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Map showing the location of the Southern Gulf Islands
The Gulf Islands are the islands in the Strait of Georgiamarker (also known as the Gulf of Georgia, explained in detail below), between Vancouver Islandmarker and the mainland of British Columbiamarker, Canadamarker.

The Gulf Islands are usually divided into two groups, the Southern and Northern Gulf Islands. The dividing line is approximately that formed by the city of Nanaimomarker on Vancouver Island, and the mouth of the Fraser River on the mainland. All the major islands are served by B.C. Ferries.

Southern Gulf Islands

North Pender, Mayne and Galiano Islands
A view of North Pender Island's shoreline
The Southern Gulf Islands include hundreds of islands and islets, and form part of a larger archipelago that also includes the nearby San Juan Islandsmarker of the State of Washingtonmarker, in the United Statesmarker.

The major Southern Gulf Islands, in alphabetical order, are:

Northern Gulf Islands

The major Northern Gulf Islands, in alphabetical order, are:

Cortes Islandmarker, and Quadra Islandmarker are referred to as being part of the Gulf Islands, but as they are not in the Strait of Georgia they are more officially designated as part of the Discovery Islands.

Bowen Islandmarker, the outermost of the islands of Howe Soundmarker, is also often referred to as a Gulf Islandmarker, as is neighbouring Gambier Islandmarker.

"Gulf of Georgia"

The name "Gulf Islands" comes from "Gulf of Georgia," the original term used by George Vancouver in his mapping of the southern part of the archipelago and which before the San Juan Island disputemarker also was taken to include what have since been called the San Juan Islandsmarker. Strictly speaking, the Strait of Georgia is only the wide, open waters of the main strait between the mainland and Vancouver Island, and does not officially refer to the adjoining waters between the Islands and between them and Vancouver Island but has become a common misnomer for the entire Gulf, which includes waters such as Trincomali Channelmarker (between Galiano and Saltspring Islands), Sansum Narrowsmarker (between Saltspring Islandmarker and Vancouver Island) and Malaspina Straitmarker (between Texada Island and the mainland around Powell Rivermarker. "The Gulf" refers to all such waters collectively, and to those communities and shores surrounding it. Only the term "Strait of Georgia" remains in the provincial gazette although its use as a synonym for the Gulf is unofficial, while the term Gulf of Georgia remains in current use though not in the provincial gazette.


The islands and surrounding ocean are rich with ecologically diverse plants and sea life including Garry oaks, wild lilies, kelp beds and Orcas, the world's largest dolphin. Gulf Islands National Park Reservemarker of Canada was established in 2003 by Parks Canada to protect the area’s unique ecosystem.

The Gulf Islands are home to one of the last remaining pockets of Garry oak ecosystems. Only about five percent of Garry oak ecosystems remain in their natural state, landing 91 of the approximately 350 species it supports on the province's list of species at risk. The unique Mediterranean climate of the islands is ideal for Garry oak ecosystems. Garry oak ecosystems are home to more plant species, such as the camas, than any other terrestrial ecosystem in coastal B.C. and are one of Canada's most at-risk natural habitats.

Today, Garry oak meadows exist in the shallow and exposed soil of valleys, rocky foothills and southern slopes — areas that the settlers of the past 150 years have found unsuitable for agriculture or development.

The Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team (GOERT), a partnership of a number of governmental and non-governmental agencies that comprise 22 individuals, was established in 1999 after the delegates of the First International Garry Oak Ecosystem Symposium met in Victoriamarker and declared the ecosystem endangered. Since then, GOERT has been working to motivate public and private restoration of the rare ecosystem and promote conservation activities. [57840]

Provincial Parks and Protected Areas

See also

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