The Getaway
15 Things to Do on Gabriola Island

Gabriola Island, a gem among the Gulf Islands in British Columbia, is a truly special place. It's a unique world of its own, yet super accessible from Vancouver and the mainland.

This tranquil island is the perfect place to get away from it all, with many characteristics that make it one-of-a-kind. Gabriola Island combines stunning natural landscapes, a variety of exciting things to do, and a vibrant, artistic community.

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01 Drumbeg Provincial Park

Sandstone rock formations, Drumbeg Provincial Park, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada.

Drumbeg Park offers incredible views over the Strait of Georgia, all the way to the mainland's Coast Mountains, and overlooks the Gabriola Passage. The park is alive with natural beauty. Visit its pebble and sand beach at low tide to see the stunning sandstone rock formations it reveals, or wander its hiking trails to discover its endangered Garry oak ecosystem and tranquil Douglas fir forests.

This park is the perfect place for scenic picnics or simply spending a relaxing day letting your mind wander and your worries blow away with the breeze. Wander the coastline and enjoy being in an exquisite environment.

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02 Kayaking and paddleboarding

There's no better way to explore Gabriola Island's coastline than with a kayak or paddleboard adventure. You have several great options for renting paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes, such as the rental shops at Page's Resort & Marina or Silva Bay Resort and Marina.

There are wonders all around the island, but the northwest is an excellent place to start your paddling exploration. You'll find the Galiano Gallery, a magical rock formation resembling a great wave suspended in motion. There's also Sandwell Park, containing one of the island's mysterious petroglyphs; make the trip to see it at low tide. Entrance Island is another option, complete with a manned lighthouse.

For a true marine adventure, why not explore the full Gulf Islands Marine Trail? You'll see many special places, including ones part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.

03 Art exploration

Gabriola Island has a strong arts presence. There are beautiful things to see almost everywhere you look! Public art installations abound, so you may even see some of the island's gorgeous visual works by accident. For instance, Gabriola Island Ferry Terminal features large murals dedicated to the area's cultural and natural heritage. It's an easy way to get a taste of the vibrant scene.

There's also an impressive range of galleries and studios you can visit, including Free Spirit Gallery & Shop, showcasing varied collections that represent dozens of artists. Another option, Eyes Wide Open Photography, focuses on the photographic arts.

For more than 25 years, Gabriola Island has hosted its annual Thanksgiving Studio Tour. Local artists throw open their studios, and you can explore more than 50 awesome art spaces in mediums that include sculpture, paintings, drawings and illustration, glass, textiles, and woodworking.

04 Hiking trails

white sand beach on a beautiful sunny summer day on Gabriola Island at Gabriola Sands Provincial Park in British Columbia Canada.

Gabriola Island is a lovely destination for hikers and walkers, offering many beautiful trails with a range of difficulty levels to suit everyone.

Several lovely walking options are at Gabriola Sands Park, where you can enjoy scenic views from lookout points dotted along the trails. If you're lucky, you might see river otters frolicking along the shore or in the park's tidal pools. Most of the trails at Gabriola Sands Park range from easy to intermediate difficulty. The paths are generally well-maintained, and the terrain is relatively flat. None are particularly long, but with a range of interconnected routes, you can make your hike as short or lengthy as you please.

Head to the Malaspina Galleries for a slightly more intense hike. The trail that takes you to the galleries is fairly short and simple, but it does require you to navigate some rocky sections and uneven terrain. It takes you past dramatic views of the rocky coastline and peaceful forest scenes before you come to the Malaspina Galleries themselves, natural sandstone formations carved out over thousands of years of being hit by the waves. This unique geological landmark makes this a truly unique and rewarding hike.

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05 Local farms and markets

What could be a more perfect way to start your day than by adventuring around Gabriola Island with a freshly cooked breakfast made from local produce? Luckily, Gabriola has many farms and farm stands you can visit to pick up delicious goods while supporting local farmers and artisans.

Hidden Pond Permaculture Farm offers fresh seasonal produce to buy, and the team also runs workshops. Good Earth Farm sells organic vegetables at its farm gate on South Road. Just Another Weed Patch Farm is another option, specializing in beautiful cut flowers and delicious fresh nuts.

For a few hours on Saturdays from May through October, you can visit the Gabriola Growers and Makers Market at the Gabriola Commons in the central northern area of the island. It's a lively and vibrant farmers' market bustling with local produce, baked delicacies, and artisan goods.

06 Historical and cultural sites

Gabriola Island is home to dozens of known petroglyphs. These intriguing and beautiful ancient rock carvings were created by the island's indigenous peoples long ago. The Cox Bay area on the eastern shore has the highest concentration of original petroglyphs, usually found along the water on sandstone outcrops.

The Gabriola Historical and Museum Society created the Museum Petroglyph Park so more people could experience these man-made wonders. The park displays exact replicas of the originals, all created with permission from the elders of the Snuneymuxw, who are descendants of the island's First Nations.

The grounds of Petroglyph Park encircle the Gabriola Museum, which is also worth a visit. It features permanent and temporary exhibitions that come together beautifully to tell the island's story. The museum is the perfect place to learn about the history of the island and the Snuneymuxw and First Nations peoples, to whom the community owes so much. It hosts a variety of events throughout the year, so make sure to attend one during your trip. The excellent gift shop is the perfect place to pick up a memento from your travels, with local artisan products, books, and clothing to choose from.

07 Outdoor adventures: Scuba diving and fishing

Gabriola is full of excellent spots to go scuba diving. If you only have time for one dive during your trip, make it the Gabriola Passage. It's known as one of the best dive spots in British Columbia and is full of amazing marine life. Access it by boat or from the shore. However, you should be aware it's an advanced-level dive.

For intermediate divers, Dragon's Lane is a great choice. It has a steep 200-foot drop, but there's also plenty to see in the shallower water. It has easy shore access and is full of massive boulders that thrive with colorful sea life. On a calm day, even novices can explore the nooks and crannies of Roger's Reef near Drumbeg Park.

If fishing is more your style, you'll be spoiled with your number of options. For impressive salmon hauls and an amazing adventure that will help you learn more about the sport, take a charter with Silver Blue Charters. It's run by Captain Bob Meyer, who locals have dubbed the "fish whisperer." For a low-key day with your rod, the northwest of the island is full of great opportunities for shore or kayak fishing. There are incredible spots all around the island where you can relax during a beautiful day on the water.

Remember that much of the waters around Gabriola are rockfish conservation areas, so be sure to check local regulations before heading off on your angling adventure.

08 Beach days

Gabriola Island offers an abundance of beaches, whether you're looking for somewhere to swim, soak up the sun, or enjoy a breathtaking sunset.

Orlebar Point Beach is a great choice for sun worship and swimming, with its lovely stretch of sandy shore that's usually relatively quiet. If you like gorgeous scenery to feast your eyes on while you catch some rays, it's hard to beat the views, which take in the nearby islands and surrounding coast.

For glorious sunsets, head to Drumbeg Park, where you can watch the vibrant colors and beautiful skyscapes as the sun goes down over the Strait of Georgia.

When visiting Gabriola's beautiful coves, bays, and beaches, remember to be respectful of other beach-goers and the fragile ecosystems. Part of what makes Gabriola so beautiful is its amazing unspoiled environments, so it's important to do your part to preserve them by taking nothing away and leaving nothing behind except footprints and sandcastles.

09 Culinary experiences

The Surf Lodge and Pub is a great choice for lovely local food in a charming setting. You have to try their seafood chowder, mac and cheese, veggie burger, and basically anything else on their menu.

The Ground Up Cafe is another option offering incredible food, ranging from a vegan hash bowl to a pulled pork quesadilla. Grab a seat outside to enjoy the views.

If you're looking for quirky charm and great food in the summer, you can't do better than the Fire Truck Grill. The food truck is open seasonally, but check its website to see where and when you can get their food next.

10 Wellness and relaxation

Gabriola Island is the perfect place to get away from it all. Enjoy spending time in its tranquil natural settings that will make your cares seem a million miles away. However, if you want to get serious about relaxation and rejuvenation, try Lila's Mini Spa for a warm welcome and personal experience. You could also head to The Haven, a relaxing retreat center where you can reconnect with yourself.

For an immersive wellness experience, La Belle Vie is a bed and breakfast that runs workshops and retreats in a gorgeous setting.

11 Biking on Gabriola

Narrow hiking trail or footpath in forest. Lush green pacific northwest rainforest scenery in summer with tall trees and bushes.

Cycling is the perfect way to get around Gabriola Island. There are multiple places where you can rent bicycles, including Page's Resort & Marina. If you want to amp up the speed and thrill level, why not rent an electric bike from Wheel-E's E-bikes off the South Road or Pedego Nanaimo in Nanaimo?

It's fun just getting around the island by bike, but if you love riding for riding's sake, you'll want to try out Gabriola's bike trails. These are mostly clustered around the middle area of the island, usually with access from North or South Road.

As long as you're a decent rider, you can take on the beloved Magic Downhill mountain biking trail, which lets you soar through a beautiful tree-lined path, taking in the occasional tight turn. Serious mountain bikers will want to try out the Final Ferntier route, a local favorite Black Diamond-rated trail that glides through fern forests with some tight turns and steep pitches to keep things exciting.

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12 Accommodation options

From the rustic to the luxurious, there are plenty of great accommodation options on Gabriola Island. Get back to nature on one of the island's camping spots, choose from a diverse array of cottages, hotels, and B&Bs, or get a taste of island life with a full property rental or guesthouse stay.

If you want a truly unique visit, check into The Haven resort. It offers 10 lodging options, each one bursting with character and all offering beautiful ocean or forest views. You can also consider an unforgettable off-grid experience in a cozy cabin, nature lodge, or yurt. Waking up with the birds and cooking by candlelight in the evening is an amazing way to slow down and feel part of gentle island life. For the best of both worlds, try the Surf Lodge and Pub. There are various room and cabin rentals, some of which allow you to bring your furry friend.

13 Wildlife watching

Gabriola is home to a wide range of wildlife, and it's wonderful for birdwatching and marine life spotting.

Gabriola Sands Park is always a great first stop for birdwatchers. In the beautiful sandy beach and coastal shoreline, you can find seabirds, shorebirds, and waders almost everywhere you look. Meanwhile, the Cox Community Park is home to a diverse range of ecosystems and habitats, including woodland, meadow, and wetlands, giving you the chance to see songbirds and plenty more.

The amazing marine life you can view from Gabriola Island includes seals, river otters, and whales. River otters can be found all over, often hanging out in rocky crevices on the beaches. Seals and sea lions are common visitors to the island's bays and coastline. If you're very lucky, you might even see all three during a visit to Drumbeg Park.

Whales are often spotted in the seas surrounding Gabriola. If seeing these majestic creatures is a must-do, consider booking a dedicated whale-watching excursion, such as with Gulf Island Seaplanes.

14 Seasonal activities

Gabriola Island always has something going on. Fun summer festivities include the annual Silva Bay Fishing Derby and exciting Canada Day celebrations. In August, you can get involved with the Brickyard Beast 10K Run, the Community Hall Salmon BBQ, and the yearly Concert on the Green.

Don't let Gabriola's summer charm put you off a winter visit. In the off-season, you'll see a whole new side to the island and have a chance to really feel part of its thriving, warm local community. Gabriola Island is a magical place to spend the holidays, and the Gabriola Agricultural Co-op's Christmas market will have you feeling festive and full of cheer.

15 Getting around Gabriola

Gabriola Island is easily driveable, and there's Gabriola Taxi and Delivery if you prefer not to drive. The local GERTIE community bus service is also available Monday through Saturday. Feel free to go for a stroll, but keep in mind that Gabriola Island doesn't have sidewalks.

Navigating Gabriola Island is easy. However, if you want a little help to find your way around, pick up a tourist map or visitor guide from the Gabriola Tourism website or visitor center, or just ask a friendly local!

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