Car-free travelling is care-free travelling, especially on the long-weekend when ferry reservations are in short supply and border line-ups are hours long. Our latest car-free adventure was to Saturna Island, one of BC’s Gulf Islands.
Saturna Island is one of the more difficult islands to reach by ferry, requiring at least one transfer at Mayne or Swartz Bay. Saturna seems more relaxed, friendlier, and quieter then the other gulf islands I’ve visited (maybe because it is more inaccessible). This is island life at its best. The locals are friendly, we were able to book last minute accommodation, the roads don’t have a lot of traffic, and we had no problems hitch-hiking around the island.
We stayed at the Breezy Bay Bed and Breakfast, located in a charming old farmhouse with an interesting history. It was originally built in 1892, then it was turned into a commune, was a free school for several years, and now it’s a bed and breakfast. I highly recommend the Breezy Bay Bed and Breakfast – it’s a great old building with some interesting spaces, the farm has frisky cows, and unlike some b&b’s I didn’t feel like I was intruding on someone. Matt and Meg, who are currently running the joint, made us feel welcome and cooked up some wicked breakfast, including gluten-free and veggie options.
On Sunday, we biked down to the other side of the island and hiked around Narvaez Bay. We ran into deer, wild turkeys, feral goats, and lots of sea creatures in the tidal pools. Emily got a flat tire, which we were able to pump up enough to get her home, but it wouldn’t hold enough air on Monday. So we ended up hitch-hiking around the island. Two of the friends we were travelling with didn’t bring their bikes and had no trouble getting rides, so we decided to hitch hike to and from Winter Cove. Saturna doesn’t have an informal car taxi system, like Mayne Island, but most locals will stop to pick up passengers. The General Store has couches in front where people wait to get rides. On our way back from Winter Cove, we were picked up by one of the owners of Breezy Bay, and he told us some interesting stories on the ride. I still prefer cycling, but hitch-hiking is a great way to meet the locals.
Saturna Island is home to a winery (which we didn’t visit, but we did try the pinot gris in the pub and bought a bottle at the General Store to bring home) and Go Nuts Burgers, which we were disappointed the pub sold out of, but you can buy them in Vancouver. There isn’t a lot of restaurant options, other then the pub and a cafe in the General Store. The one attraction we missed visiting (due to bike problems) was East Point, where whales can often we seen of of the coast. We’ll have to save that for the next trip.
The only downside to a car-free, bike trip to the gulf islands is getting to/from the ferry terminal with your bike. It’s a long ride from Vancouver to Tsawwassen and you have to shuttle through the Massey Tunnel, so I don’t recommend biking there. You can take your bikes on the bus, which is what we always do, but it’s a stressful journey because each bus only takes 2 bikes and there are lots of cyclists vying for those spaces. On the way home we had 8 bikes rush off our ferry to jockey for bus spots. Luckily, we were all able to get on the next 4 buses that left within 30 minutes, but I wish Translink would offer a more reliable option for cyclists trying to get to/from the ferry terminals.
Saturna Island 2011, a set on Flickr.