If you’re traveling to Vancouver, Canada, in warm weather, the default move is a side trip to Vancouver Island. But there’s a much closer, sleepier island with great hiking and kayaking, a family-friendly waterfront and a pleasant village filled with restaurants, shops and lodgings. That’s Bowen Island, 14 miles northwest of downtown Vancouver, a 20-minute ferry ride from West Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay. After a visit to the big city, my wife, daughter and I spent a weekend in early July hiking, paddling and unwinding on Bowen. The tab: about $250 per night, including taxes, for a two-story house near the water; about $150 for meals; about $65 each for kayak tours; and about $8 each for the ferry.
We stayed at the Union Steamship Co. Marina Resort, a rustic refuge that sits on Snug Cove about two blocks from the ferry landing. It’s neighbored by a marina, waterfront and 600-acre Crippen Regional Park. To the east, a few steps uphill, are a dozen shops and restaurants along the main drag, Bowen Island Trunk Road. The island, mostly hilly forest has a year-round population of about 3,700. Perhaps 2,000 more people alight for the summer, mostly Canadians. The resort includes a restaurant, shop and eight rustic cottages, suites and houses, each with a kitchen. We landed in the Summer House, a two-story, two-bedroom, two-bathroom Victorian house with generous kitchen and living room. Except for a few hours of Saturday night noise from next door at Doc Morgan’s Pub (a one-off private event, we were told later), it was just what we wanted.
We had tasty seafood at Doc Morgan’s; a pleasant lunch at bustling Artisan Eats Café in Artisan Square; and a few sweet retro snacks at Candy in the Cove, which plausibly claims to be “the smallest candy store in the world.” But my favorite meal was dinner at Tuscany, a trattoria with a short, fireworks-filled menu (smoked wild salmon pizza) and a quiet, sophisticated dining room and patio.
Bowen Island Sea Kayaking has its office and kayaks at Bowen Island Marina, a.k.a. the Pier. Though the day was gray, owner-guide Brent O’Malley gave my daughter, Grace, and me an illuminating three-hour paddling tour of Snug Cove, Deep Bay and Scarborough Beach. The scenery was grand, including egret and cormorant sightings and close encounters with seals (and pups) and a non-stinging jellyfish. No eagles, dolphins or orcas, but they do appear sometimes.
THE LESSON LEARNED
The BC Ferries ride to Bowen Island’s Snug Cove is about $8 per adult, and there are several daily departures. But be aware that most people come by car. Ferry staffers were not accustomed to luggage-dragging newcomers without a car (as we were), and they couldn’t point us to an elevator or give us much help coming or going. Until the ferry corrects this, be prepared to drag your luggage up two flights of stairs or wade through car lanes to get off the boat.
Union Steamship Co. Marina Resort, 431 Bowen Island Trunk Road, Bowen Island, Canada; (604) 947-0707, unionsteamshipmarina.com. Several units wheelchair accessible.
Doc Morgan’s, 437 Bowen Island Trunk Road, Bowen Island, Canada; (604) 947-0808, docmorgans.ca. Limited wheelchair accessibility.
Artisan Eats Café, 539 Artisan Lane, Bowen Island, Canada; (604) 947-0190 artisaneats.ca. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Wheelchair accessible.
Tuscany Italian Trattoria & Pizzeria, 451 Bowen Island Trunk Road, Bowen Island, Canada; (604) 947-0550, tuscanypizza.com. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Wheelchair accessible.
Bowen Island Sea Kayaking, Bowen Island Marina Dock, Bowen Island, Canada; (604) 947-9266, bowenislandkayaking.com. Wheelchair accessible with advance notice.
BC Ferries, multiple locations, (888) 223-3779, bcferries.com. Check website for details on accessibility.