Advantages Stunning and peaceful island perfect for relaxation or outdoor pursuits
Disadvantages It's remote (but this is also an advantage as well!)
|Is it worth visiting?|
Reached by a two hour ferry crossing, Mayne is situated twenty two nautical miles from the Canadian mainland and is the second smallest inhabited island in the Gulf at just 22 kilometres (eight miles) squared, sparsely populated with only one thousand or so full time residents. The gulf islands have the highest year round temperature in Canada and Mayne's temperate climate and mild weather means outdoor activities can be easily pursued regardless of when you visit. The island is a remote rustic paradise with dense woodlands and a craggy shoreline with rock strewn beaches and is largely bypassed by the mainstream tourists who head for the larger shores of Vancouver Island and it's capital Victoria and Mayne is all the more beautiful because of it.
The Tsawwassen ferry terminal is also easily accessible for foot passengers directly from the airport either by licensed taxi, an expensive ride at around $50 Canadian dollars but I would recommend public transport. A far cheaper option is to take the Skytrain (monorail) from the airport to Bridgeport Station and transfer to public bus (No. 620) to the ferry terminal, both services are conveniently frequent and run from early morning to late evening. The journey takes around forty minutes in total and a one way ticket will cost between £3.00 - $4.00 (valid for both rides).
Organising and attending a wedding of a friend who was emigrating to the island, I spent three weeks on Mayne staying at the Blue Vista resort. A family run complex close to the cliff edge at the east of the island comprising of nine traditional log and stone self catering cabins set in natural woodlands. My cabin was called the Orca and consisted of two reasonably spacious double bedrooms, bathroom with bath and shower, open plan kitchen/diner and living room. Facilities at the time consisted of television with cable and traditional log fire. The cabin was comfortable, well appointed and clean, the log fire providing a welcomed, cosy atmosphere. The cabin had a wooden decking veranda with a partially obstructed (by the woodland) view of the ocean. On several occasions, early mornings provided me with rare glimpses of wild deer grazing at the entrance of the resort, something that never occurs in my current garden. Barbecue facilities and a small children's play area have been added since my visit as well as Wi-Fi in the cabins and a laundry service.Prices vary for accommodation at the resort depending on season, number of occupants and how long you stay but at present, one night for six people sharing is just $135.00 with complimentary pick up when you disembark the ferry. The Orca cabin is advertised as suitable for six to seven guests which for a family with children would be acurate but if all occupants were adults I think the cabin is just a little too small. A more realistic number would be five adults. There are several cabins on site, some of whch allow pets and again prices vary cabin to cabin.
Named by Naval captain George Richards after his lieutenant Richard Charles Mayne, the island was once a mid way rest stop for prospectors heading to the gold fields shortly after gold was first discovered in British Columbia and gained an unsavoury reputation with natives from the neighbouring islands due to it's poor law enforcement of those "pit stopping" on the island. Today, Mayne is a tranquil haven with no shortage of picturesque views be it landscapes, seascapes or quaint homes and on clear days snow peaked mountains on neighbouring islands and from the southern perimeter of the island a spectacular view of the west coast of America in the distance. Much of the islands charm is thanks to the islanders whom, with the local conservation society protect and preserve the wildlife that resides here as well as conserving the integrity of the landscape.Winding roads are quiet cutting through the undulating landscape, round cliff edges and through dense woodland, peppered with individually styled rustic log cabins secluded by firs, with the odd exception of several incredibly large and expensive homes, most of which are slightly off the beaten track and probably unnoticed by most tourists but all of which epitomises the quintessential images of Canada and a time gone by.
There are plenty of areas of interest including a Japanese garden. A one square acre of ornate landscaping developed and maintained by residents that pays homage to early settlers. St Mary Magdalene church built in 1887. The Old Jail, now a museum dedicated to the islands rich history and Mount Parke, the highest point on the island with a peak of 236 meters. Most activity however can be found at Miners Bay where the Trading Post serves as the islands main grocery store, a petrol station, Springwater lodge the local pub, library and other amenities that serve the community but there are also plenty of artisans on the island displaying their handmade wears in several gift shops. Further evidence of the skills of local craftsmen can be found passing most homes that the islanders themselves have built.A short walk from my accommodation at the Blue Vista is Bennett Bay, protected by the Gulf Island National Park Reserve and one of several sandy beaches suitable for swimmers and a popular launch site for boaters and kayakers, not a sport I favour. An afternoon session was dismal, confirmation that my feet should remain firmly on solid ground but if kayaking or the less challenging boating is something you would enjoy you will almost certainly be rewarded with some close ups of the sociable seals who playfully swim just off shore or perhaps for the more eager eye, a rarer glimpse of the graceful Orca's.
Neighbouring the bay is a popular hiking trail. An approximate mile long trail leads the walker to Campbell Point. Beautiful views of the tiny Georgeson Island, connected to Mayne by a succession of flat rocks that can be viewed and accessed at low tide although prohibited to visitors due to it's protected Eco system. On a clear day views stretch to neighbouring Saturna island, a pleasant reward for what can be achieved by, in all honestly what I consider to be a fairly leisurely stroll. The hike is not particularly strenuous compared to some I have participated in and I managed to complete wearing just a pair of casual trainers which were perfectly adequate for the journey.My friend was married at the lighthouse at Georgia Point (or more accurately the small cabin that is situated next to the lighthouse) located on the northern tip of the island. A beautiful vantage point that can be seen from the ferry which passes on the approach to Village Bay offering picturesque coastal views. The now unmanned lighthouse, built in 1885 and subsequent grass land are part of the Georgia Point Heritage Park also part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. A popular picnic spot with limited access to the rugged shore that surrounds the Point for those brave enough to explore during low tide.
Whilst there is plenty to explore getting around the island can prove a little problematic. I was lucky enough to have friends that would happily drive me around the island but I should imagine unless you had a car or at least were a bicycle it could prove a little harder although I would not be surprised if you were to be offered lifts to and from your destination by a kind natives as that is just the way they are. There is however a scheme in place, although not using it I could not comment on how successful it is called "car stops". There are several designated points on the island where upon if a local sees you waiting they will offer you a free transportation. A wonderful voluntary scheme to aid the transportation network (as there is no formal public transport) and one that was designed to be more environmentally friendly, obviously all at your own risk.
If your looking for a holiday destination somewhat off the beaten track Mayne is perfect although children may be less than impressed with the lack of amusement arcades and theme parks, however the island does provide a wonderful chance to educate children about the diverse eco system and teach them to appreciate the landscape. With so much of this beautiful island to explore it simply won't disappoint. How long you decide to stay depends on exactly what you hope to get from the island. I don't think Mayne is really conducive for a day visit, partly due to it's semi remote location. IT definitely deserves at least a couple of days of exploration, a week or more to really appreciate what this beautiful island has to offer. The island is unspoilt and offers a rare glimpse to a largely extinct rural way of life. The perfect solace from everyday life and a chance to recharge the batteries as the pace of life gets just a little bit slower on this tranquil island.(I should also add here that due to an unfortunate incident with my laptop many of my pictures from my visit have been lost and so those I have provided have been drawn from the internet)
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