Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is located in the southern Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland. Created in 2003 and formally established in 2010, the park encompasses 36 km2 of land and 26 km2 of adjacent waters.
Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is scattered over 15 islands and numerous islets and reefs in the southern Strait of Georgia, an area graced by the mild Mediterranean-like climate created by the rain shadow of the buffering coastal mountains. The islands support many plant and animal species at the northern limit of their range. Rich nutrient upwellings are the building blocks of a productive marine environment that sustains killer whales, porpoises, seals and sea lions. Large populations of shorebirds and waterfowl nest in or migrate through the area. On land, rocky bluffs and headlands, hillsides of Douglas fir forest, the distinctive red-barked arbutus trees, and the signature meadows of the endangered Garry oak ecosystem speak to the diversity of island habitats.
The Central Coast Salish have a long association with the Gulf Islands that continues to this day. In recent centuries, British and Spanish explorers left their mark in the names of the islands and waters of the area. Settlers, fishers, adventurers and entrepreneurs have come to the islands seeking home or profit. Today, the national park reserve shares the islands with vibrant rural communities.
Park headquarters is located in Sidney on the adjacent Saanich Peninsula. Field offices are located on Saturna and North Pender Islands. The islands are a favourite recreational area enjoyed by boaters, kayakers, cyclists and hikers. The larger islands (Mayne, Saturna, The Penders) are accessible by ferry; the smaller islands can only be reached by boat or kayak.