Gulf Islands National Park Reserve officially opens SMONEĆTEN campground for the summer visitor season on May 15

News release

May 16, 2023             Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (B.C.)           Parks Canada

The vast network of protected areas administered by Parks Canada is a gateway to nature, history, and 450 000 km² of stories from coast to coast to coast.

Looking to get outdoors close to Victoria this summer? Starting on May 15, 2023, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve officially opens camping for the 2023 summer visitor season, with reservable campsites available until September 30. Take in weekly interpretation programs in July and August, including a new Ocean Wise WhaleBlitz.

National parks and national marine conservation areas are gateways to discovering, learning about, and connecting with nature. There are countless opportunities to enjoy the mental and physical benefits of being outdoors at these treasured places.

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve offers many outdoor land and water activity opportunities. From self-guided activities like geocaching to guided kayak tours with licensed operators, we have something for everyone. Additionally, visitors can extend their stay by camping at one of our three frontcountry campgrounds or nine backcountry campgrounds dispersed through the Salish Sea.

If you’re still looking to make plans this summer, consider spending the night to rest and recharge! Parks Canada’s Reservation Service allows visitors to plan their trips to a wide variety of national parks and national historic sites across Canada with confidence, ease, and knowledge that they have a guaranteed spot waiting for them. If your favourite spot is booked on your preferred days, check back regularly for cancellations, or plan your visit for less busy periods like during the week or the shoulder seasons. To book a stay, please visit the Parks Canada website at or call 1-877-RESERVE (1-877-737-3783).

Here are highlights for the summer:

-  SMONEĆTEN plant walk – a new experience for 2023! This self-guided stroll spans approximately 1 km through the Douglas-fir forest of SMONEĆTEN campground, near Sidney. The walk features panels highlighting plants that are important to the W̱SÁNEĆ people, accompanied by artistic depictions of the plants by W̱SÁNEĆ artist Sarah Jim. Information about the species is presented in SENĆOŦEN (the language of the W̱SÁNEĆ people), English, and French.

-  Ocean Wise WhaleBlitz – On Sunday, July 16, 2023, gain species identification skills and contribute to citizen science at this new drop-in special 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.

-  Camping – Explore Greater Victoria, fall asleep to the sound of the waves, and listen to the stories of a Coast Salish Knowledge Holder; these are some of the things you could experience while camping at one of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve’s diverse range of a dozen campgrounds.

-  First Nations-led interpretation programs – Sidney Spit and SMONEĆTEN Campgrounds provide opportunities to learn about Coast Salish history and cultures. Parks Canada staff will lead weekly interpretation programs in July and August on the Saanich peninsula and the Southern Gulf Islands.

To make the most of their Parks Canada experience, visitors are asked to plan their trip in advance, by visiting the Parks Canada website and signing up for the e-newsletter, to be among the first to find out about new and noteworthy events and activities, special offers, trip planning ideas and much more – all delivered directly to their inboxes! Visitors can also download the Parks Canada app, listen to Parks Canada’s new podcast ReCollections, and follow Parks Canada on social media for destination inspiration and to help plan their perfect visit.

Parks Canada staff at Gulf Islands National Park Reserve are excited to welcome new and returning guests back to experience everything that the national park reserve has to offer.


Additional multimedia

Left picture: A Parks Canada Interpreter holding a stuffed Killer Whale during their “Match the Patch” program at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea in Sidney. Credit: Parks Canada / Right picture: Gulf Islands National Park Reserve welcomes many kayakers every summer. Credit: Parks Canada
Camp with friends at Sidney Spit campground, one of the five reservable campgrounds in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. Credit: Parks Canada.


“As we near summertime, I encourage everyone to connect with nature and culture and make lasting memories at Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. National historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas represent the very best that Canada has to offer where Canadians and visitors to Canada can explore nature and learn about Canada’s history. The vast network of protected areas administered by Parks Canada has something for everyone to enjoy.”

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

“The visitor season coming into full swing at Parks Canada’s administered places is always an exciting time of year. The Parks Canada team works extremely hard to provide visitors with high quality and meaningful experiences across the country. We look forward to welcoming new and returning visitors to Gulf Islands National Park Reserve to create lasting memories!

Ron Hallman
President & Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada 

Quick facts

  • Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is part of the iconic Trans Canada Trail, the longest network of multi-use recreational trails in the world. Many kayakers enjoy the convenience of our backcountry campgrounds to complete the Salish Sea Marine Trail section of the Trans Canada Trail.

  • Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is conveniently located between Vancouver and Victoria and offers a myriad of outdoor terrestrial and marine activities for visitors. 

  • Gulf Islands National Park Reserve has three seasonal frontcountry campgrounds (open May 15 to September 30) and nine backcountry campgrounds (open year-round). 

  • Parks Canada has launched a new podcast series, entitled ReCollections. Five initial episodes share the captivating stories behind various national historic sites across the country. Delve into Canada's rich natural and cultural heritage as you uncover these cherished treasures.

Associated links


Kaitlin Power
Press Secretary 
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Nancy Hildebrand
Communications and Public Relations Officer, Coastal British Columbia
Parks Canada / Government of Canada

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