Out and About Gabriola Island

Gabriola Island is known as the Isle of the Arts and for good reason! The list of artists and artisans that call this southern Gulf Island home is long from painters to silversmiths! But there is more than just art to enjoy here be sure to visit one of the many parks, restaurants, or heritage areas. 


Every Island has a story...

Much of Gabriola Island’s early history comes from the hunting and fishing expeditions of the Coast Salish, who were the first people to visit the accessible shorelines of this Gulf Island. Petroglyphs, which were carved in the sandstone cliffs, can still be seen, as can other artifacts that attest to the early settlements of these people. Spanish, Scottish, British, and Irish settlers all journeyed to Gabriola in search of an area to settle, farm, mine, and otherwise make their livings off the land. The Spanish explorers of the late 18th Century marked their territory on the island by providing the names for Descano Bay, Malaspina Inlet, and Galleries, Gabriola Passage. ‘Gabriola’ has been traced to the Spanish word ‘gaviota’, meaning seagull.fter settlement, the island became a resource base for the nearby town of Nanaimo. The little good soil on the island was used for market gardens, timber was cut for homes, and sandstone quarried for building blocks.

Who lives on Gabriola?

Gabriola is the most densely populated of all the Gulf Islands, largely due to its proximity to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. A population of anywhere between three and five thousand full time residents (depending on who you talk to) enjoy a rich quality of life on this quiet, rural island. 

Where is it and how do I get there?

Gabriola Island is only a short distance by ferry from Nanaimo. There is easy access by BC Ferries from Swartz Bay or Departure Bay on Vancouver Island or from the Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay terminals located on the Canadian mainland to many of the Gulf Islands, including Gabriola. You can also reach the island by float plane. Private air service companies offer safe, efficient flights to the Gulf Islands from a variety of departure points, including Vancouver, Nanaimo, Victoria, and Seattle. Daily scheduled service and chartered flights are available.
Find out more about BC Ferries service to the Gulf Islands, including fares, reservations on the Tsawwassen-Gulf Island route, and schedules, on their web site at www.bcferries.com or call 1-888-BCFERRY (BC) or (250) 386-3431 (Victoria).

When should I go?

The temperate climate (the mildest in all of Canada) makes the Gulf Islands the perfect destination almost any time of the year. Here, it is drier than Vancouver and the islands are more protected than Victoria. Enjoy spring as early as February; warm, sunny, and dry summers; the vibrancy of fall; and, frost-free winters perfect for hiking, cycling, or kayaking. You really can’t go wrong no matter when you plan to visit! A tip for packing: bring layers. You may need clothing for all types of weather during your visit – warmth, wind, and water! Nights are always a little chilly – especially if you are walking by the water – so bring a light jacket even in the summer.

What should I do when I get there?

With two main shopping areas containing groceries, gas, a restaurant, a liquor store, bookstore, health foods and a cash machine, Gabriola has all the services that one requires, whether to make their home here or simply to visit. 

What are some of the Island’s unique features?

An Enterprising People ...

Visit the abandoned millstone quarry, the markets and fairs, or the fishing docks – you will see an enterprising people at work (and at play) on Gabriola.

Artistic Abundance ...

Gabriola has a rich cultural life with folk art, crafts, and a literary community that "island time" seems to promote. Here there are painters, potters, silver smiths, weavers, poets, authors, quilters, garden ornament makers, garlic chocolate makers, and renowned musicians. Be sure to check out the Malaspina Gallery, a showcase for the many artisans and artists who work from their home studios.

Discover the Water ...

lf you’d like to get out on the water, there are government docks at Degnen Bay and False Narrows, along with a marina. Try diving, kayaking , charter fishing or swimming in the ocean at Sandwell Park. There are three provincial parks on the island with a variety of beaches to explore. Golfing or hiking the shoreline and country roads are all great ways to get out and enjoy all that Gabriola has to offer.

Historic Remnants ...

Enjoy the writing on the wall! Also known as petroglyphs, these earliest artworks grace the sandstone cliffs of the island. 


Where should I stay? 

No matter what your budget will allow there are a number of  accommodation options available to you! Gulf Island Accommodations


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