A SATURNA ISLAND DAY TRIP
While you’re in Victoria, you should definitely think about exploring some of the Gulf Islands. If you want a quiet, outdoorsy get away, Saturna Island is probably your choice. With a population of only 350 full time residents, spectacular shoreline features, mountainous terrain and two thirds of the island incorporated into the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve it is idealic. Saturna Island has lots of outdoor activities, including kayaking, biking, hiking, swimming and boating and some good basic amenities including accommodations, pub, cafe, and a general store.
How to get there
Unless you have your own boat, BC Ferries is the easiest way to get to Saturna Island. Either walk on or take you car. Depending on the ferry sailing you choose, it is approximately 1 1/2 hours from Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island to Saturna. You can also get there from the Tsawwassen terminal on the Vancouver mainland. For BC Ferries Schedules, click this link: BC Ferries. Make sure you plan your trip and check the schedules carefully, as the the schedule to some of the Gulf Islands, like Saturna, is not as regular as the mainland ferries.
If you have walked on the BC Ferries or have taken a water taxi or flown into Saturna Island, you will need some form of transportation to get around. The Saturna Lions Shuttle is the only public transportation option.
Saturna Lions Shuttle
The Lions Saturna Shuttle Bus runs from June 29th to Sept 5th and meets each Friday afternoon and evening sailing from BC Ferries at the dock providing a free ride to most major population areas on the island such as Boot Cove, Winter Cove and East Point. Sunday and Holiday Monday return trips must be scheduled 48 hours in advance by texting 604 -760-9975 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The bus can be scheduled for Saturday service, special events such as weddings, hiking groups or reunions, if given ample advanced notice. The trip is free, please donate to the Saturna Lions Club to assist with all of the services and programs the Club provides to the community.
Saturna Lighthouse Pub
For most of the year (they are closed through the month of November), a great choice is the Saturna Lighthouse Pub, located right in Lyall Harbour beside the ferry terminal is a great choice offering oceanfront seating and a awesome patio, fabulous views & sunsets; pub fare extraordinaire, including seafood, local lamb & veggie burgers, gluten-free options; local beers on tap and BC wines.
Saturna Café at the General Store
The Saturna Cafe is great place for breakfasts and lunches which include some very tasty sandwhiches and wraps available for pickup or takeout. They offer Chef created dinners Friday and Saturday nights, but reservations are preferred – they fill up quickly! Licensed indoor and outdoor seating-garden patio.
The Saturna General Store offers most of the grocery items you may need including alcohol.
Sage Hayward Vineyards & Feral Goat Bistro
The Sage Hayward Vineyards, is a family-owned estate winery on Saturna Island. The Tasting Room offers a selection of their limited-production wines, as does our Feral Goat Bistro where you will find wood fired pizza and other delectables inspired by the wines and local Gulf Islands ingredients. The vineyard and the bistro are only open seasonally so check their website before you plan to go.
If you want more than a day trip to Saturna Island, there are a few B&B’s and cottages on the islands and a commercial campground near the ferry terminal. There is also camping at the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve at Narvaez Bay. For a complete listing, check out the Saturna Island Tourism Association’s website at this link: Saturna Island Tourism Association
Things to do
Saturna is a paddlers paradise. If you have your own boat or have the ability to transport rental kayaks, good launch points include Winter Cove, Russell Reef (on East Point Road), Fiddlers Cove and Saturna Beach. Day-trippers can head for Tumbo Island with its walking trail, and marsh. Overnighters can utilize the Gulf Islands National Park campsites on nearby Cabbage Island, or the sites overlooking Narvaez Bay. For tour and kayak rentals on Saturna you can contact Kayakingskill.
Check out our post on our sister website on a kayak circumnavigation of Saturna Island.
If you want to explore by bike, Saturna is awesome. While there are a few hills to negotiate, the roads are beautiful and the traffic light. If you don’t bring you own bike you can rent one from Saturna Cycle located at the Saturna Point Store. They also offer a bicycle repair service if you have problems with your own bike.
Winter Cove Park is the most accessible, family friendly spot on the island with lots of picnic tables. Russell Reef is close by at the Winter Cove end of East Point Road and Veruna Bay is a beautful sandy beach but with limited parking. But be prepared to to brave the cold Pacific waters. Tidal pools are alive with anemones, crabs and starfish and can be found in all three locations. You can take Harris Road past the Saturna Island Family Estate Winery which leads to beautiful Thomson Park and Saturna Beach at the island’s southwest corner. Thompson park was once a farm and still has beautiful pastures, fruit trees and easy access to the water.
Drives & Hiking
Mount Warburton Pike/Brown Ridge
Mount Warburton Pike (397m/1,303 ft.) is probably the best viewpoint in the Gulf Islands, and is named after a 19th century British explorer who settled on Saturna in 1886. The TV tower at the end of Staples Road marks the start of the spectacular Brown Ridge Nature Trail. The hike is an easy 2-hour return trip along dirt paths. Watch for the resident herd of feral goats!
Thompson Park is founded on a tract a land once owned by one of the first homesteaders on Saturna Island. It is also the site of the first post office and ‘Pike’s Landing’, the first general store. Wandering around this beautiful park you will still find remnants of the old homesite including foundations, a row of magnificent century-old locust trees, and fruit trees. There is also a covered picnic area and a dock.
There is a band of parkland running from the Saga Hayward Vineyard, past Murder Point and on to the remains of an old stone house and quarry at Taylor Point. Park and walk from the end of Trueworthy Road near the winery.
There is a short 1.5km/0.9mi trail that connects this beautiful waterfront park at Saturna’s northwest corner to the open waters of the Strait of Georgia. Boardwalks and footbridges are part of a route that leads through meadows, forest, and marsh before reaching the ocean’s rocky edge at boat passage. This narrow band of water connecting the Straits of Georgia with Winter Cover can become a raging strip of white-water when the tides are right.
East Point is a must see spot on Saturna Island. There is a light station at East Point which warns ships away from the offshore Boiling Reef, and a couple of short hiking trails around the point. The Trillium Trail will take you out to the old Fog Horn Alarm building and grass meadows at the end of the point, and the Cliffside loop which takes you down on to the rocky shore where there are amazing sandstone formations. It’s lots of fun finding shapes in them.
East point and Boiling Reef is a favourite fishing spot for Orcas, members of J-Pod from May through November, and in fact is the most likely spot in the Gulf Island to find Orcas. You are also very likely to see Dall’s Porpoise, harbour seals and sea lions fishing here as well.
Narvaez Bay is part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. At the far eastern end of Narvaez Bay Road, there is a half-hour forest trail through second-growth Douglas firs to picnic grounds on a point of land separating Little Bay (aka Smuggler’s Cove) and Echo Bay. There is a more strenuous trail that veers off the main trail to Monarch Head.
This short 2.4-km loop trail is an easy walk taking an average of 39 min to complete. There are stunning view over Boundary Pass towards the US Gulf Islands.