Friday 21 April 2023

Spring is here (hopefully)!

Well the ski season is over, at least on Vancouver Island, and it feels like Spring might actually be here.  Hopefully it isn't another false Spring this time!

For us it's time to pack away the ski gear and make the transition into camping and boating.  It's our last Spring/Summer in Canada before we head back to the UK and we've got lots of exciting adventures planned, so having our gear ready to go is important.

First up is pulling out the gear, and checking that everything still works.  Our big tent needs to go into the shop to repair a tear (naughty dogs!), the boat outboard has just gone in for a spring service, and we're thinking about updating our old camping stove (stay tuned to hear what we end up with).

Next up is packing away the ski gear.  We like to give our ski jackets and pants a wash and re-proof, and then make sure they are nice and dry before storing them until next season.  The Techwash from Nikwax works great.  Our skis will also go in for a tune up and a coat of summer wax to protect them until next season.

Spring is a transitional period for our activities, so keeping our gear organised and ready to grab is essential.  Our RUX 70l are perfect for this, we have one in storage with our ski gear, one packed with the boys skating gear, one packed with our camp kitchen, and one on standby for whatever gear we might need that day.  

The RUX App even allows you to build custom packing lists, and track the contents of each RUX with a QR code or NFC from your phone.  Check them out at the link below!

* Disclaimer this post contains affiliate links, which means we get a small referral fee if you follow the link, but it won't cost you any more. Everything on this list is actual equipment that we own and use regularly.  We will never promote equipment that we haven't fully tried and tested ourselves.

Friday 14 April 2023

Denman and Hornby Islands

 Last weekend was Sarah's birthday so we decided to take a trip over to Denman Island.

About Denman and Hornby Islands

Denman and Hornby are the two most northerly Gulf Islands, just off the coast of Vancouver Island, originally inhabited by the Pentlatch and Sliammon peoples.  Denman Island is now home to around 1400 permanent residents, and neighbouring Hornby Island around 1000.  Despite being smaller and an additional ferry ride away, Hornby has more facilities for visitors than Denman, probably due to the number of tourists who are drawn to the beautiful beaches at Tribune Bay Provincial Park and Whaling Station Bay.

Getting to Denman and Hornby

The islands are reached via a regular Chain Ferry service from Buckley Bay on Vancouver Island to the terminal on Denman's west coast.  A short drive over to Gravelly Bay on Denman's east coast takes you to the Hornby Ferry.  The ferries are not bookable, and can be extremely busy in the summer.  Tickets can be purchased with card or cash at the terminals, and check-in closes three minutes before departure.  The latest ferry timetables can be found on the BC Ferries site for Denman and Hornby.

There is no public transport on Denman, so a car or bike is recommended, but the locals are known to offer rides.  There is a small community bus on Hornby, but it only runs in July and August.

Where to Stay

We camped at Fillongley Provincial Park, which is the only campsite on Denman Island.  It's a beautiful small campground with only 10 pitches right on the shore.  There are pit toilets and a fresh water supply, and each site has a fire ring and picnic table, but there are no hook ups or dump station. 

Fillongley Beach

There are two private campgrounds on Hornby Island - Bradsdadsland and Tribune Bay.

There are numerous guesthouses and bed and breakfasts, as well as cabins and cottages across the two islands, but accommodation tends to get booked up early and can be full during the summer.  Take a look at the Visit Denman and Hornby Island websites for more accommodation options.

Chrome Island Lighthouse

Top Things to Do

1. Tribune Bay Beach (Hornby)

This beautiful sandy beach is known as "Little Hawaii" due to its white sand and crystal clear waters, it is one of the main draws of Hornby Island.  It's a very short stroll to the beach from the Provincial Park parking area.  One of the locals had created a beautiful labyrinth in sand, which the boys loved exploring, especially when they found some Easter eggs at the finish!  It was pretty quiet when we visited in April, but we can imagine it is extremely busy during the summer. 

Tribune Bay Beach

2. Boyle Point and Chrome Island Lookout (Denman)

We enjoyed this 15-20 minute woodland walk through Boyle Point Provincial Park to the lookout over Chrome Island.  The park contains some of Denman's oldest and largest fir, hemlock and cedars.  The island is home to a scenic light house station protecting shipping in Baynes Sound.  Take the minor diversion to Eagle Rock on the way back and keep an eye out for Bald Eagles and Osprey.

Bald Eagle Denman Island

3. Ringside Market (Hornby)

This eclectic market is home to a number of small independent stores and food trucks, as well as a co-operative food store and gas station (the only place we found diesel in the islands).  It makes a great lunch stop if you are visiting Tribune Bay.

4. Isla de Lerena Vineyard (Hornby)

Isla de Lerena was the name given to Hornby by Spanish explorers in 1791.  The vineyard produces some very good small batch wines, as well as hosting a restaurant (summer only), live music and glamping tents.  Be sure to pop in for a free wine tasting!

5. Ima's Kitchen (Denman)

Ima's produces some excellent organic bread and bakery items on a Friday, and then attends the local farmers market on Saturday.  Their self-serve honesty shop is open all week for home made vegan ice cream and sorbets.  The pitas are delicious!  We heard they are moving away from baking and plan to open a pita and falafel food truck in 'downtown' Denman later this year.

6. Abraxas Café (Denman)

Abraxas is more than just an excellent café, it's also a great book and gifts store.  Their coffee is lovely and they serve locally sourced produce (where possible).