Waiting Out The Ferry is Sheer Delight at The Galiano Inn and Spa
By Chris McBeath

We had missed the ferry by half an hour, and the next sailing was hours away, but it didn't phase us at all. In fact, waiting in line was so agreeable that we're planning to do it again.
That's because we had discovered Galiano Island's newest inn, The Galiano Inn and Spa, located only two blocks from the ferry terminal, and within walking distance of the village shops

As one of the newest resorts in the Gulf Islands, this small boutique hotel is exceptional. Perched on the edge of Active Pass, the Galiano Inn and Spa has a West Coast ambiance with a Mediterranean twist: terracotta tiled floors and roughly hewn cedar-beamed ceilings; cinnamon and honey-coloured roomscapes matched with elegantly casual furnishings, and out-of-this-world ocean-view sunsets framed by towering Douglas firs. It's a captivating combination.

As we contemplated our ferry wait, we asked to see the guest rooms - luxuriously appointed affairs which beckoned us to stay a while. All rooms overlook Active Pass with private balconies or terraces, and come with wood-burning fireplaces, king or queen beds with down duvets, luscious robes, in-room coffee and tea service, mini-bars and en suites featuring Jacuzzi or soaker tubs. Then we browsed the Inn's intriguing new Vintages Wine Boutique and Gift Shop, and hankered after some of the labels racked up in an impressive wine cellar built into the sandstone rock. Plus we got to peruse the many unique gourmet treats and gifts that made it easy to choose a "souvenir of the Islands".

The Madrona Del Mar spa was a real treat with its steam rooms, sea mineral floatation bath and a good variety of pampering services. For the ultimate in relaxation there is outdoor massage in a cabana by the sea during the summer months, and year round, you can wile away time in the beautiful and peaceful Meditation Gardens.

As time passed easily, we soon found ourselves in Atrievida, a treat as much for its view (it's the only oceanfront restaurant on the island) as for its varied menu. Here, you can sip a cool one on the outdoor patio, or go for something more substantial in the dining room with expansive windows overlooking the water: Sandalwood Smoked Wild Coho Salmon or Salt Spring Island Rack of Lamb..

Galiano Island had already impressed us with its rural beauty, and finding this Inn was like icing the cake.

For many visitors, Galiano Island is the most scenic of all the Gulf Islands, offering picturesque homesteads and farms alongside a wilderness of forests and meadows. But it wasn't always so. For decades, BC's largest logging company owned more than half the island, and harvesting its forests was big business, leaving the island's resources depleted and its economic future fragile.

But as land leases ran their course, the normally laid-back islanders rallied, determined to govern their own fate by raising, dollar by dollar, enough funds to purchase key tracts of land, saving it from further clear-cutting and preserving it for posterity. Remnants of lumber operations are still evident in parts, including a shoreline strewn with salt-laden, sun-bleached logs, but today, Galiano Island has become a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts. Parks provide hikers and horseback riders with numerous trails, sheltered waters lure kayakers and boaters alike, and beautiful shell and gravel beaches are home to seals, sea lions, and other marine life.

Favourite activities include watching big American yachts arrive at Montague Harbour while chattering kingfishers dive for salmon; picnicking at Bellhouse Provincial Park beneath magnificent coppery-red arbutus trees overlooking the fast-moving eddies in Active Pass, or nature watching from atop the bluffs at Galiano Park, 120 metres above the waters where BC Ferries rumble past, eagles catch the updrafts, and seals sun on the rocks below.

Retreat Cove is a particular treasure. In the 1930s, the cove was the site of a Japanese fish saltery where Japanese families lived aboard their fishing boats and seined the waters for coe and herring. Fish were soaked in brine at the salteries, and then shipped off to China. Although the saltery has long gone, it has left a cove that's a natural aquarium right off the dock.

Look down by the pilings and you'll see a myriad of sea life, including purple, mottled and sunflower starfish, and beautiful orange and white plumed anemones. Take an extra few minutes, and walk through the gate to Brammall Point where there's a miniature undersea garden in the sculpted rocks, just below the water. Note that this is private land generously kept open for public use, so visitors are asked to tread softly.

The ferry was due to arrive, but as oregano, fresh from the chef’s herb garden and spiced with a hint of garli, wafted from the kitchen of the Atrevida!, we likened it to an aromatic invitation to stay a little longer. As the sun sank into burnished clouds, we watched the ferry glide towards the dock, curiously detached, and aware that the prospect of leaving was dissolving with the light of day. Thyme, basil and ginger embellished our thoughts. We missed the ferry - again - but the wait had been so agreeable, that over Fresh Halibut roasted with herbed tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, chorizo sausage and a lemon beurre blanc sauce, we reflected whether to wait some more.

If You Go:

The Galiano Oceanfront Inn, Restaurant & Spa
134 Madrona Drive
Box S24-C47
Galiano Island, British Columbia
V0N 1P0

Tel: Toll free 877-530-3939,
or (250) 539-3388
Fax: (250)539.3338
Web site: www.galianoinn.com

Vancouver and other lower mainland travelers: B.C. Ferries departs from Tsawwassen terminal on the mainland and Swartz Bay terminal on Vancouver Island. Sailing schedule and general information: 1-888-BCFERRY (604-223-3779) or www.bcferries.com. Reservations are highly recommended

From State-side: Washington State Ferries travels to Sidney, a few kilometers from Swartz Bay (tel: 206-464-6400 or www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/)

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