Gulf Island Beer Hopping on a Hybrid E-Bike
In the current age of technology and an abundance of great craft beer, there is an opportunity to combine both to create an amazing vacation. It is an experience that allows you to enjoy a wide variety of craft beer and even smell the wild roses along the way. Leave the car behind and enjoy a very easy, low key vacation powered by your own legs and a little “E” assistance. It allows you to arrive at ferries 15 minutes before departure and still get on. Sounds too good to be true? Here is a non-fiction story about a 7 day trip to the Southern Gulf Islands.
Day 1: Salt Spring Island
Today, we have the ability to travel to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal with relative ease from Vancouver using bus/train service at a cost much lower than driving. The ferry trip across the Straight of Georgia to the Gulf Islands is one of my favourites. Once you arrive on Salt Spring Island the adventure begins!
Arranging your bike pickup with David Elderton, owner/distributer of Hill Eater E-Bikes, you are ready to go moments after stepping off the ferry. The first stop in the quest for craft beer is Salt Spring Island Ales. On the hybrid “E” bike the small hill up to the brewery is a breeze! With a new tasting room and a great selection of craft beer, it is definitely a perfect starting point. Make sure to have some space in your panniers for a few bomber bottles. Brewers Heather and Campbell have been busy expanding their beer line up and brewery in the past year.
Less than an hour away is Ganges. Being the largest town of the five islands, there are lots of galleries, eateries and coffee shops. For dinner checkout Moby’s Pub. Owner Dale Swaggart has added a number of local craft beers from Vancouver Island, in addition to Salt Spring Island Ales. The pub menu has a great selection of local food delicacies. Spring through Fall the outdoor patio offers a postcard view of Ganges Harbour. My first night I stayed at the cottage on Sugerland Farm. Situated on the west side of the island – its five acres is full of fruit trees and bushes, including fig, apple, plum, pears, blueberry and raspberries – hence the name.
Day 2: Pender Island
Cheryl, owner/host, cooks up an excellent home style breakfast to get me ready for another day of biking. Before leaving I get a grand tour of the farm. I had a wonderful sweet, sun warmed fig straight from the branches of her extensive orchard. Along the way be sure to stop in at Salt Spring Wild Cider. Now in its third year, high demand for many of it ciders has them regularly sold out.
Mid-day it is off to the Long Harbour Ferry for a 45 minute trip to Pender Island (North and South). Although it is an island without breweries, it is an island with craft beer. This is a place where an hybrid E-bike shines. There are lots of short steep hills that would be exhausting without a little power lever to get up them. Right in the middle of the two islands is the Browning Harbour Marina with the Bridgemans Pub & Bistro. Along with a great selection of gourmet food on menu there is a wonderful selection of beers for food pairing. Recently renovated, this gem offers 15+ taps of craft beer. Jonathan Duquette, head chef/manager comes from a extensive high end background. The food quality is way above what you might expect in a semi isolated pub.
After dinner an 8km ride across South Pender Island takes you to the wonderful Salmonberry Inn, overlooking a serine view of the green/blue Plumper Sound. The inn’s luxurious rooms are very warm and cozy. It is all about comfort and a very soothing atmosphere. The icing on the cake is the knock on your door in the morning with the best breakfast in all of the Southern Gulf Islands being served right to your suite.
Day 3: Saturna Island
After an amazing breakfast and a wonderful conversation with the Mamie, manager/owner of Salmonberry Inn, I saddle up my bike for another day of adventure. I could easily stay in the care of this wonderful host for a week or two! The morning is cool and damp as I head off on a 12 km ride and glide to Hope Bay, on North Pender, to meet my water taxi to Saturna Island. On my way I stop in at Jo’s Place to checkout the menu and craft beer. Glad I have some distance to ride, as I can not resist the all-in-one cast iron skillet “Hangover Hash” breakfast dish for an early lunch. A number of craft beers from VI are available at Jo’s. Continuing on to Hope Bay, rain and blowing wind are lashing at me by the time I arrive at the dock for my water taxi. We load my bike and panniers onto the back deck and I take shelter as first mate sitting beside the captain Ron. The small boat tosses and bounces across the straight in the grey stormy seas.
We arrive in Boot Cove one hour later and tie the taxi to a float in the middle of the bay. Captain Ron pulls a small moored row boat up besides us and I awkwardly lower my bike into the front of wobbling craft. It is very tippy and I am glad to get seated in the middle with the Ron at rowing in the back. As we approach the shore a cheerfully loud voice is greeting us. Met Laura Swan – owner/manager of Saturna Lodge! With a bubbly/laughing personality she makes a perfect host!
After an orientation and familiarization of the eclectic inn, I am taken on a driving trip around the island. We drive up through the coastal rain forest to an amazing view a-top Mount Warburton Pike, over looking the southern Gulf Island and Washington state islands. After our decent we drive to the end of the island to visit East Point Lighthouse. A large family of island deer great us the grassy field. Killer whales are also a common site from this vantage point. All this fresh air in paradise is making me feel the need for some craft beer. The Lighthouse Pub besides the BC Ferries dock has a wonderful selection of Lighthouse Brewing craft beers from Victoria. The pubs very cozy ’70s feel with friendly staff makes you feel like a regular on your first visit.
Day 4: Mayne Island
On the first ferry in the morning – what is called the milk run. The next stop is Mayne Island. An exciting day to search-out the newest micro-craft brewery rumoured to be in the works. My first stop was the Saturday farmers market in the centre of the island. There is lots of organic fruits and vegetables, including squash, carrots, tomatoes, beets and shallots. Along with that an enticing assortment savoury and sweet baking – warm out of the oven.
Balancing out the market is the artisans with their hand made crafts. I ask around about the brewery and I am told the daughter of the brew master is at the market. After a few minutes I locate her and tell her I am looking for her dad’s brewery. She says it is just up the road a kilometre or so. It took a few wrong turns to find the right turn. At the entrance to a long drive way up a mossy road sat a painted sky blue bike – this is the way. I arrive up at the top of the hill and see a sign “Mayne Island Brewery”.
After knocking on the door I locate Michael and I am invited into the 800 sq ft brewery. Apparently some overseas family members had just left after a farewell party the night before and Michael is feeling a little rough. I managed to coax him to open a few sample bottles. After an hour or so beer was flowing freely and the damage from the night before had slipped away. The beers are wonderful and Michael is full of passion and information.
I check in to the Mayne Island Resort, staying at a wonderful beach front suite. In the late afternoon an easy ride takes me to the local jazz cafe, The Groove Island Kitchen, back in the centre hub of the island. There is wonderful selection of craft beer on tap, with the support of an extensive gourmet menu. A hub for local live music makes this a popular venue. If you are planning a two night stay on Mayne Island make sure to plan an evening here.
COMMUNITY PROFILE ON: Mayne Island Brewing Company
Day 5: Galiano Island
Straight across Active Pass from Mayne is Galiano Island. In Sturdies Bay is the Galiano Inn and Spa. The lush garden entrance and wonderful lobby with the Kunamokst Mural Mosaic sets the tone for this gem on Galiano. My ocean front villa suite has a clear view out to Active Pass and the Straight of Georgia. Mayne Island is directly across. Galiano is quite a long island with a rolling hill roadway. On a regular bike you need to be at the top of your game for a full day of riding – the E-bike makes it easy. On the way, near the Inn are a couple of parks that over look Active Pass. Matthews Point offers great opportunities to see Killer Whales. Further along at Bluffs Park, there are expansive views of the Islands and waterways travelled through in the past few days to arrive here. After 40 km of riding and sightseeing, which includes some very beautiful naturally sculpted sandstone caves, I found myself at the Hummingbird Pub. The craft beer on tap was a little sparse, but according to management that will change this year.
Back at the Galiano Inn bottled craft beer is in abundance. During summer months local craft draft is available in the Gazebo. If you are there on Sunday make sure to have the Prime Rib Dinner with Yorkshire Pudding.
Day 6: back at Salt Spring
Today I complete the tour by returning to Salt Spring Island. This time I am staying at the Salt Spring Inn in the centre of Ganges. With a very generous selection of craft beer and a great menu – getting comfortable at this historic hotel is easy. The character rooms from the 1950’s are wonderful.
Day 7: heading home
Breakfast out on the porch of the Salt Spring Inn is wonderful. In my last few hours before heading home I decide to try and locate another rumoured brewery. Along the way I find lots of beautiful countryside scenery and wonderful beaches at Ruckle Provincial Park. Next time I will find more micro breweries in the beer fertile Southern Gulf Islands.
This is a trip that you can do the whole package or pick a section and get away for a few days. Life in our backyard of the Southern Gulf Islands is full of adventure and craft beer.