Learning Experiences

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

Explore. Learn. Connect. Park interpreters are here to share fun experiences with visitors in the park reserve. Join us for an evening program or outdoor activity during your visit to the park reserve! Programs are available to everyone, and you don't need to be staying in a campground to join in the fun.

Get ready for fun and exploration!

  • Cost: Free, unless indicated.
  • Ages: We do our best to cater to all ages! Look for the "Family Friendly" or “Adults Only” note on the schedule. 
  • Registration: Not required, unless specified on the schedule.
  • What to bring: Dress for the weather, wear sturdy footwear, and sunscreen. Bring enough water and snacks.
  • Meeting point: At the national park reserve’s kiosk of the listed location, unless otherwise noted.
  • Getting there: Travel to Sidney Island by Sidney Spit Ferry; travel to Vancouver Island or Saturna Island by BC Ferries.
  • To reserve an activity in French: Please contact the park office at 1-866-944-1744 or by email at gulfinfo@pc.gc.ca.

Please Note: In extreme temperatures and weather events, interpretive programs may be cancelled. Please refer to the website and social media channels for updated information, and changes to the schedule.

Special events and activities
Saturna Lamb BBQ
Parks  Canada employee with young child at Saturna Lamb event.

Canada Day, Saturday, July 1, 2023
10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Winter Cove, Saturna Island

Join us for fun activities at the Parks Canada tent during the Saturna Lamb BBQ. This old-timey community event raises funds for critical services on Saturna Island. A great way to celebrate Canada Day!


Ocean Wise WhaleBlitz
People whale watching and sitting at a picnic table under a canopy.

Sunday, July 16, 2023
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Sidney Spit, day-use area 

Gain species identification skills and contribute to citizen science at this new special drop-in event at the Sidney Spit day-use area. Scan the Salish Sea for whales and other cetaceans (marine mammals) with Parks Canada interpreters. Shore-based whale watching is a non-invasive way to collect important information about whales.

Coast Salish Campfire program
A First Nation’s interpreter is showing an eagle skull prop to a child and their parent.

SMONEĆTEN campground.
July 8 – August 26
7:00 p.m. (approximately one hour)

Do you know the origins of the word Saanich? Can you say thank you in SENĆOŦEN? Join a Coast Salish storyteller and a Parks Canada Interpreter for this special edition campfire to discover some of the language and stories of this place.

Please note: Ideal for families with children 12 and under. Park at the adjacent Blue Heron Park and follow the signs to the campground. Meet at the group campfire ring. We will gather around a propane fire pit if there is a fire ban.


Parks Canada Under the Salish Sea
Two Parks Canada staff present a Sea Garden felt display. They are inside the Shaw Center for the Salish Sea.

Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea
Daily except Wednesdays
July – August
10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (last entry at 4:30 p.m.)
Drop-in, Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea entry fees apply

Visit our Parks Canada interpreters under the sea at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea. Join us for stories, games and art!

Saturna Island
Sunset Wildlife Watch
Interpreter strums musical instrument next to ocean.

East Point (Meet at the end of the point)
July 8 to August 26
8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Sink into the peaceful bliss of an East Point sunset. Listen to island musicians and storytellers. Learn about the latest national park reserve conservation stories.

Bring a blanket or a chair and your flashlight.

We will share the list of musicians and storytellers on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.


Whale Trail Walk
Landscape image of Saturna Island shoreline. Visitors run along the shore.

East Point (Meet at the entrance kiosk)
July – August
2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Exercise on a short guided walk and unwind at stops with gorgeous views. Learn skills to become a better whale watcher. Get the inside scoop on the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.

Wear a sunhat and suitable walking shoes.


East Point Quest – A Treasure Hunt
Two people hold a chest made out of wood in the rain.

East Point
Saturdays and Sundays
July – August
10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

A map to follow. A set of cryptic clues to decipher. A treasure box to find. What could be better? Pick up your Parks Canada Quest Map at the Fog Alarm Building. Saturna Heritage Committee staff or volunteers will help you solve any tricky clues. This self-guided activity is suited for adults or families with older children.

Available in English and French. Allow one hour to complete.


Family Sundays
Family looks through a magnifying glass next to ocean.

Winter Cove
July – August
10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Work together on the Scats and Tracks Challenge. Learn to detect and protect animals. Make your own plaster animal track. Bring a picnic and enjoy the national park reserve.

Available in English and French. Plan an hour to solve the case.

Sidney Island
Our Plant Relatives
A First Nations Parks Canada Interpreters presenting a program on a beach.

Sidney Spit day-use area
July 9 - August 27
11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

What does it mean to call plants your relatives? Learn from a W̱SÁNEĆ Interpreter the teachings that connect the W̱SÁNEĆ People to the land. Then, walk the trail to find pop-up signs with Indigenous plant names and uses.


Roving Interpreters
Two children on a beach and looking at a skull (prop) and Xploreur booklet.

Various locations on Sidney Spit
Saturdays and Sundays
July 2 - August 27
11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Parks Canada Interpreters will be roving Sidney Spit’s beaches. Join them to explore the mysteries of the national park reserve.

Explore on your own
Someone is holding a geocache and a second person is holding a GPS.

Note: This program is available year-round, except for the Sidney Island caches (which are disabled September 1 - May 15).

Geocaching is an interactive treasure hunt played with a GPS unit or smartphone. The treasure hunt will take you to places on the islands you have never been and leave you without a doubt in your mind as to why this park is one of Canada’s national treasures. The park's geocaching program is an interactive way to learn about the unique natural and cultural heritage of the national park reserve.

Geocaching loops

Gulf Islands Survivor Challenge

The Gulf Islands Survivor Challenge is an easy, family-friendly, series of GPS treasure hunts. The Survivor Challenge passport will provide you with the location for the first cache in each series. You can then follow the clues inside each cache to find your way to the next one. Each cache includes a story about the park and a challenge.

Complete three out of the four islands challenges and redeem your passport for a commemorative geo coin (while supplies last). Challenges begin at:

  • Winter Cove on Saturna Island
  • Prior Centennial Campground on Pender Island
  • SMONEĆTEN (McDonald) Campground in Sidney
  • Along the loop trail on Sidney Island

Download your Survivor Challenge passport here (PDF, 879 KB)

Top Ten Challenge

The Top Ten route is an advanced series of caches. The coordinates for each cache are provided in you Top Ten Challenge passport, the caches are listed in no particular order and it is up to you to “choose your own adventure” and create your own route to find them all. This series of caches could be comfortably completed in three days. Find all 10 geocaches and redeem your passport for a Parks Canada geocoin (while supplies last).

Caches are located on:

  • Sidney Island
  • Saturna Island
  • Pender Island

Download your Top Ten Challenge passport here (PDF, 264 KB)

Getting started
  1. Obtain all the co-ordinates for the geocaches from geocaching.com.
  2. Use either a GPS, or smartphone to find the caches (when using a smartphone, download the geocaching app).
  3. Respect the natural surroundings by staying on marked trails – all geocaches are directly accessible from trails or public areas.
  4. Do not leave anything (trade items) inside of the geocaches
  5. Only Parks Canada employees may place geocaches in the park.
Receiving your coin (while supplies last)

Once you have completed your passport, you will receive one of the limited edition Parks Canada geo coins. To receive your Parks Canada geo coin:

Now, grab your GPS and come explore the Gulf Islands!

Three people on a beach. Two adults look at their child. The child is holding a net.

Are you between the ages of 6 and 11? Do you want to go on hikes, complete quizzes, play nature games and use your GPS to find mystery locations?Then the Xplorer program is just the right adventure for you!

Xplorer kids and their families can have fun and discover cool facts about Gulf Islands National Park Reserve by completing activities from the Xplorer Booklet.

There are 10 activities in the Xplorer booklet; kids who complete at least 5 of the activities are rewarded with a souvenir!

Where do I pick up the Xplorer Booklet?

Speak to a park interpreter or a visitor service attendant to pick up an Xplorer booklet. Parks Canada employees can also tell you about other activities and programs for kids in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.

In July and August pick up your Xplorer booklet from one of the following locations:

  • Saturna Island: The Fog Alarm Building (East Point). Go to the end of Tumbo Channel road then walk out to the point. Open in July and August, Saturday and Sunday, 10am-5pm.
  • Pender Island: The Pender Island Museum (Roesland). 2408 South Otter Bay Road. Please check their website for hours of operation.
  • Vancouver Island: The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve Office. 2220 Harbour Road, Sidney. Open Monday to Friday, 8am - 4pm.
  • Vancouver Island: The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, 9811 Seaport Place, Sidney. Please check their website for hours of operation.
What happens after I’ve completed 5 activities in my Xplorer Booklet?

Kids and their families can head to one of the following locations to receive an Xplorer certificate and souvenir (July and August only):

  • Saturna Island: The Fog Alarm Building (East Point). Go to the end of Tumbo Channel road then walk out to the point. Open Saturday and Sunday, 10am-5pm.
  • Pender Island: The Pender Island Museum (Roesland). 2408 South Otter Bay Road. Please check their website for hours of operation.
  • Vancouver Island:The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, 9811 Seaport Place, Sidney. Please check their website for hours of operation.
Want to keep Xploring?

Why stop here! Now that you have become an official Parks Canada Xplorer, there are many more adventures that await you at other Parks Canada locations.

Club Parka
Parka the beaver is waving at us. There is a forest and a tent in the background

Hello! My name is Parka. Ready to explore with me?

Parka encourages kids to explore the world around them, whether on a hike along wilderness trails or a step back in history at a site or fort. Spending time in nature has many benefits for young children – including increased fitness levels, powers of concentration, creativity, sociability and empathy – and visits to historic sites cultivate an appreciation for our country’s past and of those who have come before us.

Discover activities with Parka!

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