By JILL COLLINS
Many people travel to Vancouver Island to experience the quiet pace of life, spectacular scenery, and endless outdoor adventure the island has to offer. So where do Islanders go when they want to escape the quiet pace of life for a quieter one? Why an island of course!
Owning a powerboat, sailboat, or kayak will easily provide an islander access to hundreds of islands around Vancouver Island. Even without owning a boat of some sort one still has access to 15 islands via BC Ferries and several more islands by private foot-only passenger ferries. Now that the “getting there” is all taken care of what about the “how to get around” dilemma? Easy…bikes.
Biking is a great way to explore any one of the smaller islands around Vancouver Island. The quiet country roads make it easy to travel entire islands by bike and really get a feel of what the island is all about. Recently my husband, two children and I enjoyed three days biking across Denman and Hornby Islands. We chose to drag our camping gear along with us but one could easily ditch the gear and stay in a beach house, bed and breakfast or private cabin. Easier yes but we were looking for an adventure. Touring across two islands with four bikes, a bike trailer and backpack full of gear, two adults, two children and a dog is most certainly an adventure.
We began our trip with a short drive to Buckley Bay, parked the vehicle, and rode our bikes on the ferry bound for Denman Island. Aside from the ferry traffic on and off Denman Island, the roads are quiet. Rather than racing across the island to catch the next ferry to Hornby Island we took time to get to know what life on Denman is all about. Denman Island has a large artistic community. Evident by the numerous photographer, painter, and sculpture studios we rode past. Unusual homes are common on Denman Island. Each home we rode past was more unique than the last with equally spectacular gardens. Denman Island even has a sense of humour. It is noted that the island is approximately the same shape and size of Manhattan and with its big apple harvests once a large part of the island’s economy, islanders like to call Denman “the little apple”. They even named the newest green space Central Park. A stop worth mentioning was East Cider Orchard. A friendly place with the best apple juice I have ever tasted. The only thing better would have been visiting the chocolate factory and home of Denman Island Chocolate. Next time.
After a leisurely ride across Denman Island we finally made it to Gravelly Bay and boarded the next ferry to Hornby Island. This is where the adventure begins. Biking on Hornby Island can be done on the roads but why,s when it has some of the best mountain bike trails around. There are trails suitable for every level of rider. Even for those who drag all their camping gear along with them. There are cliff side trails that provide riders with spectacular views. A network of single track trails in Mt. Geoffrey Park for those thrill seekers and well used bike paths alongside almost every road. There is even a pump track, built by the Hornby Island Mountain Bike Association, for those wishing to practice their riding skills. We explored Hornby Island using a variety of these trails and the quiet country roads. Highlights of our stay include the ride from our campsite at Ford’s Cove to Tribune Bay, arguably one of the best beaches around. Not to be outdone in humour with the neighbouring island, Hornby Islanders refer to this beach as “Little Hawaii”. Just like Denman, Hornby Island is also rich with artists and again we found ourselves riding past artisans of every kind; potters, wineries and a meadery. The Ringside Market near the Co-op showcases local artists, baked goods, and imported goods from around the world. No visit is complete without visiting the Hornby Island Recycle Depot and the Free Store. This amazing recycling program recycles and reuses 70% of the island’s waste. You have to see it to believe it.
Biking across Denman and Hornby Island was a wonderful way to travel. Of course not all the riding was fun. There were times when climbing hills seemed endless and roadside maintenance was a drag. However, it is great exercise and anyone can ride a bike. Ben and Liv, who are 7 and 5 years old respectively, did well. In three days we rode over 45km and I am proud of what they were able to accomplish. They seem to have an endless supply of energy and tackled every hill with determination. Never underestimate what you or your children can do with a little island time.