This summer, we had a simple dream of going on a British Columbia road trip. We were planning on wine tastings in the Okanagan, but it turned out to be: a) very booked up or prohibitively expensive, b) on fire (sadly, wildfires are common in the area, especially in August when we were hoping to go), and c) an area that was affected by rising COVID-19 cases at the time. It wouldn’t have been safe or smart for us to go. With other popular BC destinations, like Tofino and ocean-side campgrounds, already quite booked by the time we started planning, we needed to think creatively. What materialized was a unique melange of stays in places that – for the most part – neither of us had visited before. One of those destinations was our hike along the Elk River Trail in Strathcona Park. And another: Savary Island, a place that truly blew us away.
Savary Island is within the territory of the Tla’amin First Nation; the Tla’amin (Sliammon) name for the island is Áyhus.
Folks who live on Savary want tourists to remember to please be mindful, respectful, and responsible: everything you bring to the island also needs to leave with you. This is what keeps the island so amazing! Don’t leave a mess for islanders to tidy up when you leave.
What’s Special about Savary Island?
There’s no electricity on Savary, it’s totally off-grid! People who live there (year-round or just in the summer) use alternate forms of power and generators. You can only access it by water taxi, private boat, or float plane, so there are very few cars on the sandy roads (people who live there sometimes bring cars over on barges). It’s small, and known for its white-sandy beaches. Cell service isn’t great. Only some businesses take cards, and there’s no ATM on the island. If this sounds appealing, read on!
Where is Savary Island, and how do I get there?
Savary/Áyhus is a small island (7 km long and 1 km wide at it’s widest point) off of Lund, the town furthest north on BC’s Sunshine Coast. It’s located within Tla’amin First Nation territories.
The primary way to get there is the Lund Water Taxi. It’s about a 15 minute trip, and taxis run approximately every hour in July and August. We paid $12 each way, which includes 2 pieces of luggage each; prices vary depending on how much you’re bringing over. (The person checking you in will take a look at your luggage and let you know if you need to pay extra.) Check out the Lund Water Taxi website for schedules and current rates. You need to make a reservation – these ferries are packed in the summer, and spots can fill up early. If you get to the dock with enough time to spare, you can hit up Nancy’s Bakery next door!
Parking in Lund (Lund Parking) is just up the hill from the water taxi dock. Again, it’s best to reserve ahead of time. They’ll drive your car down to the parking lot to meet your return water taxi. You can book transport from the dock on the Savary side as well, through the water taxi folks. You can also walk, depending on how far you’re going with all your stuff.
Other options for getting there are by float plane and private boat. We ended up “hitchhiking” on a boat to get back, thanks to the kindness of a local! We were hoping to get on an earlier water taxi than the one we’d booked to make the morning Powell River ferry, but had no luck showing up at the dock for an earlier boat. All the water taxis were jam packed full of people, bikes, kayaks, and camping supplies. While I was killing time getting a coffee, Kyla started chatting with someone on the dock, and she offered us a ride back to Lund on her boat!
Where can I stay on Savary Island, and how do I get around?
There are lots of homes and cottages for rent on vacation rental websites, but from what I understand they fill up early. We opted for Savary’s (only) campground: Savary Camping and Cottages, also known by locals as Pascal’s place. Give him a call to reserve; at the time of our visit, he took e-transfer for a deposit, and cash upon arrival. In August 2021, it cost about $20 per night. Pascal can also pick you up at the water taxi dock, for less than the cost of the shuttle service.
The campground was wonderful! It’s in a forested area, within walking distance to the water taxi, General Store, and some great beaches. Each site has a tent platform and picnic table, and there are outhouses (including one flush toilet!), a shower, and a covered eating and dish-washing area for rainy days. Solar-powered lights keep the bathroom area well-lit at night, but you’ll want your own lights for your site.
It was super easy to get around from where we were staying; you can rent bikes on the island, but we opted to walk (and hitchhike). The General Store is less than 10 minutes down the sandy road, the ferry dock (and adjacent beach) is about 10 minutes away, and one of the island’s best beaches, South Beach, is under a 25 minute walk from the campground.
What can I do on Savary Island?
Sandy Savary is all about the long stretches of white sandy beach. You can spend your days at a favourite beach, or visit a bunch of different ones. Here’s my itinerary for 2 nights and 2.5 days, based out of the campground:
Make your way to the water taxi dock in Lund to check in. If you have time, grab a coffee and a bite at Nancy’s Bakery before your 15 minute ride over to Savary! Once you get to the island, make your way to your accommodation, either by foot or on a pre-booked ride.
Once you’ve set up your tent, pack your bags for a day at the beach! Bring a picnic and lots of sun protection, since there’s virtually no shade on the beaches. Make your way down to popular South Beach, about 25 minutes’ walk from the campground. On your way, you’ll pass the General Store, where they have a great selection of food (typical ‘camping food’ plus some fresh produce, dairy, snacks and meal ingredients, and frozen meats), drinks (alcoholic and non), fresh baked goods and coffee. You can ask on their Facebook page if you’re wondering whether something specific is in stock.
You’ll also pass by the water taxi dock again, and you can admire all the beachy cottages along the shore. Eventually, you’ll cross the narrowest part of the island, walk down a steep, sandy pathway from the clifftop, and you’ll find yourself on South Beach.
There is more than enough space on this large beach to spread out; just make sure you find or make some shade! The thing to do seems to be building a driftwood structure to keep the sun out – we found a good-sized one that was already made and threw some towels over it for maximum shade (luckily we also had a beach blanket). You can walk for miles in either direction on this beach. There are no facilities, and no bathrooms other than the ocean 😉
Once you’ve soaked up sufficient sun, make your way back to the campground for dinner. Next up, find a place to hang out while the sun goes down. We saved the best sunset views (from the north side of the island) for our second night, and chose to walk along another beach on the south side of the island on our first night. I still don’t know what it’s called, but it’s between Garnet and Whalebone Point, off of Patricia Crescent. The beach was full of empty ‘cabanas’, elaborate driftwood beach-side set ups and hammocks set up by local cottage owners. Try to make your way around to Duck Bay in time to watch the sun dip behind the western tip of the island.
Walk back along the road, admiring more funky cabins, and enjoy the campground for the rest of the evening. Tea & board games at the picnic table, beer and chatting with your campsite neighbours, going to bed early and diving into a good book… the options aren’t exactly endless, but they’re wonderful.
This is the day to check out the other (west) side of the island! Start with a coffee and treat from the Wired Corgi cafe, just down the road from the campground. YES there is a resident corgi! And a bathroom. If it’s open you can also stop off at the Savary Island Fair Trade store (SIFT) along the way.
Our next destination was the Mermaid Cafe on the west side of the island, where we would decide on our first beach of the day. Our plan was to walk, which would have taken about an hour, but we ended up being offered a ride (by the same person!) in both directions. Our driver turned out to be the host of the island’s annual Pride party! If you’d rather not walk (or potentially hitchhike), consider renting bikes.
The Mermaid Cafe is a perfect base for checking out the beaches at the west end of the island. Mermaid Beach is just a 6 minute walk away, and Sutherland Beach is about 15 minutes in the other direction. Plus, whenever you get hungry, thirsty, or hot, the cafe has you covered! They do great pizzas, homemade ice cream, coffee, and more. Plus, there’s an elusive outhouse, and a perfectly-placed disco ball that bounces sunlight all over the forest dining room!
Mermaid Beach is fantastic for beachcombing! I found sand dollars for the first time since moving out West, which I had fond memories of finding all over Vancouver Island beaches as a kid. (Remember not to take these creatures home, whether or not they’re alive!) There were loads of starfish hiding under the massive rock with the mermaid statue. Best of all, this beach has shade! Mermaid Beach definitely had the most West Coast-y feel of all of the beaches we visited on the island.
Sutherland Beach is a lot like South Beach, but it was quieter since it’s much farther from the water taxi dock. I recommend walking along Savary Island Road to get there (before crossing the island); it’s a peaceful, sandy road and you’ll pass cute cottages with decks overlooking the water. Once you get to the beach, you’ll run into the same shade problem as on South Beach, so just find or make yourself a shelter out of driftwood! You can walk for miles on this beach, and there’s a second staircase further along that leads back up to the road, near the famous Sugar Shack candy store! We didn’t make it to the far point of the island, but apparently there are some good spots for watching the sunset.
After you’ve filled up on food at the cafe and filled up on sun at the beaches, hitchhike or walk back towards the campground. We stopped back at Duck Bay and the cabana beach for a picnic dinner.
This is your last night, so it only makes sense to catch the sunset! Head down the hill towards the water taxi dock; the beach right beside it is the perfect spot to watch the sun go down.
Time to head back to the Sunshine Coast! If your water taxi is later in the day, you can grab coffee from the cafe or the General Store and spend some extra time at your favourite beach. Otherwise, head down to the dock and make your way back to Lund. If you have some time to kill before your ferry back to Vancouver Island (or heading back to Vancouver and beyond), Powell River is a great place to spend a few hours. There are some nice restaurants and cafes that are walking distance from the ferry line up, plus one of our favourites, Townsite Brewing, is just down the road! You can even sip on their tasty Savary Beaches Witbier, and admire the art on their cans. We were even able to spot a WHALE from the brewery’s outdoor, ocean-view patio. Read more about Powell River in my post about hiking to Tin Hat Mountain on the Sunshine Coast Trail.
I hope you enjoy your time on Áyhus/Savary Island! We will definitely be back!
Covid has made me extra anxious about all aspects of travel, and for some reason all the little bits and pieces of getting to Savary (e.g. limited space and sailings on water taxis and being super worried about missing ours, unloading our luggage for the trip and then getting our car to the parking lot in time, getting food) pushed me over the top to a mini panic attack type thing. These days, the more details I have about the little details on a trip, the better I feel, so I’m very happy to answer any questions you have, big or small!