A Quiet Spot on the Road to Nowhere
The Gulf Islands archipelago – a string of some 100 partially submerged mountain peaks lying in the Strait of Georgia, between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia – is Canada’s answer to Washington’s popular San Juans, though nowhere near as busy.
Vancouver and Victoria weekenders cherish the quiet, low-key atmosphere and the old ways of the local towns and villages, which dot twenty-five of the archipelago’s islands. Take a kayak out for a spin here and you’re more likely to bump into a seal or Dali’s porpoise than another tourist.
Of the five most visited southern Gulf Islands, Salt Spring is the most popular and also the largest, with 82 miles of ragged coastline and a population of 9,000. The main town of Ganges sits on a protected cove filled with bobbing sailboats, and is becoming known for its small but growing colony of artists and craftspeople, some internationally known.
Incongruously perched above the town amid 30 acres of flowering English gardens, towering Douglas firs, and water views is one of western Canada’s most exclusive hideaways, the Tudor-style Hastings House.
Despite its swank English-estate-cum-elegant-country-inn decor, the Hastings House embraces the Gulf Islands’ casual lifestyle except at dinner, when men are requested to wear jackets. It offers some of the best dining west of Vancouver, prepared with ingredients plucked from the inn’s gardens and orchards and pulled from the islands’ fish-rich waters and fertile farmland.