Typically when one thinks of an “island getaway”, images of sandy beaches, palm trees and tropical drinks come to mind. Closer to our region, we often think of a getaway to Vancouver Island as our big “island” destination, but Vancouver, Coast & Mountains has a few island getaways of our own! We can’t promise palm trees, but we can definitely supply sandy beaches and I’m sure we can point you in the direction of the fixings for a tropical drink, or two!
First up in our Island Getaways series is beautiful Bowen Island. Located a short, 20 minute ferry cruise from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, Bowen is perfect for a quick island getaway.
Dubbed the “Happy Isle” in the 1920s, Bowen was a destination for the Union Steamship Company and was a magnet for tourists and holidaymakers. As many as 5000 visitors would travel by boat to Bowen on summer weekends for dances (at BC’s largest dance pavilion), horseback riding, canoeing and lawn bowling. In the 1930’s and 40’s, the island began to attract artists and writers and continues to have a reputation as a haven for those with an artistic flair.
The Bowen Island of today still has that tranquil, friendly vibe and when visitors arrive, it’s not uncommon for them to notice an immediate sense of relaxation as they step off the ferry. Bowen Islanders smile and greet each other, and in fact, Bowen is so friendly and trusting, that they’ve created a rideshare system dubbed LIFT (Linking Islanders Through Friendly Transportation), which is essentially an organized form of hitch-hiking!
We reached out to a few of our favourite Bowen Islanders to find out what they recommended as the best way to experience a Bowen Island getaway, and needless to say, they had a lot to share!
Killarney Lake Waterfall. Photo credit: amhuxham via Flickr
Surinda Bacon suggests, upon arrival, stopping at one of the local grocery stores for some picnic supplies followed by a hike up Mount Gardner for a picnic with a view. The hike up Mount Gardner is considered intermediate and takes roughly seven hours round trip, so be sure to grab those picnic supplies before heading out. If an epic hike isn’t what you’re looking for, Murray Atherton recommends walking from the ferry through Alder Trail and past the Memorial Garden to the Fish Ladders. Once you reach the fish ladders, cross the street and enter the trails to Killarney Lake. The Killarney Lake trail is an easy stroll that, in two hours, meanders through groves of Cedar and Hemlock, with viewpoints of the lake. Murray suggests walking counter-clockwise and when you find the trail to the Meadow and the Community School, to cross the road to the trail up to Artisan Square and “enjoy one of the BEST hot chocolate’s you’ll ever savour at Carlos Vela-Martinez’s Cocoa West”.
View from Mount Gardner. Photo Credit: John Freeland via Flickr
Ready for that sandy beach we promised? The relaxed pace of Bowen makes for a quiet, often secluded, beach experience. The most popular beaches on Bowen are Tunstall Bay, Bowen Bay and Sandy Beach. Each has its own attributes and some are easier to get to than others, but all provide a perfect respite for a busy traveller. Sit back and watch the kids as they swim. Wave at the boaters and kayakers and be sure to stick around for an awe-inspiring sunset, particularly at Tunstall Bay.
One of Bowen’s beautiful sandy beaches. Photo credit: GoToVan via Flickr
Despite the fact that there is no hotel on Bowen Island, there are many options for a relaxing overnight stay. The Union Steamship Marina offers a collection of heritage cabins just minutes from Snug Cove and lucky guests can choose the float house and be lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean. There are many cottages and bed & breakfasts to choose from and, with charming names like the Babbling Brook Bungalow, Twiggleberries and the Treehouse on Bowen B&B, we’re sure that every visitor will find something to suit.
A trip to Bowen Island isn’t complete without heading out onto the water. In fact, all of our “experts” recommended a kayak rental or tour from Bowen Island Sea Kayaking. There are multiple tours to choose from, or you can venture out on your own. The most popular tour is a 3-hour tour departing from picturesque Snug Cove and wildlife sightings are common. It’s not unusual for kayakers to spy eagles, seals, deer and more recently a pod of White Sided Pacific Dolphins has been spotted in the area.
For those who would rather encounter a water hazard while swinging a golf club instead of a paddle, the Bowen Island Golf Course is a delightful, and challenging, 9-hole course. And according to Murray, “… you’ll want to play twice because you won’t believe how challenging the front-nine were!”
Snug Cove. Photo Credit: David Stanley via Flickr
Naturally, after all of this activity you will be looking for a little après kayak (or golf) refreshment. The golfers might want to check out the Cup Cutter restaurant for burgers or a spicy jambalaya, of if you want to eat closer to the ferry terminal be sure to grab a taco from Nancy’s Tacos on the wharf. The service is friendly and we hear that the tacos are delish! Feel like having a beer with your meal? Doc Morgan’s Pub has Howe Sound beer (brewed just across the inlet in Squamish) on tap and a new management team has brought in a new menu that has perfect choices for that post kayak/hike/golf meal! And we’re sure that the bartender would be happy to craft a tropical cocktail to complete your island getaway!
For more information on visiting Bowen Island, visit the Bowen Island Chamber of Commerce website.
Click here for the Bowen Island BC Ferry schedule.