10 Things To Do on Galiano Island This Summer

Just an hour away from the city's bustling streets, escape to Galiano Island for an unforgettable summer getaway

Credit: Lony Rockafella 

Just an hour away from the city’s bustling streets, escape to Galiano Island for an unforgettable summer getaway

Eagles swooping overhead, whales lazily flipping tails in the ocean just beyond the shore, seals basking on sun-bleached rocks and adorable baby deer skipping through the forest. No, not the opening credits of the latest Disney kids’ blockbuster, but daily life on gorgeous Galiano Island, a paradise that’s just an hour away from Vancouver.

From an award-winning enRoute ‘Best New Restaurant 2015’ winner to a holistic spa in a rose garden and oh, so many fabulous things in-between, here are 10 reasons why you need to make it your next vacation destination…

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Enjoy the Journey

Because once you’re out of the horror that is driving BC-99 and BC-17 and get safely to Tsawwassen, it’s golden all the way to Galiano and your vacay starts as soon as you board the ferry. Those soft sloping misty blue-grey mountains and that calm clear gun-metal grey water which shifts to a beautiful bluey-green and sparkles in the sun. Oh man, is it possible to make this short trip across the Salish Sea through the Gulf Islands National Parks Reserve and not fall in love with beautiful B.C.? Any day I get to be on a BC Ferry is a pretty good one, and this journey never fails to be a pure knockout.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Stay at the Galiano Island Inn

Just five minutes walk from the ferry terminal, the wonderfully luxe Galiano Island Inn and Spa is exactly the kind of spot you need to know exists just a short hop away from the stress of VanCity. The spacious suites come with superb outdoor whirlpool baths, fireplace and barbecue. Soak in the tub with a glass of wine as you listen to the crash and hiss of the waves on the beach below and the cry of the seabirds.

Book time in the rose garden spa to unwind; try a gentle cranial sacral massage after a nourishing body wrap and soothing Vichy shower. In a blissed-out state, take a nap in a lounger then wake up with an appetite ready to hit the restaurant and watch the sunset blaze over the water—and maybe spot a whale or two in Active Pass.

No car? No problem. Rent one of the Inn’s cute Smart cars and explore the island hassle-free.

Truly one of the most hospitable Inns in Canada, with the fantastic Kunamokst Mural in its lobby, there is nothing I don’t adore about this place. Go, say I sent you, guaranteed good times await.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Visit an artist’s studio

When you’re surrounded by natural beauty, it’s no wonder creativity thrives. Galiano Island has a thriving artistic community and you can visit many of the island’s talented makers in their studios where their work is available for sale. I dropped in to visit Marcia Devicque and her colour-changing glasswork in her studio and sculpture garden on Porlier Pass.

Marcia makes what she calls ‘functional art,’ beautiful glass and metal creations which could happily double up to hang on the wall or do service as a dish on your table. Her work calls to mind the glowing colours and fluid shapes of Dale Chihuly, with lots of metal blended with the kiln-fired glass, which shifts colour depending on the light.

Marcia’s studio also showcases other artists’ work, all made on the island. You can pick up her smaller jewelry pieces here for $35 and up, and her larger platters are around the $450 mark.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Eat at Pilgrimme

Where to start? It seems lazy and clichéd to blurb on about how this is one of the very best meals I’ve ever eaten. One of the most exciting and thoughtfully creative menus I’ve ever seen. One of the most romantic and unique woodland settings I’ve ever had the pleasure of dining in. But yeah, it was all of that and so much more.

Frankly worth the trip to Galiano alone, Pilgrimme is a wonderfully ‘of its place’ destination restaurant that blew my foraged food-loving socks off and had my ‘not especially bothered about food’ vegan companion raving about how great it was too. Ziggy-era Bowie played as the shadows lengthened on the fairy light-lit patio of Pilgrimme’s little wooden cabin under a perfect Pacific Northwest forest canopy.

The dream team of chef Jesse McCleery created magic in the kitchen as Leanne Lalonde worked front-of-house miracles, the two combining to create a blissfully West Coast experience ripe with tastes and textures which draw from centuries-old techniques to make all that is old so very delicious and new again: from lacto-pickled cucumbers and charred turnips to fermented squash butter, Pilgrimme’s menu delighted, challenged and danced on my taste buds. Get a reservation and see for yourself. It was absolutely divine.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Go kayaking

Splash off with Galiano Kayaks under the watchful eye of Ben Miltner and his team of guides who offer terrifically knowledgeable tours of the island’s dazzling coastline from Montague Harbour Marina. I’m a keen paddler and will head out whenever I get the chance, but this is the first time I’ve ever really learned how to properly paddle and the only time I’ve been out for three hours and come back without any aches or pains later.

With almost three decades experience guiding on Galiano, Ben and co. offer something rather unique and wonderful and I loved it: from spotting mink darting along the shoreline and eagles soaring overhead to learning all about the trees and ocean currents of this little part of the world. Fantastic.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Shop at the Soapworks

Just like cosmetics behemoth, Lush, Galiano Island Soapworks began at the kitchen table with homemade creations and grew. All the products from their heavenly scented soaps to the facial creams are still made by hand on the island, from mostly raw natural ingredients which are Fair Trade, sustainable and eco-friendly. Containers are recyclable and all products are cruelty-free.

Looking for a tonic for mature skin? Try the Citrus Stem Cell cream with hyaluronic acid, which improves skin hydration and stimulates collagen production. Want a relaxing bath which will leave you with silky-soft skin? Then soak up the smoothing and soothing benefits of an organic virgin coconut oil bath bomb packed with essential oils. 

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Eat all the tacos at Crane & Robin

Recreating a beach shack vibe perched over Montague Harbour Marina, the newly opened Crane and Robin whips up a tasty menu of locavore delights such as Ocean Wise and vegan-friendly tacos, with all greens from the Island and herbs from the chef’s garden. Boasting a perfect view over the ocean and the brightly coloured kayaks on the dock, grab fistfuls of organic chips with their punchy house-made salsa and sip on a booze-spiked or virgin slushie as you ponder whether to have the juicy salmon or curried cauliflower and potato taco, or maybe both. Daily $6 Margarita Hour begins at 5 p.m. with Jimmy Buffet playing loud. Give in to that island vibe and join in—you’ll find pure happiness at the end of this road. 

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Take a meditative hike

For such a small island, Galiano boasts more than its fair share of multi-level hikes and trails. For something different, try the ‘Tapovan,’ a word which comes from the Sanskrit for ‘a wilderness or forest spiritual practice’. Dedicated to Sri Chinmoy, an advocate of world peace, this network of trails are all named after ‘peace’ in many different languages, from Italian (pace) to Chinese (he ping). Along the way, you’ll find Sri Chinmoy’s thoughtful sayings, making this a great place for a meditative walk in the mesmerizing peace of the forest. Take it easy on one of the more relaxed trails or power up the hill from the Porlier Pass to see Sri’s statue which overlooks that gorgeous Gulf Islands view.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Make time to read

One of Canada’s best and most beloved independent bookstores, this small ‘community-minded, globally connected’ shop is at the heart of the Island’s cultural community and they also organize the annual Galiano Island Literary Festival each February. Champions of local authors and illustrators, you’ll find a fantastic array of B.C. books here, along with plenty of international talent too. Make time to look through the discounted books as there are so many take-home treasures that you simply won’t find in other larger bookstores.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Eat at Max & Moritz Spicy Island Food House Food Truck

Of course the logical response to leaving the island is to sit wailing in the queue for the ferry. Fight that urge and eat your feelings instead at the adorable cherry red Max & Moritz food cart down at Sturdies Bay terminal. Named after a German children’s cartoon, owner Lucy was born in Indonesia and then moved to Germany, so her food showcases the best of each culture—from plump bratwurst sausages piled high with sauerkraut to bami goreng stir-fried noodles with a side of tofu and peanut sauce. Pick up a bottle of the delicious homemade hot sauce to take home as a souvenir.

Cash only, open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.