Bowen Island is a spectacular place to live. It can be easy to forget that there are so many great things to do on Bowen Island even if you’ve been living here a long time and think you’ve done it all.
We’ve assembled a super list of some of the best things to do on Bowen Island for island locals.
Reclaim your appreciation of living on this island by crossing off something from the bucket list below!
Got a suggestion for this list or have an experience to share? Drop us a line!
Table of Contents
Living the Bowen Island Life
‘Living on Bowen Island’ means different things to different islanders.
Some of the best things to do on Bowen Island only become possible when you’ve lived here for a while. It’s when you finally start to experience the Bowen Island way-of-life for yourself.
Here’s just a small sampling of them:
If your family has been here for generations, then the roots you have in the community, and memories like playing on the beach at Tunstall Bay — before the rest of the world discovered Bowen Island — is something you’ll always remember.
For you, every trip to Snug Cove is a chance to see familiar faces – and their kids – now so grown up!
Bowen Island still means living away from the city lights, just tucked out of sight and around the corner from Vancouver. This special place that calls to all sorts of people from all walks of life.
In short, Bowen Island is a treasure, even with its imperfections.
A Island Way of Life
Bowen Island offers a less hectic way of life, a quieter community and the small-town ways of living.
While there are many things to do on Bowen Island, we do lack the bright lights of Vancouver or Toronto, but, of course, that’s why most of us came here in the first place.
You still enjoy the day when all the tourists go home. And you recognize most of the faces at the General Store.
Bowen Islanders still say hello to strangers on our many hiking trails. And maybe we expect to get a hi in return, but even if we don’t, we know that it’s an important aspect of our island life to be friendly to others.
Island Rituals of Days Past
Those who have jobs based on the Mainland may actually miss the “good old days” of commuting into the city for work. Yes, it was a pain, but the shared experience of wondering when the ferry would show up, and boarding like the “walking dead” on the five-thirty ferry early in the morning, is a way to connect with other islanders and can be dearly missed in this age of working from home.
Remember the feeling of dragging your tired soul at the end of the work day onto the Bowen bus and getting reinvigorated by a conversation with one of your commuting buddies?
And the late-night water taxi: a dose of adventure that is often lacking in our world.
Have you braved the gales of January, at midnight on a new moon, and gripped the seat in front of you white-knuckled, as the metal hull of the Bowen Arrow shudders with the thud of pounding waves, or (gasp!) a wayward log?
Then you are most fortunate. This was (and hopefully will be again) one of many Bowen Island-only experiences that drew us together.
Coming Together for Community
As a Bowen Islander, you know which events are important to you that you will always attend, no matter what.
One of the most important things to do on Bowen Island is giving something of yourself to the community.
Whether it’s the Dock Dance, the Softball Tourney, or Applefest, Bowfest or SwimBowen, you probably not only participate, but you’re also out there volunteering or getting your friends to go, too.
Check out our list of Bowen Island events and local groups and non-profits. If you can’t find something to do or a group of people to support, then you should start your own group and tell us about it.
It can also be as easy to as sharing what you know with neighbours. You’ve probably built a very possibly over-engineered fence to keep the deer from eating your garden down to stubs. There’s definitely someone who needs your story of how the deer got in anyway.
The Big List of Things to Do on Bowen Island
Here we go!
Things to Do on Bowen Island in the Winter
Many people ask what there is to do in the winter on Bowen Island.
Most of the tourists go home, and the weather is grey, wet and sombre. Yet the forests are still green, unlike in most of Canada, and the colour of wet moss, salal, cedar and fir are vibrant when wet.
And then if we’re lucky, we get snow and everything changes for a time. Trips into the Cove become an adventure not for the faint of heart. The forests take on a magical look, where every branch is topped in white.
There’s a lot of outdoor fun to be had through the winter. See if you’ve tried any of the ones listed below:
Play Hockey on Josephine Lake
Sometimes, when the wind blows from the north and the hoar frost grows in the wetlands of Bowen Island, Josephine lake gets ice thick enough for skating.
It often only lasts for a few days before it becomes unsafe, so take full advantage!
If the ice is too thin, you can always play ball hockey indoors at BICS.
It seems we get more and more days of snow that sticks on Bowen Island.
And so, quite naturally, Bowen kids are discovering the thrill of the crazy carpet (circa 1982) and how it feels to land face-first in a icy snowbank at the end of a thrilling run.
Known sledding hills include the top of Cates Hill, the Golf Course or your steep driveway before you get around to clearing it.
Enjoy an Icy Plunge in the Ocean
Every year on January 1st there’s a Polar Bear swim to shout, hoot and yelp in the New Year.
But now that everyone seems to have discovered the exhilaration of a cold-water dip in the winter months, you can probably find someone to share in the experience on any winter’s day.
Best beaches for cold water swimming are any beach that has smooth sand or flat rocks (who are we kidding – ‘less sharp rocks’) for a smooth exit with numb feet.
Or get yourself an inexpensive pair of neoprene booties for a more graceful exit 😉
Go Nordic Skiing or Snowshoeing
When the snow really flies and all of the mountains dump their glorious frosting on our shores, you can sneak in a quick cross-country skiing outing before it melts. Or this may become your only way of getting out to buy groceries if we experience a particularly nasty La Nina winter.
Some great spots to venture on X-C skis or snowshoes forth include:
- Along the beaches at low tide
- In the Meadow to enjoy rare wide-open skies
- On Bowen’s hiking trail network
- Down your road before the snow plow comes
If there’s enough snow, you can probably try the rare cross island challenge: get across the island without taking your skis off!
There are some beautiful photographs just waiting to be taken on Bowen Island when the snow flies. Of all the things to do on Bowen Island year-round, this is something you can share with everyone.
We have a huge range of environments where snow and ice can play and interact with what normally looks like wet forest.
And some of the vantage points to look out over the Coastal Mountains, up Howe Sound and Vancouver Island to the west offer spectacular visibility.
Winter Storm Watching
When the wind is blowing, you can always find a beach to watch frothing seas batter the shore.
Best bets for good wild seas are Cape Roger Curtis, Cates Bay, and September Morn. Just stick your head outside to figure out which way the wind is blowing and head in that direction to the nearest exposed beach.
Things to do on Bowen Island: Summer Outdoors Fun
There are numerous rock climbing routes on Bowen Island. You’ll see mostly small faces and crags and a handful that are bolted for safer climbing. Normally, there’s a lot of wet rocks to contend with, so be advised.
Interested? Check with local climbing aficionados to see what’s being maintained and checked for safe conditions.
You could say that there are a few dogs on Bowen Island.
There are city dogs , country dogs, and every pooch in between. We have great hikes for leashed dogs and remember no dogs on the beaches in July and August.
For letting your dog go wild and free, the dog meadow is a great place for you and your pup to unleash your inner Belle and Sebastian.
Tell your visitors to Bowen Island that the ball diamond is not a dog park! Your local outfielders will thank you, both young and old.
While Bowen attracts big yachts for the Around Bowen race most years and to Doc’s at the Marina for serious meetings about the weather (and whiskey), kids also get out to play in the Lasers and generally flounder about in the light summer winds at Tunstall Bay.
No windsurfers have been sighted on Bowen Island since 1987, but there’s always a chance that on the high tide at the equinox, if you squint just enough as you look west, you might catch a glimpse of one.
If you’re serious about sailing, your best bet for good wind is the late summer and early fall season. Someone at the Marina ought to know… Just a guess.
Open Water Swimming
The most popular beaches for open water swimming on Bowen Island are Cates Bay, Tunstall Bay, and Bowen Bay.
There are also some real great secret beaches to discover, if you’re willing to go around the bend a little.
If you’re been here a while, you’ve likely heard the expression:
“There’s so much to do on Bowen Island as a kid – all you need is a helmet and life jacket and you’ll be fine.”
In case you’re wondering, swimming in Grafton Lake is generally frowned upon because it is so shallow and used for drinking water and, well, …. because the giant leaches.
There are a few beaches on Bowen Island where skinny dipping is considered par for the course, a la mode or “as the Romans do.”
If you live here, you’ll know which beaches are most suitable for a naughty dip. And if you don’t, you’ll soon find out.
Photo removed due to lack of clothing 😉
Things to Do on Bowen Island: Walking and Hiking
Bowen Island is one big network of hiking trails.
With some preparation, you can hike to all corners of the Island. Be sure to check out our in-depth article on Bowen Island Hiking.
Here are some great routes and great waypoints for you to consider on your way:
Explore the Mount Gardner trail network
Head over to the Bowen Island Trail Society website and check their interactive trail map. You can download it to your GPS device, if you’re so inclined.
There are so many routes to choose from, not just the obvious “I must summit Mount Gardner at all costs!”
Although the views from there are stunning and you can sit on the helicopter pad and have a snack or picnic lunch.
Hike from the Cape to Snug Cove
Get a friend to drop you off and choose from a number of possible routes to Snug Cove. Some are more direct, while others are more scenic.
If elevation is your thing, you can summit Mount Gardner on your way across the Island. For fresh ocean air on your journey, try some of the more circuitous routes around the edges of Bowen that link up with the main trails.
Spend time in Bowen Island’s Special Places
We have wetlands, lakes, hills, meadows, beaches, and deep, lush forests to explore.
Here are just a few things you can do on a Bowen Island hike:
- Gather edible plants, seaweed and herbs
- Explore marine life along the sea shore with one of our resident biologists, naturalists and marine biologists
- Borrow a telescope from the library and watch special astronomical events
- Get a deer tick!
- Go bird watching (and be sure to consult our Birds of Bowen Island guide)
- Learn about the diversity of plants and trees on the island (use our Native Plants of Bowen Island guide to help you identify the plants and trees you see on your hikes)
Ask around for opportunities to volunteer with one of the many outdoor groups on Bowen Island dedicated to preserving, monitoring, surveying and providing education on our ecosystems and wildlife.
Things to Do on Bowen Island: Sea Kayaking and Standup Paddling (SUP) on Bowen Island
A kayak or SUP is simple. You paddle and get awway from land for the simple pleasure of being on the water.
You can spot the people who’ve figured this is actually important. They slip away from work early to get out of the water, trying to look nonchalant as they strap their board, surf ski or kayak to the roof of their car.
Here are some local must-do paddles, depending on your experience level:
Kayak to Keats Island, the Sunshine Coast or the Paisley Islands
If you own a sea kayak and know how to use it, Bowen Island is a well-placed launch site for short day trip within a few kilometres of the island or further up Howe Sound or the Sunshine Coast.
Paddle the Sea to Sky Marine Trail
If you’re a seasoned kayaker, you can take on a multi-day camping and paddling trip. Check out the Sea to Sky Marine Trail for possible routes to try.
Watch a Whale, Sea Lion or Dolphin
It’s more likely than ever these days as the Salish Sea recovers that you’ll encounter a whale, sea lion, or dolphin while you’re out on the water in a quiet human-propelled craft. Stop paddling every now and then, to sit, wait and listen. Who knows what you may find!
Help a Swimmer Out
Open water swimming has been growing in popularity over the last decade and we see more and more swimmers with a SUP paddler keeping an eye on them as they swim from shore to shore or swim around the whole of Bowen Island.
See our article about Sea Kakaking and SUP on Bowen Island for all the inside tips and best routes.
Things to Do on Bowen Island: We Love our Arts and Culture
Bowen Island has always been known as an enclave for the arts.
We have performers, musicians, actors, film industry professionals, writers, authors, artists, and poets!
While we are a small community, there are a lot of passionate people making things to share with others.
Read Local Authors
The Bowen Public Library has a big shelf for books by local authors. You should definitely check them out if you need a break from your the streaming platform that is glued to your mind. You were never going to be able to watch all the shows, so you might as well pick up a book by a local author.
After you’re done reading it, you can probably invite them out for a coffee and ask them some questions about it. Try doing that with an episode of Stranger Things.
You can also visit The Hearth Gallery and Phoenix, which both carry books for sale by local authors and artists like Ron Woodall.
Bowen Island Annual Book Sale
Speaking of the Bowen Island Library, it’s a mystery how they deal with all the books that are left over after their book sale weekend is over. Despite the fact that grown men and women have been seen wheeling box after box on a dolly loaded with books.
The Book Sale truly has something for every reader and a testament to our community.
It is also proof that Bowen Island invented the crowd sourcing economy long before it became a web 2.0 thing.
Take In Art by Local Artists
If you’re not someone who typically goes to art shows or openings on Bowen Island, do yourself a favour and ask one of the local gallery owners to recommend a Bowen Island artist to you.
Tell them a bit about the kind of art or subject matter you think you might like and ask them who might interest you. Then go to an event or see their work in a gallery or show.
You might be surprised by what local Bowen Island artists have to offer. Not every artist is for everyone, but there’s likely an artist whose work will make you take in a quick breath and exclaim, “wow.”
Enjoy a Play, Musical or Show
Did you realise that one of your neighbours can deliver Shakespearan verse with panache? Or that one of the kids you see walking dutifully up the side of the road to school each morning as you drive by is actually loves to sing on stage?
Every year there are stage productions put on by the local schools and theatre groups ranging from the Bard himself to modern adaptations of childhood favourites.
Bowen Island also hosts traveling troupes from across the country in the summer months.
The best way to keep up to date about upcoming dramas, whether they be comedy or tragedy, is to check our Events Calendar for details of upcoming shows.
The Bowen Island Writers Festival
Every year the organizers of this festival argue for about a week as to whether the name of this festival should be:
- a festival of writers
- a festival for writers only or, the least popular option:
- a festival for one particular writer to be named later.
It’s all in the apostrophe.
Details on the Writers Festival website.
Catch a Band’s Live Performance
For a small island, Bowen Island has a lot of live music, spanning many genres from blues, to rock and jazz, and featuring world-class musicians and singers.
Check out these bands:
- Ginger 66
- Black Molly
- Snug Cove Blues Band
- Straight Up Seven Hills
Did we miss your band? Let us know and we’ll add it here.
Things to Do on Bowen Island: Stay Active
Bowen Islanders are a fit bunch of people. It’s in the hills!
Whether you prefer to work outside in the garden, on your latest renovation, or on a side business, or you prefer to take your fitness on the sports fields, in the ocean, or on the hiking trails, Bowen Island has it all.
You can also do workouts with different types of fitness coaches.
Move, Lift and Train
Whether you like to pump iron, hop on a Concept 2 rowing machine or take a special movement class, you can chase away the winter blues in the company of others by joining some Community Recreation Centre programs, at the The Gym on Bowen or Sweat the Technique Studio in Artisan Square, to name a few.
If you need personal training, check out the Bowen Gym, Positively Fit, or the Recreation Centre.
In case you haven’t been around Bowen Island for a while, softball is a big part of the community. There are two softball leagues, a fastpitch and a slo-pitch league, each with six competitive teams.
Both leagues welcome new players of varying abilities. If you’re new to softball altogether, it’s highly recommended that you start with slo-pitch.
Like running around and chasing a ball into a net? Bowen Soccer offers weeknight games and tournaments throughout the year.
The Loggers Festival
There are people who love to throw axes at targets, scurry up telephone poles and saw things in half, expertly. You should definitely go watch and then back away carefully from the strong and skilled ladies and gentlemen loggers.
Swim Bowen is a charity event to raise money for those in cancer-treatment. It’s an immensely popular swim race and accessible to swimmers of all abilities.
Things to Do on Bowen Island: Relax and Rejuvenate Yourself
Since you’ve been living on Bowen Island, have you stopped to take in the more therapeutic offerings in your recent memory. Have you gotten a massage? Had a nice haircut? Gone to a yoga or fitness class? Shoot some arrows at a hay bale for fun?
It’s easy to forget to do those things, but some argue that they are needed more than ever in our busy lives.
Do Some Yoga
Not only does Bowen Island feature some great yoga instructors, there’s even a group yoga session on the pier, aptly named, “Yoga on the Pier”. Check it out here.
Why would you do a Yoga Retreat on Bowen if you live here year-round? Well, the commute is pretty easy and you’ll be able to choose your instructor well.
Get a Massage
After a swim, yoga session or hard workout, you have some great options for a therapeutic rubdown.
Things to do On Bowen Island: Start a Small Garden or Home Project
Pretty much everyone who lives on Bowen Island has some kind of side project going on.
Whether it’s a balcony garden or a full on crop-rotation that takes up the whole back yard, a new home office, deck or addition to the house, it’s pretty easy to strike up a conversation about your current pet project.
If you need help choosing a DIY project that will take eight times longer than expected, keep you up at night and allow you to entertain friends and neighbours with ease, here’s a handy list:
- Growing vegetables
- Additions / Renovations
- DIY Furniture with reclaimed materials
- The Deer Fence
- Boat repairs
Not sure where to start? Try boat repairs, that’s a good one. Great hobby, should keep you busy for a few decades and only cost you a few pennies.
Prefer something easier? Check out our article on finding the best topsoil, mulch and manure for Bowen Island Gardens.
Things for Kids to Do
Bowen Island is one of those places where shopkeepers will remember your kids’ names and say, “Wow! They’ve really grown up, I remember when they were so young and did this or that…”
It’s a pretty great experience to grow up here in a small community that keeps an eye for your youngsters.
Sports, Games and Fitness
Kids here have it made – except maybe for having to drive off-island for skiing and swimming in the winter. Bowen Island kids can play baseball, soccer, gym games, tennis. They can go sailing, swimming, cross-country skiing, skating, kayaking and hiking. They can do gymnastics, parkour and tae kwon do.
Arts, Culture and Science
And some other things to do on Bowen Island for kids include the Hallowe’en extravaganza around in Deep Bay, Light up the Cove before the Christmas Holidays, going to the Library, and the many workshops, science activities, and arts opportunities offered by Bowen Island residents.
Special Things To Do That You Can Only Do on Bowen Island
We’ve covered so much and there’s still more to add to this look at what the community has to offer Bowen Islanders.
If you need an actual bucket list of things you need to do on Bowen Island before your short time on the island ends, here’s a short one to get you on your way:
The Bowen Island Bucket List 1.0
- Have a coffee with a friend in Snug Cove
- Take out and eat at the ball diamond
- Charter a boat excursion with Cormorant Marine
- Miss the Ferry and then go get a lavish meal with a friend instead
- Start a Garden and meet lots of people
- Take a Winter dip in the ocean with willing companions
- Find / donate amazing things at the Knick Knack Nook
- Give someone a ride down to the cove
- Go stargazing and find bio luminescence away from Vancouver night pollution
- Make friends on the early morning ferry and on the late night water taxi (when it comes back)
- Buy local arts and crafts
- Visit Opa, the 1000-year old Douglas Fir
- Reach the top of Mt. Gardner
- Join in the Bowfest Parade
- Go to the Dock Dance
- See a band at the Pub
- Take in an intimate concert at Tir-Na-Nog
- Watch a play outside in Veteran’s Park
- Take part in the Handlogger’s events
- Race a slug at Bowfest
- Spend an afternoon at Riley’s Cidery or Bowen Cider House
- Have a tasting at the Copper Spirit Distillery
- Watch the float plane arrive from Docs spectacular deck
- Say hello to strangers on the trails
- Watch wildlife at a freshwater lake and 10 minutes later at the ocean
- Climb out to the lighthouse
- Hike the spectacular Bowen Island Conservancy nature reserve at the Cape
Enjoy! If you’re already done them all, let us know in the comments, and we’ll create another list of rare experiences for the true Bowen Island aficiando.