We're just back from a great long weekend on Pender. We've been to Pender a number of times in our boat but never stayed there before, so it was great to explore more of the islands.
Thursday 3 August 2023
Pender Island actually consists of two islands; North Pender and South Pender separated by the Pender Canal. This narrow channel was dredged in 1903, and a single lane trestle bridge was built over the canal in 1957. Originally home to the Coast Salish peoples, there are now around 2,250 permanent residents.
We had planned to boat over to Pender, but we had some issues with the fuel system on our outboard, so decided to take the ferry over instead. Normally we launch at the Tulista boat ramp in Sidney and land at the Port Browning Marina in North Pender.
The ferry service goes to Otter Bay on North Pender with BC Ferries from either Swartz Bay (Sidney) on Vancouver Island, or from Tsawwassen (Vancouver) on the mainland. There are multiple sailings per day, and most ferries are direct to Pender, but some stop in either Galiano, Mayne, Salt Spring or Saturna.
The ferry from Swartz Bay is not bookable, you just buy a ticket at the terminal, ticket sales for vehicles close 3 minutes before departure and 5 minutes for foot passengers. The ticket is a return, so no need to buy another ticket on the way back.
There is no public transport on Pender, but there is a semi-formalised system of hitch-hiking. Multiple 'Car Stops' are located around the island, often with a handy chair!
We stayed at the brilliant Woods on Pender, and would highly recommend it. Sarah and I rented a small airstream trailer called The Nest, while Sarah's parents took a nearby cabin with the boys!
The Nest has a beautiful deck with sea views and an outdoor shower, while Cabin 2 down the hill has a hot tub.
'Coffee+Kitchen' on site serves great coffee and pastries in the morning and is open for dinner reservations on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Gulf Islands National Park has two campgrounds on Pender; front country (drive-in) camping at Prior Centennial and back-country (walk or boat-in) at Shingle Bay. The campground at Beaumont on South Pender is closed until further notice.
Port Browning Marina has glamping tents, a rental RV and camping spots on the large grassy field in front of the pub. There's even an outdoor swimming pool and kayak/SUP rentals on site.
1. Visit the Farmers Market - held at the Pender Islands Community Hall on Saturdays at 0930-1300 from the May Long Weekend to Labour Day Weekend. There's a great variety of local artists and food producers.
2. Take a hike to the viewpoint at Oak Bluffs Park and look for whales. This is a short but steep trail through the woods and up onto the bluffs looking back towards Vancouver Island. Viewpoint No2 has more open views and a picnic table. We've often seen Humpback and Orca in this area from our boat, but didn't have any luck from shore this time.
3. Skip some stones at Mortimer Spit Park while admiring the view of the Pender Canal Bridge.
4. Wine tasting at Sea Star Vineyards and Winery. Choose a flight of wine, and find your favourite while enjoying the gardens. There is a food truck on site serving some very good looking seafood inspired meals. Unfortunately for us they had sold out on our visit, so we didn't get to taste it!
4. Cider Tasting at Twin Island Cider. We actually tried the ciders at the Farmers Market, but the cider house is open for tastings Thursday - Sunday.
5. Lunch at the HUB at Hope Bay. This stylish Mediterranean restaurant overlooking the ocean serves great food (and cider from Twin Island!).
6. Port Browning Marina - no trip to Pender would be complete without a visit to 'The Pub'. Enjoy a drink or some food on the deck, while admiring the views over the bay.
While you're here, check out some of our other favourite spots in the Southern Gulf Islands. What's your favourite island?