100 Mile Day Trips: Bowen Island
Looking for a family day trip from the city that combines a boat ride, adventures in nature, tasty dining options, and a tiny candy store? Hop aboard the Queen of Capilano ferry for a twenty-minute ride ride from Horseshoe Bay to Snug Cove, Bowen Island, northwest of Vancouver.
Bowen Island has long been a weekend playground for Vancouver residents and visitors. The Union Steamship Company offered day trips to the Island over 100 years ago, and Bowen remains a popular place to visit, particularly during the summer months.
What to do on Bowen Island
Just off the ferry terminal lies the Snug Cove Marina and village shopping district. There is a boardwalk that circles the cove and ends at a section of Crippen Park with picnic tables and green space. The kids will have fun throwing rocks into the water and watching the ducks and geese along the beach. Several restaurants are nearby, including Doc Morgan’s Pub, Tuscany Pizza restaurant, the Snug Cafe (breakfast & lunch), newly opened Rustique Bistro, and the pier-side Shika Provisions. Snug Cove is also home to the self-proclaimed ‘smallest candy store in the world’, Candy in the Cove. It is a delightful place, filled with the usual sweet favorites, as well as candies and licorice from the UK and Australia.
Crippen Regional Park is a 600-acre park, within walking distance of the ferry terminal. You can walk or drive to access an easy hike around Killarney Lake (the Loop Trail). It’s a wonderful, four Km forest and marshland walking trail that is immensely popular with residents and visitors.
Take a Walk
Depending on your walking pace, the loop walk can take about one hour, and while some portions are level and stroller friendly, most of it is hilly forest trail and wee ones would be better off in a snugli or backpack for the hike. At the far end of the loop trail, near the picnic tables, is the Bowen Island Bike Park. Kids don’t even need their bikes to try their hand at the mountain bike terrain park. Running up and down the hills seems just as fun.
Artisan Square is an uphill hike from the ferry, or an easy 5 minute drive. This cute village complex houses artisan shops, galleries and and two tasty dining options. Artisan Eats is related to the Tuscany restaurant. Eat-in, or choose some delicious sandwiches and local cheeses for your day trip picnic. For the perfect ending to your Bowen day trip, nearby Cocoa West will tempt the family with house-made, organic chocolate and ice cream offerings. And to prove that you’ll never know what you’ll find on Bowen, Artisan Square is also home to the Italian Artigiani Milanesi Cashmere Tailors boutique.
Life’s a Beach
On the way to Artisan Square, you’ll pass by the Bowen Island Community School, with its extensive playground, tennis courts and artificial turf soccer field. This is a good pit-stop should the kids want some traditional playground time after visiting the nature trails and beaches.
A day trip to Bowen Island is not complete without a visit to one of its wonderful Island beaches. Sandy Beach is the closest to Snug Cove, and great for swimming. A 20-minute drive through the Island along Grafton and Adams Roads brings you to the Tunstall Bay beach. Nearby (off of Whitesails Dr) is the Cape Roger Curtis development, where you can access a gorgeous beach-side walking trail with views of the Lighthouse and Sunshine Coast.
The drive northwest to Horseshoe Bay from downtown Vancouver is 30 minutes, depending on traffic on the Lions Gate Bridge. Check the BC Ferries schedule for departure times, and try to arrive at least 30 minutes before sailing time. The fare is one-way, paid on the Horseshoe Bay side. The ferry ride is a scenic 20 minutes across to Snug Cove. You can also park your car in Horseshoe Bay, and walk or bike onto the ferry.
Claudia lives in Vancouver. She's the mother of two teenage boys, and has a thirst for travel, chocolate, and pineapple margaritas. She writes and blogs as thetravellingmom.ca, offering a modern mom's guide to family travel sanity. She is much too active on Twitter as @travelling_mom.
We just did this after reading your article – it is Dec 28th 2015 and a sunny, cold day and it was perfect! We walked on the ferry carrying my 3 and 6 year olds bike, stopped for lunch at the delicious, very kid friendly Rustique Bistro, then the the kids rode all the way on the forest trail to Killarney lake. The trail was gentle enough and fantastically well marked. The forest you pass throughly is gorgeous and so is the lake – especially in the winter with the soft golden light slanting through the trees. The view of the snow covered mountains from the ferry was breathtaking. My kids are not that good at traveling long distances but there was enough here to hold their interest. Thank you for the tips!!!! PS Bc ferries charges full bike price for kids bikes $$$