Galiano Island is your first stop in the Gulf Islands when you’re departing from Vancouver, BC – and what a first stop! It’s not only a beautiful island, but it’s also the perfect location to base yourself to explore more remote areas of British Columbia while camping, hiking, fishing, and experiencing everything that beautiful BC has to offer.
Galiano is most famous for its wild west coast beaches and rugged terrain, which provides fantastic hiking opportunities in untouched ancient forests. As well as a shoreline that provides amazing sights of other islands and opportunities to spot whales, dolphins, and much more.
And if you’re thinking about camping at Galiano Island, you’re in the right place!
That’s because here we will share with you our favorite Galiano Island campgrounds and show you what makes them unique, and what’s close by to each. We will also share with you information on when to visit, what unique things you can do, and the rules around backcountry camping in Galiano Island.
Then lastly we have a free camping game for kids (and fun adults!) that’s perfect for camping in this region. You can find that at the bottom of this article.
- The Best Galiano Island Campgrounds
- The Best Time To Camp At Galiano Island
- Unique Things To Do While Camping On The Island
- Backcountry Camping At Galiano Island
- Free Scavenger Hunt Camping Game
Galiano Island Campgrounds: Expect Fun, Views & Adventure
The island has two fantastic public campgrounds available for booking online, or you can book onsite through their self-service facilities.
There’s management personnel onsite at certain times in both too, and park rangers visit the areas they’re located in, to ensure there’s no problems and that rules are being followed.
However one of the important things to remember when camping in Galiano Island is that reservations fill up fast starting in February, and spots are very limited, so get in early if you want to go camping in one of Galiano Island’s provincial parks.
There are no private campgrounds operating on the island at the moment, so if camping is your goal on Galiano Island, you will need to do it in one of the provincial park campgrounds listed below.
Luckily they’re both fantastic sites. We show you what each has to offer, and what you can do at each, below:
Montague Harbour Marine Provincial Park is one of the must-visit places on Galiano Island. You can hike through the forest or spend your day walking or relaxing on the white shell beach here, along with taking a quick dip into the beautifully clear water as well.
Luckily for visitors that enjoy camping, in the park there’s 16 campsites available to drive up to, and 28 walk-in campsites situated in the forest where you can sleep under a canopy of giant trees. It’s a very picturesque setting.
Some of the sites can be booked up to 2 months in advance from their website; the remaining campsites are on a first-come first-served basis.
Campsites are reservable between Mar 14th – September 4th, with reservations opening during February.
Amenities and Facilities
Each campsite has a picnic table, fire pit, and a good amount of space to relax and enjoy nature.
The overall campground has pit toilets, and there is fresh water available year-round which is treated so it’s fine to drink without having to boil it.
On top of that you can launch your boat from the on-site boat launch, or for a nominal fee, you can moor your boat on one of 35 buoys available and keep your boat on the dock overnight.
What’s Close By
The biggest advantage of this campground is that you’re right in a beautiful provincial park, which provides the ability to hike through the forest or enjoy the beaches.
You’ll therefore also have fantastic views of the surrounding islands and a range of wildlife and marine life to look out for!
You can bike through paved trails, go canoeing or kayaking right from your campsite, and if you want to try fishing, it can be done at the wharf. But be careful as fishing in other areas may not be permitted.
Bird watchers will have a great opportunity all year round to see over 130 bird species, and flocks of wintering birds can also be found if you’re brave enough to visit during winter!
The Important Info
Rates: From $13 – $25 per night
Address: 4121 Porlier Pass Rd, Galiano Island, BC V0N 1P0
Dionisio Point Provincial Park Campground is officially only accessible by boat. The island access is blocked by private land, and trying to drive or walk into the park may result in problems with the landowners.
Although a boat trip to a campground may sound like a hassle, we think it only adds to the fun of this Galiano Island camping option!
If you do want to get to Dionisio Point Provincial Park Campground, but don’t have a boat and don’t want to walk through private land, it is possible to get a water taxi to take you there.
The campground is situated in a beautiful and remote provincial park so it really feels like rustic camping. It’s surrounded by rocky headlands that you can climb, sandy beaches to relax on or swim in the frigid water, and has a large forest and meadows for you to explore.
This is the most remote and inaccessible part of the island, which adds to its charm and your ability to enjoy peace and quiet during a Galiano Island camping trip.
There are 30 campsites available that can be booked online through their website, or you can pay in the info area at the campground.
Amenities and Facilities
This Galiano Island campground is split into two areas with a total of 30 campsites available. There are no rubbish facilities so whatever you bring in you must take out.
There are pit toilets available across from each campsite and available in the day area of the provincial park too. The day area also includes picnic tables and areas for people to enjoy a break from their day of boating.
Fresh water is available from May 1 – September 30, but you still must boil the water for at least 5 minutes or risk using contaminated water.
What’s Close By
If you stay here you will be surrounded by a 142-hectare provincial park and the ocean!
You can explore the rock faces around the sandy beaches, hike through the forest and shoreline, and even cycle through the forest on the paved trails.
If you plan to fish, you will need a permit or face a fine. However swimming is a fantastic option here – if you enjoy cold water year-round! The area provides fantastic marine life viewing for scuba divers too, though it’s not ideal for beginners due to high currents.
If you’re interested in seeing some of the BC marine life, the shoreline beside this Galiano Island campground is a great area to see seals, sea lions, and otters year-round. You’ll also have an excellent opportunity to see a wide range of shorebirds in the area.
The Important Info
Rates: $5 per person for each night
Address: Dionisio Point Provincial Park, Galiano Island, BC V0N 1P0
The Best Time To Camp at Galiano Island
Galiano Island offers camping year-round at both campgrounds, though facilities may be limited during the winter months, as is the ability to book campsites during the winter months.
You’ll also find that ferries from Victoria and Vancouver become less frequent during winter and many businesses or tourist activities on the island are seasonal. So during winter, many businesses are closed, which can be challenging unless you bring everything you’ll need.
During spring and fall, businesses will open or still be open with ferries operating at reasonable frequencies, and temperatures remain okay. But the water is cold year-round and becomes exceptionally cold outside of summer.
Summer is the peak tourist season with ferries operating at maximum frequency. Businesses are open, and all tourist activities and tours are available. Your biggest issue is that the island is small, and campsites are limited, so it’s best to book early if you plan to camp on Galiano Island during the summer.
Average Temperatures For Galiano Island
June to August is the Canadian summer, with temperatures on Galiano Island ranging from lows of 11 celsius to highs of 24 celsius.
May and September are warm, ranging from 9 -21 degrees Celsius, but then temperatures significantly drop-down; from October to April, the temperature ranges from -1 – 14 degrees Celsius. Albeit that’s significantly warmer than other nearby regions.
Three Unique Things To Do While Camping in Galiano Island
1. Whale Watching
The best time to go whale watching in Galiano Island is in July and August.
And the best place to whale watch if you’re not going out on a whale watching tour is Burrill Point at Bellhouse Park! That’s located on the south end of Galiano Island and is only a 20-minute walk from the ferry terminals.
You’re most likely to see Humpback Whales and Orcas, though it’s possible to also see Grey Whales.
While you’re waiting to catch a glimpse of any whales you are likely to see sea lions and harbour seals. You may also see dolphins and porpoises.
2. Bird Watching at Galiano Island
Galiano Island has around 130 birds that you’ll be able to spot year-round. However during the colder months, mainly September through May, you’ll see a large number of migratory marine birds living in or passing through Galiano Island.
Some of the best bird-watching areas are on the south end of the island, close to the ferry terminal. Those include Bellhouse Provincial Park, Matthews Point Regional Park, and Collinson Point Provincial Park.
In the area known as “Active Pass,” you’ll see Pacific Loons, Cormorant, Bonaparte’s Gull, and even Bald Eagles. You’ll want to look out for signs marked as “Important Bird Area” and follow them as they’ll take you to the best vantage points.
3. Interisland Hopping
During the summer months, you can catch a ferry to Galiano Island, which is the closest of the Gulf Islands to Vancouver, BC.
You can then use frequent water taxis to travel between all of the other Gulf Islands to experience a taste of each island without buying the higher-priced ferry tickets.
If you find that the two Galiano Island campgrounds are packed during the time you want to visit, it may be well worth doing some island hopping and camping on a nearby island and then using a water taxi to visit Galiano Island.
Backcountry Camping in Galiano Island and in Canada
Backcountry camping, also known as wild camping, is generally tolerated in Canada. Although there are certain areas you are prohibited from camping in. These include:
- National Parks
- Provincial Parks
It’s worth mentioning that rangers and conservation officers do patrol regularly and will hand out hefty fines to people backcountry camping in these prohibited areas. As that’s the case, it’s better to just find a campground in the park you wish to camp in – not only will there be a few facilities but it will also be cheap to camp.
Sometimes it is possible to purchase a ‘backcountry’ camping permit too. That would then allow you to camp in a park outside of a campground. Not all parks offer them – and they’re not widely advertised. If there’s somewhere you wish to camp, then get in contact with local authorities to see if these are available.
In British Columbia, there is also the possibility to camp at ‘Recreation Sites’. While you would still be limited to camping in a specific spot, it is free to camp on these sites.
As for where you are allowed to camp, Canadian residents can camp for free on Crown Land – which is publicly owned land. Thankfully 89% of land in Canada is classed as ‘Crown Land’. However much of that is still off limits – National Parks, for example, are also Crown Land.
In general: If land is publicly owned, it’s not one of the prohibited areas that we listed above, and you are far from settlements – you’re likely to be on Crown Land that can be camped on for free. However, keep an eye on local maps for confirmation, and obey any signs that say camping is prohibited
There are rules for backcountry camping on Crown Land, however:
- You may camp in the same place for 21 days only in one calendar year.
- After 21 days you must move to a place at least 100m away if you wish to continue camping.
- While free for citizens and Canadian residents, non-residents must obtain a permit to wild camp on Crown Land.
Camping in Galiano Island: Scavenger Hunt Game!
If you’re looking to keep kids amused while camping in Galiano Island – or you fancy having some fun for yourself – then we’ve created a printable scavenger hunt game!
Download it (right click on the image and save) and print it out, then tick off what you find and achieve during your camping holiday.
The game encourages players to get out and discover wildlife and nature, as well as make new friends and do fun camping activities. Enjoy!