Southern Gulf Islands
Link to a series of articles about the GIMT below. This article supports the main webpage on the Gulf Islands Marine Trail.
The Gulf Islands are sometimes called the Southern and Northern Gulf Islands. The dividing line is considered to be approximately at the city of Nanaimo.
The BC Marine Trail largely considers Newcastle Island opposite Nanaimo as the northern extent of the Southern Gulf Islands as well as the northern extent of the Gulf Islands Marine Trail (GIMT). The southern extent of the Southern Gulf Islands is considered to be Saturna Island to the southeast and D’Arcy Island in the southwest. This is the southern extent of the GIMT. Confused? The GIMT extends from Nanaimo to Sidney near Victoria and includes the Gulf Islands in-between.
The Georgia Basin: weather
The Georgia Basin links both United States and Canada and includes the Strait of Georgia, Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It also includes inland areas on southern Vancouver Island (roughly to the southern tip of Quadra Island), inland on the Canadian mainland (Vancouver, Whistler, Fraser River) and Puget Sound inland (Seattle to Olympia). The inland sea was named the Salish Sea in 2010 to commemorate the Coast Salish peoples.
The winds in the Gulf Islands are generally light except when strong winds flow from other parts of the Georgia Basin, such as, Howe Sound or the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In the summer months the weather is decent. The only winds produced in the region of Victoria and the Islands are local sea breezes.
As a local paddler in the northern part of the Gulf Islands Marine Trail, I often visit the Environment Canada website ‘googling’ the term ‘Strait of Georgia south of Nanaimo’ and I double check the wind strength direction using a website like ‘windy.com’. The winds should be less inside the Gulf Islands than on the outside or east of the outside Gulf Islands like Gabriola, Valdes or Galiano Islands. All in all, the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC classifies the Gulf Islands as Class II. They describe this classification as “tours in lightly populated areas with short crossings, moderate potential wind effects, gentle to moderate non-turbulent currents, easy to moderate landings and light surf beaches.”
Paddlers are responsible for planning their own routes. They are also responsible for equipping themselves with the proper safety equipment.
Kayaking on the GIMT
There are a number of safe routes that can be traversed within the GIMT. The southern part of the Gulf Islands includes the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve with many campsites maintained by Parks Canada – most of the sites are reasonably distanced apart. There are also some BC Parks sites and one BC Marine Trail recreation site within the GIMT. Additionally, there are many launch sites to access the GIMT and a number of islands, bays, islets, channels and coastlines to explore. The routes marked on the map below indicate where you can navigate safely. Or even better, locate our main map, which maintains up to date data.
Coastal Journeys is the BCMT’s name for articles related to paddling and other activities. We have pulled together several articles linked to help you explore the GIMT and make the most of your exploration. The magic of the Gulf Islands is experienced in many ways whether it’s watching river otters play on the sandstone shores, or listening to the often-heard cry of the Bald Eagle above.
While it is possible to long-distance paddle on the outside of Gabriola, Valdes and Galiano Islands, it is not a recommended safe route.
The static map below shows the possible routes around islands and also gives you an idea of the density of campsites (green icon or circle with a number indicates the number of sites), day use sites (red icon or circle) and other sites (commercial, for example).The blue circles are walk-on with your kayak, paddle-off ferry terminals. Our map on our website always has the most recent updates.
Coastal Journey Articles: A Gulf Islands Marine Trail Article Series
- Newcastle Island and Protection Island
- Pirates Cove Marine Park
- One-way: Blue Heron Park to Ladysmith Marine Society Oyster Café
- Thetis Island
- Chivers Point on Wallace Island
- The Penders
- My Galiano Trip
- Exploring Salt Spring Island
- Nice Kitty (Piers Island)
- Mayne Island
- D'Arcy Island in Winter
- Galiano's Dionisio Provincial Park
- Portland Island in January