Exploring Haida Gwaii

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Our zodiak adventure ended with whale sightings on Hecate Strait. After returning to Sandspit, I did readings in the local elementary school, hosted by Haida Gwaii Literacy. I find it so impressive that people in this remote, northern location have opted to sponsor Syrian refugees. Haida Gwaii is one of the most peaceful locations in earth. I can’t begin to imagine how the Syrians feel to be here. I met a lovely young couple, both of them working hard on learning English and holding jobs. In Queen Charlotte City I met a gracious family with young children, one of whom lost her leg in a bombing. It is heartwarming to see how the community has adopted “their” family. Friends drive the children to ballgames, the parents to English lessons, they bake cakes and help with shopping. The Syrian family may have left behind relatives, but they gained many new aunts and uncles in Haida Gwaii.

I did readings and presentations in lovely schools and libraries all along the coast from Charlotte in the south to Masset in the north. I walked into one school to find that the power was out in the entire village. “Yeah, that happens often,” the principal said with a shrug, “probably an eagle that flew into a power line.”

In another village I asked directions to a house. “Turn right after about three pole lengths,” was the answer.

Charlotte has a great Visitors Centre with information and maps. The Haida Gwaii tourist guide has a lot of useful information. Too bad shops and restaurants are not really geared at visitors: the information centre, the coffee shop and most other places are closed on Sunday. The whales, however, don’t go by at the calendar. They circled and spouted along the shore every day.

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One of the most impressive places to visit is Skidegate’s Museum and Intepretive Centre. This massive wooden longhouse, has a museum that houses ancient totems and other carvings, paintings, photos, costumes, woven hats and tools. The place gives you a great glimpse into Haida history and culture. I highly recommend visiting here before exploring the island: http://haidagwaiimuseum.ca

Skidegate has a First Nation’s village with beautiful longhouses and totem poles along the water front. A long house is a traditional house – often a community centre – that has massive ceiling beams and square posts on each corner. The Unity Pole of Skidegate was just recently erected. Driving north, the tiny village of Tlell has several art studios and a great bookstore. We spotted sandhill cranes in a field nearby and walked on pebbly beaches, including Balance Rock where we looked for crabs while eagles watched us.IMG_5407

Port Clements is a logging and fishing village with a great library. We hiked the Golden Spruce trail. If you ever go here, be sure to first read the book The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant.

Finally we reached the northern town of Masset. It is small but full of colourful characters and history. I was surprised to find market tables full of produce and bakings in the middle of town. Traditional Mennonites live on homesteads nearby and bring their garden produce, cakes and breads into town to sell. The library in Masset is a gorgeous old log cabin. I enjoyed doing a presentation surrounded by honey coloured logs lines with books. Be sure to pop into the Secret Garden behind the RCMP office, where you can sit on a sold wooden bench among flowers and blossoms.

IMG_5517From Masset it is only about 2 KM to the First Nations town of Old Massett. Again, longhouses and totem poles indicate that you are now in a traditional village. I stayed in the spacious Haida Lodge, which looks like a small bungalow from the street but turned out to be much larger with spacious rooms. The very kind lady who made our breakfast, told us that her husband is a carver. How lucky we were to be invited into the carving shed. Here we watched in awe as two men carved a 60’ cedar. They each had a tiny chisel and carefully worked along the pencil lines, making figures appear. 10’ of the pole will go into the ground, and many tonnes of rock will be used to keep it firmly in place. We were told that it will take 400 people to raise the massive pole. Besides several poles, there were also longboats in the shed. Their traditional paintings in red and black make for an awesome sight. We felt very privileged to see this ancient art in progress. IMG_5496

From Masset we drove to the end of the road. First we passed an icon: an old, painted hippy school bus in the bush, famous for the cinnamon buns that are baked and served here. Next, we strolled along agate beach, of course picking up several agates.

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Then came Tow Hill – an important spot in Haida culture. We climbed the hill to admire the view of the open West Coast sand beaches and learned more Haida legends. The view here is of Rose Spit, where the first Haida people originated. I found it fascinating to learn that a clan can own a story or a song. Stories and songs can be given to another clan, and then the original clan that gave it away can no longer sing the song or tell the story. IMG_5525

We walked on North Beach and saw the outline of Alaska’s most southern islands across the water. Haida Gwaii is a fascinating place. I was lucky to have almost no rain. It can be cold and windy. But it’s people and their culture make this a heart warming place, of gracious hosts and intriguing tales.

IMG_5547On my last night, I was honoured to be poet laureate during a fundraiser evening for Haida Gwaii Literacy. The dinner included herring roe and rice with seaweed, as well as three different kinds of salmon. What a thrill to share the stage in the gorgeous longhouse with a traditional Haida storyteller who spoke in Haida, and with award winning musicians. As I left the islands to come home, I got hugs in the airport from newly made friends. Haida Gwaii is a very special place and, some day, I hope to have the opportunity to return to this magical land.

For more info, check out:

http://www.gohaidagwaii.ca

http://www.moresbyexplorers.com

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Totem Poles and Bears

IMG_4934Our Haida Gwaii/Gwaii Hanas adventure continued:

On our way by zodiak to the most southern tip of Gwaii Hanas, we visited ancient village sites and remnants of totem poles in several sites: Skedans, Tanu, S’qang Gwaii, Rose Harbour and more. Each site has its own intrigue and charm. Skedans is a village site with house remnants and totem poles, but not as many as in the most southern tip S’qang Gwaii. Here, a mystical and misty atmosphere enhances the site where old spirits dwell and history is tangible. The bleached and weathered totems lean against moss covered house beams. The beach still tells stories of canoe runs between rocks, where the “Vikings of the Pacific” showed their power by rowing their long boats far east, north and south, taking slaves as they encountered other nations.

IMG_5109I was intrigued to learn that a Haida Chief could marry a slave woman, thus making the former slave the most powerful matriarch of the clan. In this matriarchal society, men do as the leading woman dictates and children are part of their mother’s lineage.

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I also learned about different totem poles: the shortest one were usually house poles, depicting the family’s clan and history. Tall plain poles with rings are potlatch poles, showing how many potlatches, or celebrations, have been held. Some poles are a memorial for a particular person, sharing his life story while yet others have a hollowed out square opening at the top housing a bentwood box of bones: a burial pole. Their silent stories are impressive and pay tribute to a society that lived here long before “contact” – as the period after the arrival of European explorers’ ships is called.

Houses were large, sometime dug down to allow for more space. Immense ceiling beams were held up by corner posts and closed by cedar walls. Now, all that remains is rounded beams covered in soft green moss, often with a new cedar tree growing on each corner as the trees reseeded. Slowly and silently, history is swallowed up by the rain forest. The Haida people have chosen to let their history return to the earth, as it always has, rather than have Parks Canada follow their usual mandate of preserving history.IMG_5093

We were most impressed by the Watchmen. This ancient term refers to Haida who spend the summer in each historic location. They are provided with a small house with a wood stove and basic comforts. Here they work for the summer, hosting visitors. They are extremely well spoken, gracious hosts with a wealth of knowledge about their people. Each host told us amazing stories. Haida Gwaii is made up of stories and the oral history seems alive and well. We heard stories of how people first came to populate the earth when Raven found a clamshell full of little people on Rose Spit. He pried open the shell and the people spilled out. Raven also brought light to the world.

IMG_5011Bear married a woman who gave birth to bear cubs and in return he gave hunting powers to humans. There are many tales of super natural beings in this land. Mostly, these are people wearing animal cloaks. Eagle, Raven, Whale, Bear – they all have specific powers and fascinating stories. Haida also strongly believe in reincarnation.

One of the men who told stories, told us of the impressive oral history. “When I was about 10 years old,” he said, “my uncle called me into his house and told me a 2 hour story. The next night I had to come back and tell the story back to him without embellishing, best as I could.”

This repeated night after night until he had memorized much of his own history. The tradition continues today as he tells his daughter the ancient tales and makes her tell them back to him.

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We learned to chew spruce tips and licorice root. Even ate herring roe on kelp… As far as wildlife goes, we saw many, many eagles. A few glimpses of whales as well as two bears.

IMG_5132One overnight was spent in Rose Harbour, an old whaling station. Much debris, buildings and rusty tools remind of an era when people caught and processed whales for oil. I found it a sad place to be. The lone woman who lives here, offer a guest house and meals to Moresby Explorers. We ate green from her immense garden and freshly caught ling cod. In the morning she ground grains on her converted exercise bike to make us pancakes with rhubarb sauce from the garden. An outhouse and wood heated shower made it into a rustic adventure.IMG_5175

Gwaii Hanas by Zodiak

IMG_4680HG mapHaida Gwaii – the very name conjures up images of windblown spruce clinging to rocks surrounded by foamy waves. Not unlike an Emily Carr painting. Haida Gwaii had always been high on our wish list, so being invited to speak in schools and libraries here was pretty much a dream come true. The archipelago stretches along the northern BC coast almost to Alaska. You can reach it by ferry from Prince Rupert or fly in from Vancouver.

We flew into Sandspit, a tiny town on the north east shore of huge Moresby Island. Our son had often visited these remote islands and recommended we visit the very southern tip which is in a National Park called Gwaii Hanas. Basically the only way to reach this remote region is by a zodiak tour offered by a local wilderness company called Moresby Explorers: http://www.moresbyexplorers.com

We studied our options, counting our coins and decided to splurge on a four day trip with a photography theme.

Moresby Explorers also owns a B & B in Sandspit so it was easy to walk out of the airport and find our accommodations just down the road. Seaport B & B is a newly built house with sweeping views of the water front. Eagles perched in the trees along the strait. Our room was plain but large with comfortable beds and warm cookies were waiting. There is no one living in the house but we found a note with our room number and someone came in at 6 AM to cook us breakfast before we were picked up at 7:30. No need to lock anything on Haida Gwaii.

Bryan, our guide and skipper, picked us up and also the five other guests with whom we would spend the next 4 days on a zodiak. We drove from Sandspit across a ridge of Moresby Island, on dirt logging roads, to Moresby Landing where we were outfitted with bibbed rain pants, a large rain jacket and gumboots. We’d live in these for the next few days. We wore undershirts, a sweater, a fleece jacket topped by our own rain jackets and then the provided rain gear over top.This meant we could only wobble like astronauts in a space suit…  IMG_4687

Of course we had prepared ourselves for four days of driving rain, grey skies and grey waves. Fortunately, we were lucky and only ended up with a half day rain and three-and-a-half days of blue sky and sun and/or cloudy but dry weather. Considering that Gwaii Hanas averages rain for about 230 days a year, we were lucky.

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We had not even left the Landing when I spotted the first black bear browsing on the intertidal beach. The island’s bears have evolved to have much longer snouts than the mountain bears we are used to seeing. Like the Galapagos, even the same species of animals have made adaptations to different local environments resulting in, among others, a different sub species of stickleback fish in every lake. At least 39 distinct subspecies of plants and animals evolved in the archipelago, including seven mammals, three birds and fifteen species of the stickleback fish that are found nowhere else in the world.

IMG_4739We cruised across inlets, around Louise Island to spend the first night at Moresby Float Camp, the house anchored in a secluded fjord. The blue skies reflected in mirror calm green waters. We docked and were welcomed by the two young women who cooked for us, with tasty appetizers, tea, coffee and hot chocolate. They even had a fireplace giving us much needed warmth to warm our chilled hands and feet. After a great dinner of bbq salmon, salad, veggies and rice we fell asleep in no time. Most of our fellow adventurers had brought along their own bottle of wine. We hadn’t realized you could do that. If you like a glass of wine with your dinner, bring a bottle in your pack!

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The next morning we had fresh coffee, eggs, homemade bread, granola and yogurt before bundling up again. This became a ritual: two or three layers of warm clothes, thick socks and gloves. Then our own outer gear, the provided rain pants tucked into the gumboots and the rainjacket over top of everything else. By the time you can’t bend down anymore, you still have to maneuver into a lifejacket and into the waiting zodiak. We’d pull a warm hat and scarf over nose, mouth and face and then we were ready to zoom across the Hecate Strait to our next destination. IMG_4721

Moresby Float Camp has a large open living room, kitchen and bedrooms. There’s no shower but running water and regular toilets. Bedding was well organized: we took our (provided) sheets and pillowcases with us for 3 nights.

To be continued…

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BC’s Sunshine Coast

Map ss coastJust north of Vancouver there is wonderful stretch of coast waiting to be explored. Attached to the mainland, you can only reach the Sunshine Coast by ferry, boat or floatplane so it needs a bit of planning to get there. But it’s worth the effort. Like the Gulf Islands, you need to book the ferry especially when you visit in the summer and bring your car.

If you travel by car, then you need to take the ferry. Check the schedules here: www.bcferries.com and do make a reservation during the summer months if you don’t want to sit out a sailing wait.

IMG_4669If you don’t take a car, check out the float planes: http://www.harbourair.com Yes, it is more costly but you will be in Sechelt 20 minutes or so after leaving downtown Vancouver. You can also fly from the airport’s south terminal. The impressive terminal next to Canada Place on Vancouver’s water front offers free coffees, croissants, fruit and pastries. They have umbrellas for rainy boardings, and even offered me a free transit pass to connect to the Skytrain and busses. Great service. And sitting in the co-pilot seat, searching for whales, flying right over Stanley Park and the Lion’s Gate Bridge never gets old!

You arrive in the traditional lands of the Sechelt, Squamish and Sliammon First Nations. Towns include Gibsons, Sechelt and Pender Harbour. Totem poles stand tall and proud in many locations. If you are lucky, you might encounter canoe races, a musical festival or artist demonstrations organized by the Coast Salish people. IMG_4672

One of major events in this region is Sechelt’s Sunshine Coast Festival of the Art. It takes place in August but tickets sell out quickly once they go on sale in May. This literary festival is widely known and a major attraction for the region: http://writersfestival.ca

You can stay in many cabins, B & B’s, campgrounds or the odd motel but planning and booking ahead is becoming a necessity, especially in summer. Like the Gulf Islands, there are plenty of funky eateries, coffee shops and gift shops along the Sunshine Coast. But what I like most is the many beautiful hiking trails right along the shore. A walking path in Sechelt runs right along the gorgeous pebbly beach, offering views of the Salish Sea and the snowy mountains of distant Vancouver Island. You’ll see plenty of bald eagles staring down at you while deer and the occasional black bear wonder around, too.fixedw_large_4x

I highly recommend stopping for lunch in Madeira Park’s Mad Park Bistro: https://madparkbistro.com and visiting the wonderful little bookstore.

Websites:

http://www.sunshinecoastcanada.com

http://www.writersfestival.ca

Island Time:Vancouver Island N + Quadra

IMG_1249After cruising around Denman and Hornby Islands (see previous blog) we headed north. The road and the vegetation made me feel like we were headed for the Yukon. But this was north on the island. Right after Campbell River there were no more towns, no gas stations, not many side roads. Just a road north. The clouds settled in low and grey. The drizzle was steady. After a few hours we managed a quick picnic at a rest area. We had not seen any stores or restaurants since we left Campbell River so we were glad to have our own food with us. We drove into Port Hardy and I was surprised at what a small town it is. Gas was 15 cents per liter more than down south. We tried a few hotels/motels and all were well over 100.- for a simple room with a bed. After a stop to the local tourist information office, we walked over to a backpackers’ hostel. A private room was 50.-. Good deal. The place was interesting since it was in a converted movie theatre. A hallway, kitchen and rooms had been build in what was the theatre part. Bathrooms had been added and everything was neatly painted and decorated. It was clean and the managers exceptionally friendly. IMG_1239

With a cheap room, we decided we had earned a nice diner in the pub next door: fresh prawn and mango taco’s. IMG_1203

The following day we drove slightly south to the ferry in Port McNeill, a small seaside town. We stopped in a small hamlet on the way,
Fort Rupert, where old totem poles lined the water front. A beautiful First Nations gravesite was full of decaying totems, carved from cedar, with proud ravens and orcas.
Then continued to Port McNeill where we boarded the ferry for a 45 minute ride to Cormorant Island and the tiny town of Alert Bay. IMG_1216This First Nations village has many beautiful totems ranging from new to ancient. We walked along the wooden boardwalk, saw the run down buildings that were a cannery, fishery and net storage. A tiny library, cute shops, even a bannock place. It felt like Alaska or the Yukon. The best place to visit was the impressive Cultural Centre with many masks and other artifacts and films about potlatches. I highly recommend a visit to this remote, unique village.IMG_1209

Back on the main island we drove just minutes out of Port McNeill, down a dirt road, to a newly developed golf/disk golf resort with a small RV park and cabins. The one room cabin we had booked online turned out to be a nice, new and quite large room with a bathroom and sitting area. We enjoyed a glass of wine outside, looking out over the water, a cruise ship chugging by, and Cormorant Island in the distance. Bald eagles glided over and perched in trees around us.

Driving south, the clouds had lifted and the drizzle was replaced by blue sky and sunshine. It seemed a different world. We made our way down the coast to Telegraph Cove. IMG_1260

We had heard a lot about this picturesque village on the northern coast but were quite disappointed. A few buildings were indeed perched on stilts in the water. But not an entire town. The cove itself was chockfull of a marina. The few buildings there seemed to all be part of the same tourist resort. It was nice to see history preserved, with old buildings and wooden boardwalks, and plagues describing the history of the original town. But overall it felt like a tourist trap, not truly worth the drive in and out.
From here we drove south in one stretch, straight to the ferry terminal in Campbell River and from there to Quadra Island, the largest of thIMG_1270e Discovery Islands. We had found it difficult to find much concrete information about facilities and accommodations prior to visiting this island. Even at the ferry terminal we couldn’t find a map for the island. We had made a reservation at a campground. Turned out to be at the Heriot Bay Inn, an old pub and restaurant. The campsites lined the cove, with murky waters but a bustling marina. At $37.- per night this was not great since it felt like a parking lots, with our neighbours less than a foot away when sleeping in our tent. We didn’t use the sewer or power in the site but still had to pay extra for a shower. The pub was fairly noisy at night. If we go again, we would likely try to find a spot at Wewaikai Campground (wewaikai.com) which had more attractive coast views and beach access. IMG_1224

We did enjoy driving every road on Quadra, from the lighthouse on the southern tip, through the First Nations village with a cultural centre, having coffee at Café Aroma, browsing at the fabulous bookstore, to exploring the rugged north end. The best part, I think, was hiking Rebecca Spit Marine Provincial Park, with the sheltered bay on one side and the open waters of the Strait of Georgia on the other. IMG_1237

Island Time: Northern Vancouver Island

IMG_1142IMG_1190We have a week and a half to explore close to home. Often our trips take us across the world. This time, we don’t need to content with carry-on luggage or airports. We simply load up the car and leave home.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, we are close to some of the world’s most beautiful natural areas. We have seen much of it but have never been to northern Vancouver Island.

 

Most visitors come to the large island, about the size of The Netherlands, to visit Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. And while this is a gorgeous, friendly city with lots to do, the island has so much more to offer. On a previous trip we took our Westfalia camper through Victoria to Sooke and around the southern tip of the island to Port Renfrew and back to Cowichan. On this trip we saw stately rain forests, bears and isolated beaches.

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Cable ferry

We’ve driven through Port Alberni across the island from east to west to visit the small, quaint towns of Ucuelet and Tofino on the breathtaking west coast where surfers roam white beaches and hippies inhabit the coffee shops in town.

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Qualicum First Nations Campsite

But this time, we drive north through Nanaimo and Qualicum to our first camping spot on the shore of the Salish Sea: the Qualicum First Nations Campground. This beautiful piece of land along the east coast of Vancouver Island offers many RV sites right along the water. Each site had water and a picnic table, several had sewer service. There were no toilet buildings but a few very clean, odourless port-a-potties did the job. We enjoyed staring over the water and listening to the waves as we fell asleep in our tent.

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Only on the islands…

The next morning we packed up and drove north to the ferry to Denman and Hornby Islands. I hadn’t, until then, realized that you need to go to Denman first to get to Hornby. The brand new cable ferry ride took about 20 minutes. The fee of around 40.- was for two people and a car and allows us to stay on either island for as long we like, return fare included.

We decided to work our way back and scooted straight across Denman to Hornby. There we were surprised to find much still closed, even on the last day of May. The pub/restaurant by the ferry landing was closed. The bookstore was closed. And several signs along the way said ‘closed’. We drove several of the few roads on the island and liked what we saw: pastoral farms, very green, forests of tall evergreens and ferns. We found an eclectic cluster of Coop store, coffee shop, craft and clothing shops.

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Hornby

The detailed (free) island map showed a B & B, which did not seem to exist in reality. But a resort which, according to its website, was closed turned out to be open. Moral: don’t believe it until you see it.

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Sea Breeze

The resort where we ended up staying two nights because it was so wonderful, is called Sea Breeze: http://www.seabreezelodge.com.

It offers spacious cottages right along the coast line. We sit on our porch in adirondack chairs to sip our morning coffee. The cottages are very private. Ours has a kitchen and fireplace. At $145.- this was not cheap but the kitchen allowed us to make all of our own meals, which made it the same or less expensive than a B & B room plus having to eat out.

There’s even a very good hot tub to soak in. And on the blustery nights we spent here, we sure enjoyed the fireplace. IMG_1164

We managed to go for a wonderful hike during the only time it rained while we were on Hornby. We did the return Ford Cove to Shingle Spit Trail, about 2.5 KM one way. Gorgeous setting, relatively level and a well maintained trail along the coast, amid towering cedars, ferns and gleaming arbutus. Nice to spot lots of fossil rocks along the way. But no cafe, no patio, no pub on either side. Just a marina at Ford Cove with a little store.

From Horny we drove back to Denman, which is apparently nicknamed ‘Hornby’s speed bump’ since most visitors race across it to reach the ferry to Hornby. To us Denman did indeed seem less attractive. Many of its roads were unpaved and we saw a plethora of signs telling us to “keep out” and “no trespassing”. There were not many services on the island – we did’t find a patio on the water, nor a cute little pub. We did discover a very good coffee shop, well hidden inside the local hardware store! In the back, a secret garden with brand new adirondack chairs invited us to linger. The bookstore next door was open and well stocked with good titles.

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Denman

A 15 minute ferry ride took us back to the main island and we drove north to Comox, where we had booked a perfect AirBnB: the ground floor of a brand new house. A small living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom offered luxurious bedding and towels and everything we needed in a kitchen including muffins, fruit and coffee. For 75.- this was a perfect find and highly recommended.

Next blog: Port Hardy, Alert Bay and Telegraph Cove

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Welcome to Ferry Land: The Southern Gulf Islands

2014-08-26 19.20.40_2PigWar-boundariesMore and more people are discovering Canada’s best kept secret: the jewels that are the Gulf Islands.

If you look at a map of the Pacific Northwest, you will see lots of small islands off the coast of the mainland, both in the US and in Canada.

In the mid 1800’s, a pig caused the border between the two countries to become well defined because neighbors were tired of one farmer’s pigs rooting up their gardens. A clear boundary was drawn which established the San Juan and Gulf Islands. The San Juan’s are the American islands, including Orcas Island, San Juan Island and Lopez Island: http://www.visitsanjuans.com

See also our earlier blog: https://globetrottinggrandparents.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/seven-days-usas-pacific-northwest/

In Canada the island group is called the Gulf Islands and is separated into southern and northern Gulf Islands. They include islands such as Salt Spring, Pender, Mayne and many more.

IMG_8376Travel between the islands in Canada is made possible by BC Ferries. Even though the ferry is an extension of our highway system, you have to pay dearly to make use of the ferries to reach the islands. But it is worth it. The islands are a truly unique part of Canada, with a feeling more European than North American. There are no straight roads, not even any traffic lights. Patios and funky pubs line the picturesque harbours. You can buy produce from farm stands. Some islands have almost no facilities while others offer a wide range of services, so it pays to do your homework and book ahead.

A BC Experience Card is available to help reduce ferry costs, although many restrictions reply: http://www.bcferries.com/experience_and_coast_card/what_it_is/

The card is only valid for ferry travel between small islands and Vancouver Island, not from or to the mainland, so it is mostly used by those living on the islands. It is used like a kind of debit card by uploading money. It may reduce your fare by some 15%.

You can make reservations on some routes but not on all. On busy summer weekends it pays to have a reservation instead of waiting for 1 or 2 sailings. You can even make reservations if you walk on, without a car.

IMG_8358From the mainland, you travel from Tsawwassen to the Gulf Islands or to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. If you travel via Swartz Bay to one of the smaller islands, you pay a through fare but you do need to tell them your destination. Returning, the same thing goes but it is tricky because you don’t pay for, or even buy, a ticket when you leave a smaller island (you paid a return fare when you came). This means that when you leave i.e. Salt Spring for the mainland via Swartz Bay, you have to buy a ticket from the machine on the boat to prove, once you get to Swartz Bay, that you came from Salt Spring. There you pay the remainder of your fare to the mainland, which is almost half the price of a ticket not originating on Salt Spring.

Confused?

Trust me, it is very confusing and nowhere on the BC Ferries website is this explained.

But the Southern Gulf Islands are a wonderful place to spend a holiday, whether it is a long weekend, a week or more.

Pender, Galiano, Mayne and Saturna are the smaller, less developed islands where hiking and camping are great activities. There are wineries and coffee shops but not the many services offered as on Salt Spring, the largest Gulf island with wineries, a cidery, many restaurants, patios, and over 30 art studios.

You can learn details about Salt Spring Island’s favourite spots to visit here:

http://www.westernlivingmagazine.com/travel/salt-spring-island-getaway/

http://www.betweenthecoversbandb.com/2016/01/07/ny-times-selection/

http://www.saltspringtourism.com/video/

P7180025-1024x768We live on Salt Spring at the edge of Ganges, the main town. We actually run a booklovers’ B & B here called Between The Covers, so you can come and stay with us: www.betweenthecoversbandb.com or chose from many other B & B’s, 3 small hotels and several cottage resorts or campgrounds.

IMG_8048The islands are often promoted as ‘ideal for cyclists’. I beg to differ. The islands are very hilly with narrow, winding roads and do not offer much of a shoulder. I would rather hike than bike here. There are many good hiking trails all over the islands, with incredible views – close to towns or out in the bush. There is a public transit bus that meets each ferry and can get you around the island. Hitchhiking is also very common and generally safe, on the islands.

Another option to ferries is to come by floatplane. This is a fabulous way to see the Salish Sea. A plane ride from Vancouver Airport (South terminal) is 20 minutes – way too short and oh so gorgeous and convenient. Check out: http://saltspringair.com

 

In our next blog, we’ll share our adventures on some of the northern Gulf Islands.