We are grateful to live on and visit the Southern Gulf Islands and acknowledge that the lands and waters that encompass these islands have been home to Indigenous peoples since time immemorial, part of the traditional unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples, including W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations and Hul’quimi’num Treaty Group.

Easily accessible from Victoria or Vancouver via a serene ferry ride, the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia offer a captivating birdwatching escapade. Encompassing a rich tapestry of coastal, forested, and shoreline habitats, these islands are a haven for bird enthusiasts. From the diverse ocean and estuarine landscapes to lush marshlands and serene woodlands, the Southern Gulf Islands provide a plethora of birding hotspots along the Strait of Georgia.

Exploring the islands, birders will find themselves surrounded by an array of independent businesses, farm-fresh dining, and locally-roasted coffee, creating a charming and immersive experience. As part of the enchanting journey through the region, birdwatchers can trace their route through the islands’ unique communities, each offering its own distinct coastal charm.

Embracing the slower pace and natural beauty of Canada’s west coast, the Southern Gulf Islands provide an opportunity to unwind, rejuvenate, and immerse oneself in the tranquil allure of these pristine landscapes.

Spring birding in Southern Gulf Islands

As Spring unfolds in the Southern Gulf Islands, a vibrant array of migratory and year-round birds call the region home. Look for the dazzling Anna’s Hummingbirds as they flit among blossoming flowers. Listen to the melodious songs of the Warbling Vireo echoing through the forests. Along the many coastlines, watch for Pigeon Guillemots in the surf and impressive Bald Eagles soaring overhead. Spring in this beautiful archipelago promises memorable bird encounters and stunning vistas. 

Summer birding in Southern Gulf Islands

Summer birdwatching in the Southern Gulf Islands is a delightful experience. The warm season brings a vibrant display of birds and other wildlife to the picturesque archipelago. Look up for soaring Turkey Vultures or along the shores for Common Mergansers. Listen for the enchanting songs of Song Sparrows and keep your eyes peeled for a bright flash of Violet-green Swallows. The Southern Gulf Islands offer numerous opportunities to witness these and many more bird species amid the stunning island scenery during the summer months

Fall birding in Southern Gulf Islands

Fall in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia offers rewarding bird watching experiences as migratory wonders pass through. Gulls are a sure sight, with Bonaparte’s, Short-billed, California, and Glaucous-winged stopping in. Spot Black Turnstones and Surfbirds foraging along the rocky coast, or Red-Breasted Sapsuckers in the forests. The islands’ diverse habitats provide opportunities to witness these and other migratory species during their seasonal travels.

Winter birding in Southern Gulf Islands

Winter birdwatching in the Southern Gulf Islands is a serene and picturesque experience. While some migratory birds have headed south, the region still hosts a variety of avian residents. Seek out elegant Harlequin Ducks and hardy Black Oystercatchers along the coastline. In woodlands, listen for soft hoots of Barred Owls. Winter also brings charismatic Anna’s Hummingbirds to garden feeders. The Gulf Islands offer a tranquil winter retreat for bird enthusiasts amidst stunning coastal landscapes.

Galiano Island

The Gateway to the Southern Gulf Islands. Galiano is the closest island to Vancouver, and easily accessible from the mainland and local islands by ferry, boat or floatplane. Hike, bird and whale watch, fish and golf, then fill up your suitcase with art treasures from local shops.

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    Montague Harbour
    Montague Harbour, Galiano Island, BC V0N 1P0

    A popular campground on Galiano’s eastern shore, Montague Harbour Provincial Park features a sheltered harbour, a tidal lagoon and walk trails around the adjacent Gray Peninsula. The several shell middens located throughout the park, particularly on the northern beach tell the story of a rich history of shellfish harvesting in the area by first nations peoples. The area attracts birds year round, but is particularly significant in the winter for ducks such as Buffleheads, Goldeneyes, Mergansers and Scoters. Year-round, Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers, Black Oystercatchers and glaucous-winged gulls can be found in the park scavenging the shoreline for their next meal.

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    Pebble Beach Reserve
    Pebble Beach, Galiano Island, BC

    The Pebble Beach Reserve is a 152-acre section of land that is managed by the Galiano Conservancy Association to restore the area following industrial logging operations. The result is a 3.1km trail that loops through mature Coastal-Douglas fir forests towards over 1000 metres of shoreline. While there are ample opportunities for sightings along the trails and shoreline, a detour to nearby Laughlin Lake is a worthy hike as the productive wetland can yield good waterfowl sightings.

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    Galiano Island Ecological Reserve

    This unique bog habitat is a carefully protected ecological reserve lying at the heart of Galiano Island. The trail that loops through the park takes you around the edge of the wetland, where a number of rare plants flourish. Wildlife in the area includes beavers along with woodpeckers, waterfowl, song birds and birds of prey. A quiet site, it is a great place for a leisurely stroll, taking your time to immerse yourself in the biodiversity of this unique ecosystem.

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    Matthews Point Regional Park
    350 Mary Anne Point Rd, Galiano Island, BC V0N 1P0

    At the south end of Galiano Island overlooking the Active Pass Important Bird Area lies Matthews Point Regional Park. The steep bluffs are traversed by the 1km Ridge Trail that offers exceptional views over active pass where you may spot diving seabirds or marine mammals feeding in the rich tidal waters of the pass.

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    Bellhouse Provincial Park
    Bellhouse Rd, Galiano Island, BC V0N 1P0

    This park may be small, but it’s a great spot to see a large variety of birds. Bellhouse Park is located in the flight path of many migratory birds, with some 150 species having been spotted. It’s the perfect destination for birders.

Photo: Stasia Garraway
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    Bodega Ridge
    120 Manastee Rd, Galiano Island, BC V0N 1P0

    Two properties within a couple minutes drive or ten minute walk, either up on the 22 acre Bodega Ridge or down by the water at Bodega Cove. The Ridge has seven charming, self-contained log cabins, all with three bedrooms, living room, full kitchen and bath. Down at the seaside property, Bodega Cove, you will find 3 one bedroom cabins and 2 two bedroom cabins with beach access right across the road. Pet-friendly!

Mayne Island

Mayne is central to the Gulf Islands and a jumping off point for day trips to the other islands. An energetic and artistic community that strongly supports the buy local movement, Mayne Island is a mix of both the modern and the craft.

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    Bennett Bay
    Isabella Rd, Mayne Island, BC V0N 2J1

    Located at the south-eastern point of Mayne Island, Bennett Bay is a gorgeous sandy beach that provides an excellent launch point for paddlers in the area. This protected area includes trails that take hikers out to nearby Campbell point that offers incredible views south over the Strait of Georgia and is a popular spot for intertidal exploration. Great Blue Herons are often sighted in the area, as are cormorants and gulls.

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    Mount Parke Regional Park

    Mayne Island’s most popular hike, Mount Parke is a moderately challenging loop that rewards hikers with stunning views of the surrounding islands and ocean. While not the most abundant of habitats, some exciting species are known to frequent the area including the Barred Owl, Townsend’s Solitaire and Hairy Woodpecker. While the hike is a wonderful way to take in the sights of the Southern Gulf Islands, be sure not to leave the binoculars behind.

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    Lighthouse Point (Active Pass IBA)
    Mayne Island, BC V0N 2J1

    A visit to the Northeastern tip of Mayne Island not only takes you to the heritage Active Pass Lighthouse, it also brings you within the boundaries of the Active Pass Important Bird Area. The rich tidal waters of Active Pass support a number of bird species as well as marine mammals and fish. The Active Pass IBA was designated because it supports significant numbers of two species of waterbirds over winter, the Pacific Loon and Brandt’s Cormorant as well as populations of Bonaparte’s Gulls during the spring and fall migration.

Photo: Rachel Lenkowski
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    Yellow Bird Art Studio
    763 Steward Drive, Mayne Island

    A life-long BC artist and a senior member of the Federation of Canadian Artists, Deborah now calls Mayne Island home. The art she makes reflects her own encounters with birds and animals that cross her path.

    Visitors to the studio are welcome year round – please call or email ahead to arrange a visit.

    Book Now
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    Farm Gate Store
    568 Fernhill Rd, Mayne Island, BC V0N 2J2

    Starting as a produce and flower stand, this market has been in the making since the 1970s. They sell farm-grown produce, and organic and artisanal food goods from local businesses.

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    Books on Mayne
    574B Fernhill Rd, Mayne Island, BC V0N 2J2

    This charming bookstore has a selection of new and used books, works from local authors and local artwork. They also have a variety of non-fiction books and field guides.


Salt Spring Island

With its varied landscapes, innovative food scene, and abundance of local wares, it’s easy to lose yourself in the creativity and adventure of Salt Spring Island. Find solace in casual strolls on the beach and broad views of the Salish Sea, or nurture inspiration amidst the world-class artistry. When you’re done, feed your body and soul with its agricultural bounty and creative provisions. Then rest in the deep silence of a remote escape.

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    Ruckle Provincial Park
    Beaver Point Rd, Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 1W3

    One of the most scenic places in the Gulf Islands, Ruckle Provincial Park offers stunning views of the Salish Sea from its rolling parkland. A popular campground established on a heritage farmstead, the habitat here includes active farmland, coastal rainforest, open meadows and varied shoreline. If you are feeling adventurous, wandering the kilometres of trails will see you traverse these habitats, but simply examining the shoreline can prove a productive activity. Species commonly seen include cormorants, guillemots, eagles, owls and grouse.

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    Blackburn Lake Nature Reserve

    Two thirds of Blackburn Lake is protected as a nature reserve by the Saltspring Island Conservancy due to its importance as a haven for waterfowl, herons and ground nesting birds. The trail network covers 18 hectares and winds its way through the surrounding woodland and meadows before entering the wetland areas. Over 100 species of birds have been observed in the reserve, including 21 species at risk such as the Northern Pygmy-owl, Band-tailed Pigeon and Black Swift.

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    Mt. Tuam Ecological Reserve

    Located at the southwest corner of Salt Spring Island, a hike in Mount Tuam Ecological Reserve rewards with stunning views towards Victoria and the United States. The ecological reserve was established to conserve forest ecosystems representative of the dry subzone of the Coastal Douglas-fir Zone. A large variety of birds have been recorded, including Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Blue Grouse, California Quail, Brown Creeper, Woodpeckers and Bewick’s Wren. The trail takes a bit of route finding, so be sure to do your research before departing.

Photo: Stasia Garraway
 Visitor Centre

Pender Island

Reset your inner clock to island time when you explore the two islands of Pender. Find a mix of charming, modern, and tried and true amongst lush forests, picturesque coves and beaches, farmlands, rolling hills, lakes and small mountains. Cycle, fish, hike, boat, sail, scuba dive, golf or just relax into a romantic getaway at the resorts, cafes, bistros, bakery, pub, studios and the shops of the Driftwood Centre.

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    Brooks Point Regional Park
    Gowlland Pt Rd, Pender Island, BC V0N 2M3

    Located at the southeastern tip of Pender Island, this shoreline park stretches east to Gowlland Point forming an undeveloped stretch of oceanfront with rocky bluffs, grassy meadows, wetlands and forest. Follow the trails to explore the headland as you make your way to one of the beach accesses and be sure not to miss the boardwalk that passes through the wetland area of the park. With over 151 species observed here, take your time to scan the shoreline for the endangered Marbled Murrelet sometimes spotted in the surrounding waters.

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    Hope Bay

    An important overwintering site for waterfowl, a visit to Hope Bay can prove productive year round. With 134 species observed in the area, including Marbled Murrelets, Pied-billed Grebes and the charismatic Belted Kingfisher, a stroll along the secluded shoreline is an enjoyable excursion.

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    Roe Lake

    Deviating from the predominantly coastal bird watching that is so productive on the Gulf Islands, Roe lake offers an inland wetland environment to supplement your shoreline sightings. The moderate Roe Lake Trail winds its way through the forest to the water before continuing to loop around the lake offering scenic vantage points along the way and the occasional beaver sighting. Of the 100 + species spotted here, some highlights include the Great Horned Owl, Pacific Slope Flycatcher and American Coot.

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    Roesland - Gulf Island National Park Reserve
    2895 S Otter Bay Rd, Pender Island, BC V0N 2M1

    Formerly a pioneer homestead and now a scenic seaside park. Keep your eyes peeled for sightings of eagles soaring above, sea stars in the intertidal zones, and playful harbour seals in the surrounding waters.

Photo: Rachel Lenkowski

Saturna Island

Being a small island, there are limited ways to get here but you will be rewarded with the most charming new experiences. Watch the eagles soar above, the orcas swim past and the sun sink out of the sky. Cycle across the island and sleep under the stars. Kayak under the ancient cliffs with the creatures of the Salish Sea. Hike along the highest point in the Southern Gulf Islands and see the world from a perspective you’ve never seen before.

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    Winter Cove
    Church Bay Rd, Saturna, BC V0N 2Y0

    Taking you through a beautiful forested area to Winter Cove, a peaceful and secluded bay on the island’s southern tip, the Winter Cove Trail is a 1.5km loop. The trail is relatively flat and easy, with a few sections that are rocky and uneven. Once you reach Winter Cove, you can search for Double Crested Cormorants and Dark Eyed Junco, relax on the beach, go for a swim, or explore the tide pools.

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    East Point Park

    Part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, and home to the iconic East Point Lighthouse. In East Point Park you can watch orcas from as close as 20 feet from the shore, as well as sea lions, seals, porpoises and numerous species of birds like Bonaparte’s Gulls and Surf Scoters. Explore along the sculpted sandstone cliffs and see right across the Strait of Georgia.

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    Mount Warburton Pike

    Mount Warburton Pike is the highest peak on Saturna Island, with an elevation of 401m, offering stunning views of Vancouver Island, the San Juan Islands, and the Olympic Peninsula. As you hike along Brown Ridge Nature Trail, while you spot Pine Siskins and Mountain Bluebirds you may also encounter the feral goats which range the craggy cliffs.

Photo: Rachel Lenkowski

Events and Conservation Groups in the Southern Gulf Islands

Saturna Island Marine Research and Education Society

A community-based non-profit organization building awareness of marine life and ecosystems in the Salish Sea. Working to promote scientific, evidence-based research and providing support and facilities for marine research and education on Saturna Island.

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Galiano Conservancy Association

A community based non-profit society and registered charity that aims to protect, steward and restore Galiano Island ecosystems by creating a network of natural areas where a healthy environment, learning and a love of nature flourish.

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Mayne Island Conservancy

Working with the community to conserve the ecology of Mayne Island and its surrounding waters for future generations.

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Pender Islands Conservancy

A group of people who value and appreciate the natural beauty of the Pender Islands and the surrounding Salish Sea, and understand the importance of preserving the varied habitats found here.

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Salt Spring Island Conservancy

The Salt Spring Island Conservancy protects and enhances the natural values of the island and its surrounding waters by acquiring land or covenants, and by educating landholders and the public toward improved land and water stewardship.

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Nature Salt Spring

Nature Salt Spring hopes to deepen Islanders’ enjoyment and connection with nature by offering exciting events, engaging presentations and hands-on explorations of the natural world with a focus on their island home.

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Stqeeye’ Learning Society

Supporting self-determination, relationship building, and reconciliation through traditional ecological restoration and land-based education programs.

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Mayne Island Bird Count

The Mayne Island Big Day Bird Count is a part of the Global Big Day; an annual celebration of wild birds coinciding with International Migratory Bird Day.

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