Island Profile: Gabriola Island

One of my favourite parts of penning my Island Profile posts is combing through Flickr for related photos. Vancouver Island is full of locals and visitors who each capture their experience of Island life in ways that are entirely unique. It’s almost impossible to avoid encompassing a body of water when taking those photos, and snapping shots of Gabriola Island is no exception.

Gabriola Island 2010

Photo: Gord McKenna on Flickr

A stone’s skip across the water from Nanaimo, Gabriola Island is one of the largest of the southern Gulf Islands with a population that barely exceeds 4,000. The summer months see that number climb to almost 6,000. Its close proximity to Vancouver Island by way of a 21-minute ferry ride make Gabriola Island a favourite escape while maintaining a sense of connection.

Photo: Google Maps

Photo: biffoto on Flickr

Like most of Vancouver Island’s Gulf Islands, Gabriola is steeped in a rich history. Perhaps most famous for its petroglyphs, the ancient rock carvings are a key to the island’s archeological roots. It’s thought that Gabriola Island was inhabited as far back as at least 1500 BCE [source] with the island’s First Nations heritage belonging to the Snuneymuxw First Nation.

Gabriola Island’s name is thought to have been derived following the arrival of José María Narváez on the island in 1791; he christened it as Punta de Gaviola.

Oct 12-08 Arbutus Oct 12-08 Gabriola Island
Photos: sointula on Flickr

Gabriola Island
Photo: ActiveSteve on Flickr

The earliest settlers on Gabriola Island can be traced back to the late 1800s, many of which were blended families with Europeans men and First Nations’ wives. The population didn’t start to swell until the 1950s, but “hippie immigration” caused the population to balloon by the mid-1980s with residents numbering approximately 2,000. In 2010, farming maintains the title of Gabriola Island’s chief industry.

Feet 7
Photo: busysignals on Flickr

Gabriola Island
Photo: HerToesInTheSand on Flickr

Photo: KatysPix on Flickr

What makes Gabriola Island so incredible is the varied topography. Forests, beaches, rock cliffs, arbutus trees and brightly coloured floral splashes everywhere you look only add to the natural charm. Gabriola Island is home to three provincial parks, the most notable being Descanso Bay Regional Park. It’s where you will find the Malaspina Galleries – a display of breathtaking natural sandstone formations that seem more likely to be found on the planet Mars than coastal BC.

Rocky Beach
Photo: Aphex Twin on Flickr

Silva Bay, Gabriola Island (8)
Photo: YatterMatters on Flickr

Gabriola Island
Photo: canoe too on Flickr

Summertime on Vancouver Island’s Gulf Islands always holds a little bit of magic. Dozens of resident artisans and craft people sell their wares at the vibrant summer market, while true shopping lovers will want to see Folklife Village. What was once the Folklife Pavilion at Expo 86 – demonstrating Canada’s earliest settlers – is now at the heart of Gabriola Island’s shopping.

A number of festivals and events help to extend the summertime magic year-round, including the Thanksgiving Weekend Studio and Gallery Tour, the Dancing Man Music Festival and the enchanting Home and Garden Tour.

Gabriola Island - Aug09
Photo: canoe too on Flickr

Gabriola Island
Photos: Rachel Fishman and danthon on Flickr

Photo: KatysPix on Flickr

There’s certainly no shortage of outdoor opportunities on Gabriola Island. This community boasts fantastic sailing and recreational boating, sea kayaking, diving, fishing, cycling, hiking, camping and even golfing. A nine-hole golf course with panoramic views over Hoggan Lake is home to the Gabriola Golf & Country Club.

Photo: biffoto on Flickr

Sunset, Gabriola Island, BC
Photo: Robert Ciavarro on Flickr

Located just off the shores of central Vancouver Island, Gabriola Island is accessible by ferry from Nanaimo or by float plane for those traveling from Vancouver. For more information on Gabriola Island, please visit the Gabriola Island Chamber of Commerce online.

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5 Comments on “Island Profile: Gabriola Island

  1. This is my first post! I have lurked your site for a least a year! You (and many other wonderful bloggers) have inspired me to start my own blog!

    Check it out at I have a few posts about my own Vancouver Island adventures!

    Thanks for having such an amazing site!

  2. @Danielle – That’s awesome! I see so many of his fantastic shots when I’m doing searches for Vancouver Island photos.

  3. Pingback: Vancouver Island Blog – » Blog Archive » Photos: A Walking Tour Of Downtown Nanaimo

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