Facilities and services | Pre-trip checklistSafety tips | What you need to know

A family sits on a sailboat in a Gulf Islands National Park Reserve harbour
Peaceful anchorage near Saturna Island

Lovely scenery, sheltered waters and convenient services make the Gulf Islands an ideal boating destination.

Short travel distances make it easy to experience the distinctive culture and lifestyle of each island, and there’s plenty to do. Get off the boat for a day and go for a hike, browse the shops, dine on west coast fare or visit a farmer’s market, winery or heritage site. Whether you own your own boat (lucky you!) or you plan to book a kayak guide or a water taxi, check out the park’s many destinations that are only accessible by private vessel:

  • Tumbo Island
  • Cabbage Island
  • James Bay, Prevost Island
  • Princess Margaret (Portland Island)
  • Russell Island
  • Isle de Lis
  • Sidney Spit, Sidney Island 
  • D'Arcy Island

Facilities and services

  • Mooring buoys: Sidney Spit (Sidney Island), Beaumont (South Pender) and Cabbage Island.
  • Dock space: Sidney Spit. Dinghy dock space for day use at several other locations. NOTE: Docks at Sidney Spit and Princess Bay (Princess Margaret/ Portland) are removed for the winter from October 1 to May 14.
  • Fees are charged for mooring buoys and the Sidney Spit dock after 3 pm. Cash payment only.

NOTE: Marinas and boat charter companies are plentiful in the area. Pump-out facilities are located in the area at Port Sidney Marina, Van Isle Marina, and Tsehum Harbour Authority in Sidney and at the Saltspring Island Harbour Authority in Ganges Harbour on Saltspring Island. Washington State operates numerous pump-out facilities in the adjacent San Juan Islands.

Check out our Hiking, Camping and Boating Guide to learn more about park facilities including locations and operating dates.

Pre-trip checklist

  • Obtain marine charts. The following charts cover portions of this region: 3473, 3476, 3477, 3478, 3441, 3442, and 3462. Charts are available in paper or digital format. Check the Canadian Hydrographic Service website for the location of a chart dealer near you.
  • Check the marine forecast.
  • Consult tide tables and currents.
  • Bring drinking water; potable water is only provided at the drive-in campgrounds and at Sidney Spit. ATTENTION: Sidney Spit water sodium content is high and it is not recommended for people with health conditions.
  • Bring garbage bags as there are no garbage facilities in the park reserve except at car campgrounds.

Make sure to check the Important Bulletins for closures and public safety alerts before you leave home.

Safety tips

When visiting Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, you are in an area where rescue services and medical assistance may take time to reach you in case of an emergency. Ensure that you have the level of training and experience necessary to take responsibility for your safety.

Some safety tips include:

  • Inspect your boat and safety equipment.
  • Monitor the weather when planning your trip and throughout the day.
  • Always carry a VHF marine radio.
  • Leave your sail plan and emergency contact information with a family member or friend.
  • Canada Shipping Act Collision Regulations apply to pleasure craft.
  • For information on equipment, licence, competency requirements and tips on how to stay safe on the water, consult the Safe Boating Guide provided by Transport Canada.

Obtain emergency contact information and learn more about Visitor Safety at Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.

What you need to know

  • Vessel size guidelines for mooring buoys:
    • Up to 15 metres with winds under 30 knots
    • Up to 12 metres with winds from 30-37 knots
  • One vessel only per buoy; rafting is prohibited.
  • Be courteous to others and slow down in moorage areas to avoid creating large wakes.
  • Respect closures for special preservation areas. Stay at least 100 metres from islets and marine wildlife. Observe marine wildlife viewing guidelines.
  • Avoid dumping garbage, or discharging sewage or pollutants in the waters. For information on green boating practices, consult Protecting the Marine Environment - A Boater's Guide.
  • Quiet hours: 10 pm - 8 am
  • It is illegal to consume alcohol in public places, including day use areas, beaches and docks.
  • Impaired boating, like impaired driving, is a criminal offence.
  • Dogs must be on leash at all times and their droppings removed from the park.

Learn more about other National Park Regulations.

"Leave No Trace™" principles promote and inspire responsible outdoor recreation and stewardship. Learn more about Leave no Trace™ in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.