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Bowen Island Day Trip from Vancouver

Kayaking from Bowen Island is always a fun summer activity
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Bowen Island is easily accessible as a day trip from Vancouver though it makes a fine weekend destination too. And you don’t need to take your car! While there are no hotels on the island, there are many B & B’s and cabins for rent which you can find online if you decide to stay longer. It’s kind of like having one of the Gulf Islands close to home.

When I lived in Vancouver, we used to hop over to Bowen Island for dinner. We’d make our way to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry terminal, enjoy the scenery on the 20 minute ride, walk the cove, eat dinner and head back. It always felt like we were on a vacation when we made the jaunt.

Updated February 2022

Wonderful coastal scenery around the island
Wonderful coastal scenery around Bowen Island – Photo credit: GoToVan on Flickr Creative Commons

Bowen Island – How to get there

Catching the 20-minute ferry ride to Snug Cove is a great way to start your trip. Enjoy expansive views of Howe Sound; it doesn’t get any more spectacular than this on a sunny day! Although the island is only 20 square miles there are loads of ways to enjoy the island life.

The Bowen Island ferry is a small one
The Bowen Island ferry is a small one
Enjoy beautiful west coast scenery on the ferry to Bowen
Enjoy beautiful views of Bowen Island on the ferry to and from Nanaimo

What to do on the island

When you arrive on Bowen there are a number of shops and restaurants to wander around in and on summer weekends a great outdoor market is held in the Square. It sells locally grown produce, bread, jewelry, and other island-made items.

Snug Cove has a kayak rental place right next to the ferry dock. The location makes it easy to explore the east side of Bowen.

Lovely kayaking around the island
Lovely kayaking from Bowen

Look for the small local museum where you can learn about the island’s history and the effect that the Union Steamship Company played in bringing people to Bowen in the past.

There’s enough to do in the Cove for a few hours. Take a gentle stroll along to Mannion Bay and enjoy it’s sandy beach or head off in the other direction on some easy trails to Dorman Point in Crippen Regional Park. Here you’re rewarded with excellent views of Howe Sound.

Take a hike on Bowen Island

Try something easy

An easy hike takes you from the Cove to Killarney Lake. This is a loop trail that will bring you back to your starting point just in time for lunch at the waterfront pub in Snug Cove. You can watch for your return ferry while you’re enjoying the sunshine on the outdoor deck. The walk is flat and will take under two hours start to finish at an easy pace.

Scenery on the Killarney Lake hike
Scenery on the Killarney Lake hike
You can see fish ladders on one of the hikes on the island
You can see fish ladders on one of the hikes 

Do the hard hike up Mount Gardner

Want an incredible view from the top of the island? Then do the strenuous hike up Mount Gardner. Start at the Hiker’s Trail Road Trailhead – which you can walk to from the ferry in under an hour. Count on 5 hours to do the up and back hike – primarily because it’s 11 km return with an elevation gain of 719 m.

At the top, if its a fine day, you should be able to see as far away as Mount Baker along with some of the landmarks close to Vancouver including Howe Sound, the Sunshine Coast, West Vancouver and Burrard Inlet. There is even seating at the top provided in the form of a helicopter landing platform!

Visit one of the beautiful Bowen Island beaches

There are a number of pretty beaches on the island, mostly on the west side. They include Bowen Bay Beach, Bluewater Beach and Tunstall Bay plus there are numerous small beaches found off the walking trails.

Check out both sandy and rocky beaches on the island
Check out both sandy and rocky beaches on the island – Photo credit: GoToVan on Flickr Creative Commons

Kayak to the Pasley Islands

There is good boat launching site from the west side of the island. Sometimes the kayak rental company will drop you and kayaks off so you can explore the Pasley Islands. (Highly recommended!)

Although there are the ubiquitous “private property” signs everywhere, there are many lovely spots to land. Arbutus Island is especially nice with white sand beaches which connect at low tide with nearby Hermit Island.

Kayaking the Pasley’s is a wonderful paddle with much varied scenery and plenty to keep you intrigued about what is around the next corner. One rocky outcrop has an outdoor claw-foot bathtub perched above an outhouse, all precipitously overhanging the water.

Watching the ferry come in from one of the parks
Watching the ferry come in from one of the parks on Bowen 

Location map


Don’t forget this little local gem, especially if you have visitors visiting you in Vancouver; even the ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay is worth the trip!

Where to stay on Bowen 

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Artisan Suites, a 4 star inn offers modern rooms, some with views and a delicious breakfast.

Another top choice is English Rose Cottage, rated as exceptional. It’s 2.7 km from Tunstall Bay.

Further reading on things to do near Vancouver

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Bowen Island, BC - an exceptional day trip from Vancouver for kayaking, hiking, dining and a ferry ride



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