There are few places in the world that capture me so much I feel the need to return. It is even more rare for Laura to find a place outside of Vancouver she would consider moving to. Mayne Island, one of the Southern Gulf Islands in British Columbia, is one of those places.
A lot of people, even those who live in Vancouver, still don’t know about this little island. Most visitors interested in the Gulf Islands head to the more developed Saltspring Island. Yet, the charm of Mayne Island lies in its simplicity. The coffee shop is little more than a guy serving coffee from his kitchen and is only open when he’s on the island. There is one small grocery store, a liquor/convenience store, a gas station/post office, the tiniest museum ever, and not much else.
So what makes Mayne Island so magical? In the span of three days, we saw seals, otters, an owl, bald eagles, hawks, 3 different kinds of frog, porpoises, deer, garter snakes…I haven’t experienced such an abundance of wildlife since my visits to Costa Rica. If you are into experiencing the beauty of nature, Mayne Island has it in abundance for you.
Things to Do on Mayne Island
Camping The more time you spend outside, the more likely you are to encounter wildlife. As well, fresh air rejuvenates the soul. Seal Beach Campground is located right on the ocean and has 22 acres of forest to explore, and secret swings in the trees to discover. The best sites are on the ocean front, but even the group site was well-treed and pretty. This isn’t a place people typically come to for partying, so you can expect friendly and respectful campers as your neighbours. But perhaps the best thing about Seal Beach Campground is the outdoor shower. Imagine looking out at the ocean through tall cedar trees while warm water pours over you. There are precious few opportunities to be naked in nature like this, and I would go back for this shower alone. The second best thing about camping on Mayne Island? There are no bears or cougars.
Kayaking Mayne Island is sheltered by several other islands and has relatively calm waters for ocean kayaking. Boats and paddle boards are available for rent so you can get out and explore the shoreline and nearby islands.
Hiking There’s a short and pretty walk at Bennet Bay through the Gulf Island National Park Reserve, but this isn’t much of a hike. For more serious hiking, head to Mt. Parke in the centre of the island. There are several trail heads in the area with loops of about 3km. For a longer hike, combine one or more of these loops together. We did the Plumber Pass Loop trail, which has the option of hiking up to a view point. The course was challenging enough to be interesting, but not so bad I couldn’t do it on a bad ankle. Walk slow and keep your eyes open for wildlife.
Living A visit to Mayne Island is about slowing down and taking the time to really be there. Chat with the local residents or just meditate on infinity as you gaze across the ocean. Let your curiosity guide you. Look at tide pools like you did when you were a kid. Marvel at all the colours of rocks on the beach. Buy some local produce from a road-side stand using the honour system.
Swimming BC waters may be frigid, but on Mayne Island, they are clean and clear. Plus, the cold is good for your circulation if you’re brave enough to jump in. Alternatively, just float around on an inflatable unicorn.
Playing Head to Dinner Bay Park where you can try your hand at disc golf (I think you need your own frisbees) on a challenging looking course through the forest. If you don’t have a frisbee, there is a putting green that has putters and balls you can borrow, as well as a horseshoe pit complete with real horseshoes. After all the excitement, walk over to the Japanese garden for a dose of calm and tranquility.
Tips for Visiting Mayne Island
Bring some food with you, especially if you have dietary restrictions. The grocery store can be pricey since they have to ship all that food over. Gluten-free options are very limited, although the Trading Post had some gluten-free flour and oats.
Make a ferry reservation. If you are driving, it doesn’t cost anything extra to make a reservation on this route and could potentially save you many hours of waiting for a spot on a boat.
Don’t over plan. Mayne Island is small and the best part of visiting is being guided by your mood and interests in the moment. If you don’t have a car, you can rent bikes or moped at the gas station (though keep in mind, Mayne Island has its fair share of hills).
Maps with a list of events are available on the ferry and at most businesses on the island.
Be green. Mayne Island doesn’t have a landfill, so be prepared to carry your trash out with you (or you can pay to leave it on the island). Conserve water, especially during the summer months when the wells start running low.
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