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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.
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. It’s the ideal place to get away from city life and the best thing is it’s not even far away!
Bowen Island is just a 20 min ferry ride and about under an hour away in total from downtown Vancouver (traffic dependent!).
Despite the fact that the population of Bowen Island is relatively small at just over 3,000, there are plenty of things to do on the beautiful island of Bowen Island.
Getting to Bowen Island
Getting to Bowen Island from Vancouver is so easy. It’s just a short, 20-minute ferry on BC Ferries from Horseshoe Bay to Snug Cove. You can either take your car or walk on.
Walking on costs $12.35, and it’s about $35 for a car. A journey for two of you in a car will cost around $60.
You only have to pay one way to it’s not too expensive but make sure you book if visiting in the summer.
Where to stay on Bowen Island
There are many great places to stay on Bowen Island. The one I’d recommend most for a solo trip which you want to be extra relaxing is Nectar Yoga B&B. You can read my full review of this gorgeous B&B here.
You could also stay at one of these places on Airbnb.
What to do on Bowen Island
Hike to Dorman Point
Dorman Point is a quick and easy hike with rewarding views of Howe Sound. Located in Crippen Regional Park, the trail starts from near where the ferry drops you off in Snug Cove.
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.
Hike to Killarney Lake
A slightly longer but easy hike to do on Bowen Island is the hike to Killarney Lake. There’s no real elevation on this hike so it’s great for all abilities. Plus, the lake is beautiful and that alone makes a trip to Bowen Island 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
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 this summer!
To hike up to Mount Gardner you’ll need about 7 hours. 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!
There are so many beautiful places to kayak in and around Vancouver and Bowen Island is one of them. Exploring Bowen Island is all about escaping the city and you’ll definitely escape 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. Rent a kayak from a couple of hours on Bowen Island and take in the views of the mountains!
Relax on the Beach
There’s a great beach on Bowen Island, Tunstall Bay. The water might not be the warmest at the moment, but in the summer you’ll be grateful to have that as a way to cool off. Pick up a few snacks from the foodie places listed below and enjoy a picnic.
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. In fact, it’s almost a bit eerie since there are roads but very few homes or buildings!
When you’re over on the west side head to the Roger Curtis Lighthouse and then make your way over to Pebbly Beach. Time your visit to the beach for sunset and you’ll probably never want to leave!
Where to eat on Bowen Island
For such a small island there are some great places to eat and stock up on hiking treats. Here’s where to eat on Bowen Island.
Grab your morning coffee from The Snug
The Snug is basically a Bowen Island institution. Locals and tourists pop in to grab their coffees, breakfast bagels and tasty lunches throughout the day. I picked up a tasty beetroot burger that I’m set on recreating one of these days – it was that good.
Eat Italian at Tuscany
Tuscany on Bowen Island specialises in Italian food and they make a delicious pizza. 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.
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!
Where to shop on Bowen Island
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.
Other Vancouver weekend getaway ideas
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- An island guide & things to do on Salt Spring Island, BC
- Sunday spring road trip in BC’s Fraser Valley
- 7 Day road trip to Banff and Jasper from Vancouver
- Tofino weekend
- Explore the Sunshine Coast, BC
- Wine tasting in Kelowna