Season: Year Round
Distance: 25 km
Access: See <http://www.car-free.ca/miscellaneous/appendix/getting-to-the-gulf-islands.html>Getting to The Gulf Islands.
At 21 square kilometres Mayne Island is the smallest of the Gulf Islands. While summer homes abound just 900 people call Mayne Island home. By ferry from Tswwaasen you'll island-hop first to Galiano Island then on to Village Bay at Mayne Island. As the ferry from Galiano Island rounds Helen Point look for bald eagles roosting in trees above both sides of the channel. At times a dozen or more white heads can be picked out against the dark backdrop of forest. The constricted waters of Active Pass concentrate the tidal flows into and out of Georgia Strait, concentrating too the salmon which coastal eagles thrive on.
Sunflowers: Gardening throughout the Gulf Islands is more than a hobby, it's a way of life. As water supply is a constant concern on these arid rocks many capture rooftop rainwater, storing it in cisterns for summer use. Drip irrigation helps stretch limited water supplies to the max.
The first thing to strike one upon arrival at Mayne Island's Village Bay is a sense of desolation. Apart from an old converted bus at the ferry terminal which sometimes dispenses hamburgers there is no commercial activity. Rows of houses ring the bay at a distance and a real estate office just beyond the ferry terminal is boarded up, mission accomplished perhaps. A tourism information display fades in the sun and the ferry traffic hustle and bustle soon fades too leaving visitors wondering. Wonder not! In spite of its small size Mayne Island has all of the charms of its bigger neighbors. Follow Village Bay Road to Miners Bay to find both hurley and burly in equal quantities.
Village Bay has no village, likewise no miners will be found in Miners Bay. The miners passed through long ago. Stricken with gold fever in the 1858 Fraser River gold rush thousands of frantic fortune seekers arrived from California and beyond via Victoria. Being halfway from Vancouver Island to the mouth of the Fraser River, Miners Bay became a marshaling area for the crossing of Georgia Strait.
Unlike the previous island, Mayne is small enough to tackle completely on foot. With two private campgrounds, three grocery stores, two with liquor counters, nearly as many B & B's as there are houses and countless lodges, several pubs and restaurants and a bakery there are plenty of amenities on the island.
While it may cost a little more it is always a good idea to buy provisions locally thereby giving something back to the economy.
Both campgrounds are equidistant from MOM's, the Mayne Open Market, and, once you settle in, it should take a mere 10 minutes by bike, 30 minutes on foot.
Mayne Island Camping is the most conveniently situated campground. Located along the beach overlooking Active Pass, Mayne Island Eco Camping is just 10 minutes from the ferry by bike. More importantly, camping here puts your tent well within staggering distance of the pub at Miner's Bay. In addition to seclusion, you'll find hot showers, kayak rentals and even wi-fi internet access here as well.
Miner's Bay is the hub of the community so finding suitable accommodation there is a logical step. The two bedroom cabins operated by the Springwater Lodge have awesome views of Active Pass but are incompetently operated and serviced. You can expect to find broken toilets, broken heaters, broken curtain rods, missing furniture and many other signs of neglect. Nonetheless the location and the view might make these distractions endurable at least to visitors on foot. Those equipped with bicycles will find little inconvenience no matter what corner of the island they choose to snuggle into for the night.
Regardless of where you park your bike the description of Mayne Island begins in Miners Bay. Springwater Lodge is noteworthy if not for the beer and burgers, then because it has been in operation continuously since it was first built in the 1890s. From the dock next door follow Georgina Point Road northwards. Within a kilometre you'll pass quaint St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church which was constructed in 1897 soon after the aforementioned pub opened its doors. Saturday night suds and Sunday morning solace. The churchyard ghosts can boast of one of the island's best views.
Continue along the road for 2 km to reach the lighthouse at Georgina Point Heritage Park. The park keeps odd hours, open daily from 1 to 3 PM, but is a pleasant place to stop for lunch. Capt. George Vancouver must have thought so too as he and his crew, according to local legend, visited the point overlooking Active Pass and Georgia Strait. Some careless crew member left behind a coin dated 1794 and a knife which were excavated nearly a century later when the lighthouse was first erected in 1885. The present-day light station dates from 1940 while the tower was built in 1969.
There are a number of beach access points along the north shore of Mayne Island. Just outside the park gate a tiny beach on Maud Bay at the foot of Cherry Tree Bay Road is a great place to strip and dip on a hot summer day. Similarly, Bayview Drive leads to the rocky foreshore of Oyster Bay where swimming may be out of the question but sandstone formations eroded by wind and wave are sure to tantalize. Further along Waugh Road as the main drag is called, Porter then Petrus Road will take you to the boat launch on David Cove. When Waugh Road turns abruptly south, becoming Campbell Bay Road, look for a trail leading off to the left. A delightful beach at the head of Campbell Bay will be found at the end of this short trail.
From the beach huff and puff your way for 2 km up to Fernhill Road where choices await. A left turn leads to much of the rest of the island while a right along Fernhill will take you past the Plumper Pass Lockup back to Miners Bay. The jail, which now serves as a museum, was built in 1896. The museum is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 AM to 3 PM throughout July and August. Call (250) 539-5286 to verify. Those with an interest in gardening may want to drop in to the island's recycling center next door. The facility features a composting demonstration area as well as a deer and drought resistant demo garden. With a large, nearly domesticated deer population and just half the rainfall of Vancouver gardening can be a challenge to local residents. To contact the recycling depot call (250) 539-3380.
Follow Fernhill Road in the opposite direction to reach the island's second central business district. Otherwise known as MOM's, Mayne Open Market is less than a kilometre away from Campbell Bay Road. In addition to a market with fresh island produce and a liquor outlet, MOM's features gourmet cooking and a lineup for ice cream that really is worth lining up for. A health clinic can also be found nearby.
MOM's is at the crossroads of three separate routes. Continue along the left fork which starts out as Fernhill Road but soon becomes Bennett Bay Road to reach the waterfront 2 km away. The expansive, sandy beach at the head of Bennett Bay is popular for swimming and sun tanning while the rocky foreshore flanking it can provide hours of beachcombing at low tide. Before you drop from hunger and thirst drop in to the Mayne Inn overlooking Bennett Bay to quell the hunger pangs and sooth that parched throat. Return to MOM's for another ice cream for dessert.
The road to Horton Bay passes through more than three kilometres of pastoral scenery. Many of the orchards date to the late 19th-century when the King apple was king. Mayne Island's oldest homestead is found along Horton Bay Road. The farmhouse was built in 1871.
Tomatoes rather than apples became the crop of choice between the wars. Japanese immigrants settled in large numbers, capitalizing on the island's rich soil and balmy climate, to develop a thriving greenhouse industry. With the outbreak of World War II more than 30 percent of Mayne Island's residents were suddenly whisked off to work camps in BC's interior, farms and livelihood confiscated.
At the end of Horton Bay Road itself there is a red and black government pier.
Gallagher Bay Road leads to the island's other campground. Calling Journey's End Farm a campground may be stretching the truth somewhat but it is possible to pitch a tent for $12. The facilities include a couple rickety tables, a toilet that is little more than a hole in the ground and a distant water supply that must be shared with the livestock. For that reason, however, you may find the campsite completely deserted. That privacy, coupled with the five star location atop rocky bluffs overlooking Navy Channel may be inducement enough to check it out. Follow Simpson Road to its end to pitch a tent. Continue along Gallagher Bay Road to explore the southern shore of Mayne Island. The road signage is confusing hereabouts but for the most part the main route is obvious. Abruptly Gallagher Bay Road ends becoming Marine Drive right and left. The right fork is the main road while the left fork leads to Piggot Bay, a pleasant, sandy crescent facing Saturna Island. Being exposed to driving northwesterlies, expect the beach to be choked with driftwood. Head to Piggot Bay for winter storm watching.
Marine Drive as main drag soon gives way to Mariners Way. Marine Drive as side road however leads to another sandy southside beach, this time at Conconi Reef Park near the eastern end of Navy Channel Road.
To reach Dinner Bay Park take East West Road from Mariners Way. While the beach is small the park includes a boat launch, picnic tables, public washrooms and a playground. Take Dinner Bay Road then Dalton Drive to return to the ferry terminal at Village Bay.
Mayne Island Hiking Trails
Mount Parke Park Hiking Trail
Those on foot can take a longish shortcut, returning to Village Bay from the opposite side of the island over the top of Mount Parke rather than by road around its shoulder. Mountain bikers should respect the landscape and stick to the roads. The trail to Mount Parke Park starts from the end of Montrose Road behind MOM's. Outhouses provided by the regional district are located near the trailhead. The first section is decidedly up, cutting across private property initially then, after numerous switchbacks, reaching the ridgeline 45 minutes later. At the top of the ridge the trail branches both east and west with stunning views from the cliffside to the south overlooking Saturna Island and beyond to the San Juan Islands. Follow the west [right] branch for a further 20 minutes ever upwards towards the 271 m peak which, incidentally is off-limits, being the site of a federal maritime traffic radar installation. From the gate take the service road back downhill to where it continues losing elevation as Wood Dale Drive. Within half an hour you can expect to pass under a giant arch of logs at the intersection of Village Bay Road. Take a left to reach the ferry dock in a matter of minutes or take a right to reach the next trail.
Helen Point Hiking Trail
Nearly a kilometre and a half from the ferry, where power lines cross Village Bay Road, you'll find the start of a nine kilometre hike along the foreshore bluffs of Active Pass. Since the route cuts through native Indian land it is necessary to obtain permission from the Tsartlip Band Office [(250) 652-3988] before setting out. Since access is allowed only through the good graces of the band council the tenants of no-trace hiking should be strictly adhered to. Failure to do so could result in a perpetual loss of access for the public at large. [Note: Reader Stephen Akins wrote January 15, 2009 to share this insight: "FYI: I called the Tsartlip Band Office and they say they are no longer allowing people to hike Helen point."]
The trail follows the powerline down towards Indian Bay before turning left to parallel the shoreline all the way to Helen Point. Hikers will pass through mature stands of mixed coniferous forest with arbutus clinging to the rocky shoreline bluffs. En route hikers may notice CMT's, cedar trees which bear the scars of fiber harvesting. These culturally modified trees are of course historic artifacts and must be treated as such. The removal or defacement of any artifact is prohibited by law. Forest gives way to open bluffs at Helen Point, adjacent to Active Pass's narrowest section. Tides propelled by following winds can push currents to in excess of 15 km/h here.