Retreat to Bowen Island

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When the little things start testing your patience, it’s time to get away from the daily chaos and reconnect with nature. Bowen Island is unique: It’s only an hour from Vancouver, but the back-to-basics atmosphere makes you feel as though you’ve travelled deep into BC’s wilderness.

Catch a ride with BC Ferries from Horseshoe Bay for a 20 minute sailing to Snug Cove, or take a water taxi from Coal Harbour or Granville Island. As you cross Howe Sound, the towering Coast Mountains command you to slow down, pay attention and be present. Before you know it, you’re stepping into another world.

A group of hikers on a path lined with mature trees.

One of the few places left where you can still be genuinely spooked by an owl. Killarney Lake and Crippen Park walk, Bowen Island.

The wildness of BC is everywhere on this island of 52sq km (20sq mi), with about half of the island designated as public forested areas. Exploring is easy on trails that vary from a light forest walk around Killarney Lake to a challenging climb to the peak of Mt. Gardner (one of three mountains on Bowen). If you’re looking for a local’s recommendations, Jody Lorenz of Bowen Island Tours will lead you to the island’s best locations for interests ranging from adventure to art.

Stars are brighter without the light pollution of the city. They remind you that you are a small part of something huge. Sit in silence, feeling your rooted connection to the earth, and let it give you strength to let go and re-wild.

A woman meditates on a moss-covered rock, surrounded by a dense forest.

Nature’s force field revealed on Bowen Island. Photo: @apsteez via Instagram

Cultivating a strong connection with nature inspires creativity. That’s abundantly clear in the art and food created on Bowen. Just up from the ferry dock, Artisan Square is the creative capital of the island. Make your way on a self-guided art and nature walk available from the Bowen Island Arts Council, or join Bowen Island Tours’ new Savoury & Sweet food walking tour. The tour takes you to local favourites, sampling Japanese rice balls (Shika Provisions), award-winning, roasted organic coffee (Bowen Island Roasting Company), sweets from a so-small-you-might-miss-it candy store (Candy in the Cove), and some of the island’s best restaurants.

A flat lay of three beautifully prepared dishes of naan bread, wild rice, and a bowl of soup.

Daily hikes are a perfect time to forage ingredients to add to your evening meal.

You can wander Bowen on foot, but to see more of the island rent a retro-style scooter from Zoom Zoom Bowen. Ride out to Tunstall Bay on the west side for a spectacular sunset, or north to Bowen Bay for shallow waters and sandy shores.

Another satisfying way to explore the island is on the water, by kayak or paddleboard (you may spot a curious seal or sea lion). Bowen Island Sea Kayaking offers rentals and guided tours, plus insights into the rich history of the area including First Nations, the rebirth of the marine ecosystem in Howe Sound, and tales of locals in the 1920s dancing the night away during the Union Steamship Company era. The sand on Sandy Beach was actually brought over from Scotland on one of the steamships.

Silhouette of a quiet coast at sunset.

Tunstall Bay Sunset, Bowen Island.

There’s no camping on Bowen, but there are plenty of unique places to stay. Nectar Yoga B&B is a retreat centre with a geodesic yoga dome, surrounded by wildflowers. Alderwood Farm has an eclectic charm and specialty food store where you can pick up fresh eggs, local produce and house-made sausages. In Artisan Square there’s the Chocolate Suite at Cocoa West Chocolatier, a twist on a B&B with a supply of organic chocolates for your indulgence. And you can experience a piece of Bowen’s history, complete with wood burning stove, at The Union Steamship Co. cottages.

Featured image: Paddling around Bowen Island, BC. Photo: Bowen Island Sea Kayaking