Friday, 14 December 2012 12:02 PM
Canada is a stunning corner of the world to embark on a sailing trip, with the waters that surround the country something of a hidden gem. The Gulf Islands in particular are perfect for a yacht charter holiday in Canada for several reasons, with five of the best listed below.
1. There's plenty of variety
With more than 200 islands in the Gulf group, you can be sure to experience lots of different attractions and scenery when you charter a yacht around this part of the world. Located between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island, the Gulf archipelago's most populated destination is Salt Spring Island.
Just a handful of the other places you might decide to stop off at to explore include Hornby Island, Denman Island and Saturna Island.
2. Salt Spring Island
As mentioned, Salt Spring Island is the most popular stop among holidaymakers, as there's plenty going on here. Drop anchor off its coast and step onto its shore and you can take part in a variety of activities, such as beachcombing, golf, cycling, swimming and hiking.
This latter pasttime is suited to people of all abilities, with the island boasting trails that range from the very easy to the challenging. One of the most accessible walking routes is through the Ruckle Provincial Park, which is filled with forests and picnic facilities on the waterfront. For a hike that is a bit more difficult, head to Mount Erskine. You will tackle 1,100 ft in elevation as you watch peregrine falcons fly above you.
Salt Spring Island is the perfect place to tuck into a hearty meal before the next leg of your yacht charter, with everything from fresh organic produce from farmers to higher-end restaurants on offer. If your stop-off coincides with a Saturday in the summer, make sure you head to the town of Ganges, which is famous for its open-air market.
3. The sailing conditions
The best months to come sailing around the Gulf Islands are May through to September, as the temperatures are warm, the weather dry and the winds a lot lighter compared with other times of the year. This means you can enjoy some leisurely sailing, giving you plenty of time to soak up the stunning scenery as you make your way across the water.
October is also a popular month thanks to the potential to see spawning salmon, while if you come in April you are well placed to spot grizzly and black bears and Pacific Grey whales. It can be cold with strong winds, though, so it depends on what type of sailing you prefer. In the summer, the typical wind speed ranges between 8 and 12 knots and comes from either the east-northeast or the west-northwest.
4. Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve spans 36 sq km of marine and land across 15 of the southern isles and was set up in 2003 to protect this area. You can take a lovely stroll along one of its beaches or grab a kayak and get up close to the pretty coastline, hopefully spotting plenty of flora and fauna along the way.
Indeed, wildlife enthusiasts will be in their element here, with seals, otters, porpoises and orcas just some of the creatures that call the waters in the reserve home. Eagles and turkey vultures are likely to be in the sky above you, while on dry land you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of sharp-tailed snakes, butterflies and the Columbian black-tailed deer.
5. Denman Island
Home to approximately 1,000 people, Denman Island is dotted with lakes, rocky shores, parks and orchards and the most popular thing to do here is enjoy the great outdoors. Explore its orchards and farms by foot as you hike across the beautiful landscape.
Neighbouring Hornby Island is popular among Canadian residents for summer getaways, and Denman Island is often seen as a place people pass by in order to reach their intended destination. Its locals do not mind this, though, and are happy for the isle to be a quiet and relaxing place where people can escape from it all. If you do want something a bit livelier, there's nothing stopping you making your way to Hornby Island to see what all the fuss is about.