Bowen Island Accommodations ~ Discover your own 'Bowen Love Story'

Perhaps you live or work in the center of the City in one of the endless towers that fill your view. Perhaps, your days are occupied with busyness and stress.

Perhaps for a quick passing moment you wonder how you’ll ever find harmony and balance again. Perhaps, as you gaze out of your window you become aware for the first time of an island off in the distance –so close and yet it feels like a world away. Perhaps a tiny voice inside suddenly says, “I need to go there.”

If you’re looking for a sign as to whether to listen to that voice this blog would be it.

A short commute from Vancouver and “just off the coast of ordinary" is that ‘island paradise’ –Bowen. Follow the signs that say Horseshoe Bay and catch the next ferry. They leave every hour.

Visitors Describe Bowen Island as Another World

“It’s like a little oasis...a little puzzle piece that has drifted away from the Mainland a 100 years ago. It feels like stepping back in time to a simpler way of life, but with many little luxuries waiting to surprise you.”

“It feels like time has not caught up to this magical land. Like walking through the armoire into Narnia without an evil queen to worry about.”

“Magical and mystical. Nature is soooo big and present on Bowen. One feels that the ‘force’ is definitely with them.”

“The moment we got off the ferry at Snug Cove, we felt transported into a quieter, more peaceful setting than the one we’d just come from.”

If you’re worn from the struggles and stresses of city life, Bowen Island is a quick, convenient, getaway, a haven, from the daily routine. Stay a day or two...maybe forever.

Once here, you’ll wonder why you didn’t come sooner. Perhaps, you might never want to leave. 

Accommodations on Bowen Island

It’s as if crossing the waters of the Salish Sea transports you back to a simpler time and place where one remembers who one truly is. On Bowen, there is ample opportunity to re-connect –whether that be with interesting people or a deeper sense of community, nature, or one’s Self.

Bowen is—in many ways—a different world. For starters, there are no street lamps, no franchises, no box stores, no movie theatres, and not a single traffic light (the one at the ferry doesn’t count). There could be more restaurants on one block of 4th Avenue or Commercial Drive in Vancouver than all of Bowen.

The official speed limit is 40 kilometers per hour. Most visitors find Bowen a welcomed opportunity to slowdown, relax, and just kick back if only for a day or two.

Jan Stevens operates five vacation rental properties on Bowen Island and describes what she loves about hosting visitors. “It's a really special experience to share the magic that people find when they're here on Bowen. They just can't believe how peaceful, how beautiful it is. There's no Home Depots, there's no Starbucks. It's all small businesses and the charm and quaintness of the community always delivers. Guests love it.”

Whether you’re new to the Island or a long-time resident, it’s easy to fall in love with the arresting beauty that is Bowen. It’s a sparkling, safe, “island paradise”. The nights are dark and quiet. ‘Home intruders’ are most likely to be a herd of deer, grazing on the grass outside your door...or your plants. Bathe in the beauty of a hike around Killarney Lake. Soak in the ocean or in the stars. Look up in awe and wonder at ‘Opa’, a 1,000 year Douglas Fir tree and living sentinel, watching over the Island and its people. 

As with many visitors and residents, my husband, David, and I have a story of how we arrived and fell in love with Bowen. Our friend and RMT Extraordinaire, Harmony Shire, was working in Vancouver and had just moved the month before to Bowen Island.

During one session, Harmony was talking to David about how much she was loving the Island and how much healthier she felt being on Bowen. It was a Friday morning. My husband walked out from seeing Harmony and called me to suggest we look at getting a B&B on the Island for the weekend. We needed to check out this mysterious and magical place called Bowen.

By 8pm that night, we were snuggled into The Guest House on Mount Gardner Road. We spent the weekend, visiting Snug Cove, touring the neighborhoods, enjoying the fresh air, the calm of Bowen’s bucolic forests and hills....and actually doing a bit of work remotely from amongst the glorious green and forests of our new-found home. 

Just as Harmony described, we loved how Bowen felt –this amazing, laid-back, rejuvenating spirit. We felt as if an Island-size “ahhhhhh” descended over our stressed-out City-living bodies.

Less than four months later, David and I had bought our dream home and moved into a life for which we are grateful every day.

Residents will be the first to admit ‘Island life’ is not like living on the Mainland. People come to Bowen not just to decompress, but to just ‘be’, separate from any identity they may have created elsewhere.

An accepting, welcoming, highly engaged, community, Bowen Island is home and haven to an amazing –almost astounding– number of artists, writers, entrepreneurs, creatives, explorers, and all-around incredibly interesting people.

It may take you a few conversations to find out that the person you’re talking to is actually a Mt. Everest guide or a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. Perhaps, they are an author of numerous children’s books, danced with Prince and Janet Jackson, or were a former rock musician in Bulgaria, playing stadiums and other huge venues. They could be a refugee from Syria, Syracuse, or Saskatoon. Perhaps, they were Robert Kennedy’s guest at the Ambassador Hotel in LA the night he was killed. On Bowen, you never know. The Island is full of hidden stories, hidden gems that give ordinary life here a richness and mystery.

The best way to get to know and appreciate Bowen is to converse with the residents themselves. Most love to talk about the Island and their love affair with it. We asked some residents to tell us about the top five to ten things they love about Bowen. We had such a response that we had to create three blog posts: Parts One, Two, and Three. Enjoy!

And, the next time you’re in Artisan Eats, on a trail on Cape Roger Curtis or Mt. Gardner, or swimming at Crayola Beach, take a moment to strike up a conversation, to re-connect, with the people next to you. It may be the start of a lifelong friendship and your own Love story, starring Bowen Island. 

Visiting or moving to Bowen – What do you need to know?

Staying on Bowen
According to the Bowen Island Visitors’ Survey, over half of the visitors, coming to Bowen for at least a night or two stay with a resident. Another 28 percent will lodge with a B&B, with a range of possibilities, prices, and options. For accommodations on Bowen, visit the Tourism Bowen Island website, which has a list of options. Bowen Island is well represented on Airbnb with a host of Vacation Rentals. Check them out here.

Jan Stevens and Bowen Island Accommodations have five vacation rental properties on Bowen Island. All their rentals are either waterfront or water view. “We're known for having extremely clean homes. My [Jan’s] background is as an interior designer; so, I make sure that all of the properties have style, comfort, and a higher end look than you might otherwise find.’

Bowen Island Accommodations also has an incredibly useful guide of resources, including transportation, beaches, groceries, etc. If you’re coming to Bowen, definitely check out Jan’s guide before arriving.

Currently, Bowen Island has no hotels nor options for camping or tenting. All the more reason to make friends with the residents. You’ll want to come back time and time again. 

Buying Groceries, Restaurants, and Eating Out
If you’re looking to cook your own food (at least some of the time), Bowen Island has two primary grocery stores. The Ruddy Potato is Bowen’s version of Whole Foods or Choices. The Snug Cove General Store is our neighborhood grocer complete with incredibly friendly staff (SO to Nancy Lee) and a wine and beer section. If you’re looking for that stellar wine or specialty item, the Bowen Beer and Wine Cellar is your find. 

Bowen also has a fabulous butcher, Alderwood Farms, that's in the middle of the island, as well as a field of farms that provide fabulous fresh produce. You can find a list of them here. 

Looking to ‘get back to the land’ even for a day Bowen farms are worthy of a visit. Along with offering fresh –often organic and heirloom– produce, many of the farms will allow visitors to connect with the animals. Great for the kids and whole family. Phone to confirm hours and availability. Or take your chances and just drop by.... it’s a Bowen thing to do. Big ‘shout-out’ to Clemencia at Primrose Farms (778.801.1719). Can’t recommend her highly enough. 

Another reason to connect with residents is that many are ‘foodies’ who love to cater and host ‘long table’ or ‘chef’s table’ dinners. These offerings are regularly advertised on specific Bowen Island Facebook Groups such as “Bowen Island Foodies” and “Bowen Island Events”. 

Or ask a local, such as Michelle Catherine Nelson or Joshua Young, creative director and bartender at The Bowen Island Pub. Theoretically, Josh may be part of a group of chefs, offering private dinners known as “16 plates” (but you didn’t hear it here). Artisan Eats and Chef Matt Matheson (Vine & Garden) are both well-known for their catering. Home Farm Gardens will be offering 'long table dinners' on their farm through the summer months. 

As part of our commitment to the community we will be profiling various restaurants, including Bowen's newest restaurant, Barcelona Tapas and Wine Bar. You can check out delicious videos about Barcelona here and here. The videos take time so we will highlight other restaurants, cafés, and businesses in the coming while. 

If you’re dining out on Bowen make sure to check on availability. Many Bowen restaurants and stores are closed on Monday and/or Tuesday, especially during the winter months. Bowen restaurants also tend to stop serving food earlier than most places you would find off-island. Reservations are highly recommended, especially on Fridays and Saturday nights.

Keeping busy on Bowen
Fresh air. Trees and forests out your backdoor. Deer and other wildlife to keep you company. Healing ocean waters. Seals. Starfish. Eagles overhead. No light pollution. Stars...lots of them. Engaging conversations. And a peaceful, calm, relaxed, ‘vibe’ that will have you coming back again and again for more.

Or maybe you’ll just move here. Popular outings include kayaking, our hiking trails, walking around Killarney Lake, and/or enjoying some mighty fine BC beaches and ocean waters. Once again talk to the locals and they may let you know about their favorite spots. Bowen Island Trails has a variety of maps here. Bowen Island Accommodations has a list of itineraries, including “Westside Explorer”, Art-Lovers’, and History-Lovers’. 

Needless to say, Tourism Bowen Island and Destination BC are great resources. Also check out better_on_bowen and #bowenisland on Instagram. 

What to bring, what to bring?
You will definitely need proper footwear as the hiking trails will beckon you like sirens of the forest. Bring a swimsuit just in case. You never know when that rejuvenating salt water may call you. Especially in winter a dip in the waters will let you know you’re alive. Yeah, maybe next year.

During the non-summer months, raingear is essential. Just because we live in a temperate rainforest doesn’t mean it rains all the time. Only sometimes. And it’s probably best to be dressed for it.

Regardless of the season, if you plan on being out after 3pm do bring a flashlight or a phone with a light. It’s not uncommon that plans change and pitch black is a beautiful thing...though potentially dangerous to walk in.

How not to piss off the residents
Bowen Islanders love their Island. Residents are both incredibly welcoming to visitors and strangers, and incredibly protective of what’s been created here. Respect the spaces, the forests, the ocean, ‘the vibe’.

Treat the restaurant and bar staff with respect –running a restaurant is a tough go anywhere, but especially on an island. Be kind and you will have your goodwill returned multifold.

No littering and absolutely no fires, during the summer months. If you’re in the ferry line, do not park in the cross-hatched areas –makes residents crazy. Observe the ‘zipper rule’ when boarding the ferry (signs are posted; see photo above). And whatever else you do never, ever, butt in line. Other than that, you’ll be great.

Secrets of Bowen
From the magical phosphorescence (bioluminescence) that light up our ocean waves like fire flies in the summer nights to a hidden Mastodon deep within the woods, Bowen is rich with secrets. According to the London Sunday Times, Bowen Island is the “the 11th Best Place to Live in the World” and a key part could be Bowen’s combination of simplicity and sophistication. Looking for meticulously crafted Italian artisan cashmere knitwear, sustainable bamboo clothing, sublime art, or world class artists and designers, such as Sonam Dubal--all have an understated presence in Bowen’s Artisan Square. 

And if you're in Artisan Square do drop by the Better on Bowen office and say hi!

Along with the secrets already mentioned, check the Bowen Island Facebook or the Hearth (formerly BI Arts Council) pages for regular updates. 

If you want to know more about the history of Bowen Island as “Vancouver’s Original Summer Getaway” Rebecca Bollwitt has written an attractive and informative article here.

What to buy
Tourism Bowen Island has a comprehensive list of shops. You can also buy Bowen swag from them or the Union Steamship Marina gift store in Snug Cove, among other locations. Perfect places to get your very own “Just off the coast of ordinary” Bowen Island coffee mug (my husband’s favorite!). 

If you want to know more about Bowen Island check out the wealth of 'Essential Reading' andinformative and entertaining videos.

After a stay on Bowen you may not want to leave. For real estate enquiries, call or text me, Vaune Kolber, at 604.506.7534. Or visit my website Better on Bowen Real Estate. Current listings on Bowen are located here. 

You’re going to LOVE your new home! I love every minute of helping people buy/sell their homes on Bowen and in the Vancouver region.

I can also help you with referrals outside the Lower Mainland. Give me a call or text at 604.506.7534 to find out more.