Galiano Island is one of the Southern Gulf Islands that sit between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island. It’s the closest Gulf Island to Vancouver and is just under 1 hour away by ferry from Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. Home to impressive sandstone rock features including the Galiano caves and absolutely delicious food, there are plenty of things to do on Galiano Island for a weekend trip!
How to get to Galiano Island
Almost the only way to get to here is to take the ferry to Galiano Island.
If the ferries are running fully, it’s less than an hour between mainland Vancouver to Galiano Island. You can take the Galiano Island ferry from Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal straight to Sturdies Bay (view the Galiano Island ferry schedule), Galiano Island. This ferry is popular and gets booked up fast on weekends. I would strongly recommend you book in advance as the alternative is a much, much longer trip!
When we visited Galiano, the Vancouver – Galiano ferry was cancelled so we took the longer route. This route involves going from Vancouver to Victoria then from Victoria to Galiano. The journey is much longer with about 3 hours on ferries, about 1-1.5 hours from Swartz Bay to Galiano plus the 1.5 hours from Vancouver to Swartz Bay AND waiting time in between them. On the way back, our ferry from Galiano stopped off at a couple of other Gulf Islands, making the journey even longer!
So, book the ferry so you don’t spend most of the day travelling, especially since the closeness of Galiano is one of the reasons it’s such a good weekend trip from Vancouver.
Alternatively, you can also get a floatplane from Richmond (YVR) to Galiano Island with Seair Seaplanes. The flying time is 10 minutes.
Things to know about Galiano Island
- Galiano Island wildlife: Hundreds of bird species, orca whale spottings in the right season, otters, sea lions, seals and more.
- The island is 27.5km long and 6km wide at the widest point. It feels a bit longer though as the roads are a little windy and narrow.
- The fulltime population is just over 1,000 residents – and quite a lot of the island is private property
- There’s good cell reception and data coverage in most places.
- There are a couple of small shops on the island (unlike Savary Island), but if you plan on cooking in your Galiano Island accommodation then it’d be best to bring your own supplies over.
- In the winter months, some popular attractions such as rentals, may not be open and businesses may have reduced opening hours.
Best Galiano Islands things to do
One of the best things to do on Galiano Island is to just relax and cosy up in a cabin but, if you’re like me and struggle to sit still, then here are the top activities on Galiano Island!
One of the highlights of Galiano Island is its coastline, and the best way to see the coastline is to kayak around parts of the island.
You can rent kayaks, canoes and paddleboards from Gulf Island Kayaking. Kayak rentals start at $45 for 2 hours.
Cosy up in a Cabin
Galiano Island is full of beautiful wood cabins. We stayed at Bodega Ridge in one of their 3-bed cabins and enjoyed beautiful sea views, a wood stove fire and woke up to the sound of the chickens and cockrels. If you’re staying in the summer there’s plenty of outdoor space too for grilling and eating al-fresco!
Eat at Pilgrimme Restaurant
Pilgrimme is one of Canada’s best restaurants with a chef who worked at the famous Noma in Copenhagen. It’s also the best Galiano Island restaurant. It’s usually only open from spring-fall and bookings are essential and only done over email. We have friends who’ve eaten here and were very impressed!
The restaurant itself is tucked away in the forest and is super cute and cosy inside. You’ll feel a bit like you’re around your friend’s house for dinner!
Though not open when we visited, we were able to go inside and enjoy some of the best pizza I’ve had in Canada from Charmer Pizza. The toppings were unique and ever so tasty and the sourdough pizza base was delicious! Usually, they operate behind Pilgrimme restaurant but this winter they were inside Pilgrimme.
Get Breakfast or Lunch at Oxeye Cafe
Another awesome food option on Galiano was Oxeye Cafe. Oxeye Cafe is in the heart of Sturdies Bay and we stopped by for lunch after exploring in the morning.
They put a Pacific Northwest stamp on modern café cuisine. We foster community and collaboration with island artisans, growers and residents. We were very impressed with the lunch we got and the space inside was lovely too.
Get Lost in the Bookstore
Galiano Island’s bookstore is huge and had a load of local and BC focused books. I love browsing book stores and could’ve spent a long time in here (& a lot of money). I was not expecting to find such a big book store on such a small island!
Pick up Some Tea
The Galiano Island post office doubles as a tea shop! There were loads of different flavours including both caffeinated black teas, fruity rooibos teas and other herbal teas. There’s also a selection of cards and stationery items that were super cute.
Walk the Beaches
Galiano is famous for its wild west coast beaches and you can find beach access points all over the island. They’re not always easy to come across, so I’d recommend picking up a map (or see below) that has all the access points listed.
One of my favourite places we visited was Montague Harbour Marine Provincial Park. We walked out towards the Grey Peninsula and took in the views out to the ocean and Parker Island.
Hike at Bodega Ridge, Galiano
Bodega Ridge is probably the main park on Galiano Island and offers the best Galiano Island hiking, it’s one of the top things to do on Galiano. You get great views out towards Vancouver Island and you can enjoy the trees and plants of Galiano.
Find the Galiano Island Caves
This is the one thing I knew about Galiano before visiting, having seen amazing photos of people exploring the caves on Galiano Island.
To get there you’ll need to head to the end of Retreat Cove Road and then head along the coast to the left (not through the private property) until you come out at the Galiano caves.
Visit Dionisio Point Provincial Park
Another popular thing to do on Galiano Island is to visit Dionisio Point Provincial Park. It’s a wild park on the northeast tip of the island with both sandy and rocky beaches.
There’s a campsite towards the far end of the park if you’re looking for Galiano Island camping, and it’s a popular spot for boaters. If you’re wondering how to get to Dionisio Point Provincial Park, officially the only way is by boat (including kayak/canoe). That’s because Dionisio is a marine park.
However, it is possible to hike in. You can drive to the end of Bodega Beach Drive and park on the side of the road. It’s marked as the Dionisio Provincial Park Entry Gate/Trailhead on Google Maps. From here, it’s about a 2km walk on a paved road with a couple of hills until you reach the park itself. You’ll know you’ve reached it when you hit the forest!
From there, there are several clear trails that you can follow, some along the coast and some through the forest. Keep your eyes open for seals, or even whales!
Visit the Farmers Market
Galiano Island has a Saturday farmers market with fresh fruit and vegetables and other goodies. It’s usually open from May to early October and is well worth visiting if you’re in Galiano at the weekend!
Where to stay on Galiano Island
While there aren’t many Galiano hotels, there are quite a few options when it comes to cabins!
Bodega Ridge & Bodega Cove
We stayed in one of the 3-bedroom cabins at Bodega Ridge. The cabin was huge and had a well-stocked kitchen, living space and bedrooms. There were great views from the balcony in the main bedroom and off the living room too.
Bodega Cove is just down the hill from the ridge and these smaller cabins looked super cute. They’re not quite as remote as they appear on the website, they’re just set back from the road and on the opposite side of the road from the beach. However, the road is quiet so I can’t imagine there’s much noise from it.
Galiano Oceanfront Inn & Spa
If you’re looking for a highly relaxing place to stay in Galiano you can’t beat this Galiano accommodation. The Galiano Ocreanfront Inn & Spa is just a 1-minute walk from the beach and has a full spa including yoga facilities.
You can also rent bikes and kayaks from the Galiano Inn. You can also enjoy a wood-burning fireplace and spa bath in your room at this Galiano Island hotel!
Galiano Island Cabins & Airbnb for Galiano Island
There are some super cute cabins available to rent through Airbnb. Check them out Airbnbs on Galiano here.