Saturna island is a tiny island, just 12 square miles in size, located between Vancouver and Victoria and is one of the 5 main southern gulf islands. Although it is the closest to Vancouver it is by far the least populated with year round residents and gets the least amount of visitors, which was evident by the lack of people everywhere I went on my weekend trip a few weeks past!
I spent a weekend biking and camping on the island, and I have shared my tips and tricks with you here, so you can enjoy a great weekend too!
This is a perfect trip for you if:
– you want a weekend cycling trip that involves manageable biking (still very hilly though)
– you want to experience nature up close. Saturna is definitely wild!
– you are looking for a quiet weekend away from civilization.
– you enjoy biking from beach to beach reading a book all day.
– you are a solo traveller that want a safe location to travel to(no bears or wild cats to worry about)
– you don’t have a car and are looking for somewhere to travel to on the weekend.
Here is a great map I used when touring around:
PDF Version found here: 2016-map-image-for-web
Take a look at what I got up to and let me know if you have questions for planning your own itinerary!
To get to tsawwassen by bike I took the skytrain from Vancouver out to Bridgeport station. From there you take bus 620 to the ferry terminal. You simply put your bike on the front of the bus, and you also bring it right into the skytrain section specifically for bikes. I understand there is a biking route to get out the ferry terminal, I haven’t looked into it as in this case I was rushing to catch the ferry after work.
The ferry ride is about 3 hours and involved a stop on Mayne island to transfer ferries.
I ended up arriving in Saturna at 10 pm, which is not a good idea now that I look back on it. I ended up having to bike 10 kms across the island to my campsite on an island i’d never visited before, at night! I felt safe with the number of good lights I brought, but the freaky part was how uninhabited Saturna is. Because the island is mostly forest I realized if I ran into trouble there were no cars passing by, and very few houses on the stretch to the campground. I would advise arriving during the day 🙂
My campground was called Naveaz Bay. I reserved my site in advance from the parks Canada reservation system. It is only 5 dollars a night for back country camping sites across BC. When I arrived in my site a group of girls had set up, and I had to kick them out! Reservations are new for many of the parks campgrounds in BC. While setting up my tent I was greeted by an owl and right away I felt the calm feeling of being on the gulf islands. The bike in was a pretty crazy ride on a rough/semi gravel road, followed by a 1km downhill hike to the campsite, let’s just say, I was happy to be resting in my tent!
Here is a shot from the campsite:
When I opened up my tent on my first morning I was pleasantly surprised to find that my site was directly facing the ocean! I hadn’t noticed because I arrived at night. It was a beautiful surprise.
After having some breakfast I took a walk to Echo Bay, located right near the campsite. The water was incredibly blue and it was a stunning site.
From there I headed back up the hill to where I had parked my bike and took the 10 km ride back into town (just for reference this ride took me between 30 and 45 minutes depending on how much gear I was carrying, and I was riding a heavy hybrid bike).
Just before hitting the ferry terminal is the one general store on the island. I was there on a Saturday which meant there was a market happening. The general store is pretty fully stocked and on Saturdays the adjoining cafe is open for sandwiches etc. It was a great spot to stop for a tea, charge my cell phone, and they also let me fill my water bottles up there each day.
After a rest I decided to bike down to Thompson beach, without realizing how massive the hills are on this stretch. I was wondering why I saw no-one else biking or walking on this road. I definitely had to walk a few of the hills, especially on the way back up which included a 20 percent grade hill that stretched on for at least a km.
Instead of biking I would suggest leaving your bike locked at the general store and walking down- this would avoid pushing your bike up some of the massive hills!
Thompson beach was breath taking and picturesque, and just like everywhere on Saturna there were only about 5 visitors down there for the 2 hours I spent lounging on the beach. There are some hiking trails to do here, but knowing I still had to trudge back up the hill I decided to forgo this hike. Here is a list of the few short hikes on Saturna.
After the massive trek back up the hill and back to the campground I was pooped and ready to relax and call it a night.
Around 12 am I awoke out of a deep sleep because I heard something scratching at my tent wall. Every time I heard it scratch I would jostle the tent to scare it away. After 10 separate times like this I decided I had to turn on my light and see what was happening. As the light flickered on a little mouse popped his head over my back pack at the end of my tent! Wow! What a surprise- what was he doing in there?
The next 30 minutes were pretty comical with me trying to get him out of there. First I tried chasing him out, but he just kept hiding in my clothes and camp gear! I ended up having to take every single thing out of my tent to get him out of there. Quite the process for the middle of the night. I realized he got through a hole in the tent and had to do some late night patch work. So this is your warning: don’t keep any food in your tent, and patch even the smallest hole in your tent.
For my final day on the island I packed my gear up and hiked back up the hill to my bike. I dropped my gear off and then walked the short trek out to Monarch head to get a beautiful view of the surrounding gulf islands. I had just stashed my gear behind a tree in the woods, but honestly the gulf islands are so safe there is really no need to worry about stolen gear.
The trail to Monarch head is short and including taking plenty of pictures and chatting with locals I completed it in less than an hour.
Next I biked back into town for a water fill up and a tea and then took the road down to Winter Cove, another beautiful ocean front area, perfect for a picnic. There is also a short 1 km walk through a marshy like area (with board walks) out to an area called the Boat Pass, where boats enter through a narrow opening in the rocks to enter the cove. Very beautiful views out here, especially of Mount Washington. Winter cove is also a great spot for a swim.
My trip ended with a pretty tough 5.5 km tide back to the ferry from winter cove. I was definitely cursing not yet investing in some light weight camping gear on this ride.
The one area I didn’t make it to was East point, where the lighthouse is located and whales are often spotted. I decided to save this for the next trip! Also apparently there is a campground called Breezy Bay located just near the ferry. I think this will be a good option for the next trip as it is more centrally located and wouldn’t involve the 10 km bike ride from Naveaz bay back to town to start each day.
Overall Saturna is a stunning small island that will get you feeling connected back to yourself and nature. It’s also a great spot for a workout and adventure.
If you head there, be sure to leave a comment about your trip!