A couple of weeks ago, my partner and I got away to Pender Island. I hadn't been since I was a kid, so I was really looking forward to it.
From Victoria, taking a ferry from Swartz Bay is the main way to get to Pender Island. The great thing is that on the multi-island ferry hop, it is the first stop. For this trip we got to take one of the new Salish Class ferries, so it was a very comfy ride over.
Pender Island is actually two islands joined by a bridge across a small channel. North Pender is where most of the population and services are, with South Pender being almost exclusively residential and parkland.
For accommodation on this trip, we chose the eclectic resort of the Woods on Pender, which is made up nearly completely of refurbished trailers. There are also some more conventional cabins and hotel rooms on the property. There is also a very nice restaurant located on the grounds, which also has a games room for rainy days above it. I know there are many other types of accommodation from the fancy and expensive at Poet's Cove to several national park campgrounds, both drive-in and hike-in.
There are likely hundreds of things to do across the two islands but here are the top three that we did over the three days we were there.
Roesland is part of the Gulf Islands National Park. This was originally a small resort community made up of a collection of cabins. Only a few of them are still there now. Some have been fixed up and some are almost ruins. The park is located at the northwest end of North Pender and has amazing views looking out at Salt Spring Island. The park has very nice little walk across Roe Islet which is only accessible at low tide. If it is, make sure you do it, there are some absolutely amazing arbutus trees and a lovely bench overlooking the water.
The nicest of the restored cabins is home to the Pender Island Museum. It was unfortunately, not open on my visit but even the artefacts on the deck surrounding it showed that the island has been a bustling place for quite some time.
Sea Star Vineyards
Located on the southeast edge of the north island, Sea Star Vineyards is a gorgeous winery. The tasting room is in a very modern brutalist building with an industrial edge. It is really quite stunning. Outside there is a large collection of tables for enjoying a glass or two of the wine right on the property. While I was there, I certainly took advantage of the tasting menu making my way through the five wines on offer. Like most island wines, the whites are the strongest and most local, with the reds consisting of mostly of grapes imported from the Okanagan.
One interesting tidbit I learned during the tasting was that they had recently purchased the defunct Saturna Island Vineyard. This property is just across Plumper Sound from Sea Star Vineyard which gives them an opportunity to make some pretty unique varietals between the two properties. Even if you just want to enjoy a beautiful place, Sea Star Vineyard is an amazing place to visit.
Brooks Point Regional Park
Located at the farthest point of South Pender, Brooks Point Regional Park is a great place to explore. The park overlooks Boundary Pass and across to the San Juan Islands of Washington State. This is the main shipping channel in to Vancouver so also a good place to watch some larger boats pass by.
Even if you are not interested in boats there are some amazing vistas over the water and also tide pools to explore; even a lighthouse that you can go right up to.
If you are looking for a place to escape to that is close by but still feel far away, Pender Island is an amazing choice. If you have been, do you have a favourite place?