My first time to Galiano Island was on a work trip with Postmark Brewing and a few of the guys from Monument Creatives. We were on the island for 24 hours on a beer drinking escapade, a whirlwind of short hikes, beach fires, great food and company, but that left us with only a hint of what the island had to offer. When I returned home to Vancouver, I couldn't stop talking about how great Galiano Island was, although I couldn't exactly pin point why. So I decided to return with my friend Andrew and his dog Momo for a weekend.
With no schedule, and some last minute hustling to the ferry terminal at Tsawwassen, we were on our way, loaded up in a 1980s Volkswagen Westfalia, which seemed to be fitting for a trip to this laid-back island. We arrived to the terminal in the pitch black, where the winds were high, the waves fierce and the rain relentless. We kept shelter in the van listening to some tunes and enjoying cheap gas station snacks, before we were able to board and set sail into the stormy night.
Once on board, we were greeted to a couple travelling in a big, old blue van with a hand-painted sign that read, 'The Blue Crystal.' Ferry friends. Or maybe Gulf Island locals. The ship was wobbling side-to-side as we made our way across the Juan De Fuca Strait; the rough seas only made the ride more fun. Before long, we hit solid land, making our way in the pitch dark to our cozy cabin at Bodega Ridge.
We awoke the next morning to sun shining through the windows of our wood cabin. The storm had passed through the night; excited to greet the day, we started with a fresh pot of coffee outside on the picnic table. When you spend too long in the city it's easy to forget what it feels like to be on ‘Island Time,’ an expression I’ve come to know after growing up on Vancouver Island. It’s something that can’t be described, but only experienced. Time slows down. There’s no rush. Easing into ‘Island Time,’ we slowly packed for the day ahead, fired up the van, waited for Momo to pee, then set off to explore the island.
Almost immediately, we found a fresh organic produce stand on the side of the road. A white cooler with just a rock for a lid revealed a few ice packs, a bunch of fresh produce, a price list and a tin deposit box attached to a tree where you leave money in exchange for what you take – it’s honour system, only. This is not uncommon on the Gulf Islands, but this particular stand had character and charm to it. A few blocks later, we stopped again at a similar stand and picked up a carton of organic, local eggs for breakfast.
We made our way to a beach to have beers and a fire, before realizing we weren’t the only ones there. A huge pack of sea lions were bobbing around in the water, just a few metres away. There were at least 50 of them, and were very curious about us, most likely wondering how we were walking around on the beach, or sizing up Momo for a meal or snuggle. It was nice to have their company, and we were thankful that they let us invade their beach.
While were crafty enough to build a fire and obviously remembered to bring beers, we forgot about packing a lunch. Lucky for us we stumbled upon an unassuming café, “The Flying Blackdog,” in the village that was a local hot spot, and is (not surprising for the Gulf Islands) only open Wednesday-Saturday from 11:30am-2pm. We really lucked out when we showed up on Saturday at 1pm – and it was good thing we did. We would have passed right by this place if it weren't for a recommendation from the woman at the grocery store across the road. It was the best chicken sandwich I have EVER had. It was so tasty that we drove back on Sunday to try having lunch there again, only to remember they weren’t open.
Part of the charm of Gailano Island is the relaxing vibe and laid-back island lifestyle – easily experienced in our cabin at Bodega Ridge. These rustic, yet modern cabins have a full kitchen and a wood-stove. It was hard not to call the place home for the weekend; in the evenings we played crib and chilled out with the dog; the mornings were spent making a fresh pot of coffee and a hearty breakfast. Our host, Jesse, was incredibly helpful in showing us around and made us feel at ease and at home. I'm sure there are more spots like this on the island, but it would be hard for me to stay anywhere else now.
With only a short amount of time left, we decided to go for a hike in Dionisio Provincial Park. I thought it would be a quick one-hour hike, but we ended up hiking around for four hours. What we didn't realize that the park took up the whole north end of the island. It did not disappoint. When we weren't surrounded by thick, mossy rainforest, we found ourselves exploring beautiful coves and beaches. The best part? We didn’t see a single person on our whole trek.
I was sad to leave and return to the city, but it helped me pin point why I love Galiano so much. It’s simple: the island is just the right size to experience a sense of tranquility and remoteness, but with enough culture to never get bored. I’m not sure I could ever call it home, but for now, it’s a home-away-from-home.
Getting to Galiano Island :
Ferry from Tsawwassen, BC : http://www.bcferries.com/schedules/southern/vide-current.php
Ferry from Victoria, BC : http://www.bcferries.com/schedules/southern/vade-current.php
Bodega Ridge : http://www.bodegaridge.com/#bodegaridge
On the island :
Dionisio Provincial Park : http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/dionisio_pt
The Flying Blackdog : https://www.facebook.com/FlyingBlackDog
Pilgrimme : http://pilgrimme.ca
Day Star Market : http://daystarmarket.com