Bowen Island on Canada’s West Coast is a gem. A quick ferry trip over and you’ll have to choose between hikes, swims, kayaking and relaxing restaurants.
For most tourists and outdoor enthusiasts an island as small as Canadas Bowen Island may not be the prime destination if traveling to British Columbia, but for those traveling to Vancouver it is a day trip, or longer, with plenty of rewards. From the start theres a nice ferry ride, about 20 minutes, across Howe Sound to the small community of Snug Cove.
The Cove isnt much more than a line-up of rustic shops and restaurants, a library, general store and an organic market. Within minutes of the ferry dock theres also a small book and toy store, a post office, a drugstore, a video store and a pub. Further along is Artisan Square with a Chocolatier, a funky gym, a funky plant store, a small clothing shop and an art gallery with regular exhibits from the vibrant community of Island artisans.
Bowen Island: Scenery, Wildlife, Community
The Island was named after a British 18th century Admiral and for hundreds of years was used as an outpost for hunters and fishers from the Squamish First Nations tribe. By 1890 Canadians of all kinds were using it as a holiday destination and for decades the Union Steamship Company brought vacationers over during hot summer months. It had sufficient full-time residents, many of those commuting for work on the ferry, to incorporate into a municipality in 1999.
Great scenery, kayaking and other boating, dozens of beaches and walks and hikes are a feature of Bowen Island. Its chock full of deer, herons, stellar jays, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, many species of other birds, there are beavers, otters and, as of this writing, a black bear that minds his berry-collecting business. Until recently there was a wolf-dog that was killing sheep but that unfortunate beast was dispatched by a hired hunter.
Bowen Island is 6km wide and 12km long and has a year-round population of 3500 people, a figure augmented by as many as 1000 during the summer. It has 2 schools but once in grade 8 most kids go off-island to schools in West Vancouver. It is the kind of place where people know one another, made more friendly by such things as a local theatre, a baseball league and a 10 team co-ed 6 vs. 6 soccer league that features two seasons yearly, re-picking teams of 10 anew each season. Over the course of time everyone plays with everyone.
Beaches and Hikes on Bowen Island
There are beaches galore on Bowen and nary a one of them will have more than two dozen people on them. The majority wont have 10. Right by the ferry is Sandy Beach, used by locals in Snug Cove and people who come from the ferry to spend a day there. Sandy is one of the busy beaches but rarely hits two dozen. The locals are friendly and welcoming, no dogs on the beach in summer months and the water is refreshing.
Along with a swim consider kayaking on Bowen. Theres a place to rent them right as you get off the ferry and the staff are wonderfully attentive and youll be in the water with kayaking tips and a life jacket in no time, paddling like a veteran. Seals are common partners and the lucky will spot a pod of whales and dolphins are common visitors to the sound.
Bowen Island Walks and Hikes
The hikes are awesome. Right off the ferry theres one up Dorman Point, about a 30 minute jaunt up that rewards with an outstanding view of the waters you will have just ferried over. The hike around Killarney Lake is about an hour in length and is at a level that most any but the extreme elderly can manage it. The lake is about a 10 minute walk from the Cove and the local tourist info shop, and brochures available on the ferry will give you directions.
Mt. Gardner is the hike those of you who are vigorous outdoors persons will want to tackle. Up and back is some 3 hours all told and the woods you travel through are lush green and views along the way are truly breathtaking. There are many elderly who regularly do this hike but it is not for those who are far out of shape. It is, however, worth the effort.
Bowen Island Information
As far as dining goes Blue Eye Marys and the Tuscany are inviting restaurants with great food where spring and summer outdoor seating is a highlight. For your morning coffee and muffin, or a full breakfast, theres the snugly Snug Cafe.
Information is available at the Bowen Island Visitor Center, steps from the ferry dock. In advance of your visit you can get information about accommodation – there are many B and Bs – from the active Bowen Island Chamber of Commerce at (604) 947-2094. The toll-free number for Bowen Island Sea Kayaking is 1.800.60.KAYAK.