How to Drive Your Way Through the Canadian Archipelago

Cars Parked On Deck Of A British Columbia Ferry Vessel Moving Through The Salish Sea
 Christopher Kimmel/Aurora Photos

Road-tripping isn’t exactly what pops to mind when you think of the Northwest’s Salish Sea, a series of interconnected waterways and islands that separate Vancouver Island from mainland Canada and the U.S. But thanks to a fleet of 13 drive-aboard ferries that run to 13 of the islands in the sea’s Canadian archipelago, you can explore the laid-back lifestyles—and get a personalized porpoise- and orca-watching cruise.

Once ashore, each island has winding roads and its own vibe, from the art studios on Pender Island to the sloping apple orchards and rock-strewn beaches on Mayne to the meandering back roads of Galiano Island. Some islands can be toured in a day. Others, like Salt Spring Island, with lush wineries and a farm-to-table culture that has produced a worthy restaurant scene, deserve a night or three.

Start in Vancouver then loop through Galiano, Mayne, Pender, Saturna, and Salt Spring. Then hop the ferry to Vancouver Island and wrap up your trip with a wine and spirits tour in the Cowichan Valley, before leaving the islands in your wake and sailing back to Vancouver.