Gabriola Island has earned itself the title of Isle of the Arts among the Gulf Islands. Home to a wide range of artisans and agriculturalists, Gabriola often feels like a world away despite being a 20 minute ferry ride from downtown Nanaimo. Small, independently owned shops, galleries and restaurants reflect local tastes and visitors can expect to encounter wildlife, scenic beaches, and unique sandstone formations on our Simply Gabriola Island tour.
Our first stop on the Gabriola tour is La Belle Vie Wellnes Studio. This beautiful studio is also the home of our host, Josée, who is a practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine. She conducts mutiple workshops on her property that include foraging for local edible plants, creating tinctures and teas, as well as full wellness retreats. While her husband is an architect who has begun designing tiny homes and is interested in environmentally friendly building practices, they also host a bed & breakfast.
Our next stop is the nearby Pier Gallery where the work of over a dozen local artists is featured. From glassware, to ceramics, silversmithing, painting and weaving, just about every medium is featured. While the gallery itself is small, the artists use every inch of space to showcase the range of work that can be found of Gabriola.
The Kitchen is a restaurant that draws inspiration from just about everywhere. From fried catfish to porkbelly to smoked peach compote, the Kitchen has something for just about everybody. Settle in to enjoy some unique flavor profiles while listening to their impressive collection of vinyl records.
Nina is no stranger to the art of silversmithing, as this skill was passed down to her from her mother. Inspired by the natural environment, Nina’s creations are beautifully shaped and uniquely patterned. Her gallery space where she showcases her work and the work of others, also doubles as her studio, where she carefully crafts her pieces. Inside she demonstrates different techniques and tools needed to manipulate and shape the silver into her vision and shares her passion with others.
What started out as a hobby for Keith Mackenzie and Marti Wright quickly took on a life of it’s own. When they first purchased their property on Gabriola, it was a tad overgrown but showed a lot of promise. The idea to grow heritage varieties came from Marti, who missed the Northern Spy apples of her native New York. Before long they had built their home and began the process of growing a high-density orchard, which involved grafting their trees to dwarf rootstock. Today, they’re becoming well-known for their delicious Gabby’s Cider, so named for the Island they now call home. Visit their rustic tasting room, pick some apples in the U-Pick, and learn about the fascinating work that goes into creating such a tasty product.
Take a stroll along the beautiful and historic Malaspina galleries. This natural sandstone formation was initially visited by the explorer Captain Malaspina and his crew, and then again later on by early British settlers in the area. The Galleries are a must-see for first time or repeat visitors, as the calm waters of the bay overlook Newcastle Island and downtown Nanaimo in the distance. It’s the perfect place to take a break and reflect on the day.