North & South Pender Islands
Once joined by a sandy isthmus, North and South Pender attract those looking for a quieter retreat. With pioneer farms, old-time orchards and dozens of coves and beaches, the islands – now linked by a single-lane bridge – are a good spot for bikers and hikers. For visitor information, check www.penderislandchamber.com.
Once a stopover for gold rush miners, who nicknamed it 'Little Hell,' Mayne is the region's most historic island. Long past its importance as a commercial hub, it now houses a colorful clutch of resident artists. The heritage Agricultural Hall in Miners Bay hosts the lively farmers market of local crafts and produce.
With the most ecological diversity of the Southern Gulf Islands, this skinny landmass – named after a 1790s Spanish explorer – offers activities for marine enthusiasts and landlubbers alike. The Sturdies Bay ferry end is markedly busier than the rest of the island, which becomes ever more forested and tranquil as you continue your drive from the dock.
Suffused with tranquility, tiny Saturna is a natural retreat remote enough to deter casual visitors. Almost half the island, laced with curving bays, stunning rock bluffs and towering arbutus trees, is part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and the only crowds you'll see are feral goats that have called this munchable area home.