Saturna Island

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Saturna Island
Saturna Island.jpg
South-facing aerial view of Saturna Island
Gulf Islands map.png
The Southern Gulf Islands, including Saturna
Coordinates48°47′N 123°09′W / 48.78°N 123.15°W / 48.78; -123.15Coordinates: 48°47′N 123°09′W / 48.78°N 123.15°W / 48.78; -123.15
ArchipelagoGulf Islands
Adjacent bodies of waterStrait of Georgia, Boundary Pass
Area31 km2 (12 sq mi)
Highest elevation397 m (1,302 ft)
ProvinceBritish Columbia
Regional DistrictCapital Regional District
Population350 [1]

Saturna Island is a mountainous island, about 31 square kilometres (12 sq mi) in size, in the Southern Gulf Islands chain of British Columbia, Canada. It is situated approximately midway between the Lower Mainland of B.C. and Vancouver Island, and is the most easterly of the Gulf Islands. It is surrounded on three sides by the Canada/USA border. To the north is Point Roberts, Washington, and to the east and south are the San Juan Islands. Saturna has a permanent population of around 350, although that number increases significantly during the busy summer season. Approximately half of the island is in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR) that was formed in 2003 from existing provincial parks, an Ecological Reserve, and other Crown land [2].


  • The island was first used by indigenous people who called the island "Long Nose," due to the island's long north-eastern tapering shoreline that ends at East Point. The name Saturna comes from the Spanish naval schooner Santa Saturnina ("St. Saturnina") captained by pilot (piloto) José María Narváez, which together with the longboat of the Spanish naval packet ship San Carlos, explored the island's coast in an excursion under the overall command of Pilot Juan Pantoja y Arriaga in 1791.[2] The name was initially applied only to East Point. The contraction to "Saturna" applied to the whole island was first made by Dionisio Alcalá Galiano in 1792.[3] The name is not a corruption. Galiano was familiar with the role of the "Santa Saturnina" in the early exploration of the coast. Why he made the change is not known. The first European settlers came in the 1800s, but the island was slower to develop than the neighbouring Southern Gulf Islands due to its relative isolation and mountainous topography.
  • East Point is the site where Moby Doll, the first orca ever live-captured for aquarium display, was harpooned in 1964. The Saturna Island Heritage Committee[4] runs a small museum in the former fog alarm building at East Point where visitors can learn about Moby Doll and Saturna's unique history.


  • January: Robbie Burns Night Dinner
  • April: Prawn Fest
  • May: Spring Pig BBQ
  • July: Canada Day Lamb Barbecue
  • November: Fall Pig BBQ
  • December: Christmas Concert and Santa Ship


  • East Point is widely considered one of the best places on the British Columbia coastline for onshore whale watching. Residents of the resident J, K and L orca pods pass by almost daily in the summer months, with transient orca visiting year round.
  • Saturna has many species of terrestrial, aerial and aquatic animals, making it an ideal place for wildlife viewing.
  • The Lamb Barbecue,[5] held at Winter Cove, is an annual event that attracts thousands of visitors every Canada Day.
  • Wild Thyme Coffee House,[6] a cafe located inside a 1963 British double decker bus, is a popular family attraction.
  • The Free Store, located at the recycling centre, is a popular stop for visitors
  • The Saturna Island Family Estate Winery [7] is accessible by car or private vessel and offers complimentary wine tastings to visitors.
  • Thomson Park hosts a free-to-play 9 hole disc golf course.[8]
  • Saturna is a popular destination for geocachers, with approximately 60 caches available on the island. Caches are built and maintained by Parks Canada and the Saturna Ecological Education Centre.

Parks and beaches[edit]

  • Over half of the island is park, with the majority being the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR). Notable areas within the park include:
    • Narvaez Bay Day Use Area, with a 1 km (0.6 mi) trail down to two beaches, Narvaez Bay and Echo Bay, and a side trail off to Monarch Head, which looks out to Boundary Pass and the San Juan Islands.[9]
    • East Point Fog Alarm Building and Sandstone formations.
      East Point Day Use Area, with a museum inside the old Fog Alarm Building,[10] an Environment Canada monitoring station, and sandstone shoreline.
    • Lyall Creek trail, which cuts through second generation forest. The trail is approximately 1 km (0.6 mi) long, and takes hikers from near the Haggis Farm bakery on Narvaez Bay Road down to the Sunset Blvd at East Point Road intersection. The nearby creek is one of the only salmon bearing creeks in the Southern Gulf Islands.[11]
    • Mount Warburton Pike viewpoint, which is the tallest mountain in the Outer Gulf Islands. On the very top, there is a communication tower used by a variety of radio and television services, including Chek TV.[12] There are some goat trails running along the ridge that can be hiked.
    • Winter Cove Day Use Area, which has a variety of ecosystems, including wetlands, marshes, and rainforest. At the western end of the park, strong tidal currents rush through Boat Pass, providing a shortcut for small boat operators.[13]

Parks other than those part of the GINPR are maintained by The Saturna Island Parks & Recreation Commission. They operate over a dozen beach accesses and picnic areas around the island. In addition, they oversee a large community park, Thomson Park, which includes a pebble beach, a picnic shelter, and a nine hole disc golf course.


Camping at Narvaez Bay.

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve offers 7 walk-in (or kayak-in) backcountry campsites at Narvaez Bay. The trailhead to Narvaez Bay is located at the parking lot at the end of Narvaez Bay Road. There is also a bike rack available for cyclists to lock up their bikes. There is no potable water at Narvaez Bay, and no campfires are permitted, regardless of season.[14]

  • Two private campgrounds, Breezy Bay Bed & Breakfast's Clifftop Camping and The Lighthouse Pub's Arbutus Point Campground, offer year-round camping. Neither campground permits fires. Both offer access to potable water.


  • M/V Mayne Queen departing Lyall Harbour, on Saturna Island.
    Saturna is accessible via BC Ferries,[15] which offers daily sailings from Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island and Tsawwassen on the Mainland to Lyall Harbour on Saturna.
  • Daily floatplane service from Vancouver International Airport [16] and downtown Victoria[17] to Lyall Harbour is available.
  • There are a number of excellent anchorages and moorages for private vessels, including Lyall Harbour Government Wharf which is operated by the Capital Regional District's Harbour Commission.
  • In the high season (June–September), the Saturna Shuttle is available at no cost to visitors. Check local bulletin boards at Saturna Point Store and Saturna General Store for the shuttle schedule.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Blumenthal, Richard W. (2004). The early exploration of inland Washington waters: journals and logs from six expeditions, 1786–1792. McFarland. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-7864-1879-4.
  3. ^ Doe, Nick. "Spanish exploration of west coast of Canada 18th — century" (PDF). Gabriola Historical & Museum Society. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  4. ^ "Home". Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  5. ^ "Saturna Island Lamb Barbeque - July 1st". Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  6. ^ "Welcome to "The Bus!"". Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  7. ^ "Home". Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  8. ^ "Security Check Required". Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  9. ^ "GINPR Map". Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  10. ^ Saturna Heritage. "Welcome To The Saturna Heritage Centre | Saturna Heritage". Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  11. ^ "Salmon Stream Restoration". Parks Canada- Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. Parks Canada. September 12, 2014. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  12. ^ "Mount Warburton Pike". Wikimapia. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  13. ^ "Gulf Islands National Park Reserve". Parks Canada. Parks Canada. February 24, 2015. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  14. ^ "Parks Canada – Gulf Islands National Park Reserve – Brochures". May 11, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  15. ^ "Home - BC Ferries - British Columbia Ferry Services Inc". Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  16. ^ "Seair Seaplanes - Flights from Downtown Vancouver Harbour, YVR, Richmond to Nanaimo and the Gulf Islands". Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  17. ^ "Harbour Air Seaplanes". Retrieved January 24, 2016.

External links[edit]