my hand open while falling on sharp rocks; deserted. Our campground at Montague Harbour Provincial Marine Park, almost deserted. We met five other humans, two blue herons sand about 40 starfish on our 1.5km walk around the park. There were only two other campers in the park that first night and it was blissfully quiet.
After some exploring it was time for breakfast and if you follow any of my previous trip you will know that means bacon. It’s just a thing, I like bacon on a road trip.
“We’re not serving breakfast today. Only Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Plus our cook is gone,” answered the gal behind the counter at Sturdies Bay Bakery & Cafe when I asked about breakfast at 11:30am.
When I offered to cook it myself I saw a moment of hesitation while she laughed kindheartedly and sent us to the bakery counter for delicious pastries. As we sat reading newspapers left by other patrons, munching on our various non-bacon meals, I was happy for the lack of a packed, bustling bakery. I was happy the roads were uncrowded, making navigation with our 32′ Winnebago easier than expected on the tight, country roads. I was happy we didn’t have to worry about a long lineup when we went to catch our ferry.
I was happy to have the feeling as if we had the entire island almost all to ourselves. It gave us unfettered access to nooks and crannies, and it made roaming and exploring a lot more fun. A lot more relaxed.
If you’re looking to get away from the crowds and are looking for an island where you can feel at home, Galiano Island is worth your time any day of the year. If you don’t mind some damp, gray days and a relaxing walk on a beach all to yourself, it is absolutely worth a look in the off season.
- Located in the Gulf Islands off Vancouver Island in British Columbia
- Population: 1250
- Service by BC Ferries from either Tsawwassen near Vancouver, or Swartz Bay hear Victoria.
- Official Website
Thanks for the great article describing the virtues of our home.
In addition to the Chambre of Commerce website you list above, your readers should also be aware of Galiano Island’s “community” website: http://activegaliano.org
Sometime we islander’s rail at the idea that we’re -just- a tourist destination. There is also a lot of community activity here, as evidenced by our community event calendar, on the site.
If you plan on coming back any time soon, feel free to drop me a line, or check out the calendar to see if anything that our community is doing matches up with any of your own personal interests.