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Saturna Island



Saturna Island
South-facing aerial view of Saturna Island
The Southern Gulf Islands, including Saturna.
The Southern Gulf Islands, including Saturna.
Country Canada Canada
Province British Columbia British Columbia
Regional District Capital Regional District
 • MP Elizabeth May (Green)
 • MLA Gary Holman (BC NDP)
 • Land 31 km2 (12 sq mi)
 • Total 350
Time zone PST (UTC−8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
Flag of Canada.svg

South-facing aerial view of Saturna Island - Saturna Island
South-facing aerial view of Saturna Island

Saturna Island is a mountainous island, about 31 km² (12 sq. miles) in size, in the Southern Gulf Islands chain of British Columbia. It is situated approximately midway between the Lower Mainland of B.C. and Vancouver Island, and is the most easterly of the Gulf Islands. It is surrounded on three sides by the Canada/USA border. To the north is Point Roberts, Washington, and to the east and south are the San Juan Islands. Saturna has a permanent population of around 350, although that number increases significantly during the busy summer season. Approximately half of the island is in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR) that was formed in 2003 from existing provincial parks, an Ecological Reserve, and other Crown land [1].



  • The island was first used by indigenous people who called the island "Long Nose," due to the island's long north-eastern tapering shoreline that ends at East Point. The name Saturna comes from the Spanish naval schooner Santa Saturnina ("St. Saturnina") captained by pilot (piloto) José María Narváez, which together with the longboat of the Spanish naval packet ship San Carlos, explored the island's coast in an excursion under the overall command of Pilot Juan Pantoja y Arriaga in 1791.[1] The name was initially applied only to East Point. The contraction to "Saturna" applied to the whole island was first made by Dionisio Alcalá Galiano in 1792.[2] The name is not a corruption. Galiano was familiar with the role of the "Santa Saturnina" in the early exploration of the coast. Why he made the change is not known. The first European settlers came in the 1800s, but the island was slower to develop than the neighbouring Southern Gulf Islands due to its relative isolation and mountainous topography.
  • East Point is the site where Moby Doll, the first orca ever live-captured for aquarium display, was harpooned in 1964. The Saturna Island Heritage Committee[3] runs a small museum in the former fog alarm building at East Point where visitors can learn about Moby Doll and Saturna's unique history.


  • January: Robbie Burns Night Dinner
  • April: Prawn Fest
  • May: Spring Pig BBQ
  • July: Canada Day Lamb Barbecue
  • November: Fall Pig BBQ
  • December: Christmas Concert and Santa Ship


  • East Point is widely considered one of the best places on the British Columbia coastline for onshore whale watching. Residents of the resident J, K and L orca pods pass by almost daily in the summer months, with transient orca visiting year round.
  • Saturna has many species of terrestrial, aerial and aquatic animals, making it an ideal place for wildlife viewing.
  • The Lamb Barbecue,[4] held at Winter Cove, is an annual event that attracts thousands of visitors every Canada Day.
  • Wild Thyme Coffee House,[5] a cafe located inside a 1963 British double decker bus, is a popular family attraction.
  • The Free Store, located at the recycling centre, is a popular stop for visitors
  • The Saturna Island Family Estate Winery [6] is accessible by car or private vessel and offers complimentary wine tastings to visitors.
  • Thompson Park hosts a free-to-play 9 hole disc golf course.[7]
  • Saturna is a popular destination for geocachers. Caches are built and maintained by Parks Canada and the Saturna Ecological Education Centre.

Parks and beaches

  • Gulf Islands National Park Reserve provides opportunities for boating, kayaking, hiking, camping and wildlife viewing.[8] At Narvaez Bay, there is a 2.5 km (approx. 1.5hr) trail to the viewpoint at Monarch Head. At Monarch Head there are views of Boundary Pass and the American San Juan Islands.[9] At East Point there is a local visitor's centre, Foghorn Alarm Building (FAB), which is run by the Saturna Island Heritage Committee.[10] There are also marine wildlife viewing opportunities at East Point, where one can see harbour seals and sea lions on Boiling Reef, and Dall's porpoise and resident orcas feeding in Boundary Pass.[8] The Lyall Creek trail (2 km; approx. 40 mins 1 way) cuts through second growth Douglas-fir forest to a waterfall that feeds into one of the Southern Gulf Island's only salmon-bearing creeks.[11] Scheduled Interpretive Programs provide an opportunity to learn about the flora and fauna of Lyall Creek, and about past and present efforts to restore this watershed.[12] At 397 metres (1,303 feet) Mt. Warburton Pike is Saturna Island's highest point. At Mt. Warburton Pike there are panoramic views of Vancouver Island, the Southern Gulf Islands and the San Juan Islands. At Mt. Warburton Pike one can see feral goats, bald eagles, turkey vultures and falcons.[13] At Winter Cove, the 1.5 km loop trail travels through skunk cabbage wetland, spruce-salal upland and salt marsh, before arriving at the turbulent waters of Boat Pass.[9]
  • The Saturna Island Parks & Recreation Commission maintains over a dozen beach accesses and picnic areas around the island. In addition, they oversee a large community park Thompson Park which boasts a pebble beach and a picnic shelter.


  • Gulf Islands National Park Reserve offers 7 walk-in (or kayak-in) backcountry campsites at Narvaez Bay. The trailhead to Narvaez Bay is located at the parking lot at the end of Narvaez Bay Road. There is also a bike rack available for cyclists to lock up their bikes. There is no potable water at Narvaez Bay, and no campfires are permitted, regardless of season.[9]


  • Saturna is accessible via BC Ferries,[14] which offers daily sailings from Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island and Tsawwassen on the Mainland to Lyall Harbour on Saturna.
  • Daily float plane service from Vancouver International Airport [15] and downtown Victoria[16] to Lyall Harbour is available.
  • In the high season (June–September), the Saturna Shuttle is available at no cost to visitors. Check local bulletin boards at Saturna Point Store and Saturna General Store for the shuttle schedule.

Arts and culture


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