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The best way to travel from Vancouver to Bowen Island.
There are two Vancouver launch points for the foot passenger—Granville Island next to Bridges Restaurant (hard-to-miss bright yellow restaurant) and Coal Harbour at Bute & Cordova streets.
English Bay Launch operates a couple of cozy, all-weather, west coast vessels that can fit anywhere from 12 to 42 people. The bench seating is a bit of a squeeze, but there’s great visibility pretty much anywhere except right behind the driver. (I opted to use this photo in black and white because I thought it was about as James Bond as one can get in English Bay).
On any given day you can spot no less than a half dozen overseas freighters anchored in the ocean between West Vancouver and Point Grey, and the University of British Columbia endowment lands. Not the most romantic sight, they are breathtaking in their monstrosity and their wear and tear. If only these walls could talk.
Perfect for the adventurous traveler, these water taxis have ample room. That means dogs, kayaks, bikes, groceries and sports teams are all welcome.
The most peaceful way to spend an afternoon—under full sail with no engine sound, just the water lapping away at the sides of the boat. Weekends are busy days on the high seas, especially during the summer months. Sailing lessons, races and tours abound. If you are lucky, you might catch a sailboat unfurling its coulourful spinnaker sail at the bow.
A favourite picnic location and one of the best spots to watch a summer sunset, Lighthouse Park boasts incredible views of the inlet, downtown Vancouver, the west side and out past UBC into the Straight of Georgia.
The best way to scope out the waterfront million-dollar homes on the North Shore is by boat. If you are lucky enough and no one is in a hurry, the captain might just take you on a quick detour close to shore so you can see how the wealthy spend their time—and maybe fish a bag or two of excess gold out of the water. It’s just like Robin Hood.
The man or woman at the helm makes all the difference. The captains all have plenty of marine and mechanical experience, good senses of humour and the lads I saw were easy on the eyes.
I discovered the Bowen Island foot passenger ferry out of desperation. I was helping orgaize my friend’s recent stagette and because none of us gals own a vehicle, the plan was to borrow my friend’s car, drive to Horseshoe Bay and take the BC Ferry to Snug Cove on Bowen Island.
But, days before our getaway weekend, my friend’s car broke down and we found ourselves scrambling for a Plan B. On a whim, we looked into the rumour of a foot passenger ferry between Vancouver and Bowen Island. Luckily, rumour was indeed fact.
The Bowen-run company English Bay Launch runs several ferries a day between Vancouver and Bowen. They have a commuter route Monday to Friday from Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver, and the more popular seven-days-a-week route from Granville Island to Snug Cove on Bowen.
I was pleased to find out that the English Bay Launch, operating since October 2009, is an eco-conscious company. While it isn’t mandatory, they ask that passengers reserve their passage in advance—not only because trips during the summer months are usually full, but also because it allows them to choose the most fuel-efficient boat based on the number of passengers.
In 2010, staff even volunteered their time down in Louisiana, New Orleans, to help with oil spill cleanup. This earns them extra points in my book!
This is the best $30 you can spend! It’s transportation, a getaway and echo-tour all in one. The ferry fare is $30 for a roundtrip or $20 for one-way. So, while you may want to stay forever on the island, it doesn’t hurt to plan a return home.
And as mentioned above, it is highly recommended that you book your seat or else a group of spontaneous travelers lurking at the Granville Island Public Market might just beat you to it.
While the boat ride is pleasurable on its own, you might as well check a couple of sightseeing must-dos off the list. You can rent a kayak from the wharf as soon as you hit the other side and take it out for a paddle in the many inlets and coves around Bowen. Or, for the cardio-lover, take a hike: Mount Gardner is a popular option.
Lastly, don’t miss the Bowen Island Summer Market in Snug Cove between July and October, where you can fill your backpack with local jewellery, arts and crafts, organic veggies and fresh hearty bread.