West Coast Island Hopping: Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island – 280 miles long and up to 50 miles wide – is the largest island on the west coast of North America.  It is unique in many ways, from its mediterannean climate and abundant flora and fauna, to its rich natural resources and unique geography. 

cruise the Gulf Islands in our luxury Zodiac Medline 3

The group of islands off the southern coast of Vancouver Island are known as the Gulf Islands (after the Gulf of Georgia, which separates them from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland).  These islands, ranging from tiny islets that are marine or eco-reserves for certain sea bird populations, to the larger islands: Saturna, Mayne, Galiano, North and South Pender, Valdez, Thetis and Kuper Islands, and of course the largest and probably best known island of all: Saltspring Island.  All of these Islands, as well as the American San Juan Islands, are within easy reach of Victoria by chartering the unsinkable  Zodiac Medline III

Day excursions can also be arranged to Vancouver, up the Fraser River, and/or Howe Sound all the way up to Squamish if you wish. Overnight excursion packages with on-shore accommodations can also be arranged and are only limited by your imagination. If there is any part of Vancouver Island - including any inland lakes - or the west coast of British Columbia that you wish to explore by water, our Zodiac Medline III can whisk you to the destination of your choice at a steady 50 mph / 80 kmph in complete safety and luxury.

There are also a number of Islands on the other side of the International border that are as close or closer to Victoria, namely the San Juan Islands, including San Juan Island itself, home to the quaint village of Friday Harbour, and Orcas, Cypress and Lopez Islands.  San Juan island is also the site of the historic "Pig War" of 1859, a disagreement over the final route of the border between the fledgling Unites States and the then British Colony of Vancouver Island.  Luckily, the only casualty in this fracas was the pig itself, and the dispute was finally settled diplomatically without the use of guns. 

Water Taxi services also availalbe, short or long haul.

Gulf Islands map

Humpys, Orcas, Stellars and California Sea Lions all in one afternoon

Every day is a unique adventure out on the Salish Sea but today’s trip stood out. We launched at Pedder Bay Marina in Metchosin to place us close to Race Rocks. As the California and Stellar Sea Lion bulls were entertaining us from their perches on the rock formations we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a dozen or so of these mamoths swimming, diving and porpoising. Then the incredible happened. One of the stellars suddenly sprang out of the water not 40 feet from us with a huge salmon which it had just caught as it breached the surface. The salmon was squirming it the sea lion’s mouth. Just as quickly as the stellar had surfaced he dove again and repeated this motion 2 more times. All the while a dozen or so of his very excited mates were porpoising almost in unison as a group. In 12 years being out here on the ocean that was a first for me. This was just the begginning of our adventure. We had heard reports of 4 to 6 humpbacks in the general vicinity over the past week. As we networked with our colleagues we heard 6 transient orcas were nearby. We spent a bit of time enjoying the orcas before heading out in the direction of the shipping lanes where soon we spotted 4 humpbacks. They put on quite a show for us including some excellent tail flukes. The humpbacks were also very vocal. All this in the space of 4 hours on one of those special autumn days when the seas were calm and the sun was out.