The May long weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. While the standard, two-day weekend trip leaves me feeling like I packed all my gear only to unpack it again, three days transforms into a glorious escape.
May 19-21 is the ideal opportunity to take advantage of Vancouver’s proximity to a maze of stunning islands, all accessible by ferry. With many BC Ferry trips in the 40 minute to 2-hour range, all you have to do is choose an activity, let it determine your destination and head out.
Victoria Day parade viewing. Hiking. Kayaking. Camping. Beach lounging. Locavore lunching. Wine tasting. Art crawling.
Here’s a round up of island hopping destinations and activities for the long weekend ahead.
Victoria, Vancouver Island
Ferry: Tsawwassen to Schwartz Bay
Named after Queen Vic, it’s fitting that Victoria holds the most impressive annual Victoria Day Parade by Island Farms. Over 120,000 spectators turn out to watch the marching bands, floats and clowns on May 21.
The parade starts from Mayfair Shopping Centre at 9am and proceeds down Douglas Street, finishing at the intersection of Douglas and Humboldt in the downtown core. Prepare for the celebratory Brit festivities by taking afternoon tea at one of Victoria’s many tea rooms, including the regal, waterfront Fairmont Empress.
Rathtrevor Beach, Vancouver Island
Ferry: Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay
Since Queen Vic’s reign, travellers have flocked to Rathtrevor Beach to enjoy a BC rarity: a warm summer swim. Rathtrevor boasts the province’s balmiest water – 21 C in the summer months.
How is this possible? At low tide the ocean recedes almost a kilometer, providing an ideal place for visitors of all ages to play in the sand and explore the shoreline tide pools. When the tide rolls in over the sun-baked sand, the warmed water is ready for swimming. Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park in Parksville also offers campsites in the old grwoth forest.
Ferry: Tsawwassen to Sturdies Bay
Pack your hiking shoes and camping gear. The rugged Galiano Island is ideal for sturdy outdoor adventurers, as it’s home to a number of natural parks and recreation areas including Mount Galiano and Dionisio Point Provincial Park, which encompasses forested uplands, wildflower meadows, and both pebble and sand beaches.
Ferry: Horseshoe Bay to Langdale
Although it’s part of the mainland, the Sunshine Coast tends to feel like an exclusive island getaway because you have to hop on a ferry (or plane) to get there, and it’s guaranteed to be warmer than Vancouver. The coast stretches from Langdale to Lund and there are many scenic, quirky beachfront communities to explore along the way.
The May long weekend is historically busy for BC Ferries so make sure and check the traffic levels on BC Ferries’ website and reserve in advance. For more travel planning ideas, drop by the BC Ferries Vacation office in downtown Vancouver.
What’s your favourite long weekend ferry destination? Add by commenting below.