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Pender Island is one of many Southern Gulf Islands along the Pacific Coast of British Columbia. This paradise-like island is perfect for a weekend getaway! Below is a complete travel guide that includes the best things to do on Pender Island, how to get there, getting around the island and the best place to stay!
There are many outdoor activities on Pender Island such as kayaking, swimming, pedal biking, and hiking just to name a few.
There are two ways you can get to Pender Island from Vancouver and that’s either by seaplane or by ferry.
BC Ferries operates 2 sailings a day to Otter Bay (one in the morning and one in the evening) and is the same when returning to Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal.
The ferry is a multi-stop sailing and stops at Galiano Island, Maine Island, and Pender Island. The ferry trip is around 2 hours and 5 minutes.
It’s essential to book a reservation in advance to take your car onto the ferry and you can book on the BC Ferry website.
It’s quite expensive to take your car on the ferry but you will NEED a car to get around Pender Island.
BC Ferries operates several sailings from Swartz Bay to Otter Bay every day. The sailing time is 40 minutes and is direct with no stops.
You cannot make reservations ahead of time from Swartz Bay to Otter Bay.
Pender Island is a small island so there are no taxis, rideshare companies, or car rental services.
You will need a car to get around so if you don’t have one then renting a car from carrentals.com in Vancouver is your best option.
I did see a couple that biked off the ferry and around Pender Island so this is an option too. If you don’t own a pedal bike there are bikes available to hire in the summer near the ferry terminal.
You will see many “car stops” on the side of the road that have been set up for hitchhikers. The “car stops” were to encourage locals to pick up tourists. People on Pender Island are super friendly! Every person we drove past walking along the side of the road waved at us.
The best place to stay on Pender Island is Poets Cove Resort and Spa. Poet’s Cove Resort and Spa is the place for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Book your stay at Poets Cove Resort and Spa on Agoda.
The rate to stay per night varies depending on the night of the week and the season. You can expect to pay around CAD 200-250 per night.
To get from Otter Bay Ferry Terminal to Poets Cove Resort and Spa it’s a scenic drive from North Pender Island to South Pender Island connected by a wooden bridge. It will take you around 25 minutes to get there by car or an hour by bike.
Poets Cove is a gorgeous luxury resort located in a hidden secluded bay on Pender Island. It has the best sunset views on the island!
There are 3 different types of rooms at Poet’s Cove – the cottage, the villa, and the lodge room. The lodge rooms are the cheapest to stay in.
I recommend staying in one of their King Lodge Rooms where you will have a balcony with a view of the harbour. Along with a balcony the room has a deep soaker bathtub in a decent-sized bathroom and an electric fireplace to keep you warm at night during the winter.
I loved drinking tea in the morning on the balcony and taking in the views of the harbour. I also loved coming home from a day of exploring the island to a warm bubble bath.
The resort has 2 heated pools and a hot tub. The bottom pool located close to the harbour is only open during the summer months. The top pool with the hot tub is for adults only but is kid-friendly when the bottom pool is closed.
There are 2 restaurants at the resort: Syrens Bistro and Lounge and Aurora Restaurant.
From Otter Bay Ferry Terminal just past the wooden bridge that connects North Pender to South Pender Island and to the left is Mortimer Spit Park.
The colour of the water at Mortimer Spit Park is emerald green and reminds me of the beautiful glacier-fed lakes in British Columbia.
Here you can enjoy kayaking, swimming in the summer, or just simply taking a walk along the spit to enjoy the views and the sandy beach.
During low tide be careful of the mud holes I ruined my white shoes sinking into one!
When we first tried to find this place we missed it completely. Look for the sign that’s a small wooden pole in the ground with Bridge Trail Park written in white to indicate where the trail begins.
Instead of turning left to Mortimer Spit Park after the wooden bridge turn right and it’s on the right side of the road not far up the road at all. You will have to park on the side of the road to walk this trail.
Bridge Trail Park is more of a viewpoint than a park. It’s a very short trail and will take you less than 5 minutes to walk it. Along the walk, you will see the wooden bridge connecting the islands from below and the emerald green tropical-like waters.
The most popular hike on Pender Island is the Mount Norman trail. Mount Norman is the highest point on Pender Island at 244m (800 feet)!
After crossing the wooden bridge that connects North Pender to South Pender Island turn right onto Ainslie Road. You will most likely see cars parked on the left side of the road in the gravel where the trail begins. There is a sign at the start of the trail with a map of all the trails you can do here.
It’s only a short 30-minute 2.6 km roundtrip hike but it’s a STEEP hike!
On the top of the hill at the start of the trail, you will reach a sign that will you direct you to the left where you will continue your hike up Mount Norman. There are a couple of other hikes you can do here and the other one I recommend doing is the one listed below in more detail.
When you reach the top to the lookout you will agree that it was worth every painful step! On a sunny day, you will see incredible views of the surrounding islands and the northern San Juan Islands!
To get to Beaumont Marine Park the trail starts at the same place as the Mount Norman hike.
On Ainslie Road, you will see on the left side of the road cars parked along the gravel road. If no cars are parked there you will see an old logging road ascending.
Instead of going left when you reach the sign on top of the first hill, you will be taking the trail to the right. It’s a 5.3 km roundtrip hike with some steep sections. I would allow 2 hours there and back including time to spend at the beach.
Beaumont Marine Park is a shelly beach along Bedwell Harbour. We enjoyed skipping stones, finding crabs and interesting creatures under the rocks.
Have you ever taken a walk in an enchanted forest? You can experience the magic of Pender Island in this dense mystical forest.
Along Spalding Road towards Poets Cove Resort and Spa, you will see a wooden arch that reads Enchanted Forest Park on the right side of the road that looks like the entrance, this is not the correct trail you want to take. This trail is only a short 5-minute walk that leads you back out to the road.
Keep driving past the wooden arch along Spalding Road until you see a wooden pole in the ground that says trail to viewpoint and waterfall.
There isn’t a parking lot here so you will just need to park along the side of the road.
During your adventure into the enchanted forest keep an eye out for fairy-tale items like small wooden doors embedded into tree stumps and soil.
Not far from the start of the trail you will reach a small waterfall (dry in summer). At the end of the trail, you will find yourself at a viewpoint with gorgeous views of Bedwell Harbour and the glowing deep green waters below.
Pender Island is the best place for an off-the-grid secluded weekend getaway and I hope you include the above best things to do on Pender Island on your trip there!