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A touch of the bucolic, just a few minutes drive from Vancouver.
We found the bucolic island when we were hunting for moorage for our boat. At first the trek out Hwy 99 to Ladner seemed like a bit of a hassle, then we discovered the strawberries and soon came to think of it as our country home.
Tucked off the South Arm of the Fraser River, the little village of Ladner is part of the municipality of Delta. The village was born in 1873, when brothers William and Thomas Ladner built a wharf so farmers could ship their produce to the region’s urban markets. A perfect reflection of the river, Ladner is an historic working town, filled with farmers and fishermen.
At first glance the little town seems quaint but uninteresting. Ladner is simply an unassuming place. And the way to enjoy it (or any place for that matter) is to look for the unique qualities. In Ladner these qualities include a rich history of fishing and farming and an abundance of parkland.
With Maia’s help, here’s the perfect summer daytrip to Ladner—although you’ll need to make at least two trips because the market and museum are open on different days and if you want to do a big berry pick you’ll need to get out there early!
Bring your bikes and park your car somewhere shady near Captain’s Cove Marina then set off on the dyke trail towards downtown. Near town, Maia suggests heading into Ladner Harbour Park, where there is a playground, which she says is really important in a day trip.
When you can drag your kids away from the park keep exploring the trail—it has great river views and ends up at a scenic viewpoint looking out over the harbour—which happily hasn’t been gentrified and turned into a tourist draw. Instead, it maintains its authentic charm, complete with a few derelict boats and buildings.
From the harbour, head to the local museum. It has limited hours (10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tues-Sat), but as connoisseurs of small town museums—we’ve visited a few gems, but have also endured some pretty dull exhibits—the Delta Museum and Archives is a pleasure, housed in a 1912 Tudor-style heritage building and divided into three floors. The basement is a well-designed early street scene—complete with general store, schoolhouse and jail. The main floor depicts a range of rooms, which might have been found in Victorian or Edwardian-era homes. The top floor highlights the historic waterfront uses in Ladner.
Or, time your visit to coincide with Ladner’s Village Market—an event that happens in the village centre every other Sunday, June through August (this year: June 14, 28; July 12, 26; August 9, 23; September 13).
Stalls, selling the usual array of local arts and crafts and a yummy variety of local produce, line the streets. Live music and a variety of activities give the cordoned-off streets a festive carnival air.
After visiting the market, buying a bit of local produce (and eating too many mini donuts) bike out to nearby Westham Island. When you reach the island you might be treated to the sight of the old wooden decked one-lane swing bridge in action, as it opens for a boat to pass through.
Bike out to the end of the road first and visit the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Located on a small island at the tip Westham Island, the sanctuary provides a lush habitat for 287 species of resident and migrating birds. Visitors can watch the birds from a three-story observation tower or from one of the five bird blinds that are found on the network of walking trails.
On your way back stop in at Westham Island Winery (where I discovered that black currants are a surprisingly okay thing to make wine from), then at Emma Lee Farms for berry picking.
Don’t miss Westham Island Herb Farm, an organic farm that invites visitors to stroll through the crops. We were excited to discover that the farm grew artichokes—a vegetable we assumed didn’t grow at our latitude.
If you haven’t found everything you need on the Island—make a quick left and a right just after the bridge. The hand-lettered signs will take you to our favourite farm: Keith’s place. Stock up on organic eggs and chicken while your kids chat with Keith about farming techniques.
After collecting artichokes and other delicacies for dinner, head home for a feast of locally grown produce, complete with cranberry wine spritzers and a blueberry cobbler for dessert. If your reaction is the same as ours, you’ll soon be telling your friends about the amazing countryside located just a few minutes from Vancouver.