Last weekend, my lovely friend Lisa invited me to join her for a quick visit to Pender Island. I LOVE visiting the Southern Gulf Islands. Well, I love visiting any island as getting on a ferry makes a day trip seem like an adventure. The ferry schedules meant that we only had around four hours to explore, but that was enough time for us to do a quick hike to the highest point on the island, Mount Norman.
If you are considering a trip to the Southern Gulf Islands (especially Pender Island) then take a peek at the prettiness we managed to squidge into one day.
Pender Island – How to get there
You can take a ferry to Otter Bay on Pender Island from Tsawwassen (if you’re coming from Vancouver) and Swartz Bay (if you are coming from Victoria). For us, it cost $17.70 in one direction, and $7.80 on the way back.
We visited Pender Island in the second week of January. But as you can see, the weather was truly lovely and the sea was incredibly calm. It was a perfect day for seeing the Southern Gulf islands and views to both the Canadian and American mountain ranges!
The first stop for our ferry was Galiano Island. We didn’t stop for long, but it was a great place to watch the local cormorants drying their wings near the harbour. The bird in my photo stood there with his wings out the entire time! We also got to spot a couple of seals (although I was not quite quick enough to take a photo.)
The area around the Southern Gulf Islands is so, so pretty! Although we were just taking a trip to Pender Island, the ferry felt more like a mini cruise. Lisa and I made the most of it and stayed outside until our fingers started to freeze. (The sun was warm, but it was January out at sea!)
We had to change ferries at Mayne Island, so if you visit, be careful and listen to the announcements on the ferry! It is a pretty easy change. You just walk off one ferry, and the next ferry leaves from an area right next to it! There were a couple of ladies that were chatting so much that they totally missed the announcement for their ferry. Still, they seemed to think it was hilarious, so I guess it’s okay to miss the boat if you are catching up with an old friend.
Pender Island Hiking
So, we made it to Pender Island in just over 2 hours. As soon as we left the ferry terminal, we were greeted by a deer, who was peeking out from the bushes at the side of the road! Like the other Southern Gulf Islands, it is very pretty, and seemed like an excellent place to go for a quick hike!
Pender Island Hiking – Mount Norman
Distance: 1.8 km
Elevation gain: 244m
Time: 30 mins to an hour (both ways)
There is a loo, parking and a beautifully built viewpoint
How hard is it?
It is pretty steep, but really easy. I mean, it’s less than a kilometer, so if you get tired, you know you’re nearly at the top!
The trailhead is on Ainslie Point Road, just over the bridge between North Pender Island and South Pender Island. After that, the pathway is very easy to follow, up an old logging road.
Mount Norman Hiking Map
Some hikers find old logging roads boring to wander along, but I thought it was lovely. The sun streamed through the trees and it was still very green, even in the middle of winter.
It’s a bit late in the year to find mushrooms, but we spotted a few.
Mount Norman views
Hiking on Pender Island is pretty awesome for the effort to view ratio. This mini hike was less than half an hour, but the views from the top of Mount Normal were gorgeous!
The views out to the surrounding Islands were gorgeous. I also got my first glimpse of the Olympic Mountains in Washington. They look wild and impressive as they loom over the Southern Gulf Islands.
We stopped at the top of Mount Norman for a break and lunch. I should probably mention, we stopped at Vanilla Leaf Bakery Cafe on our way across the island, and they do fantastic sandwiches and baked goods. My sarnie was so massive, it was hard to get my mouth around it!
You can’t really tell from my photos, but there is a steep, moss-covered cliff below the viewing point, so when you visit, hold on to your apples! Poor Lisa’s apple started to roll off, and had rolled down the mountain before we could catch up to it!
As well as these pretty views, we were got to see Francis the bald Eagle (named by Lisa) zooming around above us.
Bridge Trail Park
Once we’d made it down from the mountain we couldn’t resist taking a peek at the Bridge Trail Park by the trailhead. The water running between the two Pender Islands is such a gorgeous colour, it looks like a glacial lake!
The Bridge Trail Park is pretty small, so it takes less than 5 minutes to walk to the end of it. Still it is worth visiting for these views! It must be lovely in the summertime when the water is warm enough to swim!
Mortimer Spit Park
We stopped off at one more little park, Mortimer Spit Park. This is on a long piece of land that juts out into the sea between the two Islands. This would also be fantastic for swimming, so I think I’ll have to come back in warmer weather! It had a really pretty outhouse, which I’ll save for a future loo with a view post.
Pender Island – How to get around
Bike rentals: In summer you can hire bikes from Pender Island Kayak Adventures, next door to the ferry terminal. However they were closed in January.
Hitchhiking: There is no public transportation on Pender Island, but the Islanders have set up “car stops,” and they encourage locals to pick up tourists. During our visit, we hitched a lift with four different people. They were all super friendly, and it was a fantastic way to meet people and explore the island. I wouldn’t recommend this if you are travelling alone, but it worked really well for us!
Our second-to-last hitch of the day dropped us of at the Pender Island community center, that has some gorgeous first nations carvings. This is a mother bear welcoming people to the island!
So, that was our mini adventure to Pender Island. It is pretty cool to be able to go somewhere so pretty on a day trip from Vancouver!
There were quite a few lovely looking cabins that were almost all empty in January, so you can probably get good deals on accommodation in winter if you’d like to stay for longer!
We had a bit of time to spare before our ferry, so we went to South Otter Bay for a few last glimpses of the gorgeous scenery. That is our ferry zooming in from Vancouver Island.
Other Island Adventures from Vancouver
If you like the look of this, I have a few other posts about our weekend getaways from Vancouver.
- Bowen Island – We climbed Mount Gardner
- Hornby Island – For the best possible sunsets!
- Vancouver Island – We climbed Mount Work (but it was a smokey view-less day!)
- Sunshine Coast – We had a few adventures on the Triangle Lake trail, the Mount Daniel Trail and the Smugglers Cove Trail