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Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada


Facilities and Services | Pre-trip Checklist | Safety Tips | What You Need to Know

Four boys with life jackets on
Enjoy the warm, sandy beaches of Sidney Spit
© Parks Canada / Tony Hewitt

Despite the cold pacific waters, swimming in the ocean is a popular activity in the park, especially on warm summer days.

Facilities and Services

Although the park provides no swimming or lifeguard services, swimming is allowed. The most popular swimming locations are:

  • Sidney Spit, Sidney Island
  • East Point, Saturna Island
  • Cabbage Island, near  Saturna Island

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

Pre-trip Checklist

The equipment you bring on your day trip will depend on whether you are driving, hiking or paddling. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Plenty of water - Potable water at car campgrounds only
  • Garbage bags – Garbage facilities at car campgrounds only
  • Warm clothes – Wool and quick dry polypropylene are good for the climate
  • Non-slip water shoes
  • Towels and picnic blanket
  • First aid kit
  • Sun screen, sunglasses and hat
  • Camera
  • Picnic basket or snacks

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:

  • The waters in the Gulf Islands are cold, and hypothermia can occur even after a short swim. Wear a wetsuit or other protective clothing to protect from hypothermia. Bring a towel and have warm clothes handy.
  • Tides can rapidly affect or change ocean conditions. Ocean currents can be strong and rogue waves can occur. Generally, the waters at Sidney Spit are a more sheltered location for family swimming.
  • Learn to swim and supervise children closely at all times.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. If you are unfamiliar with the beach you are visiting, wade through the water. Never dive into unfamiliar waters. Cliff-jumping is extremely dangerous and is not advised.
  • Swim parallel to shore when swimming long distances. Stay in shallow waters.
  • Swim with a buddy and let someone know where you are going and when you are planning to return.
  • Stay well hydrated drinking fresh water only. Alcohol and ocean swimming is a bad mix.

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

What you Need to Know

  • Respect closures for Special Preservation Areas when choosing your picnic spot. For example, park islets and Sidney Spit Lagoon.

ATTENTION: The inner lagoon, hook spit and vegetated centre of Sidney Spit are particularly sensitive ecosystems and have been designated special preservation areas where many threatened species are protected. Access is prohibited.

  • Leave natural and cultural objects such as shells, driftwood, bricks and other artefacts undisturbed for others to discover and enjoy.
  • Consumption of alcohol in public places such as beaches and day use areas is prohibited.
  • Fires are prohibited everywhere in the park, including beaches and below the high tide mark. The only exception is in the fire rings provided in drive-in campgrounds.
  • 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.