Gabriola Island

Discover Gabriola Island, British Columbia: A Blend of History and Natural Beauty

Nestled in the Strait of Georgia, Gabriola Island is one of the Gulf Islands in British Columbia, Canada. Just a 20-minute ferry ride from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, Gabriola is a haven of public beaches, forests, shopping centres, restaurants, and cultural events. Known as the Isle of the Arts, it boasts a high percentage of working artists and hosts annual festivals related to art, poetry, gardens, music, boating, and fishing.

The Rich History of Gabriola Island, British Columbia

Pre-contact Era on Gabriola Island, British Columbia

Gabriola Island is part of the traditional territory of the Snunéymux, whose name was anglicized to form the nearby city of Nanaimo. The earliest archaeological record on Gabriola is a cave burial dating back to about 1500 BC. The pre-contact population of Gabriola is difficult to estimate, but several thousand people lived in the village at Senewélets, now known as False Narrows, between about AD 1 and 1000. After contact with Europeans, the population of the Snunéymux declined drastically due to diseases like smallpox. The island is famous for its petroglyphs, which are almost impossible to date due to their erosion.

Post-contact Era on Gabriola Island, British Columbia

The first European visit to Gabriola was by the Spanish schooner Santa Saturnina under José María Narváez in 1791. The island was again visited by a Spanish expedition, under Galiano and Valdés, in 1792. The British expedition of George Vancouver may also have visited the island briefly in 1792. From the mid-1850s on, coal miners and ex-gold miners began to move to Gabriola, where they started farms to supply the growing population of Nanaimo. By 1874, 17 settlers were working the land on Gabriola, and two-thirds of those had First Nations wives and young families.

The Geography of Gabriola Island, British Columbia

Gabriola, part of the Regional District of Nanaimo, is the most northerly of the Southern Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia. The island is about 14 kilometres long by 4.2 kilometres wide on average with a land area of 57.6 square kilometres. The topography varies from flat sandy beaches at sea level to forested hills rising to 160 metres on Stoney Ridge in the centre of the island. Gabriola lies about 5 kilometres east of Nanaimo, the second largest city on Vancouver Island, to which it is linked by BC Ferries.

Demographics of Gabriola Island, British Columbia

The population of Gabriola rose by 15 percent, from 3,522 to 4,050, between 2001 and 2006. The total number of private dwellings on Gabriola was 2,744 in 2006, of which 1,998 were occupied by the usual residents. The median age of the population was 52.9 years compared to the BC median of 40.8.

Climate of Gabriola Island, British Columbia

Under the Köppen climate classification, the island has a cool summer Mediterranean climate due to its dry summers. Winters are cool and wet with the average temperature in January being 3.7 °C and an average precipitation of 130 millimetres. Summers, on the other hand, are dry and mild with a July average of 16.9 °C with only 26 millimetres of precipitation.

Community Life on Gabriola Island, British Columbia

Island festivals include the annual Isle of the Arts Festival in April, Cultivate Festival in July, and the Thanksgiving Studio Tour, all three events produced by the Gabriola Arts Council. The island's main shopping centre, Folklife Village, was bought and transferred to Gabriola after its role as the Folklife Pavilion in Expo 86 in Vancouver.

Flora and Fauna of Gabriola Island, British Columbia

Plants common to the island include Douglas fir, grand fir, Rocky Mountain juniper, Western hemlock, Western red cedar, arbutus, Garry oak, big leaf maple, red alder, and Pacific dogwood. Marine species near Gabriola include orcas, sea lions, seals, otters, oysters, mussels, clams, basket cockles, moon snails, whelks, wolf eels, Pacific herring, octopuses, and salmon. Deer and raccoons are among the island's more common land animals.