I have always wanted to go to one of the Gulf Islands. What are the Gulf Islands? They are a group of islands in the Salish Sea between the mainland of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. On the American side, the counterpart are called the San Juan Islands. Here’s a guide on how to survive (and thrive) on Galiano island with toddlers.
Traveling with young children is like childbirth- it feels terrible while you’re in the middle of it but when you look back at it, you have nothing bu positive thoughts and are somewhat ready to travel with young children again. Our 2 year old took 2 hours to fall asleep (punching my nose, face, and kicking my stomach was too much fun!) despite not napping during the day, I guess she was too excited.
When opting for one of the Gulf Islands to travel to, I have heard great things about many of them, namely Saltspring Island, Mayne Island, Pender Island etc.
However…we opted for the easiest Gulf Island to get to from mainland BC.
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Easiest Gulf Island to Get to From Vancouver
The easiest Gulf Island to get to from Vancouver is Galiano Island. Galiano island with toddlers is perfect.
Galiano Island is only a 55 minute direct BC Ferries ride from Vancouver to Galiano. Galiano is the first stop, many of the other islands take two ferry rides to get to which means longer travel time, and as we tired parents know, longer travel time with young kids is not ideal.
There is at least one sailing a day and in the summer, sometimes two or three. However it is best to double check the same day on the BC Ferries website, since the one of the sailings is often cancelled.
Galiano: THe GEM of the GUlf Islands
Galiano is only 26km long and 2km wide, it’s a narrow skinny Gulf Island.
Not only is Galiano easy to get to, Galiano also seems very easy to get around. Pretty much most of the major attractions on the southern end of Galiano are within a 5 minute drive from each other, which is again, optimal when you are traveling with young children.
Here are some of the toddler friendly places to visit on Galiano.
Bluffs Park Lookout is accessible by car but you drive up a gravel road to get there, it would be best if you have all wheel drive or an SUV. Once you get to the Bluffs Lookout trailhead, it’s another 10-15 minute hike to get to the lookout area.
This is the toddler version of the trail because it is short (the vehicle access and 2km hike). You could do an 8 kilometre trail instead if you don’t want to drive on the gravel road, however that probably makes it not so toddler friendly.
Once you’re up there, the views of Active Pass are gorgeous and apparently if you’re lucky you can spot whales swimming through the pass. We weren’t lucky enough to spot a whale, but we did see a ferry passing through. You can also see Mayne Island, and even Washington on a sunny clear day.
Some of the area is a bit steep so I would definitely hold your little ones’ hand as you are hiking along.
Montague Harbour and Park
This is probably one of the most popular spots of Galiano island, or a ‘must see’. This is probably where the best sunsets of the Gulf Islands are seen. Many boats dock here for a stop. There are people kayaking and using paddleboards.
There is a provincial campsite here and it looks like a great place to camp, so much so that we are contemplating going next year to camp at Montague.
At the park, there is a nice hiking trail that is under 3km and takes you on a loop around Montague park. We saw a baby squirrel on the trail (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a baby squirrel in Vancouver before).
There is a white crushed shell beach with crystal clear water you ALMOST think you’re in Hawaii or somewhere tropical.
Bellhouse park is easy to walk around and you don’t have to hike very far at all (it’s just a few hundred meter walk) to get to the scenic views. From Bellhouse park you can see Mayne Island and see the BC Ferries cruising along, you can also see the Sturdies Bay ferry terminal.
The sandstone beach (or as my son likes to call it, ‘moon rock’) is beautiful, there are small little tide pools when the tide is out to check out.
Galiano Saturday Market
The Galiano Saturday Market runs on Saturdays in the summer from 10am to 2pm. It is located at the Lions Club on Burrill road, this is another great activity to do on Galiano island with toddlers.
There is live music to listen to (which the kids loved), and interesting things for sale from artisans and farmers, like the usual fruit and vegetables. You could even buy a tombstone if you wanted to.
There are also is a small playground and public restrooms, two very useful travel necessities for young children.
We saw a mom deer and her baby deer cross the road, I almost heard Snow White music in my head while watching them cross the road and prance into the forest.
I also saw a pelican near the ferry terminal, unfortunately it flew away as my preschooler was so loud.
Family Friendly Restaurants
Woodstone Restaurant– The patio overlooks a pasture where rescue horses hang out. They serve brunch on Thursdays to Sundays. They give your kids a really nice toy to keep them entertained during their meal. They have a 3 Michelin Star chef too! It’s not cheap but their eggs Benedict is the ‘standard’ price of eggs benny in Vancouver and not unreasonable ($20).
Hummingbird Pub– I’m sure this is more of a happening place to be during non-COVID times, but they have a “Pub Bus” that takes you from Montague Harbor to the Hummingbird Pub for a meal. I had the fish and chips and the beer battered fish was very good. Huge servings too. Their burger was also very delicious.
Babes in the Woods Eatery– We ordered two pizzas for takeout from Babes in the Woods Eatery and it was so delicious, one of the best pizzas that I have had in a while. The cheese was baked to perfection. It The ‘big kids’ pizza is the size of an adult pizza and it is $12 for cheese or for pepperoni. The wait was a little long for takeout though, and there are only two tables for seating outside.
Hope this guide on Galiano Island with toddlers was helpful! Even a short getaway can feel very refreshing and exciting when the days are long and the years are short 😉
You may also be interested in:
Have you been to a Gulf Island?
Do you have other suggestions for things to do in Galiano with toddlers or kids?
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