Gambier Island is the largest of four islands located in Howe Sound, British Columbia. Howe Sound is located between the Lower Mainland and the Sunshine Coast, and incorporates many islands, and clusters of islands, the largest of which are Bowen Island and Gambier Island.
Gambier Island is named after Admiral of the Fleet, Lord John James Gambier (1756 – 1833), who was born in the Bahamas while his father John Gambier was Lieutenant Governor of the Bahamas.
As captain of HMS Defence, Lord Gambier took part in the victory of ‘The Glorious First of June’ in 1794, in which he demonstrated that the puritanical regime that he imposed on his crew did not keep them from fighting effectively. In 1807 he became Commander-in-Chief of the Baltic Fleet.
Gambier Island is approximately twenty-five square miles with only 125 permanent residents, primarily located in New Brighton, Gambier Harbour and West Bay, although the number swells to over 600 in the summer. BC Ferries provides passenger service between Langdale and New Brighton and there are gravel roads connecting the three communities.
Gambier Island provides fabulous views of Howe Sound and the surrounding Coast Mountain Range. The ocean waters are relatively calm in summer months, providing endless opportunities for boating, kayaking, and fishing, Ashore, there are beautiful trails for hiking through the forest, camping at Gambier Lake, and mountain biking is popular.
Gambier Island has one commercial establishment, the Gambier Island General Store.
Location: Gambier Island is located in Howe Sound, north of Vancouver, and is accessible by boat only. Travellers wishing to use the service of BC Ferries should note that Gambier Island is served from the Ferry Terminal at Langdale (passengers only), reached by first catching a ferry to Langdale from Horseshoe Bay on Vancouver’s North Shore. Access by water taxi or private boat requires a 30-minute boat ride from Horseshoe Bay or 20 minutes for the ride from Lions Bay Marina. The waters en route are generally calm in the summer but can be rough in the winter.
Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park is located on Halkett Point on the southeast side of Gambier Island, the closest marine park to Vancouver and the lower mainland. Wilderness walk-in camping is permitted, and a hiking trail leads from the shoreline through forested uplands and up Mt. Artaban, which lies just west of the park. The trail is fairly easy going, but the last third of the trail gets to be a little rough. Brigade Bay on Gambier Island’s eastern shore can also be reached by following a basic trail from Halkett Bay.
Canoeing & Kayaking: When flat-calm, Howe Sound is an inviting place to paddle, but beware the outflow winds that build on summer days. Howe Sound is a channel for winds drawn out to the ocean from cooler inland regions. For an extended trip, launch from Lions Bay Marina and head 3 miles (5 km) across Howe Sound to Gambier Island. Tucked away from view just inside its sheltered southeast corner is Halkett Bay Marine Park.
A government wharf lies at the end of the bay where a thick fringe of hemlock and second-growth fir shield the shoreline from view. If you walk into the shade of the trees, you’ll discover a series of clearings linked by old logging trails that have assumed the character of sedate laneways. You could camp here where there are several formal sites or on a small island just offshore in the bay. The island boasts a small beach, above which stands a clearing large enough for one tent. While on Gambier, follow the old logging road that terminates beside the campsites at Halkett Bay west to Camp Fircom, a half-hour walk. At first the road leads through the forest, but it descends to the shoreline as it nears the camp, with a pleasing view south of Hood Point on Bowen Island.
Sailing: Sailing in Howe Sound is a delightful experience, with so much to see and explore – a great place to learn to sail. The protected waters of Howe Sound provide exciting circumnavigations of Bowen Island and Gambier Island. The southwest coast of Gambier Island is deeply indented by a series of secluded bays, providing good anchorages in West Bay and Centre Bay. Sparsely populated Gambier Island is a great place to go ashore and explore.
Boating: Sparsely populated Gambier Island is a great place to go ashore and explore. The southwest coast of Gambier Island is deeply indented by a series of secluded bays, providing good anchorages in West Bay, Centre Bay and Port Graves. The easternmost of the three finger-like bays, Port Graves is the most picturesque of the anchorages, enclosed by high, soaring hills and magnificent scenery.
Boating, Sailing & Cruising in Vancouver, Howe Sound and Sunshine Coast area.
In some places along the BC coastline, like Gambier Island, log booms are stored along the shoreline in logboom storage areas. Small craft are permitted to moor alongside the log booms for short periods of time. If you elect to stay overnight, be ready for the tug’s horn to jerk you out of the land of nod at any time of the night.
Day Trip: For a fun-filled day of adventure from Vancouver, take a boat ride from the Langdale Ferry Terminal over to Gambier Island for some hiking, good fishing and lots of exploring.
Howe Sound: Spectacular Howe Sound is North America’s southernmost fjord, located northwest of Vancouver and extending from West Vancouver north to Squamish. Surrounded by towering peaks that rise straight out of the sea, Howe Sound is Vancouver’s playground for sailing, diving, camping, hiking, and a host of other recreational activities.
Nearby Bowen Island is an emerald jewel in the waters of Howe Sound. With a beautifully rugged landscape and friendly laid-back pace, Bowen Island is typical of the forested island retreats to be found along the coast of British Columbia.
From Langdale, visitors can continue up the Sunshine Coast. which lives up to its name, with an annual total of between 1,400 and 2,400 hours of sunshine. The 87-mile (139-km) stretch of Highway 101 between Langdale and Lund outperforms its size. Dozens of parks with biking, hiking, camping, and ski trails; canoe and kayak routes; beaches; and coastal viewpoints are easily reached from the highway.