Galiano Island © Geraldine Minuk-Eliot
Tucked in the Strait of Georgia, in between Vancouver Island and the mainland, are the picturesque Gulf Islands. More than a dozen of these long, thin islands, and numerous islets, can be found on Canada's West Coast and each island has its own character and beauty, making them well worth a visit. Originally home to the Coast Salish First Nations, the Spanish and English soon followed, laying claim to the island chain. Nowadays, the islands are home to artists, writers, retirees and those seeking a more community-based lifestyle, and many Vancouverites escape to holiday homes tucked in among the rainforest. Large parts of the islands have been designated as Marine Parks, preserving the land for the numerous birds and animals that also call the islands home.
Bowen Island is only a 20-minute ferry ride from West Vancouver's Horseshoe Bay and visitors can enjoy a stroll from Snug Harbour, past the historic Union Steamship Company store, grab a bite to eat or take a walk in the Crippen Regional Park. Galiano Island is the second biggest of the group, and is about the size of Manhattan Island in New York. Only 50 minutes away on the Tsawassen ferry, on the Lower Mainland, Galiano Island draws all sorts of visitors who come to picnic in Bellhouse Park; take a walk through the lush rainforest up to Bluffs Park to enjoy spectacular views of neighbouring Islands; indulge in a spot of fishing, kayaking or golf; or visit one of the local galleries or shops. Many of the islands host events and festivals each year, where the community spirit and laid-back atmosphere typical of the Gulf Islands is evident.