A popular day trip destination from Vancouver since the era of early 20th century steamships, Bowen Island, B.C. – known as the Happy Isle – is a forested escape known for its laid–back charm and artistic vibrancy. Reachable by the 20–minute Bowen Island ferry from Horseshoe Bay, the destination entices guests with abundant natural beauty, active adventures and quiet beaches.
The perfect day trip from Vancouver for those seeking natural beauty, art and adventure.
Catch an early morning ferry ride into Bowen Island’s Snug Cove and start the day off right with breakfast at The Snug Café. This local institution offers great food (such as a breakfast burrito and eggs Benny) and friendly service; and is a popular gathering place in the heart of Bowen’s village centre.
Walk a short distance toward the pier to Bowen Island Sea Kayaking for a guided morning tour of the area’s rugged coastline. The tour departs from Snug Cove and paddles north to Finisterre Island or south towards Apodaca Beach, with the guide providing plenty of details about Bowen’s history and geology (such as: the island is underlain by a series of volcanic and sedimentary rocks known as the Bowen Island Group). The water and sky are busy with curious seals, eagles, shorebirds and on occasion, orcas and humpback whales.
For those who prefer land–based pursuits, Crippen Regional Park surrounds Snug Cove, providing access to various temperate rainforest trails. The highly popular Killarney Lake Loop trail is nine kilometres in length and takes about two and a half hours to walk; a little longer if you go in search of Opa, a 1,000–year–old Douglas Fir tree. The Dorman Point trail is a shorter two–kilometre Bowen Island hike, rewarding trekkers with stunning views of Howe Sound fjord, Bowen’s harbour and Vancouver on a clear day.
Take a wander along Snug Cove’s main street to visit charming village shops, including the quirky Squirrel on Bowen (a boutique that sells socially responsible clothing and jewelry), Catching Stars Gallery (a collective of artisans from across B.C.) and Candy in the Cove (the self–proclaimed “smallest candy store in the world”).
If you’re visiting on the weekend, pop into the Bowen Island Farmers’ Market, which takes place on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. from May to October. Located at the Bowen Island Community School, the market features organic flowers, artisan displays, home–baked treats and a variety of fresh, island–grown produce.
Enjoy lunch on the patio of Rustique Bistro in Snug Cove, overlooking Bowen’s marina and pier. This charming Bowen Island restaurant specializes in French–inspired dishes like duck confit, lobster bisque and steak frites, alongside seasonal West Coast favourites like wild salmon and halibut.
Explore beyond the cove with electric bikes rented from Bowen eBikes. There are so many things to do on Bowen Island – and this is an excellent way to cover more distance. Visit sandy Bowen Island beaches, walking trails and the island golf course (the clubhouse here is a scenic spot to enjoy a cool drink on the patio while taking in spectacular views of Howe Sound).
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Bowen Island has one of the highest concentrations of artists in Canada, based on the number of residents who earn their primary income from the arts. Blue signs inscribed with a white ‘A’ line the roads, marking the presence of galleries or artist studios. Alternatively, explore the Bowen Island Museum & Archives, where exhibits detail the Indigenous, cultural, recreational and industrial history of the island.
Get back to the land at Alderwood Farm and enjoy a leisurely stroll of the 10–acre property. Located up island, the hobby farm is home to a menagerie of chickens, geese and donkeys, as well as a specialty food store offering homemade goods – including sweet and savoury pies, quiches and free–range farm eggs – so you can bring a bit of Bowen home with you.
Don’t miss a stop at the tasting room of family–owned Riley’s Cidery to sample some of the traditional craft ciders produced from their mature orchard of nearly 1,000 varieties of heirloom apples.
Ready for dinner? Barcelona Tapas and Wine Bar, a local favourite conveniently located in Snug Cove, offers a wide variety of savoury tapas like chorizo in vino tinto (chorizo in red wine) and gambas al ajillo (prawns with garlic), alongside wines and sherries.
Join the locals on the patio of the Bowen Island Pub to enjoy a nightcap and some live and local musical entertainment. The iconic pub has been serving up craft cocktails and ales for more than 35 years.
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Make it a weekend
Tempted to stay longer? Book your own forest cabin at Kitoki Inn. Opened in July 2021, this boutique Bowen Island accommodation, nestled in the island’s lush temperate rainforest, fuses elements of Japanese minimalism with contemporary West Coast style in its three cedar–clad guest cabins. The Inn’s bathhouse takes inspiration from Japanese onsen, the traditional restorative hot springs. Guests can enjoy private and relaxing hydrotherapy experiences year–round.
If you go: Be sure to check the Bowen Island ferry schedule when planning your visit. The car and passenger ferry does not take reservations – and it gets very busy during the summer months. Leave the car at home and walk onto the ferry to explore Bowen as a pedestrian or cyclist.