This fall is a great time to discover Canada and take advantage of our strong US dollar that buys approximately 1.3 Canadian dollars.
Explore the Gulf Islands
From wildlife spotting to wine tasting, the Gulf Islands off the coast of southern Vancouver Island, close to the lovely city of Victoria, are the perfect place to unwind and explore. Ferries and floatplanes depart Victoria daily to each of the five breathtaking locations:
Salt Spring Island: The most populated of the Gulf Islands with 10,000 residents, Salt Spring Island is alive with art galleries and restaurants. Their farmer’s markets are legendary, from the Saturday Market in Ganges (April to October) to their new Market in the Meadows, and make sure you bring your appetite to the Tuesday night farm to table market. Artcraft, the Arts Council-run gallery and gift shop in Ganges is the perfect place to check out crafts created by local artisans. Enjoy hiking Mount Maxwell’s Cliffside trail or picnicking at Beddis Beach.
Mayne Island: Uncrowded even during peak season, Mayne Island is the place to wind down and relax. Watch boats and ferries cruising through Active Pass, cycle past sheep farms or hike to Mayne’s highest viewpoint at Mount Park Regional Park. Join a yoga retreat, stroll through their exquisite Japanese Gardens, or visit one of the Island’s many art galleries.
Galiano Island: Rent a Smart car or scooter to explore Galiano’s beautiful beaches, parks and trails. Boaters will enjoy mooring at Montague Harbour and taking in the incredible views, while photographers will not want to miss the sunsets at Bellhouse Park. Check out Bluff Park, a great place, to hike, bird watch, picnic and discover a fascinating part of Galiano’s history – the restored Japanese Charcol Pits.
Saturna Island: Enjoy a rural escape on Saturna Island, connected by BC Ferries via Mayne Island or by floatplane. Check out the natural refuges at Mount Warburton Pike or East Point known as Canada’s premier land-based whale-watching site. Visit local art studios and galleries or take a tour of Saturna Island Family Estate Winery. Almost half of Saturna Island is protected within Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, including East Point, which is home of a beautifully restored red and white fog alarm building and is one of the most photographed spots on the Island.
Pender Island: Joined by a land bridge, North and South Pender offer diverse experiences, from beach walks, day hikes and golfing to winery tours, spa treatments and boutique shopping. Promising “the simple pleasures of nature in a modern camp aesthetic, The Woods on Pender, www.woodsonpender.com is located on a beautiful forest adjacent to Prior Centennial National Park on Pender Island. The property features 6 hot tubs, several grass play areas, lawn and board games, and beautiful places to unwind with hammocks, fire pits and Adirondack chairs. The accommodations are unique, ranging from glamping in their luxurious Airstreams to escaping life in a rustic cabin – and if you need a break from cooking – check out their farm to table food prepared at their “Coffee & Kitchen” restaurant.
Mountains and beaches surround Vancouver making it scenically sensational. However, the city is sophisticated too, with chic shopping, healthy cuisine and fascinating festivals.
If you’re adventurous, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, whitewater rafting are nearby. The Whistler Resort is only a 75-mile drive north on one of the most scenic routes in the area.
Redwood Route North of San Francisco and Los Angeles
Pack the car, pick up a picnic, load the bikes and drive up Highway 101 to sunbathe or swim in the Eel River. Or lace up your walking shoes or hop on your bike to hike or pedal in the coastal redwood forests among the silent giants.
Take a detour from Highway 101 to the world famous Avenue of the Giants, a 33-mile scenic drive. Several years ago my husband and I cycled under the 300-foot canopy above us through these spectacular redwood groves, stopping to picnic and cool our feet in the Eel River. We were awed by the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world in nearby Humboldt Redwood State Park. Turnouts and parking areas gave us easy access to walk deeper into the woods on short loops.
The historic Benbow Inn overlooks the Eel River three miles from Garberville and 6 miles from Richardson Grove State Park. Built in 1925, this Tudor-style inn offers a nine-hole golf course, afternoon tea in the parlor, antique-filled rooms with fireplaces, an excellent restaurant, an RV park and options to fish or rent a canoe. Gary and I lingered at the hotel for a romantic dinner in the elegant dining room.
Whenever possible, we like to sleep right in the middle of the forest or by a stream or river. Since we no longer camp, we rented a rustic cozy cabin nestled in the redwoods along the river with a kitchenette, outdoor fire pit and picnic table. The Redwood River Resort and the Miranda Gardens Resort offer cabins. Or consider the ten-room Myers Inn, a 3-minute walk from the famous Drive-Thru Tree.