In the rainshadow of Vancouver Island, Savary receives between 950 and 1,300 mm of precipitation annually, with maximum amounts in late fall through mid-winter.
No permanent streams exist on the island, but at least one spring may be found mid-island called Indian Springs.
Archaeological evidence documents the occupation by Coast Salish peoples in this area of the Strait of Georgia for 4,000 years. They gave the island the name "Áyhus", meaning 'double-headed serpent'. The island was within the territory of the Tla'amin (Sliammon) First Nation. Shell middens (including a midden near Indian Springs), a former camp or village site by a small bay, a signal site atop the high south-southwesterly crest of the island, and ancestral remains reflect life in the pre-contact era.
In June 1792 the British ships Discovery and Chatham, under Captain Vancouver, sailed by the island on their way to Desolation Sound. Vancouver gave the name "Savary's Island". In early July a boat survey team led by Peter Puget and Joseph Whidbey charted Savary Island and spent at least one night on shore, meeting a group of indigenous people at island's eastern end. Puget did not refer to the island as Savary, instead simply calling it "Indian Island".
Permanent European settlement on the island began in the 19th century. In the 1870s the government subdivided the island into lots for homesteading.
Jack Green, the first non-aboriginal permanent resident, was an early settler who built a cabin and store in or about 1886. By the turn of the 20th century, CPR coastal ships and Union Steamships called in, popularizing the place. Savary has always been a popular island for clamming and swimming owing to the sandy beaches.
In 1910 Savary Island was subdivided into over 1400 lots. Savary became a favourite summer cabin location. Further subdivision resulted in a total of over 1700 (mostly 50 foot) lots on Savary. Roads were built and cabins established.
Over the years there have been several shipwrecks (including the Union Steamship Steamer Capilano in 1915) and aircraft crashes (including a small single engine crash in Seaweed Bay in the 1960s).
Common trees are Douglas fir, western hemlock, western red cedar, lodgepole pine, grand fir, red alder, bigleaf maple and arbutus. It is claimed that one of the largest arbutus trees in the world is on the island. A few western white pine are present. A tiny population of Garry oak occurs at the eastern end — the northernmost natural occurrence of this species along the coast. It has splendid beaches, arbutus groves, meadows, and sand cliffs. Salal is the most plentiful shrub in the forest understorey. Red huckleberry, evergreen huckleberry and red flowering currant are among the other shrubs present. Many of the open areas have been conquered by alien species such as Scotch broom, gorse and Himalayan blackberry.
The animal population includes birds (bald eagles, owls, belted kingfishers, cliff and northern rough-winged swallows, seagulls, sandpipers, and herons), mammals (black-tailed deer, mink, harbour seals, otters, bats), reptiles (garter snakes and possibly northern alligator lizard), and numerous invertebrates. Surprisingly, the raccoon is absent; its failure to become established on the island has allowed ground-nesting birds to maintain their populations. Mink is the only native predatory mammal on land. Many mice as well.
- You must take two ferries - Horseshoe Bay to Langdale drive an hour and a half and take the second ferry to Saltery Bay. From there its a 50-60m drive to Lund, at the end of the road. Leaving on Fridays and returning on Sundays can be a bear, especially on the first ferry - you can make reservations (extra $17.50) for the first of the two ferries. The second ferry goes every 2½ hours or so - check schedules on the BC ferries website. Total fare is approx $130 return for a car and 2 people, goes down to under $100 if you get a BC Ferries Experience card (prepaid card for the ferries). It is definitely a trip but very much well worth it.
- Water Taxi goes from end of the road in Lund, leaving on the hour at busy times from about 8AM (probably a lot less often when less busy). Reservations (by calling ahead, +1 604-483-9749) are apparently required. Going back it leaves on the half hour - but again how often depends on season and demand. Fares are $11 per adult each way, $5 for children 2-6 and $2 for bikes, and they will take credit cards on the Lund side. Sailing time of 15 minutes.
You can leave the car in Lund at End of the Road Parking lot for $7 per day (the first 2 hours are free) next to the dock. Or, if you prefer free, up the hill about 500 m there might be some free parking.
The island is 7 km wide, and takes about 2 hr to walk from end to end - the beach walks are spectacular.
Bring a bike to the island or rent one ($20 a day) at the bike rental place next door to the pub, about a 5-10 m walk up the hill from the water taxi landing, on the west side of the island. Savary Island Bike Shop, 604-483 7771. They rent scooters too.
Its a great place to chill for a few days - specific sights are eroding sand cliffs, ancient dunes, wonderful beaches, all sorts of marine life. Bald eagles everywhere!
- You can supposedly swim here. It is warmer than the rest of the water in the region though.
- Hiking is awesome.
- Rent a kayak, +1 604-414-6587.
There are a few artisan shops scattered around the island.
There is a general store which seems to be closed more often than its open with some very limited and expensive supplies.
For people who might want to stay a while, Silke's organic market in Powell River makes twice weekly deliveries (Wednesdays and Saturdays) of organic food. Delivery is free with a $120 minimum spend.
There are two places to eat on the island - the pub (see below) which has burgers and such (burgers $8-9, pizza slice $4.50) - kitchen closes at 9PM. A place on the other side of the island (corner of Tennyson and McLean) is delicious and open only for lunch (10AM-4PM). It has a boutique attached. Organic salads $5, local shrimp $10 and the to-die-for apple and plum cake $4 - they get a lot of their produce from Silke's organic in Powell River. They have espresso too ($2-4).
Back in Lund, the bakery is terrific and definitely the place to get some delicious read and baked goodies for your trip to Savary, after wolfing down some apple pie there. Its also not a bad place to chill, reasonable priced lunches (nothing over $10) and coffee with a sweet view with Rai music on the loudspeaker.
Bring as much water as you can carry!
- 1 Rigger's. M-W Su 11:45AM-10PM; Th-Sa 11:45AM-midnight. Delicious Townsite Brewing beers on tap. It is the hub of activity on Savary, unless there is a party going on - but that's where you're likely as not to find out about it.
Discreet feral camping is tolerated on the island - occasionally some island vigilante might say something negative (while accelerating their SUV in this pristine paradise), but most locals don't seem to care - emphasis is on 'discrete' here and please practice no-trace camping or else the situation will certainly change.
There is a commercial campsite run by a guy called Pascal (+1 604-483-9846) who seems pretty cool. Pascal's site is not right on the beach, but very convenient to the pub and general store so you'll be able to stagger home with no concerns.
As for free camping, most people choose the south beach for its proximity to the jetty so you don't have to lug your stuff half way across the island. Duck Bay has a couple of sites with shade right on the beach - and there really are possibilities on most parts of the island, except for the more residential areas (if you want to stay on the north -sunset- side, you can walk past all of the houses heading west from the ferry terminal for a kilometre or two). Remember to bring water and food - this is a remote island - and you'll also need to cart your trash off the island. There are B&Bs available too (try Savary Island Lodge, +1 604-483-9481 and Southside B&B +1 604-483-3435).
Rigger's also provide their Wi-Fi password for $5 and can charge your phone for $3.
Assuming you ever want to leave - or have to get back to work for some dumb reason - the water taxi, swimming and hitching on a private vessel are your only ways off the island.