B.C.’s Galiano Island: serenity with unexpected dashes of fun

It’s all “island time,” scenic wonders and quiet, until you get on the Pub Bus and start shaking maracas.

GALIANO ISLAND, B.C. — Quiet beach walks: Check.

Hikes through old-growth forests: Check.

Whales and wild deer: Check.

Mix the usual island pleasures with a dose of serendipity — as in who knew we’d find ourselves on a bus filled with passengers shaking maracas and singing Beatles tunes — and it’s easy to fill a weekend exploring British Columbia’s tiny Galiano Island, which dubs itself the Gem of the Salish Sea.

Otters rest on a Galiano Island dock. (Henny Elizabeth Schnare photo)

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One of the least-developed of Canada’s Southern Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and B.C.’s lower mainland, Galiano is just 17 miles long and 3.7 miles across at its widest point.

“We’re about people wanting to be quiet,” says glass artist Marcia DeVicque, one of the island’s 1,000 or so residents. “If I get more than three cars in my drive, I call it Galiano Gridlock.”

Good reasons to stay

Just an hour’s ferry ride from the mainland, Galiano could be an easy day trip, but my husband, Tom, and I found plenty of reasons to settle in, starting with the peach-and-raspberry scones from the Sturdies Bay Bakery and Cafe, down the hill from our Airbnb, a three-room cottage close to the ferry dock.

Our host, Alexandra, pointed out the location of a Saturday farmers market at the end of her street, and several hikes and walks we could take from her front door.

With half the island used as a tree farm by the lumber industry until the early 1990s, almost one-fifth is protected land, most of it open for public use.

“It’s acceptable to hitchhike,” Alexandra told us. “The locals will pick you up.” Perhaps, but much better to bring a car, we concluded, given the mountainous geography and abundance of forest trails.

Using a Galiano Parks and Recreation Commission map we picked up at a kiosk next to the ferry dock, we followed dozens of numbered access points to well-maintained beach and bluff trails, with time out for visits with artists, farmers and the world’s most entertaining bus driver.

Here are some suggestions on where to walk and stop along the way:

Retreat Cove and Tapovan Peace Park

Most visitors find their way mid-island to Bodega Ridge Provincial Park, known for its cliffside trails and views over the…

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