Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is not one contiguous area of land, but rather is scattered across 15 larger islands, and many more reefs and islets besides. Much of it can be found on the bigger southern Gulf Islands, such as North Pender, South Pender, Saturna, and Mayne, though there are also parts further south on Sidney Island, Isle-de-Lis (Rum Island), and D’Arcy Island.
The best way to explore is by boat. Tours to the islands depart from Vancouver and Victoria and typically include seaplane transfers, boat cruises, and kayaking excursions. Wildlife-spotting is a big draw, though there are many hiking and kayaking routes as well as swimming spots within the park too.
Things to know before you go
- There are campsites scattered throughout the park; for front-country and popular backcountry sites, you’ll need to reserve a spot in advance.
- The park has no visitor center, though maps and information can be found online via the Parks Canada website.
- Bring your own drinking water as it can be hard to find on some of the more remote islands.
- There are no trash cans in the park, so pack out garbage.
How to get there
BC Ferries operates routes to Pender, Saturna, and Mayne. Seasonal ferries connect Sidney on Vancouver Island to Sidney Island. The park itself can be explored by boat, kayak, or water taxi.
When to get there
Visit between June and early October to make the most of the park’s many outdoor opportunities.
What to Do in the Park
Active travelers will find myriad hiking and kayaking routes in and around the islands. For panoramic views, make the short but steep trek up Mount Norman on Pender Island. A 3-hour loop trail skirts the shoreline of Princess Margaret (Portland Island), while trails on Russell Island lead to a more-than-a-century-old Hawaiian homestead. For swimming, beach lounging, and sandcastle building, there is no better spot than Sidney Spit; the sheltered waters here also make it one of the safest swimming spots.
- Sidney (Sidney-by-the-Sea)
- Victoria Butterfly Gardens
- Church & State Wines
- Butchart Gardens
- Mt. Tolmie Park
- Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites
- Victoria Chinatown
- Race Rocks Ecological Reserve
- Old Town Victoria
- Government Street
- Fisherman's Wharf
- Victoria Bug Zoo
- Miniature World
- Victoria Inner Harbour
- Fort Street