Season: Year Round
Ferry dock to Montague Harbour: 10.5 km o/w
Montague Harbour to northern end: 27 km o/w
Access: See Getting to The Gulf Islands.
Galiano Island is the first stop on the inter-island ferry from Tsawwassen. There are two campgrounds on Galiano Island but only the one at Montague Harbour is accessible due to a right-of-way dispute. For the foreseeable future badly-needed Dionisio Point Provincial Marine Park will remain off-limits to land-based visitors. Lodges, cabins, B & Bs and resorts abound. Too numerous to include, contact the reservation hotlines listed below to discuss your needs. The route described below assumes you are planning to camp at Montague Harbour Provincial Marine Park. If you made alternative arrangements, vary the route according to your needs.
The ferry from Swartz Bay grinds its way towards Active Pass as seen from high atop Mount Galiano. Mayne and Saturna Islands dominate the background.
Named for the Spanish ship captain who explored the coast in 1792, Galiano Island is part of a long, undersea ridge comprised of Mayne and Saturna Islands to the south and Valdes, Gabriola, Protection and Newcastle Islands to the north. At 26 km long and just 2 km wide, Galiano is the second largest of the Gulf Islands.
In the vicinity of the ferry terminal expect to find numerous shops, a bakery, coffee shop, bookstore and bike rentals. Every Saturday from mid-May to early September there is an Artisans' Market from 9:30 AM to 2:30 PM. Look for it behind Galiano Island Books at 76 Madrona Road.
From the dock climb Sturdies Bay Road for 5 km to the Hummingbird Pub. Just beyond this popular watering hole Porlier Pass Road veers off to the right. You want to continue on the left branch, now Georgeson Bay Road, for a couple mpments where you'll find two general stores. The Corner Store, somewhat far from any corners, also serves as a liquor store and has a notice board where local secrets can be uncovered. The Daystar Market opposite specializes in locally grown organic produce. After stocking up on provisions you'll want to continue for 1 km along Georgeson Bay Road until the main route winds right onto Montague Road. Immediately the road becomes steep, getting steeper by the second. On the way up just remember what goes up must come down. And indeed you will. The ride down the other side of the hill is a scream. Don't overdo it however as manoeuvring down and around the numerous curves with a fully loaded bike could have dire consequences.
Three and a half kilometres on, near the bottom of the hill, Montague Park Road suddenly veers off to the right. Take it if you want to set up camp right away or go straight to Montague Harbour Marina where you can purchase limited grocery items, order a bite to eat or rent kayaks. Gulf Islands Kayaking was the first and most successful company to set up a paddling business on the island. In addition to their standard offerings, the Full Moon Paddle is a sheer delight.
Pedal Power: Expect to discover miles of smiles on each and every Gulf Island. Though the pace of life is decidedly slower helmets are required over here too, except when grinning for the camera.
The very best campsites have been set aside for the campground reservations system. A signboard at the entrance to the park indicates who gets what. Any sites which are not specifically earmarked are up for grabs. If you arrive without reservations make a note of those sites which are not taken so you may make an informed selection. The walk-in sites are far superior than those designed for people with vehicles. Though it is a good idea to make reservations well in advance during the summer there is always room for an extra tent in the group camping area.
Keep a close eye on your food at all times as the racoons and crows in the park have made a profession out of pilfering whatever they can't beg. Their cuteness wears a little thin when these bandits have gulped down the last of your tofu dogs. When that happens you are not completely stranded however.
Though most shops close very early on the island a bus will magically appear at the park gate at 6 PM and every hour thereafter until 11 PM. No doubt in cahoots with the raccoons, the bus will take you to and return you from the Hummingbird Pub for just two dollars. This service is available nightly from the end of May to the Labour Day long weekend. There are numerous other restaurants on the island but most are in the vicinity of the Sturdies Bay ferry landing. One notable exception is La Berengerie [(250) 539-5392] on Montague Road near Clanton Road. Reservations are required to sample this fusion of French and West Coast cuisine.
Clanton Road will also take you on an exploratory ride up island, rejoining Porlier Pass Road at the top of a 0.7 km grunt. 7.8 km further on, over undulating terrain, there is an ice cream cone with your name on it. The Blue Goose Country Kitchen at the corner of McClure Road and Porlier Pass Road serves designer coffee in addition to its renowned home-made ice cream.
You'll easily burn off the extra calories by the time you reach Lovers' Leap Viewpoint 7.3 km later. From cliff top you'll be rewarded with views of Trincomali Channel, Wallace Island and Saltspring Island in the distance. Exploration of this area by kayak is detailed here. If your butt isn't sore yet horseback riding opportunities exist at the Bodega Resort another 4 km down the road. The end of the road is a final four clicks away at Spanish Hill.
Chartering a boat on Galiano Island is as easy is picking up the phone. Check for options on the Galiano Island InfoCentre website. Fishing gear is usually included in the price. Active Pass is always popular though familiarity with currents and traffic patterns in the busy channel are recommended. Your skipper will most certainly have insight into local salmon habits.
For a change of pace set the two-wheeler aside and check out these Hiking Trails on Galiano Island: