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  • Writer's pictureCarmen Castro

Bowen Island, BC: an Off-Season Day Trip Adventure from Vancouver

Updated: Feb 25

Across the Queen Charlotte channel, there’s an island that is vibrantly busy in the summer months. With lots of trails and beaches to visit, it is the perfect spot for a day trip or a weekend getaway from Vancouver.

However, Bowen Island isn't just stunning in the summer; if you're looking for a more laid-back vibe, it's a fantastic place to visit in the off-season. When my daughter and I visited Bowen Island a few weeks ago, we were astounded by the abundance of stunning locations that could be seen and visited within easy walking distance of the ferry station. In addition to seeing the city, we also explored a few different trails and went to a couple coffee shops. We were delighted to find a lovely location that wasn't too far from home. Continue reading as we take you on a tour of Bowen Island's breathtaking scenery.

Bowen Island, BC

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Getting to Bowen Island, BC From Vancouver

Our journey began in downtown Vancouver, where we boarded the bus on Georgia Street to travel to the ferry terminal, a journey that took us approximately an hour. Horsheshoe Bay may be reached directly via the 250 and 257 express, both of which are efficient lines.

The 20-minute ferry ride to Bowen Island is offered nearly every hour, and I have to add that it was nicely calm compared to the bustling summer rides. We were also really excited to have seen a humpback whale breeching in the distance (sorry, no pictures). It was indeed memorable.

As mentioned before, once in Bowen, the majority of places to see are accessible by foot from the Snug Cove ferry terminal. Additionally, there are bus routes that can take you to the most distant locations (Wave them up to stop.) However, bear in mind that this option may eat up some travel time if you are visiting for the day; therefore, if you are interested in seeing the less visited areas of the island, having a car or a bike might be a better option, or, of course, staying longer.

The ferry ride cost us $20 for one adult and a child round trip, and the recommended show-up time to take this ferry for foot passengers is 30 minutes before sailing.

Please note that if you decide to take a vehicle with you, the prices and waiting times may vary. Bowen Island is a non-bookable destination, so plan accordingly.

Other ways to get to Bowen Island:

Places We Visited on Bowen Island, BC

I often hear people say that there is nothing to do on Bowen Island, and without doubt, that might be true for some. For us, we found a little place that, even though it is very similar to the mainland, naturally speaking, still holds its uniqueness and owns the beautiful views of the West Coast Mountains that tower across the Queen Charlotte Channel.

Our first stop was the Dormant Point Trail, which is considered an easy hike with some steep sections. It is short, and although the viewpoint has a lot of trees, there is a good view from the right side of the lookout. If you visit Dormant Point, make sure to check out the Crippen Park map and get the right directions, so you can avoid following the road there like we did. 

After coming back from our hike, we saw the beautiful old building that houses the Bowen Island Public Library and couldn't resist paying a visit and taking a few minutes to read a book. We learned that it was built in 1924 and originally served as a store for guests and staff of the Union Steam Company.

From there, we took a walk to Artisan Square, which is a very pretty spot where you can find a few shops and services, from food to accommodations, galleries, and so on. It is also a good place to snap some photos. The walk here took us about 15 minutes from the library, which is a few steps from Snug Cove (the Ferry Terminal).

Killarney Lake was for us an easy walk in the woods, although we did not make the whole loop around, which is 9 km and takes approximately 2.5 hours, because we made a few stops on the way there: the Memorial Garden, the Hatchery, and the Fish Ladders (we stopped and played for a bit too), so by the time we reached the lake, it was almost time to turn around. The clouds had rolled in, but it was still beautiful.

With a long history dating back to the 1900's, this causeway is now a beautiful walk and lookout to the West Coast Mountains across the Mainland on one side and a beautiful lagoon on the other. When we visited it, there were five sea lions splashing around in the water; they were eating some fish right close to the bridge, and they surely seemed happy about it.

This was the last spot that we visited on Bowen Island; it was a mere five minutes or so walking distance from the Lagoon Causeway. The beach was a beautiful spot to sit and relax for a bit after a day of walking.

The sunset was near, and the mountains looked mesmerizing under the gentle glow of the sun.

I have to add that I was surprised that the beach had a warning for contaminated and unsafe swimming water, but I hope this is only a temporary issue since on the Bowen Island Municipality website it states that this and other beaches are "assigned the highest degree of maintenance and monitoring."

Where to Eat on Bowen Island

There are plenty of places to choose from when it comes to food. We only stopped at two different spots, both of which were good in their own way. Tell your friends Café was a cozy little place right beside the ferry terminal, so you get the views of the water, which was very pleasant. The server was very friendly and made us feel welcomed. We ordered some breakfast croissants and a couple drinks and enjoyed the water view through the window while listening to some alt-pop music. The Snug Cafe was a more spacious place with a sweet patio to enjoy in sunny weather. Busy with locals and visitors alike, it is probably a good place to meet new people. We only ordered a couple of warm drinks here to continue with our walk since we had brought our own lunch from home, but the menu looked tempting and the drinks were delicious.

Possible Drawbacks of the Off-Season

Any season can have its drawbacks; here we've listed some drawbacks you might encounter in the off-season.

Not enough time: Visiting for a day might not be enough if you want to do more exploring or don't want to find yourself hiking in the dark. For instance, I want to hike the Mount Gardner Trail, but it takes a good seven-hour round trip. So coming in the summer might be the best bet for this one.

Colder weather: We don't mind the rain when there are adventures to be had, but colder or windier weather might deter some people. Maybe including me.

Places close earlier: Places tend to close earlier in the off-season, and with good reason; there is just not enough influx of visitors to justify keeping them open.

Places close for restorations: A lot of businesses take advantage of the off-season to make upgrades to their existing buildings, and in the case of Bowen, that is happening with the museum. I guess we will have to come back to see it all freshen up in the summer months.


Overall, we were glad that we chose to come to this lovely location during the off-season, when activities are a little slower and nature is preparing for the arrival of the winter months. Perhaps you might give Bowen Island some thought the next time you're looking for a nearby spot to explore.


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