Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

Have tent, will island-hop




The hot summer months can be short-lived in southwest British Columbia so you’ve got to make the most out of every sunny weekend. And there’s no better way to do it than by tossing some camp gear in your trunk, gathering a crew of people ready to shift into island time, and making a break for the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, Harbour Road, Sidney, BC, Canada

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Islands to explore


Frontcountry campgrounds


Backcountry campgrounds


Planning your getaway

Getting the most out of the Gulf Islands

Hop on a ferry or two

While each of the islands have their own personality, one thing is always the same: ferries will be involved. If you’re coming from the mainland, ferries from Tsawwassen depart multiple times a day for Swartz Bay (Vancouver Island). Once there, you’ll find regular car and passenger ferries to carry you and your camping gear over to the larger Southern Gulf Islands.

The rest of the smaller islands are only accessible by passenger ferries, water taxis, private boats, or better yet, your own human-powered kayak.

Friendly, forested and easy to get to

Just minutes away from Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal is McDonald Campground – the gateway to explore the rest of the park and neighbouring islands. This campground is home to 49 campsites and is a great place to kick off your island-hopping adventure. Reservations are recommended for frontcountry car campsites and you can make them online through Parks Canada.

Gulf Island disc golf

From McDonald Campground, it’s another ferry ride away to Prior Centennial Campground on North Pender Island. It is home to 17 campsites (both drive-in and walk-in) and is one of only two campgrounds in the entire park reserve that allows campfires (McDonald is the other one). So, s’mores and artful open-fire cooking.

This campground often fills up in summer so be sure to book early. There’s a free bring-your-own-disc golf course nearby where you can test your aim on a 27-hole course that winds its way through the woods just north of Magic Lake.

The long stretch of beach at Sidney Spit

Located at the northern tip of Sidney Island, Sidney Spit is the ultimate Gulf Island oasis. To get here, you’ll need to leave your car behind – it’s accessible only by walk-on ferry or private boat (wheelbarrows make it easier to move camping gear to your site). This unique geographical feature is one of the park reserve’s most notable attractions: a skinny strip that stretches northwest towards a small navigational light at the very end.

You can also try sea kayaking to this campground, just be sure to watch the weather forecast beforehand and check for small craft advisories. After a long paddle, you’ll be glad to rest your head at Sidney Spit Campground, a 100% reservable campground made up of long stretches of sandy beaches as well as forested areas. Need camping or kayaking gear? Check out rentals to get set up.

Essential Gear

Find what you need for a Gulf Islands getaway.

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