Gulf Islands

The Southern Gulf Islands are among some of the most accessible archipelagos to kayak in the world. You have a chance to see killer whales and sea otters and will likely see eagles, sea lions and seals. Once you turn the corner away from civilization you will be drawn into the scenery and enjoy the sounds of nature. The rain shadow effect allows a drier climate, more like the Mediterranean. There are several great beaches you can relax on so take a picnic lunch.

There are many campsites to spend the night and hiking out here is mandatory. The viewpoints are well worth the trek: you may just wonder if you are really in the Pacific Northwest and not in a drier location.
The Gulf Islands National park is a group of small parks that covers 36 square km (14 sq mi) and spans 15 islands as well as islets and reefs. Check tides and weather before starting your trek to avoid battling the strong tides that can frequent this area. Many companies in this area can provide experienced guides for the inexperienced paddler. 

Here are some safety tips from Parks Canada

  • Ensure you are trained in sea kayaking techniques (including but not limited to rolls, rescues, tides and navigation) and that you are properly equipped before setting out. If not, consider booking a tour with a certified kayaking guide.
  • Marine weather and sea conditions can vary dramatically. Check weather forecasts and tide tables before heading out.
  • Use extreme caution when travelling around strong tidal currents, particularly in the following areas:
    – Boat Pass (between Samuel and Saturna Islands)
    – Active Pass (between Galiano and Mayne Islands)
    – Waters off of East Point (Saturna Island)
  • Dress warmly.
  • Yield to larger vessels. Recreational boat traffic is high in peak season (May-September), and commercial freighters and passenger ferries are common in all seasons. Choose bright colours (e.g., lifejacket and kayak) for visibility.
  • All marine vessels are subject to the Small Vessel Regulations and the Collision Regulations made under the Canada Shipping Act.
  • Learn first aid skills and know how to obtain help. Carry a marine VHF radio and monitor weather conditions regularly (VHF radio broadcasts). Keep signalling devices close in case of sudden emergency. Familiarize yourself with cold water conditions and signs of hypothermia.
  • Kayak or canoe with a partner and let someone know where you are going and when you are planning to return.
  • Consult the Safe Boating Guide and the Sea Kayaking Safety Guide.


Watch for fast tides in Active Pass and Porlier Pass- inexperienced kayakers should avoid these areas. Saltspring, North and South Pender, Mayne, Saturna and Galiano islands receive ferry service.

Possible Wildlife:

Orca (Killer) whales, Stellar Sea lions, California Sea lions, seals, Bald Eagles and many other types of birds.

Southern Gulf Islands:
  • Saltspring Island
  • Galiano Island
  • Mayne Island
  • North Pender Island
  • South Pender Island
  • Saturna Island
  • Kuper Island
  • Thetis Island
  • Valdes Island
  • Gabriola Island
Central Gulf Islands:
  • Hornby Island
  • Denman Island
  • Texada Island