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Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is a national park reserve in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia.


The reserve covers 36 km2 (14 sq mi) and was established on May 9, 2003. It includes many islets and reef areas.

There is no interpretive centre. There are 10 backcountry camping areas on eight islands and two drive-in campgrounds on Vancouver and North Pender Islands. Though open year round, there are some winter access restrictions.

Islets are an important haul-out for marine mammals, and serve as nesting sites for marine birds. Therefore, islets within Gulf Islands National Park Reserve are "Authorized Access Only". The only exceptions are Lot 65 (Little Samuel Island) and Dock Islet, both of which are available for day-use by kayakers and boaters.



Flora and fauna[edit]

Orcas, porpoises, seals, and otters swim within the estuaries. Eagles, falcons, and turkey vultures soar around this park reserve


Get in[edit]

Mayne, Saturna and Pender Islands are reached by car ferry from Swartz Bay, 31 km from Victoria. Sidney Spit is a summer passenger ferry ride from the Town of Sidney. The rest of the park and protected waters are accessible by kayaks, powerboat or sailboat.

By drive-on ferry

BC Ferries provides vehicle and passenger service to and from Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Mayne, Saturna and the Pender islands. Once you arrive at the ferry terminal, you can only access park lands by driving or cycling.

By walk-on ferry

Sidney Spit is accessible during the summer months by a passenger ferry [dead link] departing from the Town of Sidney. Visitors can access the ferry at the dock at the foot of Beacon Avenue. The ferry operates from late June to early September 4-5 times a day, and takes 25 min. Adult fare: $29, seniors and children under 12: $16 (2017).

By boat or kayak

All other areas of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve are accessible only by powerboat, sailboat or kayak.

Fees and permits[edit]

Parks Canada Passes

The Discovery Pass provides unlimited admission for a full year at over 80 Parks Canada places that charge a daily entrance fee. It provides faster entry and is valid for 12 months from date of purchase. Prices for 2021 (taxes included):

  • Family/group (up to 7 people in a vehicle): $139.40
  • Children and youth (0-17): free
  • Adult (18-64): $69.19
  • Senior (65+): $59.17

The Cultural Access Pass: people who have received their Canadian citizenship in the past year can qualify for free entry to some sites.

Get around[edit]

See and do[edit]

The reserve offers incredible opportunities for boating, kayaking, hiking, camping and wildlife viewing, as well as for exploring the rural communities that exist in the Southern Gulf Islands.

Pender Island[edit]

A significant portion of North and South Pender Islands (which are connected by a bridge) are part of the National Park Reserve. Beaumont is a popular destination for boaters as it offers 15 mooring buoys. There is a camping area on shore that features 11 rustic backcountry sites (hike-in or kayak-in only). There is no fresh water available at Beaumont, and no campfires are permitted, regardless of season. There is no reservation system in place for Beaumont (GINPR).

Hiking trails on Pender Island include Beaumont (a difficult 1.5-km hike), Mt. Norman (a difficult 1.5-km, 244-metre elevation hike up to a panoramic viewpoint) and Roe Lake (a moderate 1.5-km hike).

At Roesland, a 15-minute stroll will take you to a former cottage resort dating back to the early 1900s, where you will also be able to visit the locally-operated Pender Island Museum.

Prevost Island[edit]

Prevost Island includes James Bay and Selby cove, which are located on the northern tip of the island. Prevost boasts 10 backcountry kayak-in or boat-in campsites. A camping fee applies, and can be deposited in the secure lock box. Outside of the National Park Reserve, Prevost is privately owned and used by the owners for farming and animal husbandry. Please respect the privacy of these individuals.

Russell Island[edit]

A small island at the mouth of Salt Spring's Fulford Harbour-- is only accessible by private watercraft or chartered vessel. There is a short trail from which you can see Gary Oak, Arbutus, Douglas Fir, stands of shore pine, open meadows of native grass with a variety of wildflowers. In summertime, the heritage Mahoi House is open to visitors during the afternoon and early evenings (except Sunday evenings) and descendents of the original Hawaiian (Kanaka) settlers are on hand to share family stories.

A moderate 1-km loop hiking trail from the boat access leads to the historic Mahoi House.

Princess Margaret (or Portland Island)[edit]

A favourite among boaters and kayakers. There is no ferry service to Portland, but visitors can refer to the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve's Licensed Operators List for a list of charter buisinesses that are licensed to operate in GINPR. You can camp overnight at one of three backcountry camping areas (Arbutus Point, Princess Bay and Shell Baeach). The island features cliffs, protected coves and sandy beaches and a 6.5-km shoreline loop trail (which can be shortened by taking one of two cross-island wooded trails). During high season, volunteer marine hosts moored at Princess Bay are on hand to provide visitors with park information.

Sidney Spit[edit]

Sidney Spit on Sidney Island is accessible from May until September by private vessel or by the privately-operated walk-on passenger ferry that departs daily from the town of Sidney (call GINPR for more information about the Sidney Spit ferry service: +1-866-944-1744). With its seemingly endless white sand beaches, Sidney Spit it is a very popular spot for families and travellers looking to unwind. Its sand bluffs, tidal flats and salt marshes teem with birds and marine life.

For hikers, there is an easy 2-km loop trail with cross trails, and 1.5-km spur trails.

Isle-de-Lis (or Rum Island)[edit]

A very popular retreat for paddlers. This small island features douglas-fir and arbutus, as well as vegetation--such as the prickly pear cactus-- that reflects the mild Mediterranean climate of the Southern Gulf Islands. The name "Rum Island" originates from the island's former role as a liquor cache during the Prohibition. Isle-de-Lis (Rum Island) features 3 backcountry campsites. There is no potable water available, and there are no campfires allowed, regardless of season. Neighbouring Gooch Island is private property; do not trespass.

D'Arcy Island[edit]

With striking views of the Gulf Islands, numerous coves, cobble beaches and sheltered campsites (7 sites), D'Arcy Island is a haven for kayakers. There is no potable water available on D'Arcy, and no campfires are permitted, regardless of season.

Saturna Island[edit]

Saturna Island is accessible by ferry, float plane, private watercraft or chartered vessel. Almost half the island is part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. There are hiking trails at Winter Cove, Monarch Head, and Lyall Creek and a spectacular view of Boundary Pass from the top of Mt. Warburton Pike.

East Point is a prime location for watching the marine life that feeds in the turbulent and fertile waters of Boiling Reef, and if you're lucky you may spot an orca whale from shore. Here you will also find the original Fog Alarm Building (FAB), which was rehabilitated by the Saturna Island Heritage Committee and transformed into an intepretive centre for visitors. In the summer months, visitors can speak with a FAB volunteer, and learn more about Saturna Island's rich natural and cultural history.

Visitors to Saturna can also take in any number of Interpretive Programs, led by one of the National Park Reserve's knowledgable interpreters.

Mayne Island[edit]

Accessible by ferry, float plane, chartered vessel and private watercraft. There are two Gulf Islands National Park Reserve properties on Mayne Island. The first is located at Bennett Bay, where you will find one of the nicest sand beaches in the Gulf Islands. An easy 1.5-km flat trail leads to remnant old-growth forest at Campbell Point and superb views from the point across to Georgeson Island. The second is at Georgina Point, the site of a historic lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1885 and marks the Eastern entrance to Active Pass. Georgina Point (GINPR) is a great place to watch passing boats, and marine life such as harbour seals and orca whales

Tumbo Island and Cabbage Island[edit]

These islands can be visited by kayak or boat.

On Tumbo, an easy 3.5-km loop trail provides ocean views of Cabbage Island and the San Juan Islands as it wanders through Garry Oak, Arbutus and coastal Douglas Fir forests. Except for a private resident that has a life tenancy agreement with the National Park Reserve, the whole island is parkland.

Cabbage Island is popular with boaters as there are 10 mooring buoys in the protected waters between Cabbage and Tumbo Islands. There is no fresh water available on Cabbage Island and no campfires are allowed, regardless of season. Mooring fees apply.

Learning experiences[edit]

  • Interpretive programs are held from June through September on the larger islands of Saturna and Pender, as well as on Sidney Spit (Sidney Island).
  • The Russell Island Host Program is a collaboration between Parks Canada and the Mahoi family. The Russell Island hosts are descendents of Maria Mahoi, a pioneering woman of Kanaka (Hawaiian) and First Nations descent.
  • The Fog Alarm Building (FAB) at East Point on Saturna Island was rehabilitated by members of the Saturna Heritage Committee[5]. In the summer months, visitors can speak with FAB volunteers and learn about Saturna Island's cultural heritage.
  • The Roe House at Roesland on Pender Island is a 1908 farmhouse that was rehabilitated by members of the Pender Islands Museum Society. In the summer months, visitors can speak with Roe House volunteers and learn about Pender Island's cultural heritage.






Reservations can be made by calling +1-877-737-3783.

  • McDonald Campground (Vancouver Island) A drive-in, frontcountry campground located near the quaint town of Sidney-by-the-Sea. McDonald Campground's proximity to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal makes it an excellent base of operations for exploring the Southern Gulf Islands. Municipal bus service into Sidney, Victoria, or to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal is also available from McDonald Campground. McDonald Campground offers 49 sites, and offers amenities like potable water, pit toilets, picnic tables and fire pits (seasonally available).
  • Prior Centennial Campground is a 17-site, drive-in campground operated by Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. Amenities include potable water, pit toilets, picnic tables and fire pits (seasonally available).
  • Sidney Spit: 26 walk-in camp sites between May 15th and Sept 30th. Potable water is available at Sidney Spit, but because of high sodium content it should not be consumed by those with heart or kidney ailments. Mooring buoys and dock space are also very popular with boaters. The group camping area (for 10-30 people) and sheltered picnic area must be reserved in advance by calling the National Park Reserve office ( +1-866-944-1744).

Camping fees per night (2018)

  • McDonald:
    • per party, per vehicle (May 15 to September 30) $17.60
    • per senior party, per vehicle (May 15 to June 14 and after Labour Day to September 30) $6.80
    • additional vehicle $6.80
    • additional vehicle, per senior party, (May 15 to June 14 and after Labour Day to September 30) $3.40
  • Prior Centennial (North Pender Island):
    • per party, per vehicle (May 15 to September 30) $17.60
    • additional vehicle $6.80
    • per senior party, per vehicle (May 15 to June 14 and after Labour Day to September 30) $6.80
    • additional vehicle, per senior party (May 15 to June 14 and after Labour Day to September 30) $3.40
  • Sidney Spit:
    • per party (May 15 to September 30) $17.60


  • There are 7 walk-in (1.7 km) or kayak-in backcountry campsites available at Narvaez Bay, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. Campsites are accessible from the parking lot at the end of Narvaez Bay Road, and camping fees apply. There is no fresh water available at Narvaez Bay, so plan accordingly.
  • Cabbage Island offers 5 rustic, backcountry campsites (some with picnic tables available).

Backcountry use and camping per person (2018):

  • Overnight (16 years and older) $9.80

(Applies to Cabbage Island, Princess Margaret (Portland Island), Beaumont (South Pender Island), Shingle Bay (North Pender Island), D’Arcy Island, Isle-de-Lis (Rum Island), James Bay (Prevost Island), and Narvaez Bay (Saturna Island).)

Stay safe[edit]

Go next[edit]

This park travel guide to Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.