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A Long Weekend Spent on the Laid-back Gulf Island

With its' laid-back vide and untouched nature, Galiano Island is a perfect spot for a weekend trip. With 28 km in length, the Gulf Island is small enough to cycle in one day. Camping spots on Galiano Island are also sufficient and beautifully placed. 

The September Labour Day Holiday in British Columbia is one of the last summer weekends with good weather. Last year, I cycled the Sunshine Coast by myself, so to keep the tradition up, I decided to explore the Gulf Islands. Read on to learn about my camping and cycling trip to Galiano Island.

About Galiano Island

Located on the Strait of Georgia, Galiano sits between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia. With an area of 60 km2 (23 sq mi), it is the second largest Gulf Island after Salt Spring. Galiano is 28 km (17 mi) long and only 6 km (3.7 mi) at its widest point.

Being this small, Galiano is still home to five Provincial Parks:

  • Montague Harbour Provincial Park - known for its Shell beach; Montague Harbour is a popular local hangout spot.
  • Dionisio Point Provincial Park - tugged in the north end of the island, with the beautiful and difficult to access Coon Bay.
  • Bodega Ridge Provincial Park - a walkable high ridge with views on other Gulf Islands. It’s high cliffs are home to bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other birds.
  • Bellhouse Provincial Park - located near to Sturdies Bay and within walking distance from the BC Ferry terminal, it holds a picnic table and benches with breathtaking views on the ocean. Unique limestone formations.
  • Collinson Point Provincial Park - marine protected area by Mount Galiano.

Read more: 8 Amazing Hiking Trails Around Vancouver

Camping in BC During a Long Weekend

Campsites during the long weekends in British Columbia are always very busy and you need to book at least a few months ahead. However, many campsites have a number of “first come first serve” spots, others have designated overflow areas. To inquire about these spots, call the campsites beforehand.

I didn’t have a campsite booked for my trip to Galiano Island, but I heard from a friend (thank you Dawn!) that Dionisio Point Provincial Park has campsites that don’t need reservations, as it is only accessible by boat or bicycle.

Day 1 on Galiano Island

Biking on Galiano Island

Getting off the BC Ferry in Sturdies Bay, I got on my bike and started making my way to Dionisio Provincial Park in the north end of the island, where my campsite was located.

The roads on Galiano are slightly hilly and mostly go through forested areas. The southern part of the island is more developed, but after passing the turn-off to Montague Harbour, you are guaranteed a more tranquil ride.

Long Weekend Event

While I was biking on Galiano to my campsite, it just so happened that the “Musical Walkalong for Learning” was being held. This is an charitable event organized by the Galiano Conservancy Association each year to raise funds for schoolchildren to participate in the organisations’ environmental education programs.

After I parked my bike and payed a donation, I followed other visitors to discover local musicians and singers performing in the woods. These talented individuals brought their instruments - guitars, harps, drums, flutes etc., to the forest and simply played music. 

It was a beautiful way to spend the afternoon and gave me a better sense of the artistry feel of the island. 

I headed back onto the road to continue my bike ride to the campsite. 

To get to Dionisio Provincial Park, take the turn-off onto Vineyard Way and then follow Bodega Beach Drive north. You will reach two gates, one saying ‘private’ the other one ‘closed’. You can make your way around the gates with a bike only (not car) and continue cycling.

By now, you won’t see anyone else except for a few cyclists. Once in Dionisio Park, the road gets narrower and the forest grows thicker and thicker.

This is truly a hidden gem, untouched by man.

After reaching and settling in the campsite in Dionisio Park, I spent the rest of the day on the beach in Coon Bay and watched a beautiful sunset from the cliffs.

As Dioniso Point Provincial Park is only accessible by cyclists and boaters, it was not crowded at all and the campsite was not 100% filled.

Dionisio Park Campground

There are two walk-in campsites (around 15 spots each) and a park ranger comes every day to collect fees and check on campers.

Water source is available. Water needs to be boiled for at least 5 minutes.
Hang your food. Pack it in, pack it out. Cost is $5 / night / person. Bring cash.

Day 2 on Galiano Island

Pebble Beach

I started my second day with a morning run and refreshing dip in the ocean. I was told that Pebble Beach had the warmest waters, so I decided to bike there.

To get to Pebble Beach, take McClure Road until you arrive at a T-intersection. You can park your car or bike here, then follow a path for about 10 minutes downhill to the beach.

This is a nice rocky beach, indeed good for swimming, but quite popular with locals and tourists. I definitely preferred the remoteness and quite vibes of Coon Bay.

Bodega Ridge Park and Stoneworld

After a little nap in the sun, I cycled to Bodega Ridge Provincial Park, taking Cottage Way. From the trailhead, the top of the ridge is about a kilometre (30 minutes) hike through forest and then along the cliff line, providing breathtaking views over the Gulf Islands and the Strait of Georgia.

After passing the ridge, the trail continues and becomes quite overgrown. You can go as far as 4km, reaching a viewpoint overlooking Stoneworld, resembling to some extent Stonehenge.

Stoneworld was created by a Hungarian artist names Steve Ocsko, who settled in Canada in the late 50’s. While developing the land, giant rocks were excavated, and instead of having them shipped away, the now deceased artist placed them around the property, some painted and some carved.

Day 3 on Galiano Island

On the last day, I planned to make a stop at Montague Harbour and hike Galiano Mountain, but unfortunately with only one ferry in the afternoon, I decided to line up at 3pm to make sure I got a ferry ticket to get back to the mainland.

After getting my ticket, I cycled to Bellhouse Park and spent the rest of my day on Galiano Island there. This provincial park is perfect for a short afternoon stroll, picnic or time killer to wait for the ferry.

While I did not feel that Galiano Island was overly crowded with travelers during the weekend, surprisingly there were many cars, cyclists and foot passengers waiting to board the ferry. The island is a great getaway destination, and I will definitely come back.

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