My family (2 kids 7 & 4) and I will have one week to explore the Gulf Islands during early July 2008. We are departing from Bellingham WA. I understand that I will need to clear customs at South Pender.
Please share your recommendations for anchorages, good kid beaches, trails, etc?
Thanks and Happy Holidays
If you enjoy swimming, I'd recommend you get some northing in early.. the water stays cold in the southern islands, and even in the northern section of the Gulf Islands you'll need to be braced for it.
Aside from Hoffa's suggestions, I'd add the following:
Portland Island: Royal Cove is deeper, there are trails all around this island so wherever you choose there's good hiking.
Wallace Island - Princess Bay or Conover Cove (watch the entrance bar to Conover) Awesome place, Conover is the warmer swimming hole but has less space and is draft limited but is closest to the shore facilities. Trails the length of the island, and the remains of an old resort are interesting, esp the cabin with all the boat names imaginatively hung and displayed. (Below)
Montague Harbour, Galiano Island. Easily within reach of a 1 week cruise, plenty of space, mooring bouys, and dock space in the park. Great sunsets from the beach across the lagoon.
Sidney Spit, Sidney Island. Awesome sandy beaches, tricky, shoal anchorage (but mostly soft sand) Good trails, cold water.
Pirates Cove, Decourcy Island. Great kids spot, perhaps your turnaround point depending on how long a day you want to do along the way. Favourite of younger kids like yours.
If you get a good weather pattern (ie SE winds the first day or two) you could consider Newcastle Island in Nanaimo - another fabulous Island park right in the heart of Nanaimo harbour. Lots of moorage/anchorage room, amazing trails, wildlife, ferries, other kids etc. But it's a fair distance and you'd have to have favourable breezes both ways to get there and back in a week without having to push real hard.
Various bays on Prevost Is, depending on forecast, downside mostly private uplands (exc James Bay, open to NW)
Herring Bay on Ruxton,
Darcy Island (of interest historically, a bit exposed and lots of current)
Victoria Harbour itself, moorage in front of the Legislature buildings, lots of activity and buskers, lots of possible current getting there (for or against, of course) [and watch yourself...you might run into Hoffa there
A circumnavigation of Saltspring would take you through Sansum narrows (relatively benign), a chance to check out Maple Bay and further on Chemanius (city of Murals)
Telegraph harbour between Thetis and Kuper Is.
Some of these areas are draft dependant, so pay close attention to charts. Tides and currents can be REALLY significant in the southern areas, especially
on the Bellingham to Bedwell run.
Where ever you end up spending time, it's a beautiful area, hopefully you will have a good weather window. Early July can be tricky.