As originally intended & commonly understood, "Gulf Islands" refers to the archipelago at the south end of the Strait of Georgia (the islands extending from Saturna Island in the southeast and D'Arcy Island in the southwest, north to and including Gabriola Island). Note however that with the emergence of "Georgia Basin" strategies in the 1990's, the historic name "Gulf Islands" has been misconstrued as applying to ALL the islands in the Strait of Georgia; further, the misnomer "Southern Gulf Islands" has been introduced to distinguish the original archipelago, inferring that the remaining islands in Strait of Georgia comprise the "Northern Gulf Islands". Quadra Island is increasingly described in the media as the "northernmost of the Gulf Islands".
Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office
"THE GULF ISLANDS: Beyond the rolling farmlands of the Saanich Peninsula lies the Strait of Georgia. Among its myriad Gulf Islands sailed such 18th century Spanish and British explorers as Galiano and Vancouver. In 1858 sail and steamships ferried thousands to the Fraser River gold strike. It is a peaceful scene with a peaceful history." (Interpretive plaque, installed on the Malahat Highway directly above Bamberton, by [BC] Department of Recreation and Conservation.) "They may, as the sign declares, provide a peaceful scene but the early history of the Gulf Islands was no more peaceful than that of many other parts of British Columbia. More than once war between British Columbia and the U.S.A. was a distinct possibility in the area. At one time Victoria contemplated the invasion and annexation of the nearby San Juan Islands but this plan was quashed by the British Government.
Years later during prohibition days at Pender Island, an American vessel hijacked the cargo of a Canadian liquor boat at gun point. This was an isolated incident but for many years the long coast lines and secluded harbours of the Islands provided refuges for smugglers running between the United States and Canada. Indians were involved in several violent incidents in the area. Ganges Harbour on Saltspring Island was the scene in 1860 of the massacre of a party of Bella Bella Indians by a band of local Cowichans in revenge for an earlier murder. Three years later a white settler and his daughter were murdered on Saturna Island by renegades involved in black magic whose hideout was eventually discovered in a remote cave on another island.
Discovered by Spaniards in 1791, the Gulf Islands are comprised of eight or ten large islands and many smaller ones. The largest of the group is Saltspring Island, seventy square miles in area. The first settlers arrived during the Fraser River gold rush and over the years the Islands' sunny climate and isolated proximity to civilization have attracted many venturesome individuals including pioneers, artists, millionaires and Negro refugees from the United States. The 1966 population was about three thousand but growing interest in the area as a resort paradise is threatening to increase this number and bring an end to the unhurried quality of life there." (125 Stops of Interest in Beautiful British Columbia, by David E. Gill; an interpretive guide to the "Stop of Interest" plaques installed by the Historic Parks and Sites Division of the Provincial Parks Branch; Frontier Publishing Company, Aldergrove, 1979.)
Source: included with note