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North America > Canada > British Columbia > Vancouver Island > Southern Gulf Islands > Saturna Island

Saturna Island

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Saturna Island is in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Canada. It is between Vancouver Island and the mainland, and is the most easterly of the Gulf Islands. Saturna Island is mountainous and approximately 31 km² in size [1]. Approximately 44% of the island is a part of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR) [2]. Gulf Islands National Park Reserve was formed in 2003 from existing provincial parks, an Ecological Reserve, and other Crown land.

Map of the Southern Gulf Islands

Understand[edit]

  • Saturna Island Tourism Association. Publishes a map of the island, with listings for hotels, restaurants, and attractions. Usually freely available from leaflet racks on B.C. Ferries. Their website has similar information.

Like many of the Gulf Islands, Saturna is short on fresh water, so water conservation is expected.

History[edit]

The island was first used by indigenous people who called the island "Long Nose," due to the island's long north-eastern tapering shoreline that ends at East Point.

Saturna was explored by Spanish sailors and named in 1791 after their naval schooner, the Santa Saturnina, one of the ships in the Spanish expedition that explored the Strait of Georgia. The first European settlers arrived in the 1800s.

Landscape[edit]

The highest peak on Saturna Island is Mount Warburton Pike at 497 metres. Mt. Warburton Pike (GINPR) is accessible by vehicle, and features panoramic views of the San Juan Islands and the Southern Gulf Islands.

Flora and fauna[edit]

  • Marine wildlife on the shores of Saturna includes seals, sea lions, river otters and tidal marine life. It is also common to see porpoises and the endangered orca whale in the waters off East Point (GINPR).
  • Saturna Island is the perfect place for bird watching: over 180 species -- including ruby-throated hummingbirds, oyster catchers, bald eagles and great blue herons -- can be seen on Saturna Island.
  • At Mt. Warburton (GINPR), endangered Garry oak trees cling tenaciously to the shallow soil, while a large population of feral goats roams the island's south-facing cliffs.

Climate[edit]

In this area, daily temperatures rise above 30°C (86°F) on an average of one or two days per year and fall below -5°C (23°F) on an average of only 2 nights per year. During the winter, the average daily high and low temperatures are 8.2°C (47°F) and 3.6°C (38°F), respectively. The summer months are equally mild, with an average high temperature of 19.6°C (67°F) and low of 11.3°C (52°F).

This may seem like mild weather, but boaters and kayakers can feel very chilled especially if soaked by rain or waves. Hypothermia is a very real possibility.

Nearly two-thirds of the area's rainfall occurs between November and February, with July being the driest month on average. August and September frequently experience morning fogs.

Get in[edit]

Saturna is accessible by BC Ferries, by floatplane or by personal watercraft (there is a government wharf at the Lyall Harbour ferry landing and anchorage at Winter Cove).

BC Ferries provides connections from Pender Island, Mayne Island, Galiano Island, and sometimes to Victoria (Swartz Bay). Service varies with the season and the day of the week. Trips to Vancouver or Salt Spring Island involve transferring between ferries.

Fees and permits[edit]

Fires are not permitted on Saturna during the summer months when the fire hazard is extreme. In the spring, fall and winter months, fire permits can be obtained at the General Store.

Get around[edit]

Kayak launching is best done at Lyall Harbour beach, at Thompson Community Park or at Winter Cove (GINPR). Boat launches are located at Lyall Harbour beach and Winter Cove (GINPR).

See[edit]

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve offers incredible opportunities for boating, kayaking, hiking, wildlife viewing and picnicking.

  • At Winter Cove an easy 1.5-km loop trail (25 minutes) takes you to the turbulent waters of Boat Pass, with views of the Strait of Georgia. After your walk, spread out your lunch on one of the many picnic tables, explore the pebble beach, or play a game of frisbee.
  • At Lyall Creek, take a self-guided walk through 2 km (1 way, 40 minutes) of lush temperate rainforest, or catch a Parks Canada Interpretive Program to learn more about efforts to restore one of the last salmon-bearing creeks in the Southern Gulf Islands.
  • From the Narvaez Bay parking lot, take the trail up to the Monarch Head viewpoint. This strenuous 2.5-km loop trail (1.5 hours) follows old logging roads, and features spectacular views of Boundary Pass.
  • At East Point, keep your eyes peeled for seals and sea lions on Boiling Reef, and for porpoises and orca whales feeding in the nutrient-rich current of Boundary Pass.
  • Learn about Saturna Island history at the Foghorn Alarm Building (FAB), which is run by Saturna Heritage Committee volunteers in the summer months. And check out a special sunset Interpretive Program, led by one of the National Park Reserve's knowledgable interpreters.

For more information about the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, call +1-866-944-1744.

Do[edit]

  • Saturna’s highlight event is the annual July 1st Canada Day Lamb Barbecue. The fundraiser began as a school picnic on the Campbells’ property in 1950 and, though it moved to Winter Cove (part of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve) several years ago, it’s still running strong with an estimated 1,100 attendees last year. Many of the attendees are boaters who anchor in Winter Cove in the days leading up to the event. Several water-taxi charters shuttle visitors in and out from the Barbecue grounds on Canada Day [3]. BC Ferries frequently runs an extra sailing on July 1st to accommodate the larger-than-average number of vehicle and foot passengers. A shuttle service runs between the Lyall Harbour ferry terminal and the Lamb BBQ grounds on the day of the barbecue.
  • The 497-metre (1,630-foot) summit of Mount Warburton Pike is the trailhead of the Brown Ridge Trail to Taylor Point.

Swimming areas include beaches at Veruna Bay, Thomson Park and East Point (GINPR).

Buy[edit]

There is a thriving arts culture on Saturna Island, with a yearly gallery tour and several galleries that are open daily in the summer months. A Saturday Market is held during the summer months at the General Store. This is an opportunity to purchase local crafts, baked goods, preserves and produce, as well as to take in a musical performance or to listen to a Parks Canada Interpretive Program.

  • Saturna General Store, 101 Narvaez Bay Rd, +1 250-539-2936. 9AM-6PM.

There are no banks on Saturna Island. Most retailers accept major credit cards and debit cards, but please check with your accommodation when making your reservation. ATMs are available at: Saturna Point Store and the Lighthouse Pub.

Eat and drink[edit]

  • Wild Thyme Coffee House, 109 East Point Road, +1 250-539-5589. Th-Su 8:30AM-4:30PM. Double decker bus built for Southend-on-Sea in 1963. It offers great food and coffee. 100 m or so from the ferry dock. Baked goods, soups, smoothies and sandwiches. Open from Easter to Thanksgiving.
  • Lighthouse Pub, 100 East Point Road, +1 250-539-5725. Burgers $15-21, sandwiches $12-17, salads, mains $18-23.
  • Saturna Cafe, 101 Narvaez Bay, +1 250-539-2936. M Tu Th 9AM-4PM, W F Sa Su 9AM-4PM, F Sa 6PM-8PM.

Sleep[edit]

Lodging[edit]

  • 6 Lily Lane at East Point, 723 Tumbo Channel Road, +1 250-718-7407, . A heritage cottage on a private, one-acre point, at the water's edge. There are tidal pools to the left and sandy pebbly beaches to the right. There are European duvets on all the beds, a fully stocked kitchen and propane barbecue for the gourmet cook in the group, and a wood burning fireplace in the living room.
  • Breezy Bay Farm BnB and Cliff Top Camping, 131 Payne Rd, +1-587-580-6463, . On over 50 acres of heritage farm land. The B&B is the oldest house on the island, built in 1892. The house is nestled in old growth orchards and surrounded by gardens. Private beach and hiking trails. B&B: Mar-May Oct-Nov $105, Jun-Sep $120 ($10 less for 2nd and subsequent nights). Camping site for 2 adults, +$20 per additional adult.
  • Cottages 3 & 4 at East Point, 753 Tumbo Channel Road, +1 604-689-1280, . Post & beam 1 & 2 bedroom cottages steps away from a private beach. Beside East Point Park, known for the best Orca watching in the Gulf Islands. Fully equipped kitchens. Cabin 3 has 1 bedroom, 1 bath and Cabin 4 has 2 bedrooms, 1 bath.
  • East Point Ocean Cottages 1 and 2, 753 Tumbo Channel Road, +1 604-929-9829, . Fully equipped cottages on a sunny beach. Peaceful surroundings with view of Mount Baker and great whale watching. Pet-friendly.
  • Four Winds Bed & Breakfast, 443 East Point Road, +1 250-539-5463, . Ocean-side accommodation overlooking the North Shore and Cascade Mountains. Suites are equipped with TV/DVDs, Wi-Fi, private bathrooms, queen beds, hide-a-beds, and BBQs. From $135.
  • Sandy Bay Bed & Breakfast, 449 East Point Road, +1 250-539-2641, . Two waterfront rooms overlooking a quiet sandy beach. Ensuite bathrooms, separate entrances, private dining and sitting area. Room #2 has an adjoining room for families or larger groups. Late May-early Sep $125, rest of the year $110.
  • Saturna Lodge Ltd. & Mill House Restaurant, 130 Payne Road, +1 250-539-2254, . Overlooking Boot Cove, 6 rooms, each with a private bath. Three rooms have a water-view, balcony or patio. There is one 2-bedroom suite and a large common area. Local artists' works adorn the lodge and are available for purchase. Included gourmet breakfast at the Mill House Restaurant. Beautiful gardens, hot tub, pet-friendly. Jun 1-Sep 15: $159-199; Sep 16-May 31: $149-179.

Backcountry camping[edit]

  • 1 Narvaez Bay Campground (at the eastern end of Narvaez Bay Rd). A small and tranquil 7-site backcountry campground with picturesque views of the bay and nearby hiking trails. Ideal for cycle camper or kayakers. Parking available off Narvaez Bay Road. Follow a short (1.7 km) trail. Facilities are limited and pets must be on leash at all times. Pit toilets. No potable water. You must pack in and pack out and there are no fires allowed at any time. To access from land: Head east on Narvaez Bay Rd. Park at the gate at the end of Narvaez Bay Road, and walk past the gate and down the road to the bay for 1.7 km. Stay on the main path to avoid trampling sensitive vegetation. Book your campsite online or by calling 1-877-RESERVE. $9.80 per person 16 and over.

Stay safe[edit]

Go next[edit]

This city travel guide to Saturna Island is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.