By ROBIN CLEAVER
TOUR DES ILES COMMITTEE
It’s likely something you’ve long wanted to do: to travel around the Southern Gulf Islands, not by ferry, but by small passenger boat.
It can be a romantic, adventurous and exhilarating experience.
You’ll get your chance this June 23, 24 and 25, when the third annual Tour des Iles Festival will welcome you onboard, and ensure you experience memories to last a lifetime.
The boats start their trips at 8 a.m., all three days, from various docks on Salt Spring, Mayne, Pender, Saturna and Galiano, and at a mere $5 a leg, it truly is “cheap thrills,” It’s a wonderful chance to ride in the whale-watching zodiac from Salt Spring to Port Washington, or the return for only $5.
What a great time to reacquaint yourself with the charms of our neighbouring islands. Enjoy travelling between Salt Spring, Pender, Galiano, Saturna and Mayne, and upon arrival at the dock, locals will warmly greet you. All islands have their own feel and peculiarities, and will have island transport, manned by local, knowledgeable and friendly drivers, ready to show you their islands’ unique heart. Discover markets, galleries and local natural wonders. Everything that the Southern Gulf Islands are renowned for will be on display, and likely sprinkled with a few surprises!
On Pender, if you decide not to play one of the most unique disc golf courses anywhere, at Magic Lake, you could try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding (Friday and Saturday) in Hope Bay. From Hope Bay, a short boat trip across Plumper Sound to Saturna, where you can say Goodbye to Granny (Friday and Sunday), the locally revered, and recently deceased orca, at East Point. While enjoying sensational Saturna, on Friday head to Breezy Bay Farm, where Meg and Matt will show you Saturna’s oldest pioneer homestead, featuring a fantastic organic farm and heritage house.
Mayne will be celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday with the Vivaldi Chamber Choir, visiting from Vancouver, on Sunday afternoon at the community hall. Saturday visit the market in Miners Bay, where musicians from the renowned Campbell Bay Music Fest will be entertaining.
Travel over to Galiano to enjoy the wonderful soulful folk sounds of the Enigmatics at the Oceanfront Inn, or lose a Sunday morning the best way possible, enjoying a musical brunch at the Emporium. As Galiano local Jenny extols, “Over the last few years I’ve gotten to know people on the other islands because of the tour, and I realize how close we really are, even if separated by water. Each island has its own flavour and local characters, but ultimately we are in the same boat.”
Salt Spring offers a Taste of Salt Spring Tour, a four-hour taste bud-tingling tour of various culinary artisans, from bread makers, to creators of cheeses, wines, and ales. You will need to register early for this experience (firstname.lastname@example.org).
On Friday, the gazebo in Centennial Park, Ganges, will be alive with the terrific tones of the Kaizenjammers over lunch hour, followed by the sultry strings of the Reeds and Wires.
All islands have hikes of various lengths, and if wandering isn’t your thing but you’re keen on some exercise, kayak and bike rental spots are sprinkled all over the islands.
“This is a wonderful festival,” says Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands. “In this, the 150th year since Canada was recognized as an independent nation on traditional and unceded indigenous lands, I can think of no better way than to celebrate the people, the culture and the natural beauty of the Southern Gulf Islands. I hope to see you all there!”
People should book their place as soon as possible online at www.gulfislands.org.