Get away from it all on B.C.'s Gulf Islands
With their gentle climate and spectacular seascapes, British Columbia's southernmost Gulf Islands do resemble Washington's San Juan Islands. Yet these are islands unto themselves, less developed and less wealthy than some of the San Juans.
Seattle Times travel staff
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Make peace with the locals: Do not call the Gulf Islands "the Canadian San Juans."
This tapestry of more than 200 islands stretches for more than 150 miles between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island.
With their gentle climate and spectacular seascapes, the southernmost Gulf Islands do resemble Washington's San Juan Islands, just across the U.S.-Canada border.
Yet these are islands unto themselves, less developed and less wealthy than some of the San Juans, and still the stronghold of artists, longtime farmers and old hippies whose ponytails get grayer every year.
Sure, there's new money in the earthily luxurious houses that dot some islands' shores, and Salt Spring Island has a trendy little town and fancy inns. And islanders worry about development, increasing land prices and dwindling water supplies.
Yet stricter land-use laws have kept many Gulf Islands more sparsely developed than the San Juans. And the islands' abundant parks, plus tougher Canadian laws that give the public more beach access, make getting to the waterfront easier.
Ferry-hop among a half-dozen southern Gulf Islands. Or pick one and settle in at a small inn, vacation cottage or campground. Go by bike if you're able. The islands are just the right size for easygoing bike touring. In summer, ferries carry happy tribes of bicyclists who avoid the cost and lineups for taking a car.
You'll soon find your favorite Gulf Islands places. One of mine is Ruckle Provincial Park on Salt Spring, with sunny bluffs, teardrop coves and a walk-in tent campground overlooking a bustling ship channel.
Want to find out more? Go to Tourism B.C.'s website, www.hellobc.com, and search for "Gulf Islands."
Kristin Jackson: firstname.lastname@example.org