Ever wanted to explore an area completely unique to BC? Gulf Islands National Park Reserve has some of the most biodiverse wildlife in the country – with endangered and rare plant species you won’t find anywhere else in Canada. Best of all? You can even get a taste of the area’s rich history at one of the 17 orchards scattered across the park’s 15-some islands, all of which are open to the public.

So long as you respect the boundaries of restricted, protected areas and leave no trace behind, there’s no reason why you can’t do a bit of exploring – and learning.

Speaking of, Parks Canada offers tons of opportunities to engage with local wildlife and communities in the Gulf Islands, namely through its Interpretation Programs.

From a Coast Salish Campfire program on Sidney Island (offered until August 26th) and a Saturday Whale Trail Walk on Saturna Island that follows the path of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, there is no shortage of ways to get involved.

There are also a handful of annual community-wide events to look out for every year – including the Saturna Lamb BBQ and Ocean Wise WhaleBlitz.

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gulf islands national park reserve bc
Photo via Parks Canada


Fruit-pickers can head to 17 heritage and non-heritage orchards and pick a couple of apples, pears, cherries, plums, quince, and nuts – so long as the trees themselves remain untouched.

Note that a maximum of six pieces per fruit type is in effect to give all visitors equal access, and harvesting cuttings, leaves, or grafts are not permitted. Before you go, make sure to read up on Park Canada’s fruit-picking conditions.

Getting to the islands

As for modes of transportation, the best way to see all 15+ islands and islets is – of course – via kayak or boat. Paddlers can paddle through calm waters, passing secluded coves and hidden inlets. Plus, the mild climate and sheltered channels make it an ideal destination for paddlers of all skill levels.

Mayne, Saturna and Pender Islands can be accessed via car ferry from Swartz Bay. Those who want to get to Sidney Spit can take the summer passenger ferry from the Town of Sidney.

The rest of the park and protected waters can be reached by kayak, powerboat, or sailboat.

Hiking & camping info

As for the park’s extensive hiking trails, each island boasts its own unique landscape. From lush forests and rolling hills to sandy beaches – the only hard part will be choosing a place to begin!

There are nine backcountry camping areas on eight islands and two drive-in campgrounds on Vancouver and North Pender Islands. And both are open year-round.

As well, there are front-country vehicle-accessible campsites at the SMONEĆTEN, Prior Centennial, and Sidney Spit Campgrounds.

So there you have it, BC! An incredible journey awaits.

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

Where: Southern Gulf Islands, BC

Information on Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is from Parks Canada and is accurate as of publication date.