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flowers in the foreground of a beach on bowen island, bc

Bowen Island: A Hidden BC Gem

If you’re looking for a peaceful retreat amidst nature’s beauty, look no further than Bowen Island!

Located a 20-minute ferry ride across Howe Sound from the Lower Mainland, this tiny forested island will make you feel like you’re a million miles away from civilization.

It offers a perfect blend of stunning landscapes, outdoor adventures, and a tight-knit community. So, pack your bags, put on your hiking boots, and get ready to discover enchanting Bowen Island!

Bowen Island: Where Nature Unveils its Majesty

Located across Howe Sound from Vancouver, Bowen Island is a haven for nature enthusiasts. What’s more, this picturesque island’s close vicinity to the city makes it one of my favourite day trips from Vancouver during the summer heat.

But what makes it so special? Well, despite being just a stone’s throw from the Lower Mainland, Bowen still boasts a rugged coastline, lush forests, and mesmerizing mountain vistas. This allows you to explore its breathtaking attractions, local culture, and recreational activities after a quick ferry ride from the city.

As soon as you set foot on Bowen Island, you’ll feel a sense of tranquillity enveloping you, making it the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Things to do on Bowen Island

a picture of snug cove, bowen island, bc

Exploring Snug Cove: The Heart of Bowen Island

Snug Cove, the main hub of Bowen Island, is a vibrant village that serves as the island’s gateway. This charming waterfront area welcomes visitors with its quaint shops, cozy cafes, local art galleries and, of course, the ferry landing. Take a leisurely stroll along the marina, breathe in the fresh sea air, and soak up the laid-back atmosphere.

Don’t forget to visit the Bowen Island Marina, where you can admire the beautiful boats bobbing in the crystal-clear waters. The best part? The entire area is walkable, meaning you’re free to visit without a vehicle or park it for the day.

Wander Bowen Island’s Magnificent Hiking Trails

Are you ready to lace up your hiking boots and venture into Bowen Island’s wilderness? With an extensive network of over 47 km of well-maintained trails, the island offers a plethora of options for hikers of all skill levels.

One of the most popular trails is the Mount Gardner hike, which rewards you with panoramic views of the surrounding islands and the sparkling waters of the Salish Sea. From moss-covered forests to coastal bluffs with ocean views, Bowen Island’s hiking trails never cease to amaze.

Relax at Bowen Island’s Beaches

When it comes to relaxation, Bowen Island has got you covered with its 48 idyllic beaches. Sandy shores, rocky coasts, and steep cliffs are all on offer, providing a serene ambiance that’s hard to resist.

My favourite is Tunstall Bay Beach, which offers a peaceful retreat where you can bask in the sun, take refreshing dips in the ocean, or unwind with a good book. Other community beaches include Bowen Beach, Roger Curtis Beach, and the aptly named Sandy Beach.

No matter which you choose, Bowen Island’s beaches are perfect for rejuvenating your mind, body, and soul.

Immerse Yourself in Local Culture: Art Galleries and Studios

Bowen Island is a haven for artists and art enthusiasts. The island’s vibrant artistic community is showcased in its numerous galleries and studios, where you can admire and purchase a diverse range of artworks. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • The Arts Pacific Gallery: A spot to explore a wide selection of paintings, ceramics, and sculptures created by talented local artists.
  • The Hearth Gallery: Located in a historic building near the ferry terminal, it hosts rotating exhibitions and musical and cultural performances highlighting the island’s rich culture and artistic talent.
  • Catching Stars Gallery: A local artists co-op that aims to showcase the beauty and talent native to the island. It also includes a popular gift shop with an assortment of art, jewellery, crafts, household items and more.

Dining Delights: Bowen Island’s Culinary Scene

Prepare your taste buds for a culinary adventure on Bowen Island. Despite its small size, the island boasts an impressive array of dining options that cater to all palates. From cozy cafes serving delicious baked goods to waterfront restaurants offering fresh seafood, there’s something to satisfy every craving.

  • The Snug Cafe: A local favourite known for its mouthwatering breakfast options and warm hospitality.
  • Doc Morgan’s Pub & Restaurant: A local institution with popular comfort foods, burgers, tacos, fish and chips, and an assortment of locally caught seafood.
  • Barcelona Tapas & Wine Bar: Their scrumptious tapas are prepared with fresh, local ingredients and a touch of Spanish flair.
  • Bowen Island Pub: A local meeting point and social and entertainment hub. Home to live music, good eats, and cold beers.

Partake in Bowen Island’s Festivals and Events

Bowen Island truly comes alive during its festivals and events. Throughout the year, the island hosts a variety of celebrations that showcase its vibrant community spirit.

  • The Bowen Island Farmers’ Market: Held every Saturday from 10:00 am to noon. A must-visit for foodies and craft enthusiasts.
  • Snug Cove Music Fest: Brings talented musicians from near and far for performances in Snug Cove.
  • Canada Day: Every July 1st, you’ll find a Canada Day celebration that includes music, crafts, face-painting, art, vendors and more.
  • Light Up Bowen: A delightful festive celebration featuring lights, trees, and other Christmas activities.

Bowen Island Tours from Vancouver

Prefer not to make the trip across on your own? Maybe you’d like a quick taste of this island paradise on an organized day trip. Luckily, there are a variety of Bowen Island tours from Vancouver on offer. Here are a few of my favourites:

a snap from a bowen island zodiac dinner cruise in the snug harbour marina

Bowen Island Dinner and Zodiac Boat Tour

Duration: 3 hours | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Price: From $189.00 CAD | ? Read 50 + reviews

You’ll kick things off at Granville Island in Vancouver’s charming False Creek. First, you’ll be outfitted in a survival suit for your Zodiac crossing to Bowen Island. But not to worry, it slips on right over your swanky dinner clothes.

But, hey! Don’t forget to order before you cast off. Because once you reach the other side, your feast will be hot and ready, just waiting to tickle your taste buds at Doc Morgan’s. But first, your 30-foot rigid hull zodiac will cruise at a cool 31mph past Stanley Park, Siwash Rock and the Lion’s Gate Bridge for those crucial photo ops.

Once you reach Bowen Island, you’ll make a grand entrance and disembark from the zodiac. You’ll have a whole hour to enjoy yourself on this charming island. But first things first, you’ll grab a bite to eat at Doc Morgan’s.

After exploring, you’ll return to your Zodiac for a second sightseeing cruise back toward Granville Island. Along the way, you’ll check out local seal colonies and cruise through English Bay past some of Vancouver’s best beaches.

Included:

  • Guided sightseeing cruise aboard a rigid hull Zodiac
  • Transport between Vancouver and Bowen
  • A la carte dinner at Doc Morgan’s
  • An hour of free time to explore the island

Related: The Top Vancouver Whale Watching Tours

a photo of bowen island's snug harbour

Bowen Island Ferry, Hike & Photography

Duration: 6 hours | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Price: From $174.00 CAD | ? Read 15+ reviews

Are you a photography enthusiast? If so, get ready to unlock the secrets of capturing the absolute best of the breathtaking West Coast. Join this full-day small-group nature photography tour that’s gonna blow your mind! You’ll kick things off in downtown Vancouver, where the adventure begins.

Then, you’ll hop on a ferry that will whisk you away to stunning Bowen Island. Brace yourself for a day filled with awe-inspiring sights and mind-blowing photo opportunities. Snap photos of serene lakes and the enchanting temperate rainforest.

Here’s the best part: your guide is not just any guide. Nope! They’re a professional photographer who’s gonna spill all their top-notch tips and tricks.

So whether you’ve got a fancy DSLR or rockin’ a smartphone, this tour will level up your photography game – and you’ll get an amazing nature hike in for good measure.

Included:

  • Professional photographer guide
  • A small hiking tour of the island
  • Transportation and return fare on the Bowen Island Ferry
  • Option to borrow a DSLR camera

Related: The 5 Top Boat Cruises in Vancouver

a howe sound sea safari tour near bowen island

Howe Sound Sea Safari Cruise

Duration: 6 hours | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Price: From $174.00 CAD |? Read 40+ reviews

Hey there, adventure seekers! Are you ready to have a blast in breathtaking British Columbia? Well, buckle up ’cause we’ve got the perfect 2-hour ocean-going experience for you—the Howe Sound Sea Safari!

After departing in West Vancouver, you’ll be cruising in a 30-ft custom, high-speed boat. This baby is designed for maximum thrills and epic views. Get ready to feel the wind in your hair and your heart racing as you cruise any of the three available routes.

You’ll be treated to some jaw-dropping natural attractions along the way. Check out the towering cliffs of Anvil Island, and keep your eyes peeled for those cheeky seals hangin’ out at Pam Rocks. They’re bound to put a smile on your face! But wait, there’s more—you’ll even explore the mysterious Bowen Island caves.

So hop aboard, hold on tight, and embark on a sea safari like no other. The wonders of Howe Sound are waiting, and you’re about to dive right in!

Included:

  • 2-hour high-speed zodiac tour of Howe Sound
  • Survival suit, gloves and weather goggles
  • Professional guide/captain

Related: How to get to Victoria from Vancouver

How to get to Bowen Island

The Bowen Island Ferry

Still intent on making the journey solo? Then the most popular way to reach Bowen Island from Vancouver is by taking the ferry.

The 20-minute journey begins at Horseshoe Bay, a scenic seaside village on Vancouver’s North Shore.

You can easily reach Horseshoe Bay by car, public transit, or taxi/rideshare from downtown.

Horseshoe Bay by Car

  1. Head West on Georgia St. and follow the Stanley Park Causeway across the Lion’s Gate Bridge.
  2. Take the West Vancouver exit and follow Marine Dr. West until you reach Taylor Way.
  3. Take a right onto Taylor Way and follow it North until you reach the entrance to HWY-99 and take the on ramp towards Whistler/HorseshoeBay Ferry Terminal. Follow HWY-99 to HWY 1 and take the exit to Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal.
  4. Enter the lane bound for the Bowen Island Ferry. Purchase your fare ($31.90 per vehicle and $11.90 per passenger). You’re good to go!

Horseshoe Bay by Bus

  1. Board the #257 Horseshoe Bay express bus on the north side of W. Georgia Street near Seymour. The stop is close to the Vancouver City Centre and Granville Skytrain stations.
  2. Pay your fare ($3.10 or $2.50 with Compass Card) and stay aboard until the terminus stop at Horseshoe Bay.
  3. Pay your foot passenger fare for the Bowen Island Ferry to Snug Cove Terminal ($11.90), and you’re off on your adventure.

Always check the BC Ferries schedule for the Queen of Capilano before departing. You must arrive at the terminal 30-60 minutes before your departure. The ferry is non-reservable, so it functions on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Bowen Island FAQs

To reach Bowen Island, you can take a ferry from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. The ferry ride is approximately 20 minutes, providing scenic views of the surrounding islands and mountains.

As of 2023, the Bowen Island ferry costs $31.90 per vehicle. You’ll also be required to pay $11.90 in addition to the cost of your vehicle or if you’re a foot passenger.

Bowen Island offers a multitude of outdoor activities, such as hiking, kayaking, fishing, paddle boarding, and mountain biking. Exploring the island’s trails and taking in the breathtaking natural beauty is a must-do.

Absolutely! Bowen Island is a popular day trip destination from Vancouver. The short ferry ride makes it convenient for visitors to explore the island’s attractions and return to the city on the same day. There are also a host of prepackaged tour options from Vancouver for day-trippers.

Yes, there are several Bowen Island tours from Vancouver on offer. These tours offer a fantastic opportunity to explore the beauty of the island and its surroundings while departing from Vancouver.

Ready to Board the Bowen Island Ferry?

Bowen Island is a slice of paradise just waiting to be discovered. This captivating island offers it all, whether you’re seeking adventure in nature, a peaceful retreat, or an immersion in local culture.

From its stunning landscapes to warm community spirit, a quick island day trip will leave you enchanted and yearning for more.

So, pack your sense of wonder, embrace the island’s laid-back vibe, and embark on an unforgettable journey to Bowen Island.

Safe travels⛴️

Julian

I've used online guides on five continents to find the world's greatest travel spots and this is my chance to give back - with insider info on my home, the mighty Vancouver BC!

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