Southern Gulf Islands with Emotive
In a day and age where “going green” is very much a part of the dialogue of our generation, we thought we were doing pretty well. We recycle, we have reusable swell bottles, we commute and ride our bikes when possible, and we’re careful about our home energy consumption. That’s gotta be enough, right?! But when you really sit down to think about it, there are so many more things we can take responsibility for as individuals and as a population to protect the environment we’re lucky enough to live in right now. One of those things, is to consider driving an electric vehicle. If you’re anything like us, you would think that owning an EV (electric vehicle) requires a lot of work and a lot of thought, and isn’t very realistic for a couple of city-dwelling adventurers like ourselves. But then we were introduced to Emotive. Emotive is a BC wide campaign to raise public awareness about EVs and show our province how fun and practical it can be to drive an electric vehicle. When Emotive approached us with a challenge to take a road trip to the Southern Gulf Islands using only an electric vehicle, we jumped at the chance – what a perfect opportunity to learn more about going gas-free!
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When we picked up our EV on our way out of town, the first thing we noticed was how drastically quieter it was than our typical gas guzzler. (And by gas guzzler, for comparison’s sake, we usually drive a Mazda 3). When we say quiet…we mean quiet. When we turned the car on, we didn’t realize it was running! It made us brutally aware of how much we leave our car idling (pulling over on the side of the road, sitting in traffic, or lining up in a drive-thru). It felt amazing to be completely guilt free with our zero air pollution. Adopting electricity as a clean fuel means reduced car emissions, and clean, fresh air. As electric vehicles are a newer concept, most models feel pretty futuristic and are equipped with the newest technology. The two of us are pretty into tech gadgets, so we spent a lot of our time waiting for the ferry setting up the insane sound system to our liking, and learning about the compatible smartphone apps and regenerative brakes. Regenerative breaks allow you to actually charge your battery when you stop accelerating…like, what?! SO cool. At this point, we were still were a little nervous about finding charging stations on the Gulf Islands, even though our particular car (a 2017 Hyundai IONIQ) has a range that surpasses 200km.
First Stop: Salt Spring island
Our first trip via BC Ferries brought us to the acclaimed Salt Spring Island. Ah – Salt Spring Island. This quirky, lovely, beautiful island is the largest and most populated of the Gulf Islands, and hosts a population of just over 10,000 people. We were completely enamoured at first sight. When we drove onto the island at dusk, our smooth, quiet EV glided down the road into the misty woods to our little cabin on St Mary Lake. The sound of frogs echoed across the water, and the sky was aflutter with bats busy keeping the mosquitos away. We settled in for the night, eagerly awaiting the views morning would bring.
With the next morning came golden sunshine rising over the lake, but we had our priorities in order – we had a mission to find coffee. We jumped in our EV with plenty of charge left, and hit up Salt Spring Coffee for our AM caffeine fix. We wandered through the town of Ganges and visited some of the cute cafes and trendy boutiques that Salt Spring Island has to offer, and brunched at the infamous Treehouse Cafe. (Yep, you basically get to sit inside a tree, and the food is healthy and delicious too!) We sat on the dock down at the marina and basked in the sunshine while watching the boats and sea life cruise by. Once we got our bearings around the island, we met up with a few members of the the EV council of Salt Spring island to learn a bit about their experience going electric. What blew us away was the pride the EV community of the island holds for their electric culture, and with good reason! Salt Spring Island has more charge stations and more EVs per capita than anywhere else in North America – a statistic that is growing every year. We asked them the typical questions and concerns that we had prior to trying an electric vehicle – how often do you charge up, and do you ever get stuck in town trying to charge when all the stations are being used? Their answers were easy. Typically, EV drivers charge their car up at home every night, (much like you’d charge your phone up every day), and there seems to always be a charge station available if they somehow find themselves in need of a jolt. What’s even better, (besides the fact that most charge stations are completely FREE and you save massively on not paying for gas), is the lack of need for maintenance. EVs are vastly more inexpensive to buy, used with very little risk, and typically require minimal repairs. (Think: brakes, tires, windshield wipers, etc – that’s about it!).
As the late afternoon hit, we hit up Moby’s Pub for an oceanside dinner, (local albacore tuna bowls and fish and chips, YUM), and conveniently charged up while we ate. (So much for our charge anxiety!) One of our favourite things we like to do when we’re exploring a new place is to find a place to watch the sunset. We settled on a hike up Reginald Hill near Fulford Harbour, where we found the most incredible field of wildflowers drenched in golden magic hour light. We made our way up to the peak of the hike just in time for sunset, and watched as a pink glow was cast over the hills. We couldn’t have asked for a better end to the day.
The next morning, with our car still fully charged from the night before, we drank cappuccinos at the perfect Cafe Talia before perusing the famous Ganges Saturday Market. If you ever visit Salt Spring Island, this market can’t be missed – with rows upon rows of freshly picked produce from local farms, quality artisan goods, and healthy, delicious bakery products – we were in paradise. After munching on fresh, local strawberries and buttery baked scones, and armed with our groceries to go, we headed to Ganges Harbour for a paddle boarding adventure. After exploring the coast of the island, we drove to check out the Sacred Mountain Lavender Farm, (feels like you’ve stepped out of a storybook into a lavender scented dream), and a quick paddle at Cusheon Lake. We ended our day at Duck Creek Farm – home of the most beautiful and rustic tipi in the middle of the woods, ready for a cozy night’s stay.
Second Stop: Pender Island
The next morning called for a 5:30am wake up for a quick zip over to Pender Island thanks to BC Ferries. Like Salt Spring, Pender has made it possible for EV drivers to charge up on the island – however at only 34km in area and with approximately 2250 local residents, considerably less charge stations are necessary here! When we arrived at Otter Bay terminal on Pender, we immediately felt the quaint, small island charm. We settled in at Woods on Pender – a spectacular destination in its own right. Here you can stay in cabins, incredible converted air streams, glamping tents or trendy lodge hotel rooms in the middle of the woods – there’s literally something for everyone. Hot tubs are available for guest use, macrame hammocks are hung between trees, and the ocean breeze drifts up from down the road. It’s complete serenity, and driving up in a gas free car was such a nice feeling. Next up we were eager for an evening kayak, so we parked at the local grocery store for a charge, and walked two minutes down the road to Port Browning Marina. We got set up with some kayaks at Pender Island Kayak Adventures and took off paddling in the breathtaking, emerald green waters. Seals bobbed their heads up at us curiously as we drifted by, and we lusted after cabins along the Pender coast.
Our evening ended at Coffee + Kitchen, the restaurant at Woods on Pender. Using local, sustainable ingredients, head chef and resort owner Curtis Redel whips up quality comfort food that will delight your palate. (We had the best charcuterie board and caramelized onion pizza ever – to die for). Watching the sunset on the back patio while deer grazed in the garden was the ultimate Pender experience – we could so get used to this lifestyle.
On our final day on Pender, we explored both the north and south side of island by car, each side separated by a tiny bridge. We wandered through the enchanted forest and strolled along the beach. We’ve learned so much about the diversity of British Columbia and the Southern Gulf Islands in our short time here, each island has something different to offer. We can’t wait to come back!
Our first electric vehicle road trip was a real eye opener. There are currently over 1000 charging stations in BC, most of which are free to use. One thousand are public stations, and 30 of these are DC Fast Charging stations – and this number is expected to grow dramatically in the next year. This means, if you’re an EV driver in BC, the sheer volume of charge stations in the vicinity won’t let “range anxiety” get in the way of planning a trip! For those with a lifestyle like ours, going electric is becoming a realistic goal – and to leave less of a carbon footprint with every adventure is the true definition of “going green”.