A 20-minute ferry from downtown Nanaimo whisks you away to one of the Gulf Islands –  Gabriola Island. This ‘Isle of the Arts’ has one of the highest number of artists per capita in Canada.

Take a day trip from Nanaimo to visit their studios and explore the hangouts and natural wonders of Gabriola Island that inspire them.

Once the ferry docks, your first stop is for a photo op at Malaspina Galleries, Gabriola’s favourite natural wonder. This dramatic sandstone rock formation at the ocean’s edge looks like a frozen wave. Walk inside the ‘wave’ or snorkel below it.

Next, browse the outdoor Saturday Farmer’s Market at Agi Hall for locally-grown produce and handmade treasures. On Sundays head to the Silva Bay Market. Both run through mid-October.

Do lunch like a local with a sandwich or wrap made in-house at Mad Rona’s Coffee Bar. This buzzy community hub has an urban West Coast vibe with high ceilings, natural wood finishes, bar seating, couches and tables.

In the afternoon, either hit the beautiful beach at Gabriola Sands Provincial Park or drive to the island’s south end to take in the ocean views at Drumbeg Provincial Park where, on a clear day, you can see Washington’s Mt. Baker. Watch for harbour seals, bald eagles, tidepools and Mt. Baker on this short forest walk along the seashore.

Then meet the locals when you take a tour with hard cider tastings at Ravenskill Orchards or learn to Make Cheese With Paula.

Ravenskill Orchards

Before catching the ferry back to Nanaimo, go for dinner at Woodfire Restaurant and try the gourmet wood-fired pizza made by a French chef. Or, dine at the Surf Lodge & Pub where you can see an unforgettable sunset over the ocean. Raise a pint with an order of fish and chips or beef dip to close out your Gabriola day trip.

No visit to the island is complete, though, without a visit with an artist at one of the island’s many artist studios. At some point, you’ll also likely cross paths with the other locals – wild turkeys in the road.