Bowen Island: Day Tripping from Vancouver

Despite the fact that I have lived in Vancouver for most of my life, I had never been to Bowen Island. A couple of weeks ago, we decided to check that off our Summer bucket list with a last-minute day trip. We walked on the ferry with almost no planning, arriving on Bowen in need of coffee and some idea of what to do with 2 kids. In this post, I’ll outline some ways you can enjoy Day Tripping to Bowen Island with Kids.

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A Day Trip on Bowen Island with Kids: What to Do

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  1. Walk on the Ferry – Although you won’t be able to explore the whole island, you can certainly spend a whole day on Bowen without a car. By walking on the ferry, you save yourself time (and money). Grab a map of Bowen while on the ferry.
  2. Go for a Hike – all the resources I read suggested the a hike to Killarney Lake (pictured above) from the ferry terminal only takes about 45 minutes and is very kid-friendly. It’s not, if your kids are 5 and 2. Although we did walk to the lake, there was a lot of grumbling and unhappy faces. Plus, you also have to walk back. There wasn’t anything kid-friendly at the lake, so it was a bit of a let-down. This trail map gives you an idea of the paths and times. Instead, I would suggest you head partway up the trails to see the fish ladder / small Bridal Veil Falls, then continue on the trail until you see the sign for the Community School. This makes for a great loop and our next tip. (Note: the hatchery on the way to Killarney Lake may sound tempting, but it is not much to look at)
  3. Play at the school playground which rests at the top of Mount Gardner Road. This is (I believe from the signs) the exit from the cross-path near the fish ladder, and the main road takes you back down to the ferry terminal / shops. 
  4. Plan transit if you want to see anything beyond the ferry terminal shops, and have small kids, plan to take transit. There are some hills and the distances between areas are not as close as they seem.
  5. For older kids, take bikes if you want to explore further, and have kids who are capable bikers, you can bike along many of the trails
  6. Play at the beach if you go South (left if you’re facing away from the ferry terminal – see map), you can take the boardwalk to a nice picnic area and beach at the marina. There’s also a trail to a viewpoint (which we didn’t know about). The kids spent a lot of time searching for rocks and treasures here, though I would not recommend it for swimming. Other beaches are apparently nice for swimming.
  7. Enjoy laid-back dining According to locals, the best shops are all right at the main strip near the ferry,  though up in Artisan Square (15-minute adult-speed walk uphill or bus trip) there are other options such as Artisan Eats. Near the ferry terminal are options such as Tuscany Pizza (more upscale, quite delicious) and the Snug Cafe (delicious pastries, lunch looked good!)
  8. Fill up on treats! Really, what is a day trip without treats. There is a super cute candy shop, ice cream, and even gourmet chocolates. And don’t forget PIE! Who can forget pie? You must eat or take home something from the Lime and Moon Pie Company, located on the pier just at the ferry terminal

Since we went to the lake (bad idea) and the kids were exhausted and hungry, we hitched a ride back into town for lunch. Well, I had to walk since Damien was sleeping in the Ergo. We never got to visit the playground, but it looked great!

I think now that we know more about Bowen, our next trip will be even better! Hope you can learn from some of our mistakes and subsequent research!

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Unearthing History at the Britannia Mine Museum

On our return trip from Squamish, we stopped at both Shannon Falls and at the Britannia Mine Museum. We spent about 2.5 hours in the museum and could easily have spent twice as long, particularly if the day had been nicer. 

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I have been wanting to visit the mines for some time, but I was a little wary that it would be too much for Aiden, with the loud noises and his very sensitive hearing. It turns out, the loud noises come in 4 short bursts, with lots of warning, so you really can cover your child’s ears (and wear the supplied earplugs for yourself) and not face much of an issue. The largest sound was the whistle at the end of the tour, and Aiden missed that since he had to rush to the washroom. 

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The tour takes you through a section of the mine where a tour guide shows you some of the equipment used over the years of the mine’s operation, as well as some of the challenges faced by the workers. What a horrible work experience, the hours of backbreaking labour with almost no light, no space, and the likelihood of an early death. Ick. 

In addition to the tour inside the mine, you can visit the factory to see the conditions there, as well as several outbuildings that house equipment used during the operation of the mine. There is a short video about the history of the mine as you come into the Museum. I felt like we learned a ton about mining and the history of the area, I really liked the whole experience.

For the kids, the real highlight was the panning for gold. Ok, it was a highlight for us too. I was so into it I didn’t take any photos. Oops. Unlike other places where panning for gold has only been sand, the Britannia Mine Museum seeds the sand with gold shavings and many other stones to be found. This is hugely satisfying for kids and adults alike!

On nicer days, there is a great play area with sand, water, a boat structure and a train tunnel, as well as a picnic area and on-site food options (not open when we were there). Plan to go on a nice day if you want to take advantage of these great features.  

Check out all our photos from the Britannia Mine Museum here.