Sunset on the Gulf Islands Photo

Travel Spotlight

Hornby Island

Hornby Island has been nicknamed the “Little Hawaii” of Canada. The region is well known for white, sandy beaches stretching around Tribune Bay to meet an aquamarine sea. With close to 1 km (0.6 mi) of fine white sand beach, the south-facing Tribune Bay is easily one of the most spectacular places on the east side of Vancouver Island. Shallow waters here meet near tropical temperatures during the summer, being one of the warmest salt water swimming areas in BC.

This area offers numerous opportunities for water activities, especially during the summer season. Boating activities include Kayaking and even Hydrobiking. Depending on the time of year, wildlife such as eagles, seals, and sealions can be seen in the area. There are also many beautiful areas to go hiking.


Hornby Island is located off the eastern shore of Central Vancouver Island, east of Denman Island and opposite Buckley Bay, 20 km (12 mi) south of Courtenay and 86 km (53 mi) or one hour drive north of Nanaimo.

Ferry service is from Buckley Bay to Denman Island, then a drive across Denman Island to the Hornby Ferry Terminal and then ferry to Hornby Island. Water Taxi service is also available.

A Step Back in Time

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, Hornby Island was the territory of the Pentlatch, a Coast Salish First Nations band. Being semi-nomadic, they used the island seasonally, gathering resources and fishing from its shores. In 1791, the Spanish named the island ‘Isla de Lerena’, but the British later renamed it ‘Hornby Island’, after Rear Admiral Phipps Hornby, who was at that time the Commander of the Pacific Station.

By 1850, there were practically no Pentlatch left due to sickness, slave raids, and the movement of people into their territory from the north. At the end of the 1860s, George Ford, one of the earliest recorded settlers, moved from his settlement in Comox to Hornby Island. Other settlers followed. By the turn of the century, Hornby Island had become a fairly prosperous farming community, although many who came to farm found the sale of logs from the clearing of land more profitable than the farming itself.

Contact Information

Hornby Island

Travel Spotlight
Camping Lodging

The Super Camping / Select Lodging Guide

First Published in 1989