Bowen Island: The Perfect VanCity Escape

Bowen Island: The Perfect VanCity Escape

I’ve made it a personal mission to visit as many of the lovely islands off the coast of Vancouver as humanly possible. So far that list includes Galiano, Keats, Salt Spring, Thetis, Vancouver Island and most recently Bowen. Each island offers something similar and at the same time unique.

And of all the islands I’ve visited so far, the one that is the obvious choice for best day trip from Vancouver is… Bowen Island.

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A couple of months back, I organized my third annual spring getaway with my university girlfriends. Now that we are all settled with careers and busy lives, I know that we all look forward to our quiet weekends away to relax and refresh.

What makes Bowen Island the perfect retreat from city life?

Proximity

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Bowen is conveniently located in the Howe Sound just a short 30-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. Many people even make a daily commute to the mainland for work or school. We were all able to put in a full-day of work before heading to the ferry terminal, knowing that departures left nearly every hour. Exactly the type of stress-free travel that I’m looking for after a busy week.

Serenity

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Within seconds of disembarking at Snug Cove, I could feel the calmness settling in. The Sunshine Coast is quiet and tranquil and full of natural beauty. It’s almost hard to believe that a place like this exists merely an hour away (door to door) from my big city life.

Our itinerary for the weekend was pretty simple: Spend time outdoors, enjoy good food, and be together. We chose an adorable cottage in the woods off of Airbnb and opted to make all of our meals at home. Even though the island is quite populated and definitely no hidden gem, it still felt at times like we were on our own. Stillness can be hard to come by in our tech-filled world, so I seek nature to ground me as often as possible.

Activity

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Although I keep touting relaxation and the “lack” of activity, there actually are quite a few things to do on the island. Our group enjoyed visiting the shops in the small town of Snug Cove (so adorable!) and wandering along the seaside boardwalk. The stunning views of Howe Sound always remind me of the fjords in Norway (or at least what I imagine they would like… that one is still on the bucket list for now).

We also did a short hike right from the main ferry dock to Dorman Point where we admired the arbutus-strewn plateau and tried to sneak a peak of the mainland. We wrapped up the day with a leisurely stroll around Killarney Lake, which is another popular area within reasonable walking distance from the main pier.

 

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We ended up spending two nights on Bowen Island but we all agreed that it would be just as easy to do a day trip if you want to save on accommodation expenses. I’m glad we took our time to savour the delicious spring weather and island vibes, but sometimes a day away is all you need to recharge your batteries.

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Mastering the Weekend Getaway

Mastering the Weekend Getaway

Things have been quieter than usual on the blogging front these days… mostly because I started a new job (yeah!!) and am focusing on my home life. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been traveling. Since February, I’ve squeezed in trips to San Diego, Victoria, Calgary, Bowen Island, and this weekend I’m flying to Montreal for my first-ever trip to Quebec!

I know that I’ll never have as many vacation days as I would like but I’m not going to let that stop me from achieving my travel goals. And my key to success is the Weekend Getaway. I’ve briefly written about this before when I explained How I Travel the World with a Full-time Job but I feel like it’s time for a more detailed analysis.

Here are my tips for Mastering the Weekend Getaway

1. Explore your Own Backyard

I am spoiled because I live in the ridiculously good-looking Pacific Northwest with a plethora of gorgeous islands, lakes, and mountains to explore. But no matter where you live, I’m certain that there are places worth exploring nearby. I am slowly working my way through a lengthy list of local wonders and weekends are the perfect way to start checking them off. It doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice to spend time close to home rather than in more exotic destinations. I want to see the world and that includes my home province. It’s also SO easy to pack a small bag for two nights and scoot out of the city on a Friday evening.

Vancouver Skyline

From City…

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To relaxation in an hour

2. Don’t be afraid of the Red Eye

I may not suffer from jet lag when I travel, but sleeping on planes is not one of my strengths. For this reason, I’ve always been intimidated by the red-eye flight. But, I tried one back in 2014 on route to Boston for a long weekend and it was really great. Not only did I avoid a night of accommodation expenses, but I gained an entire day in the city. It was so successful that I used it again in 2015 to fly home from Maui, heading straight from the airport to work to save a vacation day. Might seem extreme but it’s a small price to pay for a weekend in paradise!

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Hello Paradise!

3. Have a Plan but Don’t Plan too Much

I’m a planner by nature so coming up with a detailed trip itinerary actually brings me joy. However, restrained planning is actually key to making a weekend getaway successful. If you jam pack too much activity into a short amount of time, it can leave you exhausted. On the flip side, no planning can mean that you end up in a town where everything closes at 5pm and you have nothing but bad cable TV for company.

I like to do my research and then come up with a couple of things that I really want to do while factoring in relaxation and exploration time. There is nothing worse then returning to work on Monday morning, needing a weekend to recover from your weekend. Have a goal for your trip and make choices that will help you achieve it. If the goal is relaxation, choose a location that is easy to get to and a little bit off the grid. If your goal is adventure, plan a road trip or visit an action-packed city.

 

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Lazy days in Snug Cove

 

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Always something new to see in Seattle

 

Getting out of town for a long weekend or even a mere two nights may not seem like enough time to see much, but that hasn’t been my experience at all. Every weekend away has been worth the effort and has truly made it possible for me to travel the world while maintaining a full-time job.

My office is closing early and I’m off on yet another red-eye flight tonight. Tomorrow I will wake up in Montreal! Bring on the poutine!

Where are you going to explore on a weekend getaway?

 

Keats Island: The most beautiful place you’ve never heard of

Keats Island: The most beautiful place you’ve never heard of

This past weekend I took a much needed break from the rat race and retreated to the deliciously isolated and epically beautiful Keats Island. Where you ask? Well don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of it before. Keats is a teeny tiny island sandwiched between Gibsons and Bowen Island in the Howe Sound off Vancouver’s coast. In fact, you can’t even access it by ferry. My group chartered a small water taxi to get there. Now that may sound like a lot of work but like hiking, most things that take effort have a pay off.

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See what I mean?

I could not have asked for better weather for this first weekend of fall. And the panoramic views from our hideaway at Barnabus Landing had me swooning.

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Now if you’re looking for loads of activities or shopping or restaurants then you’ve come to the wrong island. Keats is a residential community and aside from a few cleared fields, it’s mostly forest. But, if you’re looking for solitude and relaxation (like me) then it couldn’t be more perfect. I went for a lovely hike in the woods and even found a sandy beach piled with driftwood but other than that… it was a reading and journaling and lounging in the sun kind of Saturday.

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Whenever I find a place this beautiful, I wonder, could I live here? Part of me never wants to leave. But then I think of the long, wet winters with nothing to do and I remember that I’m a city girl at heart. The few locals who live on the island year round will most definitely own their own boat, and fortunately the town of Gibsons on the mainland is very close, but that’s still quite a stretch for me.

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Fortunately, I can have the best of both worlds. Travel is a way to visit these places and try on a different way of life, even if only for a weekend. I get to explore a new destination and then return home, to a place that always fits me like a glove.

Could you live on a remote island or go off the grid?

Secret Cove: A Blissful Retreat on the Sunshine Coast

Secret Cove: A Blissful Retreat on the Sunshine Coast

“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” – Amy Poehler

Let me start by taking a quick moment to rave about my friends. I just spent an over-the-top wonderful weekend away with three of my college girlfriends and I am feeling a tad sentimental. These women are strong, funny, confident, competent, and I am a better person for knowing them. And best of all, they are always up for one of my travel adventures!

This year for our second annual Girls Getaway we snuck away to Secret Cove near Halfmoon Bay on the Sunshine Coast. With a name like that you’d think we’d be guaranteed good weather but that is not always the case in the unpredictable Pacific Northwest. Lucky for us, the odds were ever in our favour as we enjoyed flawless spring weather all weekend long. I’m sure I started to sound like a broken record because I could NOT STOP talking about how perfect the temperature is right now and how this is the best and how I’m just so happy right now! I mean… look at this view. What’s not to love?

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The first element that made this weekend so awesome was our accommodation. We stayed in yet another Airbnb rental and this time it was a 3-bedroom, 1.5 bath, Treehouse Log Cabin complete with hot tub and a wrap around deck. From the moment we walked through the French doors we felt at home. The cabin was the perfect mix of rustic yet modern décor complete with cozy touches like robes and slippers to truly put us in a state of much needed relaxation.

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This might be obvious by now, but our mission for this weekend was relaxation. Plain and simple. We packed a ton of games and a cooler full of food with very little actual plans. But, I always like to factor in a little exploration into my travel so on Saturday morning we went for a walk/hike to nearby Smugglers Cove. We set off after a leisurely brunch and walked about 30 minutes down the road. The gentle trail took us to several gorgeous lookouts where we lay on the rocks lightly baking in the sun. We climbed over drift wood on solitary beaches and admired the purple star fish clinging to the cliffs.

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Later that day we emerged from our hideaway and drove to Sechelt, which is the Sunshine Coast’s version of a city. We ate gelato on the pier and enjoyed dinner at The Lighthouse Pub where we strolled up at 6:30pm and instantly grabbed a table with an amazing view of Porpoise Bay. Seriously, where are all the people?

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Our Sunday was mostly a leisurely trip home by car, then ferry, and car once again (with another mandatory gelato stop of course). This trip was precious quality time with friends that get me at my core and appreciate my quirks as much as my strengths. Of all the elements that made this trip fantastic (weather, location, accommodation) it is Crystal, Mindy, and Rachel that made it truly special. What a gift!

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Have you been to the Sunshine Coast? Where is the most relaxing place you’ve visited?

Vitamin D Days in San Diego

Vitamin D Days in San Diego

I am quite fond of Southern California and have made it an annual winter retreat since my best friend Jennie took up residence back in 2012. The older I get, the more I enjoy returning to places that I love. San Diego is one of these places. I love the laid-back atmosphere, the abundance of delicious Mexican food, and of course the gorgeous beaches. It’s so fun returning to familiar neighbourhoods and at the same time knowing that there is still so much to explore.

My latest long weekend getaway was filled with rejuvenating beach walks in the sun, delicious meals at local hot spots, and a ferry ride to one of my favourite islands. My time in San Diego is never quite long enough but I know that I’ll be back again soon.

Palm Tree lined streets on the way to Jennie's apartment

Palm Tree lined streets on the way to Jennie’s apartment

Beautiful walk along Pacific Beach

Beautiful walk along Pacific Beach

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Gaslamp Quarter: The Historic Heart of San Diego

Gaslamp Quarter: The Historic Heart of San Diego

The view of the San Diego skyline from Coronado Island

The view of the San Diego skyline from Coronado Island

Cute shops and restaurants at the Ferry Landing on Coronado

Cute shops and restaurants at the Ferry Landing on Coronado