Daytrips: Bowen Island

In Canada, Travel by Lenore NewmanLeave a Comment

I love cities, but every now and then it is nice to get beyond the city walls for some quiet and fresh air. Throughout history part of the charm of urban life has been the occasional escape, and the wealthy have always maintained a separate set of digs beyond the city in order to avoid high summer temperatures, plagues, and other unfortunate elements of urban life.  All great cities have a collection of historic daytrip sites, and Vancouver no exception.  We are lucky to have a number of interesting possibilities close at hand. A few Saturdays ago we decided to check out one of the most historic Vancouver daytrips, The “Happy Isle”, Bowen Island.

Snug Cove, one of the most soothing place names of all time.

Located a mere two kilometers from the mainland, Bowen is only 20 minutes by ferry from Horseshoe Bay. Local First Nations groups used Bowen as a summer camp, but the Island’s first link to Vancouver was as a source of bricks; in the 1870’s settlers opened a brickworks, and Bowen bricks were used in a number of early Vancouver buildings, including our first market hall, which was located on Main Street.

Bowen’s reputation as a daytrip, however, is linked to the Union Steamship Company, which operated a camp at Snug Cove from the late 1900’s to the mid twentieth century. Steamers would ferry picnickers to this idyllic spot, and cabins were available for longer stays. We decided, in true “Happy Isle” fashion, to walk onto the ferry, and enjoy the island on foot.

We arrived in Snug cove in time to sample the Bowen Island market, which runs weekly through the summer. It is a small market, but there were some lovely pastries and we supplemented our picnic with some fresh berries.

Fresh Croissants!

Snug cove itself boasts a surprising array of restaurants. Bowen’s population includes a large number of digerati and part time commuters, and land prices and the general retailscape reflect this. We supplemented our picnicking further at The Ruddy Potato, an excellent grocery store.

We headed into the woods, and stopped to admire the lilies at Killarney Lake, which is a very easy hike from Snug Cove.


Before long it was time to return to the city, and so we stopped at the dock to check out the taco and ice cream stand.  It didn’t seem like a natural mix, but the tacos were very tasty. Bowen proved to be an excellent break from the city, and was delightfully walkable.

I think the trick is to not eat both the tacos and ice cream at the same time

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