Within reach. Beyond comparison.
This slogan definitely reflects how I felt about my Bowen Island day trip. It was my last month in Vancouver and there were still trips I wanted to take before I left, including a visit to this forested retreat. I had heard a lot about it from friends but was not prepared for just how beautiful, quaint and peaceful it was.
Getting to Bowen Island
From downtown Vancouver (on the corner of Georgia and Burrard Streets) you can get an express bus across to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, which is where the ferry departs. Alternatively, if you have a car just go straight to the bay. You can also take your car across on the ferry, otherwise it is $12 return for walk-on passengers and there is a public bus that takes you to some of the main swimming areas and hikes on Bowen Island.
Horseshoe Bay has restaurants, fish and chip shops, ice creameries, a Starbucks (of course) and a corner store if you need supplies before heading over. The bay is surrounded by mountains and with the moored boats it is quite a beautiful place to photograph.
First Bowen Island impressions
After the short 20-minute ferry ride, you will honestly feel like you’ve stepped into this secret, peaceful oasis. You are greeted by wooden cabin-like buildings on the pier to your right, with shops selling rice bowls, tasty pies and kayak rentals. The vintage bunting hanging outsidegives the storefront a welcome and homely feel.
To your left is the marina, which my friend and I walked along, picking out our dream boats. Going forward up the road you can pick up a map from the Visitor Centre (on your right beside the library) and then keep walking down Cardena Road to the lagoon and Snug Cove.
The Howe Sound water was so calm and clear I could see each pebble on the ocean floor. Snug Cove seemed to be the most popular swimming spot, but opposite it there was another sandy beach with nary a soul.
The public bus tour
The bus leaves from right beside the Visitors Centre, and as it is part of the Vancouver Public Transit System, it is the same pricing as on the mainland. It was great being able to do a mini tour of Bowen Island. We weaved our way up and around the island’s hills, stopping to drop the locals home. I have heard people do commute daily to Vancouver, and with that kind of beauty at your doorstep I can see why. We stopped for a photography session at Bowen Bay, the most popular beach.The island is made for beach days, kayaking and hill hikes. The landscape is just blue and green: blue of the ocean and green of the trees. I am glad I got to see it in the sunlight.
Once you are done sunning yourself or exploring, there are two main squares for your shopping and eating needs close to the ferry on your Bowen Island day trip. The Artisan Square is brimming with art hubs and boutiques while the Village Square has impressive views of the marina, plus some good places for dinner and drinks.
After a stop at the (self-proclaimed) world’s smallest candy store, Candy in the Cove, we decided on Doc Morgan’s Pub and Restaurant for an early dinner because of the outdoor seating and beautiful views of the marina. The service was pretty lacklustre unfortunately — I had to go find someone to serve us — but luckily the scenery was awesome and they had an impressive selection of Howe Sound beer. It seems a lot of people feel the same way after reading the Tripadvisor comments. Oh well, learn from my mistakes!
After dinner we decided to head back to Horseshoe Bay and home to Vancouver. The buses back to the city depart from right outside the ferry terminal – too easy. But before you go back to city life take some deep breaths of the crisp seaside air and capture a sunset shot.
I was actually crying as I took this photo, as my parents had rung me from Australia and told me they were taking my best friend, Dusty to the vet to be put to sleep. I said goodbye to her standing and looking out at the boats and the setting sun. The sun was setting on our time together but I will never ever forget her and the happiness she brought me for nearly 16 years.
Bowen Island day trip
Even though my day trip to Bowen Island had a poignant end, I loved my afternoon visiting the quaint town, dipping my toes into the clear sea and taking photos of the amazing scenery.
Have you been to Bowen Island?
P.S. Here’s a guide to all of my favourite Vancouver day trips.