By Morgan Hannah
Let’s talk vacation, or rather, planning one. Planning a vacation of any length has always been a tad stressful, hasn’t it? How to get there, where to stay, what to eat, what to do… But planning doesn’t have to be stressful! Whether you’re a remote romantic, a touring traveller, or a wandering worker, choose Galiano Island, choose the Southern Gulf Islands, choose the comforts and adventures of the Salish Sea.
On Galiano, a simple walk can lend itself to an easy adventure—just stepping outside the door of your cabin in the woods offers the perfect opportunity to explore and create something new with your day. In peak seasons, the island is filled with organic greens, deep blues, rich browns and reds, and those perfect pops of warm yellow and flush pink—all made even more beautiful when the sun shines on them. During the off-season, you can expect most of the same wonderful hues, as well as a little more blues and silvers. Yes, the island is a painter’s paradise; all art forms are welcome here. In fact, Galiano Island offers the largest number of artists per capita in all of BC. Don’t believe me, come find out for yourself!
People have said that the terms “rustic” and “rural” just mean “lazy”, or that less work has been put forth, but I say differently! The classic Galiano Island—nay, Southern Gulf Island accommodation is decorated inside and out with warm wood panelling (think more wintery vacation cabin vibe and less ‘70s basement vibe); living rooms, bathrooms, and bedrooms are adorned with large floor-to-ceiling windows with unparalleled views, and, of course, there’s always a hungry wood-burning stove at the heart of the home. Now that’s rural and rustic.
Big, open kitchens with adorable boxy breakfast nooks are the perfect place to do brunch with the hummingbirds, because you’ll always find those little guys buzzing around, and enormous patios are a Southern Gulf Island birthright. Sometimes you’re even lucky enough to find a treat, as there’s a hot tub or BBQ grill outside, too!
A unique feature of Galiano Island is the sweet-smelling air. Anywhere you go, you’re sure to find scents of heady wood, precious pine, and fresh honeysuckle! And I swear, the longer a time you spend on the island, the deeper and more thoughtful a person you become. It’s as if the island brings out a side of you that has been tucked away and forgotten about.
Experiencing the island every day of the week gives you a taste of what an islander’s life might be like. A Saturday is vastly different from a Monday or a Wednesday, for example. You won’t see as much in the way of touristy attractions or shops and markets, but rather the slower, calmer side of things; people hunkering down and enjoying cozying up to their fires in each other’s company, and experiencing the art of nothingness. Besides, the longer you stay on the island, the more likely it is you will end up on the receiving end of “the local nod”. This is when you are recognized by locals and they offer up a slight wave from the top of their steering wheel and a nod as they drive by.
If you’re looking for something to do, Galiano Island is ripe with outdoorsy activities in the most beautiful, protected, and serene parts of the West Coast. Montague Marina Park provides a perfect kayaker’s playground, full of possibilities like bioluminescence excursions. The ocean is often as smooth and transparent as glass at Montague, making kayaking relaxing and effortless.
If you’re more of a “beach-body”, then you’re in luck, Galiano has a beach for every mood! Breathtaking spots for relaxation, exploration, and creation—you can find soft, lounge-able sands on Morning Beach and Shore Access 15 (there’s a private swing set that is a must-see on Shore Access 15—just make sure to bring a good pair of shoes, you’ll have to hike down a cliffside to reach it!). Montague Park is renowned for its white shell beaches—a scavenger’s promised land, and Shore Access 4 and 5 are favourites for boat launchers, rock-hoppers, toe-dippers, and architect admirers.
Let’s say you’re looking for a nature workout. Galiano Island also offers a variety of hikes! Take your pick between our favourites or blaze your own trail! There’s the classic: Mount Galiano—274 metres of vertical trail surrounded by densely-packed trees with a stunning view of all the Southern Gulf Islands, Sydney, and the Cowichan Valley mountain range. The remote: Bodega Ridge—an incredible hike across the tallest point of the island, offering enchanting views of trees and ocean, and the home of cliff-nesting bald eagles, falcons, and turkey vultures. And the picturesque: Montague—yes, this spot is a diverse one, with a forested trail that loops around the harbour. If you can’t decide which trail to try, why not take them all on!
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, try out some of the good eats scattered across Galiano! The food scene on the island is unexpected; paying homage to the region, Galiano is a refuge to several farm-to-table restaurants you can find tucked away between the trees or on the side of the Salish Sea. Among these restaurants is award-winning Pilgrimme, offering up a blind tasting menu that changes along with the seasons.
A personal favourite of mine is Oxeye Bakery & Cafe. This charming and easy-to-find cafe serves down-to-earth meals made from atypical ingredients. Oxeye prepares their goods from locally-sourced foods and locally-roasted coffee! Grab a cappuccino and a fresh salad or a latté and a fruit tart and find a nice patch of sunshine in their outdoor seating.
If you’re more into fine dining, the Galiano Oceanfront Inn & Spa has a marvellous restaurant called Atrevida, serving up gourmet dishes and flavourful decor right by the ferry terminal. Watch the waves as you swirl some wine and dine on succulent dishes of all kinds.
The Southern Gulf Islands are home to an assortment of wildlife, including orca whale pods, bald eagles, falcons, hummingbirds, and deer! We even have cats! And if you’re into birdwatching, bring some binoculars because Galiano has many beautiful bird species that love to sing! Find a spot to watch the sunrise with a cup of coffee and a sketchbook, for you’re sure to find many things worth recording.
Instead of tall buildings and skyscrapers, our shops, restaurants, hotels, and sweet havens sit in the centre of dense forest. The forest is everything to the locals, who do all they can to preserve and protect every inch of it. We ask that if you enjoy nature and escaping into your wild side, that you do your best to keep our island looking its finest as you take in the sunshine, sweet smells, delicious meals, and friendly services available. We all love our Earth and our island, so trying out a “rural” or “rustic” vacation to return to one’s roots and practice lowering one’s ecological footprint is an excellent change of pace from big city sites and expensive international vacations.
So, the next time you’re planning a vacation, skip the stress; skip the cost, and support local by choosing Galiano Island, home to all remote romantics, touring travellers, and wandering workers.