Trip Report: Dionisio Park on Galiano Island


By Kristina Knappett

Recently, my partner and I decided to take a cycle tour to Galiano Island. This was to be his first bike camping trip, so I chose Dionisio Park on Galiano after a recommendation from a friend, thinking it would be quick, fairly easy and accessible. He was somewhat indifferent, despite my assurances that bike touring was THE best-thing-ever-thought-of-since-ever, so I planned the trip, renting him panniers from the Bike Co-op.

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Ok. Perhaps “planned” is generous. True to form, we waited until midnight the night before to install his rack, pack camping supplies and food (the singular can of beans remaining in our cupboard) and double-check the ferry times.

The 5:30am start went off without a hitch, despite my protests to maybe cancel touring in the name of sleeping-in and pancakes. We caught the sky train and 620 bus out to the Tsawwassen ferry, Carson complaining that our bikes being tippy and difficult to park on anything under the weight of panniers was “the worst part about touring.”

It seemed we weren’t the only ones with the ingeniously original idea to bike on the Gulf Islands. The ferry walls were stacked with at least 100 bikes, from gear laden touring frames to ultra shiny carbon fibres.

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Our first stop was the Saturday Farmer’s market, just a 10 minute ride from the ferry. It was a delightfully Gulf Islands affair. And by that I mean you could expect to purchase everything from ancient grain bread to beeswax-shined power crystals to shun negative energy, all while watching a bow-tied, one-man ukulele band kick-line with tourists.

There was another group of 12 cycle tourists whom we conspired to beat to Dionisio, to snag the best camp spot.

The Provincial Park website for Dionisio Point Provincial Park will tell you that there is not bike or car access to Dionisio, because it is marine access only. This is not true. Allegedly, what they really mean is that due to a land dispute, they have gated the paved road leading into Dionisio. As a cyclist, the gate is simple to go around, and indeed the only other visitors in the park were cycle tourists. However, the confusing part is that the free map available on the ferry shows Bodega Beach Drive ending a long way from the park, while Porlier Pass Road appears to nearly take you right to your destination.

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Image Source: Galiano Island Realty

Cue the 5 hour detour.

We of course, sensibly, took Porlier Pass Road all the way to the end, stopping for groceries at Daystar Organic Market and enjoying the cliffs at Lovers Leap before reaching a trespassing sign which I promptly ignored, continuing on down the dirt road convinced we had arrived. It soon became apparent that not only were we trespassing, getting to the park would involve some serious bushwacking and was somewhat unfeasible. So back we turned, first experimenting down Devina Road before cycling all the way back to Cook Road hoping it would join up.

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It was around this point that Carson broke a spoke. With no spares nor bike shop on the island, he was forced to ride on it, shuddering up and down Galiano’s endless hills as his wheel became ever more out of true.

Cook Road seemed promising, and we soon found ourselves on a gravel road heading through an ecological reserve. The road continues on past where the map ends, and, if you obnoxiously ignore signs stating “no beach access,” “no trail,” you will soon find yourself deep in the heart of Galiano, where dirt roads pass quirky homemade dwellings, shaded under the thick forest canopy.foto

Alas, not bold enough to trespass straight through someone’s property, we were once again forced to turn back, knowing via google earth we were nearly 100m from our destination. Too stubborn to bike all the way back to Vineyard Way, we took our chances on an internet rumour that there was a walking path between the Ecological Reserve and Bodega Beach drive. Near a sign saying “Dionisio Park Marine Access Only” we found such a foot path and proceeded to push our road bikes up into the brush. After a wrong right turn we found ourselves bush wacking, or “bike wacking,” if you will, only to turn back and eventually find a smooth dirt road through the forest that popped out not far from the entrance to Dionisio Park.

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We didn’t beat the other cyclists.

Dionisio, after our 7 hour adventure, was a treat. Sandy beaches, forest trails and even a ship wreck to explore. There is a well pump for fresh water and outhouses.

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The way back took just 2 hours down Bodega Beach Drive, leaving time for pad thai at Wild1.

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Any hopes of taking the bus back from the ferry were squashed by the sight of 100 other cyclist vying for the 2 bike rack spots on the 620. Instead we rode to Ladner and watched bus after bus come by with full racks until finally another cycle-tourist convinced them to send a bus just for bikes.IMG_2785

5 hours of being lost, a broken spoke, countless hills, a few large bush wacking cuts and a bus adventure later, Carson maintains that the worst part of bike touring is when you have to park your bike.