Looking for a family day trip from the city that combines natural beauty with touches of modern civilization? You can’t do better than a trip to Bowen Island with kids, just a 20-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, northwest of Vancouver. There is no shortage of great, family-friendly outdoor activities and things to do on Bowen Island, and for some of them you won’t even need your car.
Things to do on Bowen Island with Kids
Bowen Island B.C. has long been a weekend getaway playground for Vancouver and West Vancouver residents and visitors, going back nearly one hundred years to the days of the Union Steamship Company’s trips to the Island in the early part of the 20th century.
Bowen remains a popular place to visit, particularly during the summer months. Then the local population of 3,500 can easily swell by several thousand, and the village centre of Snug Cove becomes abuzz with tourists and day-trippers.
Hike in Crippen Park
Crippen Regional Park is within walking distance of the Snug Cover ferry terminal. There are several walks within the park. The Killarney Lake Loop Trail is a wonderful four km forest and marshland walking trail that is immensely popular with residents and visitors.
Depending on your walking pace, the loop walk can take over one hour. Some portions are level and stroller friendly. But most of it is hilly forest trail and wee ones would be better off in a snugli or backpack. Portions of the park trail are suitable for biking, and all of it is perfect dog-walking territory.
The Dorman Point Trail is a short walk south from the Snug Cove ferry terminal to a beautiful viewpoint looking out into Howe Sound. The view from the highest point at Dorman Point is obstructed by trees but a better view can be enjoyed from a short trail, downhill to the right of the point.
There’s a secret driftwood mastodon sculpture on the Island. Built by artist Guthrie Gloag in an undisclosed location, the sculpture is ’30 minutes straight up a deer trail from the closest road.’ The location is a closely guarded secret, and you may have to visit several times to find it.
Snug Cove Boardwalk
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, and they won’t want to miss the(self-proclaimed) tiniest candy store in the world, Candy in the Cove.
Several restaurants are nearby, including Doc Morgan’s Pub, the Tuscany Pizza restaurant, and the pier-side Nancy’s Taco Stand. For a finer dining experience (perhaps on a special trip sans enfants), Rustique Bistro offers a romantic and tasty locavore menu.
Climb Mount Gardner
One of the most popular hiking trails on Bowen Island, the Mount Gardner Loop Trail is a 9.7 kilometer trail. It’s a busy loop trail, especially during the summer season. The trail is moderate and dog-friendly, and used for hiking, running, and bird watching. The views of Howe Sound from the summit are gorgeous.
This cute village complex of artisan shops, galleries and food purveyors offers two very family-friendly destinations worth noting. The first is Artisan Eats, an off-shoot of the Tuscany restaurant with options to eat-in or choose some delicious picnic options for your day trip; such as paninis, antipasti, local cheeses and tasty baked treats.
For the perfect ending to your Bowen day trip, Cocoa West will tempt the family with house-made, organic chocolate and ice cream offerings.
Check out Bowen Island School
On the way to Artisan Square, you’ll pass by the Bowen Island Community School. The playground makes for a great pit-stop after visiting nature trails and beaches.
Visit Bowen Island Beaches
Bowen has several wonderful Island beaches to choose from. Some of them are not well labelled or that easily found, but our personal favorites include; September Morn, Bowen Bay beach, Sandy Beach (closest to Snug Cove), and Tunstall Bay beach.
The Cape Roger Curtis development on the north side of the Island offers beach access, as well as a lovely public trail above the seashore. It’s one of our personal favorite walking trails.
Go Sea Kayaking
As a island surrounded by Howe Sound and the Salish Sea, planning a sea kayaking odyssey along the shoreline is a must do. Rent an ocean-going kayak from Bowen Island Sea Kayaking and paddle your way along the coast or around the island for a real adventure. If planning a kayaking trip with kids, rent double kayaks as it will be much easier on those little arms.
Visit the thriving arts scene
Bowen Island has a vibrant and thriving arts and culture scene. Bowen Island is the 5th most artistic community in Canada, based on the number of local artist residents who derive their primary income from the arts. The Bowen Island Museum and Archives is located in Snug Cove, and there is an annual Bowen Studio Tour every year.
Tip: Pick up a Bowen Island brochure or an Undercurrent newspaper on the BC Ferry for latest news and events. There’s a good map of the Island for planning your Island adventures.
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Photo Credits: C. Laroye
Have you ever spent time on Bowen Island? What are some of your favorite things to do on this idyllic island? Share your comment below.