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Despite the fact that Vancouver is a pretty green city complete with beaches and a massive park (Stanley Park), every now and again it’s nice to escape this and find somewhere even greener. Enter Bowen Island, BC and my guide to the best things to do on Bowen Island.
Bowen Island is covered in forest and has tonnes of little coves just waiting to be explored. There are beaches, hikes, and trails and it’s a great place. For several months of the year, you can spot whales off the shore and the island invites you to relax and slow down from city life. The best thing is, it’s not even far from the city! Where is Bowen Island you ask? It’s just a 20-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and is an island in the Howe Sound in British Columbia, Canada.
Despite the fact the Bowen Island population is relatively small at just over 3,000, there are plenty of things to do in Bowen Island.
The best things to do on Bowen Island, BC
Here’s your complete guide to what to do on Bowen Island, including how to get there and where to stay!
How to get from Vancouver to Bowen Island
If you’re wondering how to get to Bowen Island you’re in luck as it’s super easy from downtown Vancouver.
Getting to Bowen Island from Vancouver is so easy. It’s just a short, 20-minute ferry with BC Ferries from Horseshoe Bay to Snug Cove where the Bowen Island ferry terminal is. You can either take your car, your bike, or go on as a foot passenger.
Ferries to Bowen Island leave roughly once an hour but you can see the full Bowen Island ferry schedule here. Make sure to arrive at least 15 minutes before the scheduled departure otherwise you won’t be allowed to board and will have to wait for the next one. Bowen Island ferry times change depending on the season so make sure to check in advance.
The Bowen Island ferry cost depends on whether you’re driving, walking on or cycling. Per passenger, the ferry costs $10.45 in winter (usually around $12.50 in summer), and it’s about $30 for a car (again, slightly more in summer) from Horseshoe Bay to Bowen Island. A journey for two of you in a car will cost around $60. The ferry is free from Bowen Island to Vancouver so it’s not too expensive but expect queues if you’re travelling in the summer or nice weekends.
Also, if you’re a BC local, I highly recommend getting the BC Ferries Experience Card as this will save you a lot of money on your BC Ferries Bowen Island sailings!
Bowen Island water taxi
The Bowen Island taxi boat costs $20 one way, $40 return and goes from Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver to Snug Cove on weekdays.
On weekends between May long weekend and Labor Day in September, you can also go from Granville Island to Bowen Island by water taxi.
See the full schedules and details here.
Where to stay on Bowen Island
There’s so much choice when it comes to Bowen Island accommodation and it can be hard to choose. I’ve stayed at two different places on Bowen Island now and highly recommend them both.
The Wildwood Cabins (Cabin 1| Cabin 2 | Cabin 4) are absolutely gorgeous, reasonably priced, have onsite morning yoga and are ideal for a cosy weekend getaway. I highly recommend these Bowen Island cabins and we’re already planning our return trip! I also loved my stay at Nectar Yoga Bowen Island B&B. Whilst this was before they moved location, I’m 100% sure their accommodation is just as gorgeous (if not better!)
You could also stay at one of these Bowen Island cabin rentals on Airbnb.
Bowen Island hotels
There aren’t a lot of choices when it comes to finding a Bowen Island hotel, most accommodation on Bowen are cabins or B&Bs. If you must stay in a hotel then your best option is Artisan Suites on Bowen which has beautiful rooms some with balconies and is also one of the best places to stay on Bowen Island.
Camping on Bowen Island
While Bowen Island may seem like the perfect place for camping near Vancouver, camping in all forms is prohibited on Bowen Island. There are no official Bowen Island campgrounds, and nor are you allowed to wild camp. It’s believed this is mostly due to the risk of fires starting, and trash being left behind.
If you’re planning on hiking on Bowen Island, be aware that’ll it’ll have to be a day hike as you cannot camp on Mount Gardner, or do Bowen Island camping anywhere else.
What to do on Bowen Island
Whether you’re looking for Bowen Island hiking trails, kayaking on Bowen Island or visiting some of the artisan producers, here are some of the best Bowen Island activities, including an island secret hidden in the forest! The hard part is fitting in these “what to do in Bowen Island” activities.
I’ve also included the directions for some of the best Bowen Island hikes below so you know where to go in Bowen Island during your trip.
This Bowen Island map includes the Bowen Island attractions and business listed below so you can get your bearings and locate these things to do on Bowen Island.
Watch the sunset on Bowen Island
Many of the Bowen Island trails lead to a great sunset watching spot. Whether you’re down by the Roger Curtis Lighthouse, or Pebbly Beach, or enjoying a sunset around the back of Wildwood Cabins (personally I think this is the best of Bowen Island viewpoints!), make sure you wrap up warm in winter or stay out in summer, to enjoy a Bowen Island sunset.
Hike to Dorman Point
This Bowen Island hike is a nice quick and easy hike with rewarding views of the Howe Sound. Dorman Point is located in Crippen Regional Park on Bowen Island and the trail starts from near where the ferry drops you off in Snug Cove, Bowen Island.
Don’t do what I did and not realise there was a path and end up hiking along the road to the top. It’s not as pretty…
The view from the top of Dorman Point is a bit obstructed by trees. You’ll get a better view by following a short trail downhill to the right.
From the Snug Cove ferry terminal, follow a boardwalk towards the left. You’ll soon cross over a bridge and pass by a large field to your right with the sea and a small marina to your left. Carry on until you enter the forest. After entering the forest go left at the signposted junction to Dorman Point.
From here you’ll steadily climb before turning to the right. Here it becomes a steeper series of switchbacks. When you read a road, head left and walk past the park sign up the hill. This is the steepest part of the trail but it’s short! Soon the trail levels out and you’re at Dorman Point!
To get a better view walk towards the right, over the rocks and look for a path that heads downhill. Carefully take this path and make your way down some rocks. Within a few minutes, you’ll be at a small clearing with great views of Howe Sound.
Enjoy some Bowen Island yoga
Something about Bowen Island makes you want to slow down and soak in every moment. And taking a morning yoga class is the perfect way to do this.
If you’re staying at Nectar Yoga on Bowen then yoga is included in the price of your accommodation. If not, you can still enjoy some yoga on Bowen Island. Wildwood Cabins host yoga classes daily at 10 am for $20 per person and there’s also The Well on Bowen which usually host a couple of classes per day.
Hike to Killarney Lake
Another option for hiking Bowen Island is to hike to Killarney Lake from Snug Cove. It’s longer but easy, and pretty much flat. Killarney Lake is beautiful (and pretty frozen when I visited!) and the area alone makes a Bowen Island day trip worth it.
To hike to Killarney Lake on Bowen Island, walk up the road away from the Snug Cove ferry terminal and past the marina towards the shops. To get to the trailhead, turn right onto the first street – Cardena Drive – and walk about 100m to a sign on the left-hand side of the road which marks the beginning on Crippen Regional Park.
The trail heads into the forest and reaches a crossroad. Carry on straight and check out the lagoon between the trees on your right.
Here you’ll intersect with Miller Road. Cross the road and continue along the ‘Hatchery Trail’. When you reach a 3-way junction turn right.
Continue straight through the meadow and across a wooden bridge to another 3-way junction where you go left towards a fork in the trail. Both of these trails lead to Killarney Lake so pick one and come back on the other!
Hike Mount Gardner on Bowen Island
If you want to do a big hike during your visit to Bowen Island then this is the one to do! The view from the top of Mount Gardner is of Howe Sound, the Sunshine Coast, West Vancouver and Burrard Inlet. Whilst I haven’t hiked it (yet) I’m definitely planning on doing it soon, especially given that it’s one of the top Bowen Island tourist attractions.
This is the toughest of the hikes on Bowen Island and you’ll need around 7 hours to complete it. The trail is 17km long and you’ll gain over 700m in elevation.
The trailhead is a 3km hike through Crippen Regional Park and starts as if you were going to Killarney Lake. From there it’s all uphill but the views are worth the climb!
Bowen Island Kayaking
There are so many beautiful places to kayak in and around Vancouver and Bowen Island is one of them. Kayaking Bowen Island is beautiful and you’ll feel many miles away from the city when you hop into a kayak. Unlike a kayak trip around Vancouver, you won’t see many skyrise buildings on this paddle!
Bowen Island Sea Kayaking rents single and double kayaks in the Bowen Island marina. It’s really the only place for Bowen Island kayak rentals and they also have stand up paddleboards available.
Relax on the Bowen Island beaches and in the parks
One of the best Bowen Island beaches is Tunstall Bay, but my favourite is the beaches on Bowen Island’s east coast or Sandy Beach, Bowen Island. The water might not be the warmest, but o a hot summer’s day it’s just right. Pick up a few snacks from the Bowen Island restaurants listed below and enjoy a picnic.
Be sure to check out Pebbly Beach, Bowen Island too; it’s just a 15 minute walk from Snug Cove and is regarded by some as the best beach on Bowen Island.
Visit The Cape on Bowen Island
Most visitors to Bowen Island tend to stick to the east side of the island. If you’re spending longer than a day on Bowen Island then make time to head over to the west side. The Cape on Bowen Island is very untouched at the moment (although there’s evidence that this may change over the next few years).
We had great fun exploring the Roger Curtis Lighthouse and walking over to Pebbly Beach. Time your visit to the beach for sunset and you’ll probably never want to leave!
Find the secret Bowen Island Mastodon
Still wondering what to see in Bowen Island? Here’s an island secret!
Deep in the forest on Bowen Island is a gigantic mastodon sculpture. Artist, Guthrie Gloag built this massive sculpture out of driftwood and then hid it in the forest. He says is a symbol of conservation and a reminder of the dangers of climate change and environmental destruction.
The whereabouts of this sculpture is a closely guarded secret. If you’re wondering where to find the mastodon I’ll let you know if you’re in the right area for the Guthrie Gloag mastodon location over on Instagram.
What to do on Bowen Island without a car
If you’re planning on visiting Bowen Island on foot or by bike, you’ll be glad to know there are plenty of things to do on Bowen Island without a car. Pretty much everything listed above can be reached without a car, either by using the bus, bike or on foot. The more difficult parts of the island to reach are the Cape of Bowen. You can do most Bowen Island hikes, including Killarney Lake and Dorman Point straight from the ferry terminal.
Where to eat on Bowen Island & drink!
For such a small island there are some great places to eat and stock up on hiking treats. Here’s where to eat during your Bowen Island getaway.
Grab your morning coffee from The Snug
The Snug is basically a Bowen Island institution and I consider popping in here for a coffee or lunch one of the best Bowen Island things to do. Locals and tourists pop in to grab their coffees, breakfast bagels and tasty lunches throughout the day and it seems as though it’s never not busy. I picked up a tasty beetroot burger that I’m set on recreating one of these days – it was that good I even had it the second time I visited Bowen too!
Eat Italian at Tuscany
This Bowen Island restaurant is the one I visited when staying at Nectar Yoga on Bowen. Tuscany, Bowen Island specialises in Italian food and they make a delicious pizza – undoubtedly the best Bowen Island pizza. That’s likely because they even have a wood-fired oven for their pizzas. If pizza isn’t your thing (what?!) then there are some delicious looking pasta dishes on the menu too.
Eat Spanish at Barcelona
Spanish food more your thing? Head next door to Barcelona and indulge in some tapas with a tasty glass of red. We stopped here after catching the ferry to Bowen Island on a Friday night and LOVED the tapas dishes on offer; especially the patatas bravas.
Just remember to head out for dinner pretty early. Restaurants on the island close by 8 or 9 pm depending on the season and you don’t want to miss out!
Refuel after hiking at Branch & Butter
Branch & Butter is one of the first places you’ll see as you pull into the ferry terminal on Bowen Island. The shop has a bright pink sign and serves some delicious treats. They serve gourmet toasts and ice cream using bread from Birds and the Beets in Gastown, Vancouver and the delicious ice cream made at Earnest Ice Cream!
Branch & Butter is seasonal and reopens in April so plan your visit to Bowen Island after then!
Cocktails at Copper Spirit Distillery Bowen Island
On a recent day trip with friends, we stopped off at Copper Spirit gin distillery on Bowen Island and I loved it! The distillery has a large tasting room and you can try 1/2oz cocktails made using their gins. It’s almost like getting a cocktail flight and the prices (cocktails cost $5) were reasonable too. Highly recommend!
Bowen Island Pub
While there are a few Bowen Island pubs, the aptly named Bowen Island Pub is easily the best and most popular. It’s just up the hill from the ferry terminal and serves great food among a buzzing atmosphere. If you’ve been on a hike then refuelling at this pub on Bowen Island is a great idea! They also serve beers from the Bowen Island brewery which you’ve got to try when you visit Bowen Island!
Where to shop on Bowen Island
If you’re planning a day trip to Bowen Island, make sure to stop by these shops full of goods from local artisans and creators.
Right next door to Branch & Butter is the cute boutique store: Branch 01. This shop features Canadian made gifts and homewares. Like Branch & Butter, this is seasonal too. Right now they’re collating their 2018 collection so watch this space!
Take a stroll to Artisan Square which houses a multitude of galleries showcasing the works of local artists and artisans. There are boutique shops, delicious food outlets and even a spa for some extra island relaxation.
You can reach Artisan Square by heading up the main road out of Snug Cove and turning left on Artisan Lane.
Hopefully, this has answered some of your questions of what is there to do in Bowen Island! Have a great time!