Gold is what brought explorers in droves to this part of the world. But what we come for are the epic sunsets and majestic scenery, the ultimate reward after a breathtakingly beautiful Salish Sea passage. You’ll be living the life when trying to decide where to drop anchor for the night––along the shore of one of hundreds of the Gulf Islands nestled in hidden inlets, or beside fjords. Sail north and enjoy more intimacy with few vessels and distant ports where you will fall asleep to the sounds of water lapping against the bow of your yacht.
In the mid-1800s the Hudson Bay Company set up a fur trading post named Fort Victoria. This tiny European settlement grew during the California Gold Rush to serve the needs of prospectors. With so many wonderful places to drop anchor, you’ll be able to take in all the beauty this part of the world has to offer.
Surprise your sweetheart with a day sail to Victoria, the perfect romantic escape. Sea life abounds here with orcas, seals, and otters as well as eagles, herons and other birds. Exploring Sookie Harbor’s sheltered waters could be the ultimate in leisure cruising. When you do step onshore, you’ll feel as if you just arrived in Europe.
Splurge on a royal afternoon tea at The Fairmont Empress, which opened over a century ago. Originally constructed for the Canadian Pacific Railway, the hotel serves more afternoon teas in Summer than most hotels in London. Round out the charm with a horse and carriage ride through the streets of the old city. A stroll through Butchart Gardens, over 100 years in bloom, will find you recalling the city’s heyday when it was the busiest port north of San Francisco.
Be sure to check out Van Isle 360 Degree International Yacht Race, a sailing race of 580 nautical miles that circumnavigates the rugged beauty that is Vancouver Island. Or you might enjoy the Swiftsure International Yacht Race held in May by the Royal Victoria Yacht Club.
The Gulf Islands Archipelago
This paradise where island hopping is a way of life, makes boating not only pleasurable but also essential. Welcome to a yachting playground with all the toys featuring seaside restaurants, fishing, and world-class diving.
With a heart for the romantic, we set sail for Sidney Spit on the north end of Sidney Island where the sand is as fine as any found in the Caribbean and the water crystal clear. Where enchanting walks find you discovering your own private beaches. Don’t worry, you won’t have far to walk, although you can walk endlessly around the island if you wish. Its major attraction––solitude. As it isn’t serviced by any ferries, your only companions on land are likely to be the many island shorebirds, a popular haunt because of the spit’s tidal flats and salt marshes. We had the best sunsets of our passage here, so incredible we had to keep getting up from our feast of BBQ halibut to photos of the spectacle’s ever-deepening, vibrant colors.
For even more enchantment sail the dinghy to Sidney, a charming seaside town, and get your land legs back by admiring its rustic beauty. This is also a great opportunity to explore the coastline of the Saanich Peninsula and all its wonders including privately-owned Butchart Gardens, created by Jennie Butchart to beautify her husband’s quarry, which resulted in the breathtaking Sunken Garden. Later, indulge in cider tastings to find your favorite at nearby Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse.
Poet’s Cove, South Pender Island
Sail a bit further north to discover the sleepy hamlets of North and South Pender Island. We cozied into South Pender Island’s Poet’s Cove and dropped anchor along rocky cliffs. We appreciated the boats of our fellow mariners while admiring the stunning backdrops. While we dropped anchor, a curious young buck greeted us from shore, his antlers newly grown.
So much to inspire here, you may find yourself writing poetry. Not only picturesque, this is also a great port to enter Canada easily with passport checks done over the phone at the harbor office. The resort here includes spa services with an ocean view pool and hot tub which might be the perfect two-day shore leave during your passage. A short walk to the top of Mt. Norman awes with panoramic views of the Southern Gulf Islands, San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island.
Many shallow inlets and coves around Cortes, Quadra and Sonora Islands provide lots of enjoyment in the warm water. With sixty miles of stunning coastline, small islands and gorgeous bays and coves, this yachting playground will impress the most discerning adventurer, perhaps the jewel in the crown of British Columbian yachting. The waters of the Marine Park here are smooth with a bounty of clams, crabs, oysters, prawns and salmon too. Because the water is so warm here, some of the warmest north of Mexico, you will enjoy the summer months, particularly May and September, when you can treasure the sound of whales spouting, enjoy your fresh catch of crab, and witness bear sightings along the shore.