Do you long for a unique island escape? Bowen Island quietly, almost secretly, sits off the coast of beautiful Vancouver, BC. Some describe it as a “do nothing island.” Yes, you can escape city life, relax, and do nothing if that is your goal. However, Bowen Island offers plenty of unique and rewarding experiences. Let’s shine the light on the remarkable things to do on Bowen Island and help you plan your escape.
Frequently Asked Questions about Bowen Island
Since Bowen Island is somewhat of a secret destination, let’s cover frequently asked questions first to assist you with your planning.
Where is Bowen Island?
The peaceful, alluring island rests in the middle of Howe Sound, a 20-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
How Big is Bowen Island?
The forested island covers approximately 20 square miles and has about 4,000 residents.
What is Bowen Island Known For?
It is the perfect place to slow down and escape city life. Nearly covered in forest, you will discover many coves to explore. The island offers hiking trails and beaches where you can relax and play. It has a picturesque coastline where you can kayak, savoring breathtaking views.
Is Bowen Island Good for a Day Trip?
Due to its accessibility, the island is an excellent place for a day trip or a weekend getaway.
Do You Need a Car?
Although you can bring a car onto the island, you do not necessarily need one. Overall, Bowen Island is very walkable. Upon arrival, you will discover the visitor’s center, restaurants, accommodations, and activities within walking distance.
When is the Best Time of Year to Visit?
We will start with the worst time of year to visit and build from there. The busiest months are July and August. Only visit during this time if you love waiting in long lines for a ferry and sharing small spaces with dense crowds.
Consider going during shoulder season when the weather is still pleasant and the crowds are lighter. Although a winter visit can be enjoyable, late spring and fall are excellent times.
How Do You Get to Bowen Island?
BC Ferries provide transportation from Horseshoe Bay to Snug Cove, the Bowen Island ferry terminal. You can walk on or drive aboard in your vehicle. The short, 20-minute ride is relaxing and yields picturesque views. It is an easy process and worth the experience alone if you have never ridden a ferry.
Ferries depart approximately once an hour. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled departure. Rates vary seasonally. Bringing a car costs roughly three times more than those on foot. Visit the BC Ferries site to verify hours, rates, and the full Bowen Island ferry schedule.
Things To Do on Bowen Island
For the most part, Bowen Island is a place to slow down and escape stress from our daily lives. If you want to savor fresh, delicious food, enjoy refreshing drinks, and hang out with friendly people, you will enjoy the “island life.” Bowen Island offers a few adventurous activities as well. Let’s explore your options.
Dorman Point Trail
Near Snug Cove, you will discover the trailhead for Dorman Point. It is an easy-to-moderate 1.5-mile hike with stunning views of Howe Sound. Note that the forested path comprises a series of steep switchbacks and an elevation gain of 300 meters.
After the climb, the trail levels out at Dorman Point. Trees may obstruct your view. If you walk to the right, beyond a set of rocks, you will find a path that leads downhill. Follow the path until you reach a clearing that overlooks beautiful Howe Sound.
Hike to Killarney Lake
Killarney Lake is the island’s most popular hiking trail for a reason. The looped path is mostly level and easy. And the course delivers spectacular views of the lake and surrounding forest.
You will hike through temperate rainforest and a small meadow along the 4.9-mile journey. The trailhead sits inside Crippen Regional Park, near Snug Cove.
Mount Gardner Loop Trail
For those seeking a challenge, Mount Gardner is the hike for you. You can choose from three different trailheads, providing different routes to the summit.
The strenuous hike takes you to the island’s tallest peak at 719 meters. At the summit, you gain panoramic views of Vancouver to the south, the Sunshine Coast in the north, and Vancouver Island in the west.
Plan on five to seven hours for this rewarding hike. Pack a lunch or snack to replenish your energy while you savor the stunning views.
Bowen Island Yoga
Thought of as a place to relax, it is fitting that yoga and meditation are popular things to do on Bowen Island. Nectar Yoga offers yoga retreats and workshops for those seeking an in-depth meditation encounter. You can meditate in the woods or inside a see-through geodesic dome. They offer weekend classes on the pier.
The YogaLoft at Wildwood Cabins has a fully equipped studio and offers classes to accommodate all experience levels. Bowen Island is the perfect environment to connect with your inner self and nature.
Kayaking Bowen Island
A sea kayaking excursion along Bowen Island delivers fantastic views of forests and mountains. Although sea kayaking can be a workout, the scenery along Howe Sound is so stunning that paddling is a delight.
Bowen Island Sea Kayaking rests in Snug Cove. The shop rents single and double kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Their staff is friendly and knowledgeable. They will set you up with the proper gear and have you ready in a few minutes.
You may encounter wildlife during your paddling adventure. I was fortunate to see two deer along the shore and a bald eagle snatch a fish from the water. Friendly seals and sea lions surfaced within twenty yards of my kayak several times. Between the gorgeous landscapes and wildlife displays, I was in heaven.
Bowen Island Beaches
You may not find a picture-perfect sprawling white sand beach, but Bowen Island has 48 beaches and coastal access points. Most shores are rocky or pebbly. Some of these are neighborhood beaches.
Community beaches offer easy access for visitors. There are four popular community beaches:
- Bowen Bay Beach
- Roger Curtis Beach
- Sandy Beach
- Tunstall Bay Beach
You will find Sandy Beach and Pebbly Beach close to Snug Cove. Yes, Sandy Beach is so named because it harbors some sand. Since Deep Bay is sheltered, the water tends to be warmer at these two beaches.
Roger Curtis Beach and Tunstall Bay Beach sit on the other side of the island.
Explore Bowen Island by e-Bike
Bowen Island is pretty, but walking the forested hills can tire you. For a more relaxed experience or to cover more ground, navigate the island on an electric bike (e-bike). With so many beautiful areas, an e-bike is an excellent way to get around the island.
Bowen eBikes sits on Cates Hill near Snug Cove. Or, you can make arrangements to pick up your bike at the ferry dock.
Bowen Island has breathtaking sunsets. There are plenty of good spots. Many of the hiking trails yield excellent views of the sunset.
On the west side of the island, Tunstall Bay Beach is a popular spot, as is Sandy Beach near Snug Cove. Catching a sunset anywhere on Bowen Island is the perfect way to start your evening.
Browse the Art Galleries
The fifth most artistic community in Canada, Bowen Island proudly displays arts and crafts from local artists. Visit the boutique shops, eateries, art galleries, and the Bowen Island Museum & Archives in Artisan Square. Just follow the main road from Snug Cove and turn left on Artisan Lane.
Soak in the gorgeous West Coast scenery while enjoying a relaxing outdoor activity. Bon Chovy Fishing Charters has year-round guided salmon fishing trips. Options include half-day trips, full-day trips, private charters, and multi-day excursions.
Play a Round of Golf
Bowen Island Golf Club delivers stunning rainforests, mountains, and water views along Howe Sound. The 9-hole par 35 course totals 3,003 yards.
Enjoy a relaxing round and savor the vistas. Afterward, grab a bite to eat at The Shed. They also carry local craft beers and BC wines.
Food and Drinks
You may expect lackluster food and drink options on an island. While you have few alternatives, the Bowen Island offerings are fantastic. You will be pleasantly surprised by the variety.
Across the board, the food is fresh and tasty. It is prepared and served by friendly, hard-working people who love their community. They welcome you with open arms, treating you like family.
Copper Spirit Distillery
How does a healthy cocktail sound? Copper Spirit Distillery, a family-run boutique craft distillery, uses pure West Coast water, organic BC grain, and German copper stills to make clean organic spirits. You can sip spirits straight or try them with a botanical blend. Their tasting room menu is seasonal and changes daily.
I had a Fir Tip Spearmint Sparkle. Locally foraged fir tips are paired with lime, spearmint, vodka, and sparkling water. The delightful drink is clean, citrusy, and refreshing.
Branch on Bowen
Visit Branch on Bowen, a seasonal taco bar and gift shop along the Snug Cove marina pier. The tacos burst with flavor and fresh ingredients. Grab a seat on the dock and savor the peaceful landscapes from the marina. The charming little shop also serves ice cream if you prefer a cool, sweet treat.
Tell Your Friends Cafe
A unique Snug Cove marina pier eatery, Tell Your Friends Cafe boldly proclaims to serve “healthy-ish” food. Although they carry freshly baked muffins and pastries, you will find plenty of healthy options on the menu.
The shop offers coffee and espresso drinks, fresh smoothies, healthy salads, delicious breakfast and lunch sandwiches, yogurt and granola parfaits, house-made soups, and Moroccan chickpea salad.
Savor award-winning ciders from one of Canada’s most diverse orchards—the cidery crafts three ciders plus seasonal varieties. You can enjoy samples in their tasting room.
Riley’s Cidery has a quaint picnic area with Adirondack chairs and umbrellas where you can bring your food and drinks. The picnic area must be reserved.
Bowen Cider House
A family-owned and run business, Bowen Cider House serves traditional and varietal cider crafted from orchard-grown heritage apples. They offer various ciders to cover the taste spectrum, including dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet, and sweet.
Artisan Eats Cafe
The little cafe sits atop a hill with stunning ocean, mountain, and forest views. It is the island’s only French bakery and offers the best vantage point.
The aroma of French bread and viennoiserie lure you directly into the cafe. Enjoy a pastry with a rich latte, or go for a meal. Either way, the food is delicious, and the view is spectacular.
The menu is surprisingly extensive, with many breakfast and lunch options. Artisan Eats Cafe also carries various espresso drinks, teas, and fogs. You should stay quite a while.
Barcelona Tapas & Wine Bar
Enjoy traditional Spanish dishes in a warm, cozy atmosphere. Barcelona Tapas & Wine Bar may sit in Snug Cove, but you will feel like you are in Spain.
As its name suggests, the restaurant specializes in Spanish tapas and wine. It is an excellent place to relax and savor a delicious dinner. Try to save room for their house-made desserts. On weekends, they serve brunch and dinner.
Next door to Barcelona, you will find Tuscany. Perhaps Europe has taken over the island!
Tuscany is an Italian trattoria and pizzeria in a lovely converted heritage home. Their motto is “simple ingredients presented beautifully.” They deliver in spades.
The eatery serves delicious pizza, salads, and pasta dishes. You can finish your meal with a hot cup of French Press and tiramisu or gelato.
The Snug Café
A small wooden building near the ferry dock, The Snug on Bowen, is a community gathering place. The iconic institution is a coffee house and a cafe.
Whether you seek coffee, breakfast, brunch, or lunch, you will discover tasty fare and friendly service. It feels like home. No wonder this place is a favorite among locals.
Bowen Island Pub
A local hangout, you will find Bowen Island Pub at the Four Corners intersection up the hill from the marina. The pub is excellent for a casual lunch or dinner and for sipping beer, wine, or cocktails with friends.
They serve typical pub fare, including appetizers, burgers and sandwiches, soups, salads, tacos, fajitas, and pizza. The pub offers a kids’ menu, mocktails, tasty desserts, and seasonal pies.
Doc Morgan’s Restaurant
If you love a waterfront ambiance with your meal, Doc Morgan’s Restaurant is for you. Patio seating yields a perfect view of the harbor. Do not fret if you visit during cooler weather. The patios are heated.
Although Doc Morgan’s Restaurant offers comfort food like burgers, tacos, and fish & chips, you can also get more upscale dishes like bison steak, fresh mussels with linguine, maple salmon, and sesame ahi.
Beverage options include beer, ciders, cocktails, and wine. House-made desserts include key lime pie and New York cheesecake with berry compote.
Wrap-Up: Things To Do on Bowen Island
Bowen Island is a perfect day trip or weekend getaway from the city. It offers beautiful scenery, opportunities to relax, rewarding recreational activities, excellent cuisine and beverages, and some of the friendliest people on the planet. Plan your trip and discover why Bowen Island is Vancouver’s best-kept secret.
Featured image credit: Vanessa Gordon
More Articles from Miles with McConkey
About the author
Scott McConkey is a nationally syndicated travel writer and the founder of Miles with McConkey, where he provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, and inspiration. His travel articles have been seen in The Associated Press wire, ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC, MSN, and many more. He and his wife, Julie, left the corporate world after nearly 30 years for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year has evolved into a second act. She creates visual content while he utilizes the written word. Their goal is to create content inspiring others to travel more and live their best lives now.