Gabriola Island

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August 2023
Alpacas, lovely people and the most perfect gravel

Proximity of Gabriola to Lower Mainland makes it a perfect spot for an overnight trip! This Gulf Island is easily accessible from Vancouver, especially for those who are not the biggest fans of commuting to Tsawwassen. Both the access and the amount of gravel riding on the island make it one of our favorite travel destinations. But this place has much more to offer! Read through our trip report for some useful tips on what to do and where to go when you decide to explore this beautiful place.

Getting to Horseshoe Bay ferry from Downtown Vancouver is fairly easy, you can choose between riding over (around 1 hour) or a faster way by taking the express bus. We all met at the terminal to get on 8:40am ferry to Nanaimo. After arrival, it’s only around 20 minutes bike ride to a much smaller ferry that will take you over from Vancouver Island to Gabriola in just a few minutes.

We arrived around noon and headed straight to the campground, which is less than 1km away from the terminal, to get rid of our bags and set up the camp. This is one of the reasons this island is so perfect also for people who are just getting into bikepacking, because you don’t need to carry all that weight for the whole trip.

Once we got rid of the bags, we got onto exploring the island. Made a quick stop at the farmers market, which usually offers a nice selection of pastries, fresh produce or some snacks like fudge. Stopped for coffee and a light lunch at a café and headed right to one of the gems of Gabriola, Paradise Island Alpaca Farm. You can feed and pet alpacas, goats and ponies, get a tour of the farm from one of the
ambassadors and if you get lucky also meet the owners, Dave and Taylor, who are always very keen to share all their wisdom about these lovely animals. There is no charge for you to come and visit. Just a few meters from the farm, we entered 707 Community Park, that’s built and managed by the local community. This beautiful area contains various terrain and ecosystems, double and single tracks and
some open fields. You could spend hours riding here.

If you like cider, make sure to stop at Ravenskill Orchards for some refreshments. Cidery is easily accessible via few trails in the park, has an outdoor patio and depending on the time of the year, you can also buy some fresh apples from their orchard.

After this, we recommend returning to the forest and ride over to Fairytale Woodland Path. This pathway is free and open to all, just off the Rollo Park Trail on Barrett Road. The creator, Gary, was there when we visited and we got to play a scavenger hunt after which we all got some nice handmade prizes. Definitely fun experience worth visiting.

On the way back, we stopped at the campground to grab our cookware, food and swimsuits and headed to Malaspina Galleries. This amazing place with a confusing name is not your typical gallery, but the natural rip curl in sandstone! We sat down under the curl, cooked dinner and jumped into the water. Area is nice to explore, as you can walk around the rocks and see plenty of starfish. We stayed until the
sunset, view of the ocean and ferries that went by. If you get lucky, you can spot also orcas from here! After coming back to the campground, we sat by the fire until late evening, played games and told each other stories.

With the low tide in the morning, it’s nice to go for a little walk around Descanso Bay. There is a nice trail that leads down to the water, you can explore tidal area, go for a swim, or do your morning stretches on warm rocks.

No matter what time of the season you decide to go, we hope you will have an amazing time and find this island just as charming as we do!


Farmers market (1km from the ferry terminal) that is held on Gabriola every Saturday from May until October.

Cox community park starts just off the campground, it has some very nice trails, although it might be a bit spicier for unexperienced gravel riders. We recommend visiting it out anyway, even if you hiked a bike for a bit, it’s still a nice place to check out.

If you want to purchase a paper map of 707 Community Park, you can do so at the gas station or farmers market. Locals selling the maps on the farmers market can also give you advice on which trails are most bike friendly. All proceeds from the map purchases go directly to GaLTT (Gabriola Land & Trails Trust). Check out their website for more maps of the island:

Please be aware that locals walk their dogs in these parks, so make sure to be vigilant and loud enough to avoid any issues. That being said, island residents are the nicest people who are always happy to see and greet you.

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