Pender Island Hiking – Mount Norman

Pender Island Hiking – Mount Norman

Pender Island - Great day trip from Vancouver, CanadaLast 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!

Galiano Island

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.)

Ferry Views

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!)

Mayne Island

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.

Pender Island - Great day trip from Vancouver, Canada Mount Norman on Pender Island Pender Island - Southern Gulf Island in BC Canada

58 thoughts on “Pender Island Hiking – Mount Norman

    1. Oh no!! You poor thing. I didn’t know you had an operation! I assumed you’d be out with the dog or skiing in the Alps at this time of year!!

  1. What a neat place! I need to visit! Too bad you and Lisa only had a couple of hours there. But it is beautiful and looks like you did a lot.

  2. I hadn’t heard of the Southern Gulf Islands before this post but they’re gorgeous! I’m saving this for when I finally make my way up to Vancouver 🙂 Thanks for sharing! (Also, that sandwich looks so yummy!) ha ha

    1. Lol it was a really good sandwich!

      The Southern Gulf Islands are basically the same as the San Juan Islands in’s just the name of the islands North of the boarder.

  3. I’m heading to Canada next year, and I have been looking for places that aren’t as busy and touristy! Thankyou! I’m bookmarking this for future reference!

    1. Oooh yay! I hope you have an amazing trip. Give me a shout if you’d like more ideas…we are doing are best to explore around Vancouver.

    1. lol my list of places to visit is the same…it just gets longer and longer!! 😀

      The hike is really easy though. If you fancy a longer walk with more elevation, some of the surrounding islands might be even better.

  4. It looks like you and Lisa had a great time! I seriously cannot believe I’ve never been to Canada. I will have to add this place for when I do go.

  5. Josy that looks like a lovely getaway! You saw so many beautiful sights in such a short time. My list of Canadian destinations just keeps growing…

    1. I think you mentioned you’d visited the San Juan islands… This is basically the same chain but on the Canadian side!

      I’d like the visit the islands on your side too!!

  6. Stunning views and photos as usual! I seem to add every place you visit to my ‘someday’ list… I guess I’ll have to visit the West Coast sometime soon!

    1. I think you guys will have to come back and live in Canada for a while at some point! I mean, when you get sick of the UK.

      All this Brexit madness does make me wonder how many more young people will be keen to leave. 🙁

      1. If it was only decision, we’d seriously consider moving back. We couldn’t go to Québec because of the language requirements, but Calgary and Moncton have been discussed. Vancouver could make the list too with views like that!

        I know many Canadians who have gone back or are moving back this year. It’s hard to feel ‘at home’ in this political climate and with the visa fees going up and up again…

        1. 🙁 🙁 🙁
          It’s so sad. One of my best Japanese friends lived in the UK for more than 20 years, but she went back to Japan last year as she no longer felt welcome. 🙁

          1. It’s really sad. I keep seeing stories on social media too. It is honestly hard to feel welcome… I think it has to do where in the UK you live too, but some places are bad. I got looked at weird a few times because of my accent… I can’t imagine how bad it must be for people of colour or people who don’t speak the language too well.

            1. Dammit. I am so sad to hear you find it hard to feel welcome. I promise most people want you…it’s just we have a horrible media that poisons people’s minds.

    1. I’m the same! I mean, we do a lot of exploring at weekends, and we rarely go further than a couple of hours from Vancouver, but we’ve seen sooo much! And this is just one teeny corner of the country!

      The size of Canada is hard to imagine for my European mind!

  7. Hi Josy, I’m Elle, a friend of Shannon (AKA Snuffy). I am heading to Whistler from Seattle on Friday 25th & wondered if you could suggest a ‘leg stretcher’ for me? I have done the hike up to the gondola- is that doable year round? Something a bit shorter would be ok too. I am so happy to have found your blog as I am heading to NZ in March. You have a lot of good beta here! Happy to have found you, I always appreciate a good blog!
    You can just email me directly. thanks, Elle

  8. That sandwich (sarnie! Lolol) picture is the most beautiful, frankly.
    KIDDING, obviously the majestic nature is absolutely ridiculously stunning! I love your blog name, too 😀

    1. Lol thanks Kaisa!

      It was a blooming good sarnie. It taught me that I should be more generous with toppings when I make my own lunch!!

  9. I do love a good hike, but sometimes you can’t argue with short trails that have killer views. Plus, a relaxing ferry ride to boot. Sounds and looks like a wonderful day trip.

    1. Thanks Gemma!!

      Although it’s the sea! It’s on the edge of the Pacific ocean (between Vancouver Island and Vancouver.)

      1. Ah my mistake! I thought you were travelling by ferry, but the photos just looked way too calm and peaceful to be the sea. I’m only familiar with the UK east coast! 😂

        1. It was such a crazily wind-less day! I have never seen the sea that quiet either!

          This area is semi-protected by Vancouver Island (which is huuuuge) but still, the water isn’t normally like that!

    1. They have such fun personalities (birdalities!?)

      I’d never seen them standing around drying their feathers, but since then, everyone I’ve mentioned it to knew about that and loved watching them too!

  10. It’s a great view from the summit and it’s handy having that little platform to stand on. It seems that all the Southern Gulf Islands have at least one good hill to get a nice view 🙂

    The time we hiked it we climbed it twice. We started at the eastern trailhead, hiked up to the top, and then all the way down to Beaumont Marine Park, and then all the way back up over the summit and down again back to the car. D’oh! Not the most efficient way to hike it…

    1. That actually sounds like a good idea! I mean it was SUCH a quick walk. If you did it twice, it must have felt a bit more like a proper mountain wander!!

      1. It certainly did 🙂 But I’m not sure I’d do it again 🙂 The walk down to the marine park is lovely though, going through some great arbutus forest.

  11. Those views are stunning! It looks exactly like my kind of hike, as it’s short and easy 🙂 I recently climbed Pidurangala Rock in Sri Lanka which took less than an hour, but I to stop for rest a few times and was dying from muscle hurt the next day. Not that strong and fit as I’d like to be… But Pender Island sounds doable even for me lol, thanks for sharing!

    1. Short, easy and with fantastic views…I guess even non hikers would like this one!

      Pidurangala Rock in Sri Lanka looks amaaaazing (I just went and read your blog about it…)

  12. Those views are gorgeous! I am definitely going to have to make it out to Vancouver and the surrounding area – it seems like it has so much to offer!

    1. The Islands just off the coast are gorgeous (and not quite as obvious for tourists so you have a bit more space to explore them in a leisurely way.) I hope you like them when you get here.

  13. Wow! What an amazing day trip! I agree that day trips are so fun when they start with a ferry ride! I hope one day I get a chance to visit these South Gulf Islands!

    1. Thanks Sara! I guess we were lucky that it was so calm in the middle of winter! It really was beautiful…

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