British Columbia’s Gulf Islands are laid-back places, more about hiking, kayaking, and woodsy cottages, than about deluxe resorts where pool boys bring tropical drinks to your chaise.
If you like that laid-back island feel but fancy a bit more pampering, the Galiano Oceanfront Inn and Spa, on Galiano Island, adds some luxury to an active outdoor holiday.
Galiano Island is a quick hop on BC Ferries from either Vancouver or Victoria. The Galiano Inn’s compact property hugs the shore, just a short stroll from the ferry dock. From the inn’s lawn or small sand beach, you can watch the ferries come and go.
All the guest rooms at the Galiano Inn face the ocean. My favorite feature of the ten queen or king rooms in the two-story lodge, done in forest-y earth tones, is the massage table that folds down from the wall like a Murphy bed. You can enjoy an in-room massage and then stay put for a snooze. Double rooms start at CAD$249 per night in high season (July through mid-September).
Because dining options on the island are fairly limited, the “Villas” — ten one-bedroom suites with full kitchens and outdoor grills — are a good alternative, particularly if you enjoy doing some of your own cooking. I’d pour a glass of BC wine, slap some fresh fish on the grill, whip up a salad, and call it a night, though not before a postprandial soak in the private whirlpool tub on the patio. In high season, villas are CAD$425 per night, or you can stay three nights for $999.
The inn’s restaurant, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the water, feels more formal than the rest of the property and is quite expensive. In good weather, I’d opt for a wood-grilled pizza outside on the more casual waterfront patio.
While the waterfront setting is lovely, the inn’s interior courtyard, which houses the Madrona Del Mar Spa as well as a bright, airy yoga studio overlooking the gardens, is a serene alternative for relaxation. You can have your massage or other treatment in a garden suite with the burble of the fountain providing a soothing backdrop.
Many of the spa services use natural or edible ingredients. I thoroughly enjoyed the aromatic blackberry vinotherapy massage, which uses oil that has been infused with blackberry wine produced on nearby Salt Spring Island. In the chocolate pedicure, you soak your pampered tootsies in chocolate milk.
When you enter the hotel lobby, you can’t help but notice the massive, brightly colored Kunamokst Mural. What may not be obvious is that this floor-to-ceiling artwork is comprised of nearly 200 individual paintings. The contributing artists, from as nearby as down the road and as far away as Mexico, had no idea how their creations would be combined into the larger work. The mural’s name is a Chinook word meaning “together.”
Galiano is the second largest of the Gulf Islands, measuring 27 kilometers (17 miles) long and six (four miles) kilometers wide. If you come without your own vehicle and want to do some exploring, the hotel can rent you a cute little “Smart Car” for tooling around the island. Inn staff can help you arrange bike rentals or kayak tours as well.
Of course, there’s no pool boy to bring you a drink (and there’s no pool either). But as long as you can do without the services of a posh resort, the Galiano Oceanfront Inn and Spa provides plenty of pampering for an outdoorsy island getaway.
Hotel review by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, who also blogs about her culinary adventures at WanderFood. Photos courtesy of Galiano Oceanfront Inn and Spa. The Galiano Inn hosted my stay.