Our Top Cruising Anchorages of 2022
We break down our favourite sailing destinations in British Columbia that we’ve visited in 2022.
It's the end of the year, and we're reflecting on the last 12 months of sailing we've done through the Gulf Islands and the Straight of Georgia. We've visited many anchorages, so we're breaking down our top 5 and why they're our favourites.
Being relatively new to cruising and still working full-time, we've broken down our favourite anchorages by how easy they were to maneuver and anchor. We also included how easy each one is to work from, whether it's connectivity or ease of access to the City. Onshore activities also come into play when we're choosing our top 5.
So here are our favourite five anchorages based on ease, workability and onshore activities.
Anchorage #5: Port Graves, Gambier Island
Easy Anchoring and Access to Vancouver
Gambier island is located in the pristine Howe Sound, less than 20 nautical miles away from Vancouver, making it an easy trip for the weekend. As a result, there's not much of a permanent population and not many shoreside amenities. However, what the island lacks in shops, it makes up for in natural beauty. There are four bays where anchoring is possible; we've anchored in most of them. The variety is excellent, and with so many bays, we've never found it too busy, even on holiday weekends.
It's one of our top anchorages because it's a quick trip for us from our home marina. We can be anchored in the bay in about 4 hours, with some decent sailing. It makes it an excellent destination for leaving after work for a quick weekend away. We're not the best at anchoring, so the large bay is one of the reasons it's our favourite. There's no current pulling the boat, so we can usually anchor without tantrums. Even when the inflow winds pick up, typically 15 knots this summer, it was a bit bumpy. Still, the holding is good, and we never worried about dragging.
There's a great community dock for easy shore access for the dog. It's also an excellent height for jumping off. Depending on the tides, it can be a big jump. On shore, there's access to some hiking trails around the island. We hiked to the lake and over to the other side of the island. Both were pretty low-key but made for some good exercise.
The water is warm enough for swimming, and mornings are pretty flat for some solid paddleboarding around the bay.
Since we've still not caught a fish, I can't say if there's any fishing in the area, but we have seen seals and orcas in the bay, so there must be some.
Anchorage #4: Galiano Island/Montague Harbour
Galiano is big but sparsely populated (there's a theme here without favourite places). Montague Harbour has lots of anchoring space, some mooring balls and a secondary anchorage on the north side (the one with the sunsets). We've anchored in both areas, but the North anchorage is our favourite. It's generally less busy and has a clear view of the sunsets. The downside is that it's a beach landing in the park or a long dinghy ride to the dinghy dock with the amenities.
Sunsets are a full-on activity on the boat. We make drinks, sit in comfy chairs and watch the sun go down. Montague Harbour is known to have some of the best in the Gulf Islands. These sunsets and exploring the island make this one of our favourites from the past year. It's not only the sunsets that make this one of our favourites.
The first time we went to Galiano, we had high hopes of taking the bus to the Hummingbird Pub…but it didn't happen because it's a seasonal bus. The second time we went….it didn't happen. Again. We've given up on the bus, but not the pub or village where the pub is. We walked the first time, and it was a long 5-kilometre slog. The second time we e-scooted, it was great. I recommend taking a scooter, bike, or anything that's not walking. The pub's delicious, but even better after an hour's uphill walk.
We also spent a ton of time paddleboarding in the channel. By paddleboarding, I should clarify that we paddle boarded and would let the current push us along. The water was so clear that we could watch the little sea life as we drifted past.
We also use this as a home base for longer dinghy adventures. Our favourite is to dinghy over to the Secretary Islands to pick oysters and clams. There are also sandstone caves, but we've never explored them.
Anchorage #3: South Pender Island - Beaumont Marine Park/Bedwell Harbour
Hiking and Hot Tubs
Bedwell Harbour will always hold a special place in our hearts because we had many firsts with our new boat. The first trip on the boat, the first time docking it alone, and the first time hitting the dock with it.
The harbour is home to both Poets Cove Marina and Beaumont Marine Park. Staying at the marina gives you access to the pool and hot tub. The marina has a fair amount of slips and, aside from a mishap with the throttle, is pretty easy to get in and out of. There was power and water and a fuel dock. The marina has a small coffee shop, but it was pricey, and the coffee was terrible.
The marine park also has a handful of mooring balls and space to anchor. There are plenty of trails on shore to hike. It's a short dinghy ride to the marina, where you can tie up the dinghy to access the resort and the surrounding trails.
We've spent time in both areas and North Pender's anchorage, but our favourite is the marine park. When we were visiting, it was early season, and one of three boats was there. With the calm waters, we spent a lot of time paddleboarding around the shore and were often accompanied by seals. The hiking trails loop around the park, and the dogs enjoy the time off the boat to stretch their legs.
A short dinghy ride away, on North Pender, there is good access to more hiking, shopping and a perfect coffee shop. We've made it a point to visit Slow Coast Coffee each time to have the dosas. We found a short hike to a lake for some non-salt water (warm) swimming.
When we stayed in the marina (and even when we didn't), I used the pool and hot tub every day. The novelty of watching the sunset from a toasty hot tub will never get old for me.
Anchorage #2: Portland Island - Royal Cove
Peace and Quiet
There is nothing on Portland Island. Nothing. The small island is uninhabited and part of the Gulf Islands National Park. Given the size, there are a couple of anchorage options, and we're partial to the smaller one with the stern ties.
We hiked the island's perimeter in one afternoon and visited the many beaches along the way. About a dozen seals were hanging out off Arbutus Point, and we spent a long time watching them. We even took the dinghy to that side later in the day to catch a fish. Spoiler: we saw nothing.
We loved how quiet the whole place was. Since there are no residents, it's just campers and boaters. It's quiet at night, with the only sounds coming from passing boats. Even during the day, there's not much noise. We spent 3 days there and only had one other boat in the anchorage with us. There was some rolling from the ferry when it went by, but it was minimal and wouldn't keep us from returning.
Anchorage #1: Hornby Island - Tribune Bay
Beaches and Perfect Days
I'm sure Tribune Bay is at the top of many boaters' lists. This big bay is located on Hornby Island and boasts white sand beaches, warm water and tons of space. It's not particularly close for us, but worth the trip. Besides the main beach, there are smaller ones along the island, a central area with shops and nice paths interconnecting everything within a short walk from wherever the dinghy lands.
We came to Tribune for a couple of days and stayed for a week. Because of the dogs, we weren't welcome at the Provincial park, so we typically beached the dinghy at the neighbouring nudist beach. Nudists aside, this beach is a much more relaxing place to be. Unlike Tribune's beach, it wasn't populated with everyone fighting for space and playing loud music. An added bonus was no one cared about dogs on the beach, which was good because we spent a lot of time swimming due to the heatwave.
A short walk away is a village center with shops and restaurants. We had breakfast at Vorizo Cafe a couple of times. The burritos were so good they turned a blind eye to the dogs sitting under the table. We were there in mid-summer, so there was a ton of produce at the market.
This was one of the busier islands we visited this summer. Still, it was also our favourite because of the food, swimming and the best bioluminescence we saw all summer.
Honourable Mention: Mark Bay/Saysutshun/Newcastle Island
Easy City Access
I don't think Nanaimo is on everyone's hot spot places to visit, and it isn't on ours either. But we enjoy staying in Mark Bay and visiting Saysutshun (Newcastle Island). It's our go-to when we just want to spend a week somewhere but still need to work. It's far enough from Nanaimo to not feel like it's in the City but close enough, so getting to shore is easy.
We stayed here a handful of times last year, and it's typically when we're working and know we're going to need to get back to the City for work. It's pretty easy, albeit a long day, to take the ferry to Vancouver and back in a day.
Saysutshun itself is an ideal place to spend a week. There are a handful of moorings and enough space outside the mooring field to anchor. There's a dinghy dock to make getting to shore easy and enough places to hike to keep the dogs entertained. There's a pile of deer, so letting them off-leash isn't an option.
The anchorage itself isn't the greatest, though. The holding is OK, but there are a fair number of derelict boats and a few recently sunk. We accidentally drove over one that wasn't marked, and, thankfully, it was fine. We're much more cautious when we visit and either take a mooring or anchor on the far edges of the anchorage.