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Bowen Island is dotted with pretty beaches

Breezing through British Columbia’s Bowen Island

By Sheliza Mitha

A scenic 20-minute ride from West Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay is where you’ll find the idyllic Bowen Island. Step off the ferry, and you might as well step across time with the island’s distinct old-fashioned village feel and ambiance of quaint ice cream shops, cozy seaside eateries and charming storefronts filled with colourful knick-knacks that you never knew you needed.

Bowen Island is dotted with pretty beaches
Bowen Island is dotted with pretty beaches

Bowen Island, population of nearly 4,000, balloons on summer days and bustles with everything one might need for a daylong or weekend getaway.  Pretty beaches?  Check. Quaint grocery store with various sundries?  Check. Stores meant for browsing and cafes meant for brunching?  Check and check.

Our daylong visit began with a walk around this intimate, halcyon village rife with marinas, gift shops, restaurants, flower and garden shops, and enough spectacular scenery to make you think you’ve landed inside a postcard. 

Snug Cove known for its quaint shops and tempting cafes
Snug Cove Known for its Quaint Shops and Tempting Cafes | S. Mitha

While we drove onto the ferry, Bowen Island is perfectly suitable to explore by foot. After finding a parking spot near the Island terminal, our adventure began with a gentle 20-minute uphill hike inland (west) to Artisan Square – one of Bowen Island’s two commercial centres.  (The other is Snug Cove, the charming – and convenient – congregation of shops and restaurants at the foot of the Bowen Island Ferry Terminal.)

As the name implies, Artisan Square is just that – a creative centre and square bordered by homegrown storefronts, health and beauty spots, artist galleries and studios, a yoga studio, jewellery shops featuring one-of-a-kind designs, and much more. Notable among these offerings (as someone partial to the cacao bean) is the Cocoa West Cafe. 

Cocoa West, a chocolate oasis in the heart of Bowen Island
Cocoa West, a Chocolate Oasis in the Heart of Bowen Island | S. Mitha

Tucked away in a corner of this bright and open square, Cocoa West has been delivering on a chocolate experience with an array of artisanal chocolates from the husband-and-wife team of Joanne Mogridge and Carlos Vela-Martinez for nearly two decades.  As much as possible, Mogridge and Vela-Martinez source local ingredients for their artisanal chocolate creations.  Here, we stopped to sample the chocolaterie’s organic truffles and other sweets. 

As part of our very loose travel itinerary – and to walk off our chocolate indulgences – we decided to explore the many inviting shops surrounding the square, including the Real Rapunzel.  After a quick tour of this eclectic shop, it was clear this was an unmissable destination.  From costume designer to gift designer, the Real Rapunzel features a wonderland of quirky items and one-of-a-kind mementos – from tee-shirts and fashion accessories to soft furnishings (think bags, totes, tea towels, magnets, etc.) personally made or curated, including works from numerous Bowen Island artists and artisans. 

Bowen Island features plenty of culinary and sightseeing opportunities
Bowen Island Features Plenty of Culinary and Sightseeing Opportunities | S. Mitha

With some choice gifts in hand, we were pulled in by the inviting sights, sounds and aroma of nearby Artisan Eats Bakery & Cafe – a cozy eatery with a warm fireplace and even warmer staff.  Take in the restaurant’s spectacular views of the ocean, mountains and forest while enjoying their impressive breakfast, brunch or lunch… or just a creamy latte with some freshly made baked goods. 

Despite the many temptations (and still trying to work off our many treats), we opted to make our way to the beach.  While Bowen Island is dotted with beautiful beaches, we chose to keep it simple and visit the one closest to the marina and ferry terminal.  This involved a 20-minute walk back towards Snug Cove, turning left at Cardena Drive to pass the Visitor InfoCentre and continuing on towards Sandy Beach. Despite its name, this beach – though beautiful – was actually quite pebbly, though still pleasant.   

Bowen Island Sea Kayaking
Bowen Island Sea Kayaking | S. Mitha

After a quick reset and refresh with a splash in the local deep blue waters, our next stop involved an adventure with Bowen Island Sea Kayaking for an hour of stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) – our first ever with this trendy (and, as it turns out, meditative) pastime. On this particular day, the water was calm enough to navigate the board (even without any athleticism or experience on my part).  

Scenic Snug Cove is perfect for enjoying a picnic
Scenic Snug Cove is Perfect for Enjoying a Picnic | S. Mitha

With our day coming to a close – and a ferry to catch – there was one final task on our to-do list before departing: supper.  Given the charms of this seaside village, we knew that (for us) this meant a fish & chips picnic, followed with a cool scoop of ice cream at Snug Cove.  Our dinner and dessert were enjoyed amid the island’s warm sea breeze, with views of the water and the ferry headed into shore that would eventually lead us to the reality of home.

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If you haven’t spent a day exploring Bowen Island recently, plan to do so on a sunny day in September or the fall. It will be less crowded and just as much fun.

For accommodations near Bowen Island and elsewhere in British Columbia check out travel-british-columbia.com

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Published: August 26, 2021

About the Author

Sheliza is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys blogging about her family’s adventures throughout British Columbia. For the latest on food and travel, connect with her on Twitter via @shelizawrites or visit her at www.copyprose.com.

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