You can visit all five major Gulf Islands—Pender, Mayne, Galiano, Saturna, and Salt Spring—and find accommodation and dining options. The biggest and busiest of the islands is Salt Spring, known for its scenic shoreline, galleries, and well-trafficked Saturday Market, where vendors sell hyper-local produce and artisan crafts.
One was to experience the islands from Vancouver or Victoria is on a whale-watching cruise. Orcas and gray whales, as well as seals and porpoises can be seen in the surrounding waters. Or, take a day trip that combines a morning whale-watching excursion around the Gulf Islands with an afternoon trip to Victoria’s Butchart Gardens.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Gulf Islands are a must for lovers of the outdoors.
Prebook ferries from Vancouver, especially on weekends and holidays, as they can sell out.
Travel easily between islands by taking water taxis.
How to Get There
The five major southern Gulf Islands are connected to Vancouver and Victoria by ferry service. To get between islands, use the limited inter-island ferry service or hop on a passenger-only water taxi.
When to Get There
The best time to visit is summer, when the weather is most suited to outdoor exploring. If you don’t mind cooler temperatures, arrive in spring or fall when the islands are even more tranquil. The seasonal markets typically run from April through October.
Whale-Watching in the Gulf Islands
The waters around the Gulf Islands and neighboring San Juan islands are among the top whale-watching spots within reach of Vancouver. Southern Resident orcas are the area's most commonly spotted species. They typically appear between May and October to feast on migrating salmon.
- Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
- Sidney (Sidney-by-the-Sea)
- Butchart Gardens
- Victoria Butterfly Gardens
- Church & State Wines
- Mt. Tolmie Park
- Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites
- Victoria Chinatown
- Race Rocks Ecological Reserve
- Old Town Victoria
- Fisherman's Wharf
- Government Street
- Victoria Bug Zoo
- Victoria Inner Harbour
- Miniature World