The Gulf Islands are the small islands located between Vancouver Island and the mainland of southwestern British Columbia. They’re undoubtfully every cyclist’s paradise offering well-paved and quiet roads, lots of interesting stops along the route and spectacular scenery. Also, it’s important to mention that the Gulf Islands are not flat and have lots of challenging hills. So if you’re seeking for an easy riding then you may consider bringing an electric bike or renting a scooter.
Just after the long labour day weekend in September, the weather in upcoming days was extremely promising so I’ve decided to go on my very first bikepacking trip to one of the Gulf Islands. After doing a short research I’ve picked Galliano Island. It’s 28km long and 6 km at its widest point and just 1.6km at its narrowest point. My plan was to bring my bike on a bus to Tsawwassen ferry terminal and then take less than an hour ferry ride to the island. From Sturdies Bay I’ve planned to bike across the whole island to the northeast tip of Galiano where Dionisio Point Provincial Park is, spend a night there and the next day come back the same way and maybe spend another night at Montague Harbour Marine Provincial Park campground and then come back home. So without waiting too much, I’ve mounted a bike rack on my mountain bike, bought pannier bags and packed everything I will need for upcoming days.
I woke up early Monday morning and left home. The busses usually have only two bike carrying racks and I was a bit worried that I may not get a place for my bike if there will be more cyclists heading the same direction but everything was smooth and transit wasn’t packed at all because most of the people were commuting to work in the opposite direction and there was only one another bikepacker going on the same bus. We helped each other to load and unload the bikes from the rack because with all bags and additional weight it would be challenging to do it by ourselves. He was heading to another island so we wished each other safe trip and headed to our ferry terminals. Compared to the states BC ferries are pretty expensive especially if you’re taking a car with you. But taking a bike onboard cost only $2 extra which is great! I was directed to board a ferry and park my bike on the main vehicle deck and then I walked to the upper deck where I got to enjoy the nice views!
In less than an hour, I’ve arrived at Sturdies Bay terminal and from there started my trip. Navigation app on my phone showed 27 kilometres to Dionisio Point with very hilly terrain along the way – lots of ups and downs. It’s worth mentioning that most of the shops, restaurants, pubs, art galleries and accommodations are located in the village of Sturdies Bay – just steps from the ferry dock. In other words – it’s the first and last place to do some grocery shopping or buying booze before heading up north. Since I had packed everything I need from home I skipped the village and started biking. Once I escaped from the village I’ve noticed how relaxing it is here! Just a few cars passing by from time to time and then all I could hear is just relaxing nature sounds and no city noise!
Sun was shining, trees provided nice shade and the road kept going up and down. Occasionally I stopped to rest because climbing uphill sometimes got way too hard and additional weight in my pannier bags didn’t help at all. However, going downhill was pure joy! Thanks to additional weight, I was often able to reach 50 km/h speed with very little effort, the maximum I’ve reached was 62 km/h! When I saw another hill coming up I was trying to use my speed to climb that hill as much as possible. Overall it was really great exercise – I got really sweaty and exhausted going up and then nice breeze cooled me going down.
Along the way, I stopped at Tapovan Sri Chinmoy Peace park. It’s a 200-acre privately owned park where trails were built by volunteers. There’s a pretty easy hike up to the Sri Chinmoy Peace statue and gorgeous views of the islands on a clear day. It’s a great place to come meditate and enjoy the nature. After visiting the park I kept going through endless hills until I’ve reached Dionisio Point Provincial Park.
Dionisio Point Provincial Park
Dionisio Point Provincial Park is an amazing natural park at the north end of the island offering beautiful beaches to swim or even scuba dive, lots of trails for light hiking or cycling and year-round wildlife viewing such as shorebirds, Bald eagles, marine life including seals, sea lions, and otters. The park also has 30 walk-in campsites, picnic area at the beach, pit toilets and drinking water which you can pump from the well from May 1 to September 30. If you plan on camping here I would strongly advise prepaying online at BC Parks Backcountry Registration System. Camping fee is $5 per person per night and it does not reserve a campsite but saves from the hassle paying cash on site. The mobile coverage is very spotted here but I was able to get a fair signal and pay my fees online since I didn’t have cash with no change.
What did I do there?
Once I reached the campground, I’ve noticed that I’m all alone here and I was excited that I may get to keep this amazing place all to myself. Although later couple other campers arrived we didn’t bother each other and got enjoy the serenity. I was pretty exhausted after climbing countless hills so I’ve set up the camp, ate some filling lunch, hanged my hammock at the shore and just chilled for the rest of the day.
Next day I woke up well-rested and since I loved how beautiful and peaceful it is here I decided to spend another night at this place and ditch the initial idea to go back and camp at Montague Harbour. I had plenty of food left and water from the well was clear. Since I’ve got to unload all my heavy bags from the bike I went to explore the trails in this park with the intention to find another access to this park, preferably through Porlier Pass road.
Riding the trails was an interesting experience. Some parts of the trails were really nice and flat and going through ferns, other parts were going steep uphill or downhill and sometimes were barely passable due to fallen trees or trenches. At some points trail just disappeared and I got to do some bushwacking (or more accurately, bikewacking). Although I found an old and rotten wooden sign showing direction and 6km distance to Porlier Pass drive, I didn’t pursue this way due to the barely passable trail. Instead, I’ve found another way to leave the park and mapped some other trails in the area.
How to get there?
Officially this park is marine access only. Before leaving I was trying to find directions on how to properly access this park by bike but there was very little information on this subject. It turns out that there is a paved road built straight to the park but the caveat is that it’s gated and goes through private property. I advise that the landowners deem the road private and the may be consequences for readers to use it. In other words – hikers and bikers are NOT allowed to cross the gate. As per presumably one of the landowner’s request, I’ve removed the directions on how to get to the park by land.
More than 30 years ago the land adjacent to Dionisio Provincial Park was a privately owned forest land which was sold to 17 families. These families were expecting to be able to get the zoning changed to residential so they could build retirement houses on their land. At that time they even spent $1 million for a 3-kilometer paved road which was supposed to be reimbursed by the government and become a public road to Dionisio Provincial Park. However, after the road was built, the rules changed and people were prevented from building houses by Islands Trust who controls the zoning. Therefore the owners gated the road to the park as the access went through their land.
The only legal way to access the park is via foreshore or by water. Consiglio shore access is probably the closest point to the park where you can load your boat or a kayak into the water. You can get there through Bodega Beach drive: head northwest on Porlier Pass road, turn right onto Vineyard Way and then turn left onto Bodega Beach Drive. At the end of this road, you’ll see the closed gate – this is where that 3-kilometer paved road through the private land starts. Just before the gate, turn right onto Consiglio Shore Access trail which in 500 meters take you to the shoreline (source).
Max elevation: 137 m
Min elevation: -2 m
Total climbing: 413 m
Total descent: -329 m
Average speed: 20.15 km/h
Total time: 01:53:37