Bowen Island - Howe Sound
Here’s a bit of history about Bowen Island – a popular destination for visitors for more than a hundred years. At the bottom of the page are links to accommodations, hiking trails, and things to do whether you are here for a day or a week or longer. Welcome to Bowen!
Bowen Island sits in the middle of Howe Sound, a fjord created about 12,000 years ago, when the most recent ice age was in retreat. The island was used by First Nations (Squamish) for seasonal hunting and camping. By 1791, Spanish explorers named the island Isla de Apodaca, then in 1860 a Captain in the British Royal Navy renamed it Bowen, after Rear Admiral James Bowen.
In the early 1900s, life on the island revolved around a resort operated by the Union Steamship Terminal. From the 1920s until 1960, the Union Steamship Company held dances and ferried party-goers to the island, which boasted the largest dance hall in British Columbia. Bowen Island celebrates Steamship Days every summer with a 2-day festival of music and special events in August.
A municipality in the Islands Trust, Bowen Island was incorporated in 1999. The island’s population of just over 3,400 permanent, year-round residents swells to nearly 6,000 in the summer months with vacation homeowners and visitors.
Bowen Island is approximately 6 km wide by 12 km long (or 19.28 square miles) and is located just 29 km west of downtown Vancouver in British Columbia. Accessible by boat and ferry, Bowen Island is a popular vacation destination. Although there are no hotels, Bowen has dozens of B&Bs and houses to rent.
Because is is well-known for its hiking and biking trails (particularly those that wind up the 719 metre peak of Mt. Gardner) visitors arrive prepared with walking sticks, binoculars, and bicycles. And, while it is a naturalist’s paradise, overnight camping is not permitted, except on Apodaca Beach, which is accessible by water.
In addition to beaches and hiking trails, the island has a thriving cultural arts community that produces gallery and theatre shows and musical events throughout the year. Bowen Island has been the location for more than two dozen movies and television series including, Clan of the Cave Bear (1986), Look Who’s Talking (1989), The Russia House (1990), Double Jeopardy (1999), The Wicker Man (2006), and Harper’s Island (2009).
You will find unusual treats and gifts on the island, including boutique truffles at Cocoa West, original sustainable fashions from Movement, unique imports from Nature Encounters, and lots of fashion and home accessories in a myriad of shops in the cove and at Artisan Square. Don’t miss the weekend crafts market in Snug Cove during July and August.
Every year, hundreds of visitors take home precious memories of walking under the towering cedars in Crippen Park or paddling along Bowen Island’s beautiful coastline with Bald Eagles soaring overhead. Enjoy your ride on the ferry and please come back soon.