Bowen is a small island community near Vancouver, BC, just a 15-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay, and a great day-outing from Vancouver. Horseshoe Bay is a 30-minute drive from downtown Vancouver, depending on traffic on the Lions Gate Bridge.
Bowen has natural beauty, a small-town community, and the highest number of kids per capita in Canada, reportedly. Population is only 4000, so don't expect to find a Starbucks. Snug Cove, where the ferry docks, has kid-friendly restaurants, health food store, general store, pharmacy, and shops. Three minutes from the Cove by car, or a fifteen-minute walk, is Artisan Square, home to another restaurant, chocolaterie, and several shops.
Taking the Ferry
Ferry overloads are always a risk, but for the Bowen Island ferry, arriving half an hour before the sailing will usually get you on the boat except during holiday weekends. Check BC Ferries for ferry schedule and fares. For Bowen Island, the ferry fare is paid only one-way.
Foot passengers don't need to worry about ferry overloads, and pay much less than travellers with a car. However, finding a parking spot in the Horseshoe Bay parking lots may be difficult in summertime so allow extra time to find a spot. Alternatively, families could take the #250 or #257 bus to Horseshoe Bay -- see the Translink site. Things to Do with Kids
Stroll the boardwalk: Right by the ferry terminal is a boardwalk and grassy area, adjacent to several Snug Cove shops and restaurants. Little kids can run around and check out the Canada geese. In summer, eat at the cute Paradise Grill hot-dog stand, and then buy ice-cream at The Chandlery few steps away. Visitors in summer will also find a Sunday Market where jewelry, crafts, and snacks may variously be for sale.
Go for a hike:
Many people come to Bowen to hike in 600-acre Crippen Park. If you have a car, drive to the Killarney Lake area of the park. With small kids, the hike around the lake will take about an hour, with a few rest stops. Alternatively, just set off on foot from the ferry dock: check the map posted at the park entrance. Within a few minutes, you can reach a pretty waterfall (and a fish ladder where you might see salmon in the late fall); the trail continues onward to Killarney Lake.
Alternatively, head up the main street and continue up the hill to Artisan Square. Your walk can be rewarded by ice-cream or hand-made chocolates at Cocoa West.(Check store hours first.)
Go to the beach: As you come off the ferry, turn right at the first road, and you'll find a sandy beach area.
Recreation, music : Kayaking could be a good activity with older kids; Bowen Island Sea Kayaking has a shop just steps from the ferry dock, and rents kayaks and also Stand Up Paddleboards (SUPs.) Sailboat charters are also available. Check for recreation companies and services at Bowen Online.
Bikes can be brought over on the ferry, but be prepared for lots of hills.
Bowen Island also has occasional local theatre and musical events, and the annual local bash, Bowfest, takes place the last weekend in August every year.
Where to Stay:
Bowen has a number of Bed and Breakfasts; one, The Lodge at The Old Dorm, is in a heritage building near a beach and Snug Cove. See this and many other places to stay on Bowen Island.
Tip: if you miss the Bowen Island ferry departure, at Horseshoe Bay, park your vehicle in the ferry terminal, to wait for the next sailing; then take your ferry ticket with you and walk over to the ice-cream stores and playground in Horseshoe Bay.