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.
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.
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.
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.
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).