On the hunt for something a little different, and because of Instagram ads that read my mind, I came across Pender Island. It’s one of the Southern Gulf Islands, and only a stone’s throw away from Vancouver by ferry. The island itself actually comprises of two islands joined by a bridge, North and South Pender, and the land is Coast Salish Territory. The WSÁNEĆ (Saanich) people including the SȾÁUTW̱ (Tsawout) and W̱SIKEM (Tseycum) First Nations have called this land home for centuries. And it was an absolute joy to visit and explore.
As with my other posts, I travelled to Pender Island completely without the use of a car. I myself do not drive, and I don’t let it hold me back. And you shouldn’t either. Today, I’ll walk through the journey I took to visit this lovely island. As always, my starting point is Vancouver.
This particular journey takes a few modes of transport, but don’t let that put you off!
The first thing you’ll need to do is make your way to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. For me, this always involves a quick train journey to Bridgeport in Richmond via the Canada Line Skytrain, then a transfer to the 620 bus. The Skytrain is about 15-20 minutes depending on where you board, and the 620 bus to Tsawwassen takes about an hour. Be aware that the 620 is an express bus to the ferry terminal, so you’ll be riding it until the end.
You can purchase your ferry tickets in advance as a foot passenger, so you don’t have to worry about being at the terminal hours before your planned sailing time to get a ticket. Depending on when you travel, you can either get a direct ferry to/from Otter Bay on Pender Island which takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or the non-direct ferry which stops and/or transfers at Galiano Island and Mayne Island, and takes just over 2 hours. Very quick, either way. Always check the ferry schedule when planning.
Unfortunately, at the time of publishing, Pender Island’s community bus is not in operation, and wasn’t when we visited the island either. So how did we get around? The resort we stayed at has a shuttle service to and from the ferry terminal, which we were very grateful for! We arranged a pickup time with the front desk, and when we docked the shuttle was waiting for us. We also pre-scheduled our departure time, and were brought back to Otter Bay promptly at the end of our trip. I was told the driver would have also stopped in the local shop if we had asked, but we only found this out from a member of staff in the resort after we arrived, so I cannot confirm if this is in fact true.
Where to Stay:
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I found Pender Island because of an Instagram ad. And that ad was for Poet’s Cove Resort & Spa. I saw it, and was hooked. It looked beautiful, tucked away in the trees and perched on Bedwell Harbour on South Pender. Not to mention the view!
And because we travelled in the off-season, we got a very good deal! We stayed for 2 nights over the Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada for a total of CAD 477.25, so roughly CAD 239 each. And the shuttle set us back CAD 35 before taxes each way. The staff were so lovely and attentive; we initially had an issue with the fireplace in our room, and they were very quick to resolve the problem. Unfortunately, we did travel during COVID times so were unable to avail of the spa, but the outdoor pool facilities and hot tub were open, which was a relaxing treat.
Where to Eat:
There aren’t any other dining options near the resort, which I’ll admit is one minor setback of not having a car. There are a variety of other food spots on the island, within driving distance, we just didn’t sample any!
While Poets Cove Resort & Spa does have two restaurants, only one was open during our visit. And they also have a market located on the grounds which stocks sandwiches and some grocery supplies, but unfortunately Moorings Market was closed during our visit because it was the off-season. Which, upon reflection is probably why the staff member told us the driver could have stopped at a store for us! But, as I said, it was only a minor setback. We ate all of our meals at the tasty Syrens Bistro & Lounge. Their menu was very good, with a buffet for breakfast and even a set Thanksgiving menu, which we enjoyed on our second night. We were aware of this before we travelled, so it definitely didn’t cause any issues!
What to Do:
Knowing we wouldn’t have a car, or the use of public transit, I had researched what to do nearby the resort. Greenburn lake was very close by, and was the main excursion I had planned, but we never saw it. Upon checking in, the lady at the front desk handed us a little map and legend, and she pointed out the walkable ocean access trails and viewpoints from the resort. We initially planned to do one or two, and then head to the lake, but each trail revealed a view prettier than the last so we kept exploring them.
And I was so grateful we did because we saw a whale. As we began walking towards one of the viewpoints, a flood of people arrived with binoculars, and before we knew it, in the distance but still very much visible, was a humpback whale. We stood watching for a while, in awe, and then continued along the beach to the next viewpoint. We were very lucky, it didn’t rain once during the day. The sun was shining, and it was beautiful. We walked for about 4 hours in total, and spent a great day out in nature.
I highly recommend #57, 53, 47, 64 and 46 on the map. Each access point and viewpoint is signposted like below, so they’re very easy to find.
When you walk out of the resort, just kept right travelling on Gowlland Point Road and you’ll find the first one on your right after a few minutes. You can keep walking the road, being mindful of traffic, viewing as many stops as you desire until you reach Brooks Point Regional Park. There is a toilet available at this park, if needed. Then you come back along Gowlland Point Road again when returning to Poets Cove Resort & Spa.
They have a variety of amenities at the resort as well, if you’re not wanting to explore too far. As mentioned, there is a pool and hot tub. We thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the hot tub in October. It was delightful. And the pool was refreshing as well, slightly colder than the hot tub but still heated. They also have tennis courts to use.
Some Final Tips from Me:
- For transit on the mainland, if you’re using your Compass card, make sure you have enough fare loaded to complete the journey to and from Tsawwassen. Or else you’ll need exact change.
- Definitely contact Poets Cove Resort & Spa with any questions about the shuttle, open facilities and amenities prior to booking your visit. This is what I did, so we were prepared for certain closures.
- Bring snacks for convenience, especially if Moorings Market is closed.
- Take care on the road if exploring the viewpoints and access points. There is no sidewalk.
Thank you so much for reading. All photographs and opinions are my own, unless otherwise stated. I have not been sponsored by any business mentioned in this post. Please do let me know if I have fact-checked anything incorrectly, I’m always open to feedback and corrections.