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Galiano Island is the perfect destination for a BC Gulf Islands cycling trip. You can do the bike tour in a single day from Vancouver Island or lower mainland British Columbia. You can also combine Galiano with biking tours of other islands for a Gulf Islands vacation.

Cyclists with bikes beside ferry
Cyclists with bikes beside ferry
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Located in Georgia Strait, Galiano is one of 200 gulf islands between southern Vancouver Island and mainland BC. Twenty-eight kilometers (17 miles) long, Galiano Island is four times as long as it is wide.

Where to rent bicycles

We brought our bikes to Galiano Island on the BC Ferry from Tsawwassen, south of Vancouver. Alternatively, you can rent mountain bikes, tandem bikes, Trail-A-Bikes, two-wheelers for kids, child trailers and cargo trailers from Galiano Bicycle Rental & Repair, at 36 Burrill Road, just five minutes from the BC Ferry terminal in Sturdies Bay.

We obtained a Galiano route map from the bike shop. Near the BC Ferry dock, a combined bus shelter and self-serve tourist information booth displayed a relief map of Galiano. We picked up free copies of the Galiano Visitor's Guide (also available on the BC Ferry) and a Galiano Island Cycling brochure, which also included good maps.

Bike helmets

Putting on our biking helmets (required by law in BC), we left Sturdies Bay to explore southern Galiano Island. Our bike route began idyllically with purple sweet peas and mustard-yellow buttercups punctuating roadside pine cones and neon-green ferns.

Each climb rewarded us with a long, gentle downhill glide, soon followed by another thigh-burning ascent. We quickly learned to build up momentum from each decline for the hill that invariably followed.

It took some practice to achieve the correct combination of gears for the varying degrees of steepness. After trial and error, a satisfying cachink announced the right gears engaging.

Bluffs Park

The transition from mainland hubbub to rural tranquility was easy on Galiano. A cool canopy of towering cedars and Douglas firs shielded us from the sun, as we climbed through Pacific Northwest rainforest to the Bluffs Park viewpoint.

Viewing islands and Active Pass from The Bluffs
Viewing islands and Active Pass from The Bluffs
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Deer watched us silently from the shadows. A startled family of mottled grouse scurried for cover in the underbrush.

Standing on the Galiano Island Bluffs, 180 meters (590 feet) above Active Pass, the busiest waterway in the BC Gulf Islands, it was hard to believe that Vancouver was only an hour away.

BC Ferry

Coast Salish First Nations people admired the same scenery, hundreds of years ago. The magnificent panorama encompassed Active Pass, Helen Point on Mayne Island and, farther away, Prevost, North Pender and Salt Spring Islands, all stitched together with waterways.

BC Ferry cruises through Active Pass
BC Ferry cruises through Active Pass
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

An eagle soared overhead. Below us, the haunting echo of a BC Ferry horn announced the ship's appearance around a bend.

Named after the Spanish Navy Commander, Dionisio Galiano, who explored the area in 1792, Galiano is the second largest of the southern Gulf Islands, after Salt Spring.

Galiano Island weather

With half the rainfall of the mainland, Galiano Island's weather features frequent sunny days.

It was impossible to get lost. We simply followed Porlier Pass Road south, along the coast. Wild lavender, magenta and mauve foxglove blossoms lined the paved road like spectators at a parade.

Birds twittered in trees, framing tantalizing glimpses of Trincomali Channel. Mailboxes, the colour of hyacinths and sunflowers, marked homes hidden behind masses of day lilies, petunias and pansies.

Except for a short time after the BC Ferry arrives, Porlier Pass Road is relatively traffic-free. Because curves limit visibility, we rode our bikes in a single file.

Biking on Porlier Pass Road
Biking on Porlier Pass Road
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Near the north end of Galiano, we stopped at Lover's Leap. From the edge of the 20-storey-high lookout, we viewed Wallace Island, a marine park, across the sparkling channel.

Denman Island chocolate

We traced our route back along Porlier Pass Road. Stoneworld (a Galiano artist's version of Stonehenge) and several art studios, including Marcia DeVicque's GlassWorks and Cedar Grove Pottery, offered pleasant diversions before lunch.

Hanging baskets of impatiens and a larger-than-life mural of poppies, daisies and buttercups adorned Daystar Market. After enjoying wholesome sandwiches from the deli, we succumbed to a new addiction: Denman Island organic chocolate bars. (Denman Island is a 10-minute BC Ferry ride from Buckley Bay, which is one hour north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.)

BC provincial parks

Although there are only 1,300 permanent residents on Galiano, they keep busy. "Many are artists and craftsmen with their own shops," explained the friendly store clerk. "Dionisio Point Provincial Park and Montague Harbour Provincial Park have great hiking, bird-watching and clam shell beaches. We even have a nine-hole golf course."

Galiano Island map
Galiano Island map
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Evenings on Galiano are the time for soccer matches, Scottish country dancing and gatherings at the Hummingbird Pub and Grand Central Grill, according to the clerk. "From mid-May to late-September, a shuttle bus transports passengers between Montague Park, Marina Junction and Hummingbird Pub, where there's live entertainment on weekends."

After our bicycle tour, we visited some of the arts and crafts shops on Galiano. At Schoenfeld Custom Knives, we admired beautiful kitchen utensils with multicoloured handles, crafted from layers of birch wood.

In the village of Sturdies Bay, we bought a copy of Hiking the Gulf Islands, by Charles Kahn, at Galiano Island Books. We celebrated the end of our Galiano Island bike trip with some mouth-watering ice cream from Scoops Burger Bar.

Where to stay

We resolved to return for a longer stay at one of the Galiano Island bed and breakfasts, cottages, cabins and inns.

Galiano Oceanfront Inn has wood-burning fireplaces, a spa and wood-fired pizza lunches on the waterfront in summer. Don't miss the Kunamokst Coastal Inspirations Mural. Created by nearly 200 BC artists, including Robert Bateman and First Nations artist Roy Henry Vickers, the mural depicts life on the British Columbia west coast.

Best of all, Galiano Oceanfront Inn and Spa is located near the BC Ferry terminal and Galiano Bicycle Rental.


Galiano Island Chamber of Commerce: www.galianoisland.com

Destination BC: www.hellobc.com

Tourism Vancouver Island: www.vancouverisland.travel

More things to see & do in the BC Gulf Islands:

Saturna Island BC Tour

Salt Spring Island Tsawout Nature Reserve

Salt Spring Ruckle Park Hike