Nature’s Art: Gabriola Island’s Malaspina Galleries

August 2, 2016

Exploring the Isle of the Arts

Written by Chris Istace, Guest Blogger


A weekend spent in Nanaimo provides countless recreational opportunities from harbour walks to hiking up nearby mountains. But did you know that it is also home to the BC Ferries terminal that takes you across the 5kms to the charming and beautiful Gulf Island of Gabriola?


I recently had the opportunity to make my first visit to Gabriola Island when Tourism Nanaimo held one of their fabulous Instameets bringing outdoor enthusiast and photographers together to experience the island.


Tom Parker (@tomparkr on Instagram) taking in the views

Your trip begins in the Nanaimo Harbour where you board a BC Ferry for a 20 minute ride across the water to Descanso Bay on Gabriola Island. On these open deck ferries I always like get up and walk around to try and catch an opportunity to see the local whale population out navigating the waters.


Once you arrive head straight up South Road to the local business market area and If I may suggest, plan your trip for a Saturday so you can take in the Farmer’s Market than operates from 10-2 during the summer months. Stroll around the market and then if you are like me, head over to Mad Rona’s Café for a coffee fix and fresh baking before you set out on your exploring adventure. Why not grab a Nanaimo Bar while you’re there? They are the only Nanaimo Bar Trail location on Gabriola Island.


Tools of the trade ~ a good coffee and a good camera
Tools of the trade ~ a good coffee and a good camera

From the market and business area head back down South Road the direction you originally came from until you reach Taylor Bay Road where you make a right hand turn. Follow this road until your make a left hand turn onto Malaspina Drive. Go to the end of the road and park, from here you will hike the short distance through the forest and emerge into a wide open point looking back at Nanaimo.


Exploring the Galleries with Nanaimo in the distance
Exploring the Galleries with Nanaimo in the distance

You are now at the Malaspina Galleries which is a unique and almost lunar like surface with large overhangs and wild formations. The galleries were the result of the effects of winter storms, surf and nature taking it’s toll and carving a unique landmark into the soft sandstone that makes up the shoreline of Gabriola Island.


Enjoying the views up high and down low
Enjoying the views up high and down low

Take your time to drop down and walk along the large ledge with massive overhang that creates a roof over your head as you explore all the nooks and crannies of the shore. Do take care as the rock can be slippery and an unexpected fall into the ocean could be in your future. Although in the hot summer months this would be a fantastic place to dive and jump into the ocean as many local teens do. The only disclaimer I would make other than be careful with your footing is to resist carving any designs or initials into the soft sandstone like others had done in the past. Lets preserve these beautiful places in their natural splendor.


The size of the natural cut out ledges is impressive
The size of the natural cut out ledges is impressive

I really enjoyed the Galleries and will be sure to return again bringing others to visit it for the first time like I had the chance to. When you are done exploring you could head back to the market area for a meal or maybe even further down to the far end of the island for kayaking at Silva Bay or take in one of the local sandy beaches at either Gabriola Sands or Sandwell parks.


Ultimately your day doesn’t need to with Malaspina Galleries and take the opportunity to see what else Gabrioal has to offer before catching the ferry back to Nanaimo.


Have fun and as always don’t stop getting out there to #ExploreNanaimo.


‘Til next time,


Instagram: @stasher_BC

Twitter: @stasher_SK




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