Kyla and I spent a long weekend camping on Mayne Island last month and it was badass! Mayne is one of the Southern Gulf Islands, which sit in the Georgia Strait between Vancouver Island and Vancouver/mainland BC, and are home primarily to hippies, artists, and retirees (based on a mix of casual observation, anecdotal evidence, and census data). These quiet little islands can’t really be the site of much badassery, right? WRONG! (No, you’re right, but I lead a pretty tame life, so humour me with this one!)
Here are some reasons why our weekend rocked, and tips so that you can have a badass-as-you-can-get-in-the-Gulf-Islands weekend too:
- Solo Camping. Even if you don’t have the mad outdoor skills of a former Girl Guide like I do (clearly a BAMF), you can easily camp on your own here. It’s not hard to get to Mayne Island Campground and around the island (see below), the owner of the campground is helpful and easy to get a hold of, and locals are friendly (see further below). You won’t exactly be roughing it, but let’s face it, camping solo is pretty hard core.
I got to spend a night on my own (K had a conference the first day, and there’s a 3 night minimum booking on long weekends), and this filled my introverted, independent-traveller heart to the brim. I’ve travelled on my own lots and for much longer periods of time, but usually this happens in/between cities and towns, and I’ve never camped solo. Although it was a minor achievement, I felt pretty accomplished after getting our little tent set up on my own. I cracked open a cider in celebration, walked all over town, stopping to take as many pictures as I wanted, listened to a podcast on the beach as the sun went down, did some reading… and promptly got bored and excited for my love to arrive the next day! I’d definitely like to get more accustomed to this more outdoorsy, device- and diversion-free type of independent travel though.
- No Car? No Problem. There are designated stops for hitchhiking on the island. Can you get more BA than that? Seriously though, we tend to have trouble with transportation logistics when we camp. If we bring Kyla’s motorcycle and pack our camping gear (generally desirable for a camping weekend), then *I* don’t fit on the back of the bike (generally undesirable for me). There aren’t too many spots we can get to with public transit, and renting a car would drive up the cost of a weekend that would otherwise be on the cheaper side. Sometimes, we can share the costs with friends, but we were able to camp on Mayne without any hassle:
The campground is about a 40 minute walk from ferry terminal, so we packed for the weekend as if it were a backpacking trip. That was our backup plan though; if we didn’t manage to hitch a ride or pick up the Community Bus (not public transportation, but a nice dude who drives a bus around the island at his convenience, getting people to their destinations in exchange for an optional donation). I got lucky with the latter. Guess it was pretty obvious in my sweaty state that I could use a lift, because the driver passed by in the opposite direction, but he slowed down to let me know that he’d be back my way in a few minutes! He dropped me off right at the campground.
The campground itself is an easy 1 km walk from town, and while we didn’t venture much further out, I’m sure you could easily get around the island with a combination of hitching and the bus. If you have a car, EASY. If you don’t mind the hills, bring a bike!
- Nature. Mother Nature is a BAMF, no question, and she pulled out all the stops on Mayne Island. We got lucky with a stunning, sunny weekend, and the local seals also took full advantage of the weather. When I got to my beach-side campsite, I noticed some blobs on the rocks jutting out into the water. They turned out to be dozens of seals! I counted at least 50 when I accidentally got too close to their rocks and scared them back into the water. I listened to the dulcet sounds of their belches and growls late into the evening. The next day they were back, swimming in front of a backdrop of snowcapped mountains.
- Fearless locals. Not used to striking up conversation with everyone you meet on the street? Locals here aren’t afraid – these intrepid folks will chat you up. I had some great conversations with people I met on the ferry over, as well as in town, including one that led to a little adventure. As I walked past a post box, I met an older, local woman who was walking her two dogs. After we had chatted a bit, she asked me to join her on a walk through the forest, and invited me in for some juice as we walked by her home afterwards. It was a sweet kind of hospitality that was meant to be completely unexceptional, but of course that was what made it seem remarkable to me. (Plus, saying yes was a conscious adventuresome-introvert strategy).
- Shower in nature au naturel. There’s a hot water shower at the campground, so like I said, you won’t be roughing it. But it’s an outdoor tree shower! You get to clean off in the forest, with a beach view and ocean breeze, and stripping down beyond your bathing suit is a little daring because the view works both ways! That said, the shower is pretty well closed in, so you won’t exactly be getting naked with strangers! Bring your own biodegradable soap (or buy some at the campground).
- Dock drinking. The island may only have a population of 1071, but that (plus loads of tourists) is more than enough to justify a craft brewery! Mayne Island Brewing Company set up shop last December, and it’s located in an arboreal wonderland, which I feel is characteristic of Gulf Island breweries (based on observations of the two I’ve been to)! Anyway, cute cabin in the forest, good beers, can’t go wrong! We tasted a few and brought a bottle of the darkest one they offered down to the dock.
- Jungle exploration. By jungle, I definitely mean Pacific Northwest rainforest exploration, but let’s just call it a jungle for optimal badassery. The campground sits on a 22 acre property made up of forest and coastline, which meant we had lots of space to
pretend we were t-rexesgo exploring. Pro tip: don’t wear your flip flops for this, because who knows when you might be balancing on mossy logs to cross streams and muddy sections. (Or do wear your flip flops, and just stay on the beach/path.)
There you go! With this guide, you will no doubt have the badassiest possible weekend on Mayne Island. If you’re hoping for something a little more mellow, the same guide applies 😉
Practical info: you can reach Mayne Island by ferry from Victoria or Vancouver. Some are direct, while others stop at other Gulf Islands. If you’re driving, be aware that ferries fill up early on long weekends (and likely most summer weekends).
I would recommend booking ahead at the campground, as they only have 12 sites. There’s also a large group site available. Stay at a waterfront site if possible!
Find out about Mayne Island events and festivals here: http://maynenews.blogspot.ca/. There’s a great little market that runs every Saturday in the summer.