Travel the Gulf Islands National Park and Salish Sea
Some people who visit the Gulf Islands, B.C., think they've stumbled into Paradise.
This group of hundreds of semi-mediterranean Islands in a protected sea has drawn people for millennia, with its green and gold slopes, blue ocean and ring of snow-capped peaks.
Although Salt Spring Island is the most well-known, a trip on the schooner Maple Leaf takes you to scores of beautiful islets most people will never have a chance to see.
Islands in the Salish Sea
Step aboard and enter a world where the most important decision is which place to explore next. With 200+ islands and islets, some with "dry rainforests", some with white shell beaches, some with colonies of animals, the options are many.
Maple Leaf's crew knows the area well and while you'll visit some of the larger, well-known islands (e.g. Salt Spring, Saturna), you'll also be guided to little-known havens to which most people will never have access. (Ever heard of Cabbage Island? How about Mandarte, Prevost and Wallace?)
B.C.'s Gulf Islands offer a combination of unique wilderness and eclectic communities. On land, Garry oaks and Douglas fir forests, wildflower meadows and Arbutus (madrone) trees flourish. You'll explore rocky beaches, quiet lagoons and spectacular passages. The islands lie in a rain shadow, so some even support small cacti.
Our onboard naturalist unlocks the wonder of even the smallest shells you may find.
Sea Life & Gulf Islands Sailing
Fresh spring and fall breezes make for great sailing, and we often get generous portions of sunshine. A stunning variety of sea life is found here - brightly coloured sea stars, crabs, clams and seaweeds. Seals, otters, dolphins and whales swim the waters between islands.
These trips are a great opportunity to experience the relaxing pace of life aboard Maple Leaf. In the quiet beauty of the Gulf Islands, you will feel as if you are thousands of miles from anywhere.
Coast Salish First Nations Culture
The Coast Salish culture has flourished for thousands of years here, and it's easy to see why.
We are fortunate that on many trips, we are accompanied by Salish elder Florence James. Florence shares the first people's names and history of the islands, as well as some of their philosophy.
The climate is mild, the land is gentle, and natural beauty abounds. In the past, Salish people traveled to specific islands to cultivate meadows of naturally-occurring blue camas lilies, to others for fishing and still others to tend canoe trees, harvest clams and many other functions of life. People's history is everywhere among the islands.
Explorers and Eclectic Villages
The Gulf Islands are as diverse as they are beautiful. Most reflect the history of maritime exploration on the Pacific Coast and many, such as Galiano and Valdez, still bear the
names of the earliest European explorers.
The natural meadows lured European and Hawaiian settlers to farm here, and later, American draft dodgers and hippies of all kinds came to the islands to escape urban life. Crafts and arts thrive, and the Gulf Islands are now one of the most desirable places to live in Canada.
Sit back on deck and explore these idyllic islands. You'll see why they are known as one of the world's best cruising destinations.
Two Seasons in the Gulf Islands National Park
We offer trips in the Gulf Islands in spring and fall, both peak times for sailing and wildlife.
Spring Fling in the Gulf Islands
There is no better way to celebrate the return of spring than sailing among these eclectic islands in south-western British Columbia.
While the rest of the North is still clothed in a blanket of winter, the Gulf Islands burst with life - from the green flames of new growth to meadows of bright flowers and the exuberant, noisy clamour of seals, whales and birds flocking around millions of spawning herring.
Meadows are carpeted with wild flowers...white Easter lilies, pink sea blush, purple camas, Blue-eyed Mary. All shine against an early spring-green palette.
Autumn in the Gulf Islands
Autumn, a time of feasting, comes slowly to the Gulf Islands. But as we drift past the shores, leaves on oaks, dogwood and broadleaf maples will be starting to turn to fall colours. The arbutus splash the coastal woodlands with bunches of ripe, red berries.
Migrating birds stop on the beaches on their journey south along the Pacific Flyway. Spawning salmon congregate among the islands before running up the mighty Fraser River, and sea mammals including seals, sea lions and orcas feast on the fish.
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