Gulf Islands National Park

British Columbia’s Salish Sea and Southern Gulf Islands Archipelago

Gulf Islands and the Salish Sea | Credit: James Thompson Photography

Season(s)
Spring
Duration
6-days/5-nights
Pricing
$4,250 CAD/Person
Starts / Ends
Brentwood Bay, Vancouver Island
Overview

The unique Mediterranean climate of British Columbia’s Southern Gulf Islands Archipelago features lush Douglas fir and arbutus forests, pockets of the endangered Gary Oak ecosystem, and is home to more plant species than any other terrestrial ecosystem in British Columbia.

Join us aboard the schooner Passing Cloud to explore this globally significant protected area within British Columbia’s Salish Sea and Southern Gulf Islands Archipelago. The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve was established here in 2003 to safeguard this ecologically and culturally sensitive region. Through interpretive beach and forest walks, marine mammal viewing, sailing, and sea kayaking, we’ll explore and learn about the natural and cultural history of this unique island ecosystem. Spring, in particular, is a beautiful time of year to witness the blossoming of rare terrestrial plants, including trilliums and fawn lilies. 

The forests here are alive with the calls, croons, and singing of eagles, ravens, and migratory songbirds. And the coastal wildlife here is equally impressive! Purple starfish, lemon nudibranchs, and giant green anemones colour the rocky shores, and seals and sea lions patrol kelp forests in search of their next meal, ever vigilant for the mammal- and fish-eating killer whales that inhabit these waters. We look forward encounters with the abundant populations marine mammal populations found here, including humpback whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, and river otters.

And with such abundant land and marine resources, it’s no wonder that Coast Salish First Nations have lived among these islands for thousands of years. Shell middens – mounds of discarded clam and mussel shells and other shellfish, fish bones, and mammal bones – are ubiquitous features of the beaches and forests here, testament to the large numbers of Indigenous people that once thrived among these island ecosystems.

Highlights

Explore this island archipelago, with its unique Mediterranean climate, Douglas fir and arbutus forests, endangered Gary Oak ecosystems, and Coast Salish cultural heritage.

Encounter, learn about, and photograph whales, porpoises, eagles, ravens, seals, sea lions, shore birds, sea birds, and songbirds.

Enjoy the short travel distances of this region which allow for an abundance of time for shore excursions, sailing, and sea kayaking, and be nourished by wonderful chef-prepared meals featuring local and seasonal foods and wines.

Activities

Sample Itinerary

Duration
6-days / 5-nights
Starts / Ends
Brentwood Bay
Distance
60 nautical miles (~110 km), or 10 nm (~20 km)/day
Physical REquirements
Moderate

Summary

Our Gulf Islands National Park Reserve expeditions take us on a leisurely journey of travel and exploration through the Salish Sea and Southern Gulf Islands Archipelago. The short travel distances here allow us to maximize the time we can spend sailing, kayaking, walking, exploring, and learning about the remarkable natural history and cultural heritage of the region. And Spring is a wonderful time to be here as the the warm days bring the islands to life with colourful blooming fawn lilies, trilliums, salmonberry, shooting-stars, and more.

Days 1-2
Departure, Prevost Island, Saturna Island

Our expedition into Gulf Islands National Park Reserve departs at ~10:00 AM from Brentwood Bay, located on the Saanich Peninsula, conveniently located between Victoria and Sidney. After meeting the crew, settling into your accommodations, and a safety briefing, we will cruise or set sail for one of our favourite locations in the southern Gulf Islands, James Bay on the north side of Prevost Island. This is a great place to explore by kayak or go ashore and get our first taste of the Douglas fir and Arbutus forest ecosystems found throughout the Gulf Islands.

The next day we’ll head south and east between Mayne and North Pender Islands, perhaps enjoying some wonderful sailing in Plumber Sound, before anchoring in picturesque Winter Cove on Saturna Island. Here, we’ll enjoy an interpretive beach and forest walk and explore the nearby shorelines and wildlife in our inflatable skiff.

Days 3-4
Wildlife Viewing, Belle Chain, Cabbage Island, East Point

Day 3 of our expedition will take us to the nearby Belle Chain Islets where we’re likely encounter sea lions, seals, and seabirds, and learn about the incredible undersea marine life found here (including Russell’s amazing encounter here with a six-gill shark!). We’ll spend this afternoon exploring Cabbage Island and Tumbo Islands, which boast an incredible protected lagoon, sandy beaches, shell middens, intertidal marine life, and the site of a remarkable former homestead.

The next day we plan to visit the historic lighthouse at East Point, located on the eastern-most end of Saturna Island, where we’ll enjoy spectacular seascapes and learn about on-going initiatives here for land-based whale watching, particularly the southern resident killer whales. Weather permitting, tonight we’ll anchor in east-facing Narvaez Bay where we’ll enjoy the surrounding solitude and incredible views of the towering ionic volcano, Mt. Baker.

Days 5-6
Sailing, Whales, Russell Island, Clam Gardens

Our last full day of our Gulf Islands expedition will have us sailing and cruising in Haro Strait and Swanson Channel and on the lookout for humpback whales, killer whales, Dall’s porpoises, and Pacific white-sided dolphins. We’ll spend our afternoon exploring Russell Island, by small boat, kayaks, and on foot, and learn about the fascinating history of this tiny island located just off the southern shore of Salt Spring Island. If the tide is low enough today we’ll be able to see and learn about the ancient Indigenous clam garden found here.

 On Day 6, our expedition through Gulf Islands National Park Reserve will end back in Brentwood Bay where we’ll say farewell to our fellow shipmates and disembark the Passing Cloud by ~10:00 AM.

Featured Blog Posts

Testimonials

Thank you for an exceptional adventure from start to finish in the Gulf Islands! My second time on the Passing Cloud as every bit as memorable as the first. I’ve been on a lot of cruised, but few are as impactful as the past 4 days have been. I can’t wait to return!

— Aaron, Calgary, AB, Canada

To learn about the history, the flora & fauna, and the intricate inter-workings of the coastal environment – from those who are obviously passionate about this. And to enjoy the calming influence of the picturesque coastal waters in this beautiful part of our country, thank you!

— Dave, Calgary, AB, CANADA

Thank you for a lovely journey through the Gulf Islands. The Crew was amazing and the food unbelievable. We are already talking and planning our next summer based around Outer Shores. It couldn’t have been more magnificent.

— Pat and ken, Victoria, Bc, CANADA

To slow down, to be outside after a long winter. To have Chef Erin feed us her most wonderful creations. To wake to fresh coffee and to walk for sea life. A few of the gifs from our time on the the Passing Cloud. Thank you!

— Linda, Calgary, AB, CANADA

Thank you Outer Shores Team. You have shared your world with me – and an amazing world it is. I’ve lived in this province all my life and never experienced it your way. Great food, great company – new friends and old. We will be back, thank you.

— Tim, Merrit, BC, CANADA

Thank you Matt, Liam, and Graham for a wonderful trip. You are competent and professional in every way and yet completely dedicated to ensuring all guests have the best experience possible. The scenery, the atmosphere and the food are all equally memorable.

— Lisa, Pueblo, Colorado, USA

Dates and Rates 2024 - Gulf Islands
(now 15% OFF until December 1st!)

Date
Price
Status
Depart / End
Booking
April 9-14 (5-nights)
$4,250 CAD/person
Available
Brentwood Bay
Booking Inquiry
April 15-20 (5-nights)
$4,250 CAD/person
Available
Brentwood Bay
Booking Inquiry
April 21-26 (5-nights)
$4,250 CAD/person
Waitlist
Brentwood Bay
Booking Inquiry

Notes on Pricing

Our prices are based on double occupancy, quoted in Canadian dollars, and subject to 5% Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST). All payments must be made in Canadian dollars, by cheque or credit card. All prices are subject to change without notice.

Resources

Preparing to visit the Southern Gulf Islands and Salish Sea?

Southern Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, and the Salish Sea are located in a unique Mediterranean microclimate and are home to a remarkable range of habitats, wild spaces, wildlife, and Indigenous cultures. Below is a list of websites that will help prepare you for travelling to Southern Vancouver and your expedition into Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and the Salish Sea.

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