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Quiet, pristine and kind of on the tiny side, 21-square-kilometre Mayne Island is a terrific under the radar destination in the Southern Gulf Islands of BC. One of the quieter islands in the region, it has a population of only around 1,000 but still offers some fascinating sightseeing destinations, including the fabulous Japanese Gardens, photogenic Georgina Point and historic Miner’s Bay.
Originally the land of the Tsartlip First Nations, there are still several ancient middens on the island and a huge stone bowl. First evidence of European visitors were a knife and coin left behind by Captain George Vancouver in 1794, discovered over a hundred years later. The first permanent European settlers eventually put down roots in 1859.
For the rest of the 19th century, Mayne Island was the commercial hub of the Gulf Islands, with Miners Bay the main stop for ships heading through Active Pass between the mainland and Vancouver Island. While Miners Bay is no longer a major port, this is still the main ferry route today.
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How did Mayne Island get its name?
In 1857, Royal Navy Captain George Richards of the HMS Plumper (remember that name for later) named it after Lieutenant Richard Charles Mayne (who also just happened to be the son of the first commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police).
For a time, Mayne Island was unofficially known as “Little Hell” during the 19th century gold rush, owing to its rather unsavoury reputation as a key crossroads for miners dreaming of getting rich quick while travelling to and from the inland Cariboo region in the 1860’s.
Where to Stay: Mayne Island Hotels
I wouldn’t say there are a lot of Mayne Island accommodation options but they do have one very good choice, especially considering how much importance we place on scenery.
Mayne Island Resort
Wouldn’t you know it, the Mayne Island Resort is all about the views. The large windows in each room ensure that you have panoramic ocean views. The addition of the indoor pool and hot tub, steam room and the beach being only a minute away are just icing on the cake.
There is also an on-site restaurant for convenience. Make sure to get up early and watch the sunrise from your balcony!
Mayne Island Camping
There is only one option for camping on Mayne Island, a private, secluded campground set in beautiful forest next to a nice, rocky beach. There are 12 walk-in sites with some in the trees and others right on the water.
There is a swimming/fishing dock, boat launch, mooring buoy and even a tree shower. It is also located conveniently close to the ferry. I also like how they kept the name simple and straightforward as well.
16 Outstanding Things to Do on Mayne Island
Despite its size (or lack thereof), there is actually a surprising number of interesting things to do on Mayne Island. With a nice mix of activities and scenery, all without the big crowds, it is a great place for either a day trip or a full weekend visit.
1. Check Out the Mayne Island Farmer’s Market
Like most Gulf Islands, it has a bustling Saturday morning Farmer’s Market that draws most of the island’s residents and plenty of outsiders as well. With a long farming history dating back to the 19th century Europeans and 20th century Japanese, farm stands and the weekly market are part of the culture of the island.
You can find a wide variety of produce, food specialties, baked goods, art and handicrafts at both the Mayne Island Market and the food stands around the island. Fernhollow Farm Stand is a particularly popular stop for jams, jellies and apple cider vinegar.
2. Find Your Favourite Beach
Filled with attractive little beaches, Mayne Island offers more public access points to the water than most of the other Gulf Islands (with the possible exception of Pender Island). Most are rocky rather than sandy but the sandstone and driftwood are fascinating and the views sublime.
The sandiest of the island’s beaches, Bennett Bay is a popular place for lounging and swimming. The protected water is usually calm but cold, so many people opt for a delicate wade rather than a full-on plunge.
There are some trees that provide shade, a pit toilet along the access trail and, on a clear day, stunning views all the way to Mount Baker.
While the beach itself is a mix of rocks and sand, the beach sits in a very photogenic bay with lots of shade, interesting driftwood and some fun rope swings.
The trail down to the beach is tough to spot – watch for it just west of the small dirt pullout on Campbell Bay Road on the north side of the bay (but before the semi-permanent trailer).
Not so much a “beach” as a rocky slope leading down to the water with amazing views, Miners Bay is a great place to visit at low tide as more of the rock emerges from the water, creating interesting tide pools and nice photo ops.
Other beaches on worth checking out are Dinner Bay Beach, Piggott Bay Beach and Oyster Bay Beach.
3. Wander Miners Bay
While not the major coastal hub it was during the Gold Rush, today’s Miners Bay is still a bustling place where you’ll find all the main businesses and activities (without the sordid Gold Rush add-ons).
This is where you’ll find restaurants, cafés, a grocery store, library, post office, gas station and plenty of personalized shops selling everything from specialty foods to art and handicrafts.
4. Get Out on the Water
The kayaking in the Gulf Islands is truly epic and this is one of the better places to rent one and enjoy the fantastic scenery among the islands. You can also opt for guided eco-tours, fishing charters or stand-up paddling.
You can rent kayaks and SUPs at Kayaking Gulf Islands, and they also offer guided tours where you are very likely to see otters, bald eagles and various marine birds, plus, every so often, a pod of orcas. Meanwhile, placid Bennett Bay is a favourite of paddleboarders. Mayne Island Resort also rents out kayaks and SUPs through the same company (the website below now sends you to Kayaking Gulf Islands).
There are several different boat launches around the island for those with their own boat, including Bennett Bay and Horton Bay. Many people kayak from Bennett Bay to the numerous Gulf Islands National Park islets.
5. Discover the Art Galleries
Like all the Gulf Islands, Mayne Island is a favourite of artists, many of whom have moved there to be inspired by the peaceful vibe and natural beauty. Private galleries can be found throughout the island and often it is possible to meet the artists themselves. This handy list of Mayne Island artists can help you narrow down your search.
To get a taste for a variety of Mayne Island art in one place, check out the EnVision Gallery, featuring a wide range of paintings, pottery jewellery and home décor.
6. Head out on a Hike
Campbell Point Trail
1.5 km / 30 min / flat
This easy Bennett Bay loop trail takes you through old growth forest to Campbell Point where you will enjoy tremendous views of Georgeson Island and often seals and eagles.
Bennett Bay beach is popular for sunbathing and swimming and Campbell Point is a great place to go for either sunrise or sunset (you have views in both directions).
Mount Parke Loop
5 km / 2 hrs / 220m elevation gain
A short but steep climb up to Mount Parke where you are rewarded with expansive views of the surrounding islands, as well as the mountains further out.
This lovely regional park also boasts some other easy trails through one of the most impressive sections of forest on the entire island. Massive cedars and arbutus trees are interspersed with expansive sword ferns, giving the entire place a tropical forest feel.
7. Check out the Lighthouse on Georgina Point
This historic 1885 lighthouse was built to protect the entrance the very busy Active Pass and is still in use today, although automated electronics have replaced the (presumably) crotchety lighthouse keepers.
Georgina Point was one of our favourite spots on the island, with the soft morning light doing superb things to our lighthouse, flag, ferry, ocean and tree photos. We didn’t personally see any wildlife but they say this is a great place to spot seals, seabirds and even orcas now and then.
8. Go for a Swim
There are dozens of places to go for a dip and cool off on a hot summer day. Any of the beaches, obviously, are good choices. Both Campbell Bay and Piggott Bay are known for having warmer water than most.
9. Stop in at St. Mary Magdalene Church
Churches are not all that common in the Gulf Islands but this classic 1898 church is well-preserved and worth checking out. The church was founded by Canon Paddon after he spent his first couple years on Mayne Island giving services in Robson’s Hotel.
It features the famous 1952 Lych Gate and its graveyard is the final resting place of most of the island’s original settlers.
10. Discover the Mayne Island Museum
For even more local history, check out this little museum located in an 1896 building that formerly served as the Mayne Island jail, known at the time as the “Plumper Pass Lockup”, presumably named after the HMS Plumper and its famous route, and not intended as a derogatory commentary on the early inhabitants.
Despite being rather small, the museum houses an impressive array of historical artifacts, informative displays and even relics from the Zephyr, the oldest shipwreck in the Gulf Islands.
11. Check out St John Point Regional Park
Another great spot for random exploration, St John Point includes a large section of protected land in the far southeastern corner of the island. There are impressive red cedar and Douglas fir forest, a pair of rocky beaches and plenty of rugged coastline that is great for wandering and enjoying fabulous views of Pender and Saturna islands.
It was a common salmon fishing area for the Coast Salish First Nations and later was home to some early Japanese farms.
12. Enjoy the Japanese Gardens
With all due respect to Georgina Point, the Japanese Gardens earned the prestigious honour of “Routinely Nomadic’s favourite place on Mayne Island”. During our spring visit, while much of the island was already green and lush, very few flowers were in bloom. Well, that was certainly not a problem in the Japanese Gardens. Just an explosion of colour and light, and overall very impressively landscaped.
The Japanese Gardens feature a huge variety of trees and flowers, with nice, calming ponds and trickling streams interspersed and nice walking paths throughout.
The gardens were built to honour the Japanese settlers who moved to the island in the early 20th century to start tomato and cucumber farms but were later put in internment camps during World War II, most losing their businesses (and many their lives).
Scattered throughout the beautiful gardens, there are many fascinating information plaques, a replica charcoal kiln and a classic bell. Now, whether or not this fabulous garden in any way makes up for those problematic internment camps is another matter…
13. Head to Dinner Bay Park with the Kids
In this popular park located right beside the Japanese Gardens you’ll find a big grassy area, several picnic spots, a large playground, water fountains, toilets and beach volleyball courts.
There is also a small beach, a popular 18-hole disc golf course, a putting green, some unique driftwood art (including both a horsehead and an entire horse) and, of course, a very large bear with a donation box with the opening located (strategically?) right in (sort of above?) his crotch. So there’s that.
14. Experience Farm Life
Another excellent place for a family outing is Meadowmist Farm where you can get a taste of real farm life, learning about all the different ways this 23-acre farm sustains itself. Kids can mingle with the chickens, feed the sheep, collect eggs and introduce themselves to the adorable lambs.
Meanwhile, mom and dad can browse a variety of wool products and handmade soaps. Call ahead (250-539-3316) for an appointment.
15. Explore by Bike
Biking on Mayne Island can be alternately amazing (the scenery!) and frustrating (narrow roads with lots of hills and blind curves).
However, as long as you’re careful you can cover the entire island in one 30-kilometre day, leaving plenty of time to stop off at all the top sights along the way.
16. Try Out a Microbrewery
Like any BC island worth its salt, it has an exceptional microbrewery where you can try some local specialties. Started in 2016, Mayne Island Brewing Company produces 15 variations of award-winning small batch ales and lagers.
They are open for tastings from Thursday to Sunday 1-5 pm and you can enjoy 4-beer flights in their atmospheric outdoor tasting room. And, of course, any that strike your fancy can be purchased in greater quantities “for later use”.
When to Visit: Mayne Island Weather
As with most of the Gulf Islands in British Columbia, it enjoys a very mild, temperate climate. Summer offers the best weather (25/13C high/low and very little rain) and the most things to do on Mayne Island. In summer, the days are longer, the trails drier and the beaches more festive.
However, the weather is fairly mild all year-round (7/2C in January) so a winter visit can also be great for people looking for a quieter getaway with empty beaches and hiking trails. Of course, there is also more rain (and sometimes even a bit of snow), many tourist services shut down for the winter and even the restaurants, shops and hotels might only be open on weekends.
The shoulder seasons (May/June or September/October) usually offer the perfect mix of good weather and fewer people. Early summer is a good time for wildflowers and fall provides the warmest water of the year.
Where to Eat: Mayne Island Restaurants
A great choice for pub food, with a decent selection of draft beer and a deck with views over the water and dock. Try the fish and chips and keep an eye out for float planes landing nearby.
Bennett Bay Bistro
Part of the Mayne Island Resort, the Bennett Bay Bistro has a large deck with amazing view of the ocean and bay.
You can’t go wrong with any of the seafood options including the calamari salad, seafood chowder and salmon. The menu changes fairly regularly but a few fan favourites tend to stick around.
Can you do a day trip to Mayne Island?
Yes, Mayne Island falls on one of the main ferry routes between Victoria (Swartz Bay) and Vancouver (Tsawwassen) so several ferries stop in most days. It is also possible to arrive by short ferry journey or private boat from the nearby Gulf Islands (Galiano Island, Pender Island).
Because the island is so small it can easily be explored in a single day, although if you have more time there is plenty to keep you busy for an entire weekend.
Where is Mayne Island?
Located basically halfway between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, it sits squarely on the main ferry route between the two. It is surrounded by other Gulf Islands such as Galiano, Pender, Saturna and Salt Spring.
Mayne Island Map
Click the star to save this map to your Google Maps – then find it under Saved/Maps (mobile) or Your Places/Maps (desktop)
How to get to Mayne Island BC?
You have a few choices, including ferry and seaplane.
Mayne Island Ferry
The Mayne Island ferry arriving in Village Bay is the most common way to reach the island. Long-distance routes between Victoria and Vancouver can be reserved in advance on the BC Ferries website but shorter inter-island routes are first come, first served.
Either way, the schedules change seasonally so you will want to go to their website to confirm the most up-to-date times.
Ferry to Mayne Island from Vancouver
Some of the ferries from Vancouver-Tsawwassen are non-stop but others check in at the smaller islands along the way. They take about 1.5-2 hours and you should check the latest schedule to find out your options.
Ferry to Mayne Island from Victoria
In summer, there are 4-5 ferries per day that take just under an hour to travel between Mayne Island and Victoria – Swartz Bay. Some of the ferries from Swartz Bay to Mayne stop at Pender, Galiano or Saturna, while others go directly to Vancouver Island.
Other Gulf Islands
Most of the other Southern Gulf Islands are served by 2 ferries per day to (or from) Mayne Island – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. So if you are planning to do some island hopping you’ll need to plan your route carefully.
Mayne Island Seaplane
The fastest way to get to the island is by air. In summer, Seair has 2 flights per day from Richmond to Mayne Island. Flights arrive and leave from Mayne Island Waterdrome in Miners Bay, only take about 20 minutes and cost $165 one-way (with discounts for students and seniors).
Getting around Mayne Island
Even though it is not a big place, it is still too big to get around on foot so having a car is your best bet. You can bring your own car across on the ferry or, if you are looking to rent a car in Vancouver, we highly recommend Discover Cars. We got a terrific deal booking just a week ahead and were very happy with everything.
Mayne Island Community Bus
While you can’t rely on it for transportation throughout your whole visit, the free Mayne Island Community Bus is a great choice to get from the ferry to your main destination. The bus meets arriving ferries Thursday and Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings, year-round, continuing on a route around the island from there.
You can call (250) 539-0851 to confirm a pickup or book online. Even though it is free, donations are welcome.
Mayne Island Community Stops
These pullouts are found throughout the island and are marked with green and white signs. Passengers looking for a ride can wait here for a car to pull over. This is essentially organized hitchhiking and there are no obligations to pick people up or accept a ride.
Gulf Island Hopping
The lovely, forested Gulf Islands are scattered throughout the Georgia Strait between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. They are roughly divided into two sections, the Northern Gulf Islands of Denman and Hornby, and the more numerous Southern Gulf Islands. The other south islands that are inhabited, have accommodation options and BC ferry connections are Salt Spring, Pender, Galiano and Saturna.
However, there are several other small islands that can also be visited if you have access to your own boat, a few of which also have accommodation options or basic camping. Valdes Island and Thetis Island have places to stay and people occasionally also visit Mudge Island, De Courcy Island, Ruxton Island, Portland Island and Prevost Island.
Each of the beautiful Gulf Islands features its own unique sights and personality. Spending a week or so island hopping through this superb area is sure to be one of the most memorable trips you can take in Western Canada.
Salt Spring Island
The most populous and developed of the Gulf Islands, bustling Salt Spring Island offers a huge variety of activities.
It is one of the best places in British Columbia to shop at local farm stands and in summer offers an impressive array of live music venues.
Pender Island is actually made up of North Pender and South Pender, the two divided by a man-made channel back in the early days of European habitation.
Both sides are fantastically peaceful and feature some of the best viewpoints in the South Gulf Islands, including Gowlland Point, Mortimer Spit and Magic Lake.
Wild and mountainous Saturna Island is tucked into a small pocket of Canadian territory with the USA surrounding on three sides. It is one of the least known and least visited of the Gulf Islands and is a great choice for those looking to get off the beaten path.
Of all the Gulf Islands, Galiano Island is the closest to Vancouver which, combined with a wealth of natural highlights, has made it one of the top adventure destinations for people looking to escape the city. Hiking, biking, kayaking and fishing are just a few of the possibilities on long, narrow Galiano.
Just a hop, skip and jump from Nanaimo, one of the main Vancouver Island cities, Gabriola Island is a wonderful place to enjoy a rural feel, intact forests and some very unique sites. The Malaspina Caves are particularly memorable.
Hugely popular in summer, scenic and diverse Hornby Island is known for a variety of highlights, including local wine, art and crafts.
There are several outstanding beaches and a few excellent hiking trails.
Often overshadowed by its more popular neighbour, Hornby Island, Denman Island has plenty to offer visitors in its own right. Not the least of which is a much quieter, more natural experience.
With impressive hiking, serene beaches and more deer than you can honk your horn at, it is worth setting aside some time to explore before jumping on that next ferry to Hornby.
Trip Planning Resources
Here is a list of the most important resources we use when planning our travels, all in one convenient spot. Full disclosure, when you use any of these links to reserve or sign up for something, we receive a small commission which is greatly appreciated. However, your price does not change and we have only included products and websites that we can honestly recommend.
- For checking out flights we usually find that SkyScanner is the fastest and most accurate site.
- We book the majority of our hotels on Booking.com. With frequent stay discounts, thousands of reviews and free cancellation, it is very rare for us to have a bad hotel experience these days.
- Wise is by far the best international multicurrency bank account we’ve found. We can now send and receive money in half a dozen different currencies, convert to dozens more with no exchange premium and pay or withdraw local currencies. Highly recommended.
- When travelling we always get SIM cards with data for our phones. Local SIM cards are sometimes a bit cheaper but if you have a relatively new smartphone (iPhone XR or newer, Samsung S20 or newer) you can just buy an eSIM online, get a QR code by email and you’re good to go. After extensive research I have decided that KeepGo eSIMs have the best coverage and prices for most of our trips.
- If you’re interested in local guided tours, including everything from city tours to cooking lessons to adventure activities, check out the huge range of options at Get Your Guide.
- World Nomads offers some of the best global travel insurance coverage. It is especially good for frequent travellers and digital nomads but also has competitive plans for short trips.
Mayne Island Summary
Mayne Island is filled with gorgeous natural scenery and great beaches but its most memorable attractions are the phenomenal Japanese Gardens and beautiful Georgina Point. Miners Bay is also an adorable little place, and formerly the most important harbour on the Canadian Pacific Coast.
Overall, it is a fantastic choice for those looking to avoid the summer crowds common on some of the larger Gulf Islands.
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