The clouds lay low, the breeze is sharp, and the sea is rolling as if to welcome us to the Island. As we inch closer to the dock, the towering sandstone cliffs surround us. Then at the buzz of a button, we ran and got back into the van. Our adventure is about to begin.
Gabriola Island is located off the shores of Nanaimo, with a population of roughly 4,000. This is not your typical island, and to help us discover what Gabriola has to offer, the Adventure 360 team and I teamed up with Vancouver Island Expeditions (VIE). VIE is a local business that offers authentic and adventurous experiences around the island.
Venturing Through Naturally Carved Galleries Of Stone
After crossing over to the Island via a short ferry ride, we were welcomed to Gabriola by thick cedar forest and rocky ledges. The van is filled with excitement and anticipation of the day’s events ahead. Our first stop is at Mad Rona’s Coffee Bar. The air inside the coffee house is thick with the scent of bitter-sweet coffee. After a refreshing cuppa and a nibble of a cookie, backdropped by the locals bustling and chit-chatting, we decided to head off to the world-renowned Malaspina Galleries.
The Galleries, as the locals call them, are fantastic sandstone features carved from thousands of years of tidal waves bashing and shaping the soft surface. During the summer, the Galleries are a hot spot for cliff jumping and swimming, especially after the warm summer days. Swimming isn’t on the agenda for us, though, so we captured photos of the stones on a fall day, and made mental notes to return in warmer seasons.
It is time to get back into the van and off to the next stop.
After spending our last hour at the Galleries, we were ready to indulge in some local food. The bonus of going with Vancouver Island Expeditions (VIE) is that they know the best places to grab a bite to eat. And so Leif, the owner of VIE, shepherded us to The Kitchen in the Gabriola Village. With a dedicated selection of vinyl records ready to be flicked through, patrons get to set the mood of their meal and choose their own tunes. The menu is elegantly filled with food sourced from both locals and the big Island (Vancouver Island).
Next-Stop: A Self-Guided Studio Tour
Gabriola is well known for its artist community, home to over 70 studios. You can even diligently check them all off by following the Studio Tour Map. Something that I love about Gabriola is the locals, and even more so the artists you cross paths with on this island. One such artist is Nina Turczyn, who owns Paprika Jewellery.
Nina specializes in silversmithing, which has allowed her to share her creativity and jewellery in shops across the country. While Nina’s jewellery has found its way into many art museums and businesses, all of it stems from her studio on Gabriola. Nina took us through the process of creating fascinating and beautiful pieces of art from just small pieces of silver.
The next artist on our list, Caroline James is a mixed media artist who creates from her heart. Full of colour and rich ideas, her canvas’s sprawl with life, happiness, and empowerment. There is something to be said of being in an artist’s studio; I feel compelled to open my eyes to the artist and see what they are trying to share and envision.
Taking a sip of cider
With the rise of microbrewers taking the tourism industry by storm, craft beer can feel like the go-to in this new age of culinary tourism, but it’s certainly not the only player in the craft beverage scene. Stalwart cider fans will tell you about the many options across the province, and today we stopped in at Ravenskill to sample Gabbie’s Premium Cider.
Nestled in the middle of Gabriola Island, Ravenskill Orchard is a family-owned and operated farm with over 1,000 apple trees! When you first arrive at the farm, you are greeted by a huge and inviting farm barn and a woof from the farm ‘guard’ dog. Overflowing baskets of freshly picked apples and the caramel apple toffee frame the main entrance, and just a few steps into the shop is the tasting bar.
Gabbie’s Cider is offered in Real-Dry and Semi-Dry, plus two other flavours found only in-house. It was one of the best ciders I have tasted, and their line up of industry awards show that the pros agree. After a beautiful walk around the farm and a few more sips of soul-warming cider, we pet the dog, grabbed a few caramel toffees and a jug of apple juice, and set off.
We arrived back at the ferry terminal at the end of our adventure, a little more knowledgeable, full of smiles, and ready to go home. I would repeat “Gabriola Island” in the end or just change it to “Nanaimo to Gabriola Island: A day trip (or A ferry ride away) Nanaimo to Gabriola Island: Only a short ferry ride away and perfect for a day trip.
This guest post was written by Jesse Miller (@jesse.hm on Instagram). He’s a proud resident of Nanaimo and a member of the Adventure 360 Team, a Tourism Nanaimo initiative aimed at sharing what locals love most about our incredible city and passing along that info to travellers.