Summer island getaways conjure up images of yellowish-orange to brilliantly blue skies, soft breezes, and balmy sit-out-with-a-book temperatures. For me, the choice spot is Bowen Island — a place far away from everyday cares, where you can do as much or as little as you want. I had sailed to Bowen last summer and fell in love with the island’s charms and beauty — vowing to get back.
Bowen attracts thousands of visitors a year, including day-trippers, because most of Bowen Island’s activities are accessible right from the dock. There are numerous hiking trails, beaches, viewpoints, restaurants, bars, shops, and art galleries all within easy walking distance of the ferry terminal in Snug Cove.
Snug Cove is a quaint village brimming with brightly coloured cottages that entice artists, writers, retirees, and families who live here for the secluded lifestyle this mainly undeveloped island offers. A quick 20-minute ride on B.C. Ferries sailing from Horseshoe Bay, a West Vancouver municipality, Bowen Island seduces you as soon as you arrive with the picture-perfect cozy little harbour at Snug Cove.
It certainly did back a century ago, when Bowen was nicknamed “The Happy Isle.” Cruises from Vancouver brought revellers to its shores for one of the largest dance pavilions in B.C. at the Union SteamShip Co. Marina (USSC).
Bordered by sun-aged wooden boardwalks and heritage buildings, the marina is the island’s largest. It’s named after the company that used to operate Bowen Island as a holiday resort until the mid-20th century. The Union SteamShip Co. Marina built or renovated the summer cottages, trails, and picnic tables. At its peak, between 1937-46, it attracted up to 150,000 visitors a year. In 1985, the Dyke fanmily purchased the marina and refurbished some of the heritage cabins. Their daughter, Oydis Nickle, has been running the family business for nearly two decades.
I spent one night on a sailboat lulled to sleep by the gentle lapping of the water, and the second night in one of the quaint cabins overlooking sweeping views of the mountains, water, and marina.
Bowen’s rugged wilderness can be experienced everywhere on the island of 52 square kilometres — roughly half of which is designated as public forested areas. Whether you are searching for that leisurely beach escape, or you want to explore clear blue waters by sailboat or kayak, Bowen Island has something to offer. Fishing, boating, bird-watching, beach-going, shopping, and dining on seafood will fill up your day.
Culinary Charms of Bowen Island
The culinary terrain is heavily influenced by local and sustainable fixings. Cultivating a strong connection with nature inspires creativity on Bowen.
The Snug on Bowen Coffee — a rustic spot full of character, The Snug is practically an institution. Lines start early and for good reason. Simply put, the food is delicious. Both mornings, I ordered the breakfast burrito, a messy medley of chorizo sausage, avocado, spiced beans and corn, salsa, scrambled eggs and cheese. I wish I could take The Snug and transplant it to my home in Delta.
A local favourite, Doc Morgan’s Pub & Restaurant features the best patio on Bowen Island, with a front-row seat to spectacular views of the North Shore Mountains and Howe Sound. Its Tuna Tataki, with seared albacore, daikon, carrot, and ponzu, and the garlic chorizo prawns, sauteed in a garlic-and-wine cream sauce, are as praiseworthy as the vistas.
As an ode to Spanish dining, another crowd-pleaser is Barcelona Tapas & Wine Bar, a relative newcomer. As soon as you reach the packed patio, the sweet, truffled scent of forested mushrooms infused with roasted garlic infused the air tickles your nose. It’s enough of a sensation that a long line of hopeful diners continued to build during the entirety of my meal. The chef uses locally sourced and sustainable ingredients as much a possible to craft shared plates that are superb.
Getting Into the Spirits of Bowen Island
For a small coastal town, Bowen is blessed with a boutique craft distillery that has creating waved for its organic spirits, specialty cocktails, and tasting lounge. Run by husband-and-wife team, Miguel and Candice Kabantsov, Copper Spirit Distillery crafts its elixirs from organic B.C. grain and places them into the German-made copper stills that refine each batch. In the stunning tasting room, delightful botanicals are blended in to make delicious cocktails.
A Golf Course Inspired by Nature
The Bowen Island Golf Club is a challenging nine-hole course, carved from a west-coast rainforest. It boasts stunning views of Howe Sound and nature. You might catch bald eagles perched on old-growth cedars or a deer munching on grass. Its where felled trees showcase gnarly stumps — many of which have been carved into unique sculptures and landmarks, or as I was told, golf hazards. Suffice to say, I might not be a great or even good golfer, but I was awed by the sheer beauty of this course.
Better still, it comes complete with a clubhouse that serves up pub favourites with a B.C. twist. Each day, the club rotates the menu from local eateries. How’s that for variety? I finished up my day of golf with a trio of tacos — shredded chicken, roasted cauliflower, and pork carnitas.
Use Pedal Power to Explore
With miles of rugged, picturesque rural beauty, seeing Bowen on a bike is truly a fun adventure. I was invited to try an eBike from Bowen eBikes. I could just hear my cycling purists and gym enthusiasts’ friends telling me, “That’s cheating — that isn’t a workout!”
In my defense, I only used the battery on challenging hills, otherwise I pedalled. Another huge advantage of electric bikes is you get to cover more ground. During my two-hour trek, I cycled around the pristine Killarney Lake, before heading along Galbraith and Grafton bays on the east side of the island.
MORE ABOUT VISITING BOWEN ISLAND
Where to Stay: Union SteamShip Co. Marina is home to one of the most beautiful marinas along the coast. Its floating clubhouse, boutique shop filled with nautically inspired gifts and clothing, and rental cabins around the garden make it a popular destination.
Additional Info: For much more on what to explore on Bowen Island, drop by the tourist information centre in the little blue cottage a few steps from the ferry wharf for maps, information, and a mini-gallery and gift shop.
During the fall, winter, and early spring, the Visitor Information Centre is not staffed. But you can still stop by to pick up a map, check ferry schedules, and find other information posted on the notice boards on the cottage’s veranda.
Email email@example.com for more info or assistance with planning your visit.