I live on the west coast of BC and am lucky to have a daughter living near Gabriola Island. This means I can visit this gem in the Gulf Islands when ever I can get away. The island is populated by about 5000 of the most down to earth, friendly people you will ever meet. There are many artists who have made their home in this out of the way paradise; as well as retired professionals and individuals who just want to live a more peaceful lifestyle.
Driving around the island on the North Road or South Road is a treat at anytime of the year. The South Road takes you along the coast line overlooking the False Narrows and pretty little Mudge Island, past Drumbeg Park and on to Sylva Bay where you can relax overlooking the many and varied boats that find refuge in this picturesque marina. The drive takes you through surreal tunnels made by tree branches reaching across the road to touch each other, allowing the sun to filter through in a haze. My favourite time is spring when the branches are covered in fluffy pink and white blossoms or fall when the red and orange leaves appear to be on fire. Actually, any time on Gabriola is my favourite time!
The North side of the island is equally as pictorial with a charming view of a red roofed lighthouse perched on a tiny island in the Strait of Georgia. BC Ferries pass by on a regular basis. An ideal viewpoint is at the end of Berry Point Road where there also happens to be a lovely garden. There are many Kodak moments on Gabriola Island.
A stop at Malispina Galleries is a must. This is an incredible work of art created by none other than Mother Nature herself. Wind, spray from the ocean and time have worn away the limestone and left amazing sculptures. Another worth while stop is the local museum with replicas of petroglyphs left behind by former inhabitants. You can also take a hike to view the originals if you are so inclined. Gabriola has been home to creative people for centuries.
Another favourite stop for me is the Alpaca Ranch. I love to visit these cuddly South American relatives of the camel. If you feed them, you might even get a kiss from one of the friendly fellows.
Every Thanksgiving weekend the artists of Gabriola hold the popular Studio Tour. Everyone arrives with map in hand and visits as many artists as is possible in two days. There are as many as 100 artists who open their doors and hearts to the general public to view their work and work space. It is so much fun and you always come away with some treasures. I tend to do a good portion of my Christmas shopping at that time, as well as treat myself of course.
Gabriola has a number of Bed & Breakfasts, guest houses and a couple of cozy resorts if you are not lucky enough to have an artist daughter living there. It is an excellent day trip from Nanaimo as well.