One of the beautiful aspects of life on Keats and Gambier Islands is the almost total lack of traffic. Hours can go by — or sometimes even days — before you hear the sound of an engine. The reason, of course, is because there is no car ferry servicing the islands, so there just aren’t that many cars around.
As idyllic as this is, it does pose some challenges to getting around. The communities on both islands are spread out over large areas, and hauling a weekend supplies from the dock up to a cabin can be a bit daunting if you have to walk. Most islanders consider owning some sort of wheels to be a must. (Though not necessarily.)
Option 1: Walking
If you’re in great shape (or if you want to be), you could go the route of bringing a collapsible cart over with you. They’re light, relatively cheap, and not much can go wrong with them. However, pushing a cart loaded with groceries and other necessities up a hill on a Friday night isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. As for transporting building supplies, a cart won’t do.
Option 2: Car or minivan
Some residents have decided that all they need to get around in is an old car. Good deals can be had for as little as $500, but while a car might be fine for running about with your family and ordinary supplies, it can’t haul heavy building supplies. On top of that, your average beater won’t last long on gravel roads without regular maintenance. (If you still want the comfort of a car, but are willing to go for something a bit bigger, minivans tend to fare much better on island roads.)
Option 3: Golf cart
Now, if you want that compact feeling, but want to stay away from cars, a golf cart might be the vehicle for you. Golf carts are very popular on Keats Island, and for good reason. While they come with either gasoline or electric engines, what makes the electric engine so appealing is the fact that you can just hook up a solar panel in the summer and not have to worry about fuel. Alternately, there are a number of ATV / golf cart hybrids that might fit the bill if you want something a bit more rugged.
Option 4: Truck
Probably the most practical choice for an island vehicle is a pick-up truck. They’re designed for conditions like this, and, depending upon the model, require less maintenance and are easier to repair than your average car. You’ll be able to carry whatever you need in the back, including all of your weekend gear, building supplies, and even extra passengers when necessary. If a pick-up seems just too uncomfortable, an SUV is an excellent compromise.
How much you spend, of course, is up to you. $500 buys you a vehicle, but will it run very long on country roads? How will it winter, when it’s neglected for months at a time? Probably not well, unless you have some mechanical knowledge to keep it running. Keep that in mind when searching for a vehicle.
Don’t forget insurance. (It’s less costly than you think.)
Finally, there is the issue of insurance. All cars and trucks using island roads must be insured. The good news is that ICBC offers considerably cheaper insurance for island vehicles. One year costs around $250.