Welcome to Pender Island! (Said this little guy, poking from behind a tree as I made my way from the ferry terminal to the campsite).
Walking is one of my favourite activities. I find the repetitive motion meditative, and love blasting through podcasts, while I hike around beautiful places. It is refreshing, rejuvenating, and I get most of my best ideas and inspiration from a good long walk.
This was one of the reasons why I decided to go on a walking tour of Pender Island a few weeks back. Pender Island is one of the Southern Gulf Islands between Victoria and Vancouver. Although larger than Saturna Island (my previous posting), it is smaller and less populated than Saltspring Island, making it a great place to get away from a relaxing weekend.
If you are:
- In love with super long walks.
- Want to camp on the beach, and hike around lakes all day.
- Ok with having deer camp out beside your tent.
- Into watching otters play and fish all morning while you make your breakfast.
- Looking for an island with a great vibe, full of friendly people.
…Then you should check out Pender 🙂
Here is the story, and details, on my long weekend adventure to Pender Island.
I took off to Pender on the 2:45 pm ferry on the Friday afternoon of the long weekend. You catch the ferry to the Otter Bay Ferry Terminal on Peder Island from the Tswwassen Ferry Terminal in Vancouver.
All the essential weekend gear!
The walk to the campsite from the ferry terminal took me about 1 hour and 15 minutes, at a relaxed pace. Alliteratively, it would have been very easy to hitch a ride for part of the way. The walk is simple, with only a few right turns needed. There was a decent enough shoulder to be walking on, and cars were respectively of me walking on the side of the road.
I stayed at Shingle Bay Campground, which is a reservable backcountry campground. Be warned- there was a super steep hill you have to trek down to get to the campground (and then up again each day!!).
The view from my campsite.
Looking out from the campsite during low tide. During low tide you can walk out to the mini chunk of land. During high tide this is mostly covered in water.
The campground was beautiful, and after settling in I was looking forward to a relaxing evening. Unfortunately my neighbours had another idea for their long weekend adventure. After asking them to shut down their party numerous times up until 1 am I decided to start scouting spots further away to move my tent. The bad news was I lost my beautiful ocean front campsite, with a nice tent pad. The good news was I couldn’t hear them from the other side of the campground, and was quite comfortable camping in the ‘overflow’ tent area for the weekend.
On Day 2 my plan was to trek to 3 different lakes that were located within a reasonable walking distance of the campground: Roe Lake, Buck Lake, and Magic Lake. Roe Lake is very close to the campground, and to get there you simply walk straight up the hill out of the campground, and once you’ve walked up the road just a couple minutes you reach a sign that directs you to head right, into the woods, towards the lake.
Once you are on the trail, stay right at the first diversion, and then a quick left will bring you to a look out point where you can enjoy the view, go for a dip, or fill up your water bottle for boiling water later (more on that in a bit though, not really a good idea!).
Roe lake is full of vegetation
Typical for the Gulf Islands- no one else in sight for miles!
Past Roe Lake you continue along the trail, before reaching another diversion where you head straight downhill. I found this path to be very tricky as it was loose gravel, and I felt like I did more of a controlled slide for 10 minutes rather than a downhill hike! Eventually you reach the bottom and make a sharp left, heading towards the road.
At this point you will come across one of my favourite places of the whole weekend, a beautiful long grassy field, with a view. This park was called Shingle Bay Park, and it made a perfect napping and reading stop 🙂
Just past the park, on the opposite side of the road, past Crowsnest Drive, you will find the start of a trail heading up into the woods. Take this trail, called the Masthead Trail, up towards Masthead Road (about 10 minute walk). You might find this map helpful for navigating the mazes of roads and trails around Pender Island. Once you reach Masthead road, take a right and you will reach Galleon Way.
Now here’s where things in my weekend went wrong! I accidentally turned right on Galleon Way, as you will see by the map Galleon Way is a twisting, turning round, and I sure did get turned around. So instead of ending up near Magic Lake, I basically did a 360 and ended up back at the Shingle Bay Park! Feeling defeated, and tired form walking about 10 km’s, I decided to pull up on the beach and cook some lunch.
You can see all the smoke in the background from the horrible wildfires the ripped through BC all summer.
So here I was, enjoying my time on the beach when all of a sudden some VERY GIANT WAVES started rushing up on shore, coming dangerously close to my cook stove. I had to grab all my scattered belongings and run up to higher ground. Be careful on the Gulf Islands because when large ferries go by the delayed waves rush up onto shore. Whoops!
After my lunch I decided to boil up that water that i collected from Roe Lake. I boiled it all, and treated it with a water filtration tablet. Just before taking my first sip I noticed there were TINY LITTLE SHRIMP LIKE BUGS still in the water. Gross! I ended up throwing it all out, which meant my next step was a 7 km walk to the grocery store, rather than getting to Magic Lake or Buck Lake.
Advised: Bring a lot of water to your campsite on the first day, to avoid trekking to the grocery store. There is no potable water at the campsite, and my idea to drink from the lakes didn’t work out too well.
So I was off, a 7 km walk through roads and small trails that connect roads across the island. People were incredibly helpful with directions, and also with offering rides. I was enjoying the walk, so didn’t take them often.
Along the walk I did end up walking by Buck Lake. There didn’t appear to be beach access, but it was enjoyable checking out the beautiful lake front homes.
Some visitors to the lakefront homes.
Needless to say, after trekking back to the campsite, I enjoyed a night of reading in the tent 🙂 Also to my surprise, the campsite was quiet :):)
On Day #2 I decided that I was going to make it to Magic Lake, and this time I knew where to go!
To get to magic lake, I started the day the same as yesterday- up to Roe Lake, then up the Masthead Trail, but this time I turned right onto Galleon Way, and meandered along Galleon Way before turning into the disc golf park, and walking through the park to meet the road on the other side. This road was called Schooner Way and just a little ways down the road (turning right off the disc golf trail) you reach a small picnic area along Magic Lake.
This was a perfect stop for some reading, and cooking lunch!
After my stop here I decided I wanted to charge my phone, and was desperate for an earl grey tea, so I walked a few Km’s up Schooner Way and found a lively cafe. There was also a liquor store, grocery store and pizza joint there!
The cafe was probably one of my favourite parts of the weekend. I was there around 2 pm on a Sunday and there was a group of 10 men in the back, jamming away on their musical instruments and signing to their hearts content! I sat and watched for more than an hour. They were very talented and enjoying themselves, it was such a pleasure to get to sip my tea and watch their free entertainment.
After the stop here, I headed just down the road a further couple of minutes before reaching Medicine Beach. This was a beautiful area.
Now for the real fun, I decided I was way too tired to make the big trek back, and instead I was going to attempt to use one of the “Car Stops” on Pender island.
It is very common to hitch hike on the gulf islands, so I felt very safe. And after only a few cars passing by a nice couple picked me up and dropped me off right back at the trailhead and I made it back to my campsite quickly!
After lounging in the tent for a few hours I headed up to the washroom, only to return to my tent to find 3 young deer standing right out front of my tent! We stared each other down for a few minutes, both of us in awe! Finally, they allowed me to unzip my tent and crawl in, and they went on their way to pick apples from the trees I was camping under.
On my final day on the island I had a very relaxing morning, where I took my camp stove down to the water and cooked breakfast overlooking the ocean. While I was cooking I watched 2 otters play around in the water, catching fish, and chomping away on their well deserved meal. It was such a pleasure to watch! (You can check out my instagram page for a video clip!).
I made time on the walk back to the ferry to stop at a beautiful area called Roesland, which was just along Otter Bay road. This area was one of the most beautiful spots on the island.
I highly recommend taking a stop here, and hiking around to the small semi-attached island (as long as it’s low tide). Also, this is the site of a museum (which wasn’t open when I was there), but had some fantastic old farming machinery to take a look at outside!
On the final lap to the ferry I was shocked by the number of cars that pulled over to offer me a ride! I was really enjoying my walk, and didn’t want a ride, but it just goes to show how friendly people are over there.
Also- don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers 🙂
And one more thing…
You MUST have lunch at The Shack before boarding your ferry. This was hands down the best salmon burger and fries I have ever had. They are located right beside the ferry terminal. Funny story– I had been thinking all morning how delicious the meal was going to taste, and how nice it was going to be after eating camp food all weekend. When I arrived to the The Shack I saw huge “Cash Only” signs up. I was horrified! I had built up how delicious this meal was going to taste in my mind, and had no access to an ATM or other food. Luckily the owners offer to let me pay by E-TRANSFER! Haha! I actually paid at a restaurant via an electronic money transfer. You know you are desperate when !!
I hope you enjoy Pender as much as I did. Let me know if you have any questions about getting around!