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12 Best Things To Do on Bowen Island, BC

12 Best Things To Do on Bowen Island, BC

Bowen Island is one of my favourite getaways from Vancouver. It’s a small, forested island with a rugged coastline and a close-knit community of about 4,200 people. There are so many things to do on Bowen Island: It has a thriving arts community and lots of opportunities to connect with nature.

I like going to Bowen because it’s a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of Vancouver without travelling too far: It’s just a 20-minute ferry ride away, but since it’s an island, it feels like so much further.

Bowen Island is also part of the Átl’ka7tsem / Howe Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region, recognized for its diverse habitats from ocean floor to mountain top. It’s easy to connect with nature on Bowen since it has great kayaking and hiking.

I grew up in Vancouver and now I live in nearby Squamish, so I’ve been to Bowen Island more times than I can count. Usually, I make it a day trip to go hiking and eat at one of the great restaurants. But I also love spending a quiet weekend on Bowen exploring the backroads and beaches.

This guide to things to do on Bowen Island includes:

This is a sensitive wilderness area. Learn how to Leave No Trace to keep the wilderness wild. Make sure you are prepared by bringing the 10 Essentials. Get ready for adventure with this checklist of things to do before every hike.

Hey there: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for your support. -Taryn

Bowen Island Basics

How to Get to Bowen Island (With and Without a Car)

Bowen Island is an island, so the only way to get there is by ferry. It’s a 20-minute crossing with BC Ferries from Horseshoe Bay, and there are about a dozen scheduled sailings each day. The ferry takes cars, bikes, and walk-on passengers. Fares are round-trip: you pay to go to Bowen, and then it is free to take the ferry back.

Unlike many of BC Ferries’ other routes, the Bowen Island ferry does NOT accept reservations. I recommend going early, especially on the weekend. You can check the ferry status online ahead of time to see if is full. Multiple sailing waits are common on summer weekends.

The Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal is a 30-minute drive from Vancouver. You can also get there on the 257 (express) or 250 Translink buses. The bikes have room for two bikes on the front rack.

View from the ferry as it pulls into Snug Cove
View from the ferry as it pulls into Snug Cove.

Getting Around on Bowen Island

Most of Bowen Island’s attractions are concentrated in Snug Cove near the ferry terminal. It’s a small village so everything is within walking distance.

However, the rest of Bowen Island is too far (and too hilly) to reach on foot. You have a few options for getting around. An easy option is to bring a car over on the ferry with you. But it’s also to plan a car-free trip to Bowen: you can rent a scooter, bike, take the bus, or hitchhike.

You can rent scooters from Zoom Zoom Bowen Island a short walk from Snug Cove (summer only – requires advance reservations). I haven’t ridden a scooter around the island, but it looks super fun. You can bring your own bike or rent e-bikes from Bowen eBikes (summer only) in Snug Cove, which makes the hills a lot easier. If you’re biking or scootering, keep in mind that the island’s roads are very hilly and twisty. There also is no shoulder. Cycling or scootering here is best suited for experienced cyclists.

There are three bus routes on Bowen Island: Translink routes 280, 281, and 282. Buses are not very frequent, but they will get you almost anywhere you on the island. Notably, they don’t go to Cape Roger Curtis, the golf course, or some of the more far-flung residential areas.

Hitchhiking is also common on Bowen Island. There are designated hitchhiking pickup locations across the island, marked with signs. You can also use the Bowen Lift app to try to organize a ride. Or just stick your thumb out and hope for the best.

A woman stands on a rock at Cape Roger Curtis.
Unfortunately, Cape Roger Curtis is one of the places on Bowen Island that you really need a car to get to. It’s worth it though!

How Long Should You Spend on Bowen Island

I have two answers to the question “How long should you spend on Bowen Island?”. On one hand, I recommend spending the weekend on Bowen so can you really explore the island and see most of the things on this list.

But on the other hand, I also recommend doing a car-free day trip. If you go over for the day on a morning ferry, you’ll have enough time to browse the shops in Snug Cove, have lunch, and then do an outdoor activity like kayaking, a short hike, or a visit to the beach.

Best Time to Go to Bowen Island

Bowen Island is great at any time of the year. It’s definitely busier in the summer, especially on the weekends. I like visiting in spring, fall, and winter when the island feels a little sleepier. Some businesses (like kayaking) are only open from April to October, but most are open year-round with reduced hours in winter.

Bowen Island Weather

The climate on Bowen Island is similar to Vancouver and the neighbouring Sunshine Coast. However, it is often windier and a bit rainier or cloudier than Vancouver thanks to its location at the entrance to Howe Sound, a fjord.

Average summer temperatures are between 14 and 22°C. Temperatures the rest of the year are usually between 3 and 16°C. May through September are the driest months. Although it is often gorgeously sunny here, it also rains frequently, especially in the spring, fall, and winter. Pack a rain jacket just in case.

Indigenous Context

Bowen Island is the traditional territory of the Squamish Nation (Skwxwú7mesh-ulh Temíx̱w). In the Squamish language, Bowen Island is called Nex̱wlélex̱wm which means “beat a fast rhythm”.

Bowen Island Map

To help you find your way around, I made this custom Google Map of Bowen Island for you. It includes every single place I mention in this post.

Google map of the best things to do on Bowen Island, BC
Click the map to zoom in.

Best Things To Do on Bowen Island

Browse the Shops and Galleries in Snug Cove

Bowen Island’s main town of Snug Cove is pretty compact, with shops and restaurants clustered along Bowen Island Trunk Road and Dorman Road near the ferry terminal. It’s worth strolling past them all to see what catches your eye.

I recommend stopping at Catching Stars Gallery. They have great art, handmade jewelry, and lots of artisanal gifts. The Hearth Gallery is also worth a look. Housed in the same building as the public library, the Bowen Island Arts Council runs this gallery and showcases works from local artists.

If you’re looking for unique clothing, Squirrel on Bowen and Miss Billies Vintage are where it’s at. Branch on Bowen down next to the ferry terminal is mostly a taco/ice-cream stand, but it also has lots of cute gifts and home goods.

Shops on the pier in Snug Cove
Shops and cafes on the pier in Snug Cove beside the ferry terminal.

Try Craft Spirits at Copper Spirit Distillery

Copper Spirit Distillery stands out from the other buildings along Bowen Island Trunk Road with its modern facade. The industrial-chic feel continues inside with polished concrete floors and lots of brass accents. It’s definitely the coolest place on Bowen to go for a drink.

Grab a table or sit at the long wooden bar to sip one of their signature cocktails, each of which features house-made spirits. Some of the cocktails include locally inspired ingredients like elderflower or fir tips.

Or taste their spirits straight up. They make vodka, gin, and both rye and wheat whiskies. Of course, we picked up a bottle of gin to take home with us.

A glass of whisky on a wooden bar at Copper Spirit Distillery
Whiskey tasting at Copper Distillery.

Go Kayaking

Bowen Island Sea Kayaking has a great location on the water right next to the ferry terminal. It’s one of the best places to go kayaking near Vancouver since it has a wilderness feel but is close to the city. You can paddle the sheltered coastline around the island or strike out across Howe Sound to some of the other islands.

Howe Sound can be a windy place to paddle, which means that you need to be an experienced paddler if you’re going to venture far from shore. Heading out on a guided tour is one of the most low-stress ways to paddle here. They even have sunset and full moon paddle tours, which are on my bucket list for my next visit to Bowen.

Visit the Bowen Island Museum

If you want to get an idea of Bowen Island’s history, head to the Bowen Island Museum and Archives on the outskirts of Snug Cove. They have lots of museum exhibits and historical photographs. You can also visit the Higgins Cabin, a two-room logger’s cabin from the mid-20th century.

Visit Artisan Square

Perched on a bluff just up the hill from Snug Cove is Artisan Square. This cluster of cute buildings houses artists’ workshops, galleries, boutiques, and other local businesses. If you’re on foot, it’s a 10-minute walk on a trail that starts behind Cates Pharmacy.

I always stop at Cocoa West Chocolatier for incredible hand-made chocolates. I go in intending to just buy a few, and then cave and buy a big box to take home.

Arts Pacific Gallery is always worth a look to check out the paintings and ceramics from local artists. And Tosh Decor has great housewares.

Be sure to get coffee or a meal at Artisan Eats. On weekends they make incredible egg benny for brunch! Pro tip: Pick up a loaf of freshly baked bread to go.

Shops clustered around a tree in Artisan Square, Bowen Island, BC
Shops in Artisan Square

Walk the Trails in Crippen Regional Park

Crippen Regional Park almost surrounds the town of Snug Cove. From the ferry terminal, follow the wooden Lady Alexandra Promenade along the waterfront to the Snug Cove Picnic Area. This part of the park is a legacy from Bowen Island’s history as a summer getaway from Vancouver in the 1920s and 1930s, serviced by the Union Steamship Company.

A woman stands on the grass at the Snug Cove Picnic area. You can see a BC ferry and boats at a marina in the background.
The Snug Cove Picnic Area.

You can also follow the trails inland to the Lagoon and then slightly uphill along Killarney Creek to the Terminal Creek Fish Hatchery. Use the park map to choose your route.

If you want to go further, you can also hike to Dorman Point and Killarney Lake, both of which are also in Crippen Regional Park. More info on those trails below.

Hike to the Lookout at Dorman Point

The hike to Dorman Point is fairly short at just 2.4 km. The trail ends at a great lookout point on a bluff above Snug Cove. The summit has lots of gorgeous arbutus trees and views of Howe Sound.

The trail starts at the Snug Cove picnic area, and then winds its way uphill on switchbacks through ferns. The last section is very steep, so take your time.

View from Dorman Point
The view from Dorman Point on a cloudy day.

Hike the Killarney Lake Loop

The 4 km loop around Killarney Lake is a great easy walk with lots of boardwalk sections and a few viewpoints. The east side of the loop is a bit more challenging, with a rougher trail and some rolling hills. I like to hike here when it’s cloudy or raining. Watch for lots of bird species, especially in the marshy area at the northern end.

There are some great spots to take in the scenery, but this isn’t a great lake for swimming. It is quite marshy and there are signs warning of leeches!

A man walks on a leaf covered boardwalk around Killarney Lake in Crippen Regional Park on Bowen Island
Walking the boardwalk through the forest around Killarney Lake

Hike to the Top of Mount Gardner

Mount Gardner is the tallest point on Bowen Island, topping out at 727 metres. The first time I went to Bowen Island, it was to hike to the top. If you add on a few kilometres of trails through Crippen Regional Park, it is possible to hike the entire trail to the top and back to the ferry terminal without a car.

There are a few different trails to the peak, and loop options are possible. In general, plan to hike about 10 km round trip with about 680 m of elevation gain if you start from the trailhead. It’s about 17 km round trip with 727 m of elevation gain if you start from the ferry terminal.

The views of Howe Sound from the top are incredible. And thanks to its low elevation, Mount Gardner is on my list of the best snow-free hikes near Vancouver.

Chill Out on the Beach

Since it is an island, Bowen Island has tons of coastline. But it has a rugged and rocky shoreline, so the beaches are all in small coves. There are dozens of beaches around the island, many of them small beaches in neighbourhoods.

Two of the most popular beaches are Sandy Beach and Pebbly Beach, both in Mannion Bay (which locals call Deep Bay) a short walk from the ferry terminal. The water in the bay is shallow, thanks to outflow from Terminal Creek.

Bowen Bay Beach on the west side of the island is also great. It has a good-sized stretch of sand and small pebbles (by Bowen Island standards at least).

If you want to explore some of the other beaches, use the Bowen Island beach map.

Logs on a beach on Bowen Island
Bowen Bay Beach at high tide.

Explore the Trails at Cape Roger Curtis

Cape Roger Curtis at the southwest corner of Bowen Island is my favourite place on the island. The craggy coastline has tons of tiny coves and rocky outcroppings.

A 1.5 km-long trail winds through the forest above the shoreline, connecting access points on Lighthouse Lane, Roger Curtis Lane, and Collingwood Lane. The bus doesn’t come out this far, so you’ll need to drive. Parking is limited.

There are several great viewpoints on rocky bluffs and some sections of beautiful elevated boardwalk. I love the views of Keats Island the small islands in front of it as well as the entire Strait of Georgia. There are also info boards about the types of whales and sea life you might be able to see.

The entire area is part of a high-end housing development, so spying on how the other half lives is also part of the fun. While the trail is short, allow lots of extra time for exploring and taking photos.

A navigation light and rocky outcrops at Cape Roger Curtis, one of the best things to do on Bowen Island
Exploring the rocks around the lighthouse at Cape Roger Curtis

Visit Craft Cideries

Bowen Island is home to two different craft cideries. Bowen Cider House is a family-run cidery on a working farm in the center of the island. They have a heritage apple orchard, a garden, and livestock. You can purchase artisan meats, eggs, produce, and more at the Meadowbrook Market on the same property.

They make several varieties of cider ranging from dry to sweet, so of course we had to sample them all on a tasting flight. I liked the tartness of the Granny Cowan, made from 70% Granny Smith apples, so we bought a few bottles to take home.

Bottles of cider on display on a wooden shelf at Bowen Cider House
Ciders on display at Bowen Cider House.

I haven’t had a chance to visit the other cidery, Riley’s Cider yet, but it’s on my list for next time. It’s also a family-run orchard, but they have limited capacity so they recommend booking a tasting in advance.

Where to Eat on Bowen Island

There aren’t many places to eat on Bowen Island, but thankfully, most of them are really good! My favourites are below.

Some tips for dining on Bowen Island: Make reservations for dinner, especially on weekends. If you can’t get a reservation, the pubs take walk-ins. Check opening hours outside of summer – some restaurants are closed a few nights a week.

Tuscany Restaurant

This traditional Italian trattoria and pizzeria is a Bowen Island classic, open for decades. Tuscany is located in the heart of Snug Cove, and in the summer, they have the dreamiest patio draped with grape vines and fairy lights.

The pizza here is so good that some of my friends have been known to take the ferry over just to eat it. They also have great pasta. And I always want to end the night with their tiramisu, even if I’m already too full!

The patio at Tuscany Restaurant on Bowen Island draped with grape vines and fairy lights
The incredible patio at Tuscany. I took this shot on a rainy night, which is why no one is sitting out here.

Barcelona Tapas and Wine Bar

Located next to Tuscany, I was pleased to discover Barcelona Tapas on my most recent visit. It’s been open for a while, and I don’t know why it took me so long to try it! They have incredible Spanish-style tapas share plates made with local ingredients and sustainable seafood.

While their seafood and meat dishes were incredible, I was blown away by the Berenjena con Miel: crispy fried eggplant with honey and mint!

The interior of Barcelona Tapas in Snug Cove
The cozy interior at Barcelona Tapas

Artisan Eats Cafe

The real ones know that it’s worth making the short trek up the hill to Artisan Square to eat at Artisan Eats Cafe. The back wall is all windows, giving you an elevated view of Snug Cove and the North Shore Mountains across Howe Sound.

It’s a great spot for coffee and a croissant, but if you’re hungry, they do breakfast and lunch too. Their freshly baked bread is incredible – we usually pick up a loaf to take home, but last time we ended up eating it with cheese in the car because we couldn’t wait.

Breakfast at Artisan Eats Cafe at a table in front of the window.
Breakfast with a view at Artisan Eats.

The Snug Cafe

Housed in a converted cottage near the ferry terminal, the Snug Cafe is a great place to pick up coffee and a snack while you wait for the next sailing. But they also have a huge breakfast, lunch, and smoothie menu.

The interior of the Snug Cafe in Snug Cove, Bowen Island
The huge menu at the Snuge Cafe.

Where to Stay on Bowen Island

Bowen Island is a small, close-knit community, so there aren’t a ton of places to stay. However, there are a handful of boutique hotels, B&Bs, and vacation suites.

Artisan Suites on Bowen: This boutique 4-suite hotel is the only hotel on the island. It has a great location in Artisan Square and some of the rooms have great views. Check rates.

Wildwood Cabins: These adorable woodsy cabins are tucked into the forest. They have full kitchens, woodstoves, and barrel saunas. The Wildwood Cabins made my list of the best cabins near Vancouver. Check rates.

Eagle Cliff Suite: This cozy Airbnb sits on the side of a dramatic cliff. The wrap-around covered patio was a great place to hang out and watch the scenery on my most recent trip. Check rates.

Red chairs on a cliffside patio on Bowen Island.
The incredible view from the deck at the Eagle Cliff Suite. We loved sitting out here, even in the rain, because it is covered.

A note on camping: With lots of undeveloped forest and coastline, Bowen Island sounds like a good place to go camping. But there are no campgrounds on Bowen Island and it is not legal to camp anywhere on the island. If you see photos of people camping on Mount Gardner, know they are camping illegally.

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t been to Bowen Island yet, you’re missing out. Start with a day trip to hike or kayak and don’t miss dinner at Tuscany or Barcelona. I guarantee that after that first day trip, you’ll be looking up cabin rentals and planning a weekend trip to come back!

Do you have questions about Bowen Island? Ask in the comments – I’m happy to help.


Taryn Eyton
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