The islands off the coast of Vancouver, BC are numerous and often unexplored by tourists visiting from outside of Canada. Offering a respite from the increasingly-glass city of Vancouver, the Vancouver Islands nurture a small-town aesthetic and charm.
Isolated due to COVID and desiring to explore more of BC, we took a weekend trip in July to Hornby Island, one of the Northern Gulf Islands on the Strait of Georgia.
Hornby Island and the surrounding Pentlatch area to the west of Hornby, also known as the Comox Valley, is home to the indigenous peoples of the K’ómoks First Nations. Generations of indigenous families inhabited this area from 300 BC to 1850 AD.
The island of Hornby is home to approximately 1,000 inhabitants. Mountainous and surrounded by water, its natural beauty is inspiring. Most of the enclaves of small-town living can be found along the coasts around the island where settlers made their homes. The interior of the island is composed of more rugged terrain where you’ll find Mt. Geoffrey Regional Park.
Here is our guide on visiting the island, the cost, and some activities to keep you busy during your visit.
How to get to Hornby from Vancouver
To reach Hornby Island, your best option is to rent a vehicle if you don’t own a car. While on the island, the long stretches of road without proper walking paths are better suited to driving. They also have public transportation on the island, but they are infrequent.
Vancouver to Tsawwassen Terminal in Delta (driving south)
Tsawwassen Terminal to Duke Point Terminal in Nanaimo (on large Vancouver Island)
2-hour ferry ride
Nanaimo town to Buckley Bay Terminal
1-hour drive north
Buckley Bay to Denman Island
10-minute ferry ride
Denman Island to Hornby Island
10-minute ferry ride
*Book your route here and make sure to carefully read ferry guidelines for safe distancing.
Cost of Travelling to Hornby Island
All costs in Canadian dollars:
From Tsawwassen to Duke Point – $100.90
Return, Duke Point to Tsawwassen – $100.90
*Prices included the vehicle and two passengers.
The cost from Buckley Bay to Hornby Island (through Denman Island), including a return ticket was $75.65 with a vehicle and two passengers.
You can pre-book your tickets on the BC Ferry website, but for the tickets from Buckley Bay to Hornby Island, you will need to purchase it at the Buckley Bay terminal.
We stayed 2 nights at the Mt. Geoffrey B&B for $180/night. The rate is normally higher during the summer because of many local vacation travellers. You can consider visiting the island during the fall or winter for a lower rate, but it also means windy, rainy, and colder days.
Purchasing food at restaurants and cafes on the island is also expensive. An average meal cost us between $30-40 for two people.
Activities on Hornby Island
1. Walk the Trails of Helliwell Park
The quiet trails of Helliwell Park reminds one of the beautiful landscapes that might have inspired European Romantic poets of the 18th and 19th century. Through the forested trails towards the clearing of a meadow filled with tall yellow grass and white dandelions, the cliff edges overlook the deep waters of the sea.
Continue along the trails by the cliff and loop back around to the parking lot. It’s a short and relaxing walk where you will encounter bald eagles and seals splashing in the distant waters.
2. Swim at Tribune Bay
Tribune Bay is the only beach on the Vancouver coast that has the warmest water, mimicking the turquoise clarity of Caribbean beaches. Along with white sand and surrounded by the familiar trees of the Pacific Northwest, Tribune Bay is great for a swim earlier in the day when the winds are less rough.
3. Eat at the Cafes near Tribune Bay
On the eastern side of the island near Tribune Bay is a collection of cafes at the corner of Central and Shields road. Along with supermarkets and a liquor store, you can also find Forage Farm & Kitchen, Vorizo Cafe, a coffee shop, and the Hornby Island Bakery & Pizzeria. Within this compound are communal benches for eating outside. After you eat, you can shop at the local clothing and trinket shops.
4. Visit the Isla de Lerena Vineyard
Near our Mt. Geoffrey Bed & Breakfast was a winery called Isla de Lerena Vineyard. Like many shops on this island, Lerena Vineyard is also family-owned, established in 2002. They named the vineyard after the name given to the island by Spaniards who explored the area during the 18th century. Take your time to explore the vineyard grounds and indulge in a free tasting of local Hornby Island wine.
5. Hike Mt. Geoffrey Regional Park
Pristine mountainous trails, Mt. Geoffrey Regional Park occupies the majority of the island. You can hike or mountain bike through the mossy avenues between the trees. The summit of the mountain can be reached in less than an hour where you will see the point of the Shingle Spit. From this aerial view, the Spit looks spectacular with white sand and the water’s gradual change of light turquoise to blue.
6. Hang out at Thatch Pub
After your hike, head down to the Shingle Spit and visit the Thatch Pub to enjoy a beer and burger on the patio while gazing out at the Strait of Georgia.
7. Visit Galleon Beach
At the northern tip of Grassy Point, enjoy a walk and a picnic at Galleon’s coastal beach. Yellow seaweed covers the slippery rocks, and the view of the distant islands beyond is spectacular.
8. Visit Phipps Point
On the western tip of the island is Phipps Point. As you walk along and soak in the beauty of the island, you will find small grey Dungeness crabs hiding beneath loose rocks along rocky formations that look like shallow steps. Consider renting a kayak on the island and take it out on the waters along Phipps Point.
Hornby Island is incredibly beautiful and definitely worth visiting on warm summer days. Many of the local businesses depend on summer tourism, so save up and visit Hornby while in Vancouver.
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