There are basically two ways to get to the Gulf Islands—by plane or by boat.
By Ferry -- Unless you have a private boat, you'll need to take a ferry, which is how most people get to the Gulf Islands. BC Ferries (tel. 888/223-3779; www.bcferries.com) has a fleet of drive-aboard ships that run regularly scheduled trips from Swartz Bay outside Victoria to Pender, Mayne, and Galiano, as well as Salt Spring Island.
By Plane -- SaltSpring Air (tel. 877/537-9880 or 250/537-9880; www.saltspringair.com) has a fleet of floatplanes that fly from Coal Harbour in Vancouver, near the airport in Victoria, and throughout most of the Gulf Islands. Harbour Air (tel. 800/665-0212; www.harbourair.com) has regularly scheduled flights from Vancouver to the Gulf Islands.
You can pick up information on the Gulf Islands at the Tourism Victoria Visitors Centre (tel. 800/663-3883 or 250/953-2033; www.tourismvictoria.com) or through Gulf Islands Tourism (tel. 250/537-9933; www.gulfislandstourism.com). Each of the islands will also have their own info center; for instance, Salt Spring, the biggest of the islands (tel. 866/216-2936 or 250/537-5252; www.saltspringtourism.com). These are also your best resource for finding the area’s best B&Bs.
A Note for Families -- If you're traveling with kids, the Gulf Islands are a fairly inhospitable place to secure accommodations. Nearly all B&Bs have listed minimum ages for guests (usually 12 or 16), and there are only a few standard motels or cottage resorts where families are welcome. Note that for all accommodations, it's mandatory to make reservations well in advance, as the ferry system doesn't exactly make it easy to just drive on to the next town to find a place to stay. One option for families is to rent a cottage or private home. Gulf Island Vacation Rentals, 5402 Wilson Rd., Pender Island, BC V0N 2M1 (tel. 877/662-3414; www.gulfislandvacationrentals.com), is a clearinghouse of private homes, bed-and-breakfast rooms, and cottages available for rental on the Gulf Islands.
Most innkeepers will pick up guests at the ferry or floatplane terminals, if given sufficient notice. There's also taxi service on most islands. Most taxis will quote you a fixed price for a journey when you phone to reserve the trip. Be sure to confirm the price when you're picked up.
By Bicycle -- Winding country roads and bucolic landscapes make the Gulf Islands a favorite destination for cyclists. Although the islands' road networks aren't exactly large -- and roads are quite steep and narrow -- it can be great fun to bike the back roads, jump a ferry, and peddle to an outlying pub for lunch. Bikes can be taken onboard BC Ferries for a small surcharge. Note, though, that the narrow roads really fill up in summer, making them more idyllic for cycling other times of the year. Several parks have designated mountain-bike trails. Rentals are available on most islands.
By Kayak -- The Gulf Islands' lengthy and rugged coastline, plus their proximity to other more remote island groups, make them a good base for kayaking trips. Most of the islands have kayak outfitters; however, not all of them will offer rentals separate from guided tours. If you're an experienced kayaker and just want to rent a kayak, call ahead to inquire. Kayaks and canoes can be taken on the ferries for a small fee.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.