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The most remote of the southern Gulf Islands served by ferries, Saturna is both pristine and, compared with its neighbors, mostly vacant (pop. 350). Whereas other islands are best described as rural, Saturna is truly wild. It's not surprising that the new Gulf Islands National Park Reserve has its largest presence on Saturna: About half the island is now protected as reserve land.

Served by direct ferries from Swartz Bay and a few indirect sailings from Tsawwassen, Saturna is hard to get to. It's easiest to ferry to Vancouver Island and then back out, or over to Pender Island, which has direct sailings to Saturna. If you are planning to visit all the Gulf Islands, start your journey on Saturna; it's easier to get away from Saturna by ferry than it is to get to it.

Any visit to Saturna should include a stop at Saturna Island Family Estate Winery (tel. 877/918-3388 or 250/539-3521), a small, well-established winery in an extremely dramatic setting. Perched between massive cliffs and the sea, the setting is reminiscent of Corsica. The tasting room, open daily 11am to 4:30pm from May to October, is reached by a precipitous single-track road with a 20% grade. The tasting room bistro also offers soups and salads for lunch.

Its remoteness makes Saturna a favorite destination of outdoorsy types. The island boasts nice beaches, including Russell Reef, Veruna Bay, and Shell Beach at East Point Park. This park, with its still-active lighthouse, is a good spot to watch for orcas. Hikers can drive to Mount Warburton Pike and follow the Brown Ridge Nature Trail. Views from this craggy cliff-faced peak are astonishing, taking in southern Vancouver Island, the San Juan Islands, and the Olympic Peninsula. Kayakers can explore the rocky islets surrounding Tumbo Island, just offshore from Saturna's eastern peninsula. Facilities are few and far between, though in several cases, exemplary. For more information, check out www.saturnatourism.com.