Pender Island, BC, is one of the many beautiful Southern Gulf Islands that are located along the Pacific Coast of British Columbia. This is an epic getaway from Vancouver or Vancouver Island, and there are so many Pender Island activities to take advantage of to make the most of your trip here. We’ve put together a list of all of the best things to do on Pender Island so you can check them all off on your next visit!
There are a wide variety of Pender Island attractions, meaning there is a little something for everybody. Whether you are a foodie, want an active getaway, or really just want to take in some beautiful scenery, you can pick and choose exactly what to do on Pender Island from our list below. We’ve tried to cover all of the bases so you can plan your perfect itinerary.
This is one of our favourite Gulf Islands to visit and we’re sure it will be one of yours too once you spend a few days exploring here. While our list is more focused on things to do on Pender Island in summer, most of the activities can be completed year-round. Read on to get help planning your own epic trip here.
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Places to Stay on Pender Island
Poets Cove Resort & Spa – This resort at Bedwell Harbour is absolutely spectacular and you’ll enjoy waking up to beautiful ocean views from your room. You’ll also get to enjoy these views from the outdoor pool and hot tub. This is the ideal Pender Island accommodation if you are looking for the ultimate relaxing weekend getaway.
If you are looking for a more rustic experience then check out the ever-popular Woods on Pender. You can choose to stay in their beautiful Airstreams nestled in the woods, in one of the log cabins, or in the Woods motel.
How to Get to Pender Island
Where is Pender Island? You will find Pender Island between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, although it is much close to Vancouver Island. It sits in the middle of Salt Spring, Mayne, and Saturna Island.
Pender Island in reality is actually made up of North Pender and South Pender islands connected by a small bridge. As you can easily travel between the two islands this list of things to do on Pender Island includes activities on both the North and South islands.
Vancouver to Pender Island
Wondering how to get to Pender Island from Vancouver? Check out the options below.
Ferry from Vancouver to Pender Island – The most common way to get here is to take the Vancouver to Pender Island ferry. The ferry goes from Tsawwassen to Pender Island and the ferry terminal you arrive at is Otter Bay, North Pender Island.
While you can get a bus to Tsawwassen ferry terminal (bus #620) and walk on, we do recommend driving as it will mean you can explore via car once you are on Pender Island.
You can see the Pender Island ferry schedule here.
The time it takes to get to Pender Island depends completely on the ferry you catch. Occasionally, BC Ferries offers a direct ferry from Tsawwassen to Pender Island, which takes 1hr 20min, or more often than not, the ferry makes a stop at one or two of the other Southern Gulf Islands and can take up to 2hr 20min.
Fly from Vancouver – Vancouver to Pender Island flights can be tricky as there is not a defined schedule, however you can book flights through Seair Seaplanes. You need to call them directly to book your seaplane flights to Pender Island. You can find more details here.
Victoria to Pender Island
If you are wondering how to get to Pender Island from Victoria then you just have one option which is outlined below.
Victoria to Pender Island Ferry – From Vancouver Island, you can take the ferry from Swartz Bay (Victoria) to Pender Island. From Victoria city centre you will want to drive north up the Saanich Peninsula, past Sidney to Swartz Bay – about a 30-minute drive.
Similar to if you are coming from Vancouver, the time it takes to travel from Victoria to Pender Island greatly depends on the ferry you catch. Some ferries leaving Victoria offer a direct route and it takes only 40 minutes while others make numerous stops and can take more than 2 hours. Keep this in mind while planning your trip.
The ferry route from Swartz Bay to Pender Island arrives at Otter Bay on North Pender Island.
Best Things to Do on Pender Island
If you are planning a trip to Pender Island, things to do will likely be the first thing you plan out. Luckily there are a lot of things to do here. Read on to see all of our top recommendations.
1. Play Disc Golf
Having grown up visiting Pender Island as a kid, one of my core memories of the island is playing frisbee golf with my family.
For those that haven’t played disc golf before it is a fun mixture of frisbee and golf. The Pender Island disc golf course here is made up of 27 different holes that wind through some fairly dense forest and rugged terrain. There is limited parking along the side of the road and at the top of the hill by the entrance to the course.
There are several course layouts that you can follow which are displayed on the welcome board at the start of the course. The course is completely free to play, just bring your own discs. And if you don’t have your own discs they actually had a handful of old discs in a bag that you could borrow which is a really nice touch.
Spend a couple of hours walking through the forest and trying to land your disc in the metal baskets, or hit the metal posts with some friends. There are several picnic tables and an outhouse here so you can easily bring a packed lunch or some drinks to make a full day out at the Pender Island frisbee golf course.
2. Taste the local cider at Twin Ciders
This is quite possible the cutest and most quaint cidery that you will ever come across. This locally-owned and operated cidery offers tastings and sells its cider out of a tiny wooden cabin located on its grounds. There is only room for one group at a time so you may have to wait your turn but it is totally worth it.
We tried a few of their ciders before grabbing a couple of bottles to take home with us. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and will tell you all about how the apples are all sourced from Pender and the surrounding Gulf Islands and then made into cider right next store. A cool experience and a great souvenir to take home with you.
3. Visit Gowland Park
There is a spectacular beach and headland to explore at Gowland Park. The beach is an ideal spot for a sunny day and the calm waters are ideal for a quick swim to cool off in the summer heat. The real highlight of this park though is the grassy headland you can walk along that offers spectacular views of the surrounding area.
You’ll get to enjoy views across the water and all the way over to Mt Baker on a clear day. You can walk all the way along the headland, passed a small lighthouse, to a second beach with more beautiful views. We absolutely loved it here and this was one of the unexpected highlights of our trip to Pender Island.
You can park at the end of Gowland Park Road and there is a small walkway that will take you down to the beach.
4. Wine tasting at Sea Star Winery
If tasting delicious wines sounds like your ideal vacation, then head to Sea Star Winery. Located down a small dirt road, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you arrive at the beautifully modern yet rustic tasting room that overlooks part of their vineyards.
When we visited in 2021, we were told that the winery is only open in the summer for visitors, however their website no longer indicates this and it may have changed since our visit.
At the winery, they offer wine tastings, a cellar door to purchase their wines, and they will usually have an outdoor seating area with a food truck in the core summer months so you can eat and drink to your heart’s content.
While they offer a variety of wines they are best known for their range of white wines.
5. Hike Mount Norman
If you want to get absolutely stunning views over the surrounding islands and waterways then complete the very short hike to the top of Mount Norman on Pender Island. It took us around 20-minutes to hike up from the parking lot and we were extremely well rewarded for our efforts. It is a 2.6-kilometre return trip with around 200 metres of elevation gain.
At the top, there is a wooden viewing platform that we were lucky to have to ourselves as we watched the sun go down. You’ll get to enjoy views over the surrounding Gulf Islands and over towards Sidney and Victoria. There is even an old-school set of binoculars fixed into a metal stand that is free to use so you can look out for whales while you are up here.
Even if you don’t like hiking, this is such a short and relatively easy hike that we would recommend this to anybody that visits as our favourite of the Pender Island trails.
6. Visit Magic Lake
Kayak, stand up paddleboard or swim in this peaceful lake on North Pender Island. If you have your own watercraft you can jump straight in the lake or you can actually rent paddleboards and kayaks from the edge of the lake at the Dog Mermaid rental hut.
There is a small dock just passed the rental hut which is ideal to relax on and makes it easy to get in and out for a swim. And if you feel like walking around the lake there is a small trail that you can follow.
7. Shop at Pender Island Farmers’ Market
In the summer months, you will find a cute little farmers’ market located at the Pender Island Community Hall. It runs from 9 am – 1 pm on Saturdays and there are about 20 stalls selling fresh produce and local arts and crafts. While it is quite a small market, we think it is worth making a quick stop to get your Saturday morning started.
8. Explore Port Browning Marina
Another thing to add to your Pender Island to-do list is a visit to Port Browning Marina. This is yet another beautiful bay on North Pender Island and you can enjoy walking along the beach and taking in the beautiful views.
There is a tiny hill to climb that will give you a view in all directions and there are a couple of picnic tables so this is a beautiful spot to stop for lunch. You can also rent kayaks from Pender Island Kayak Rental, which is located in a small wooden hut just a few metres back from the beach next to Port Browning Marina Resort + Pub.
The patio at Port Browning Marina Resort + Spa is brilliant and is the perfect place to enjoy a sunset drink and a meal. They serve really good food although you may have to wait for a table on a warm sunny weekend in the summer. This was one of our favourite places to eat on Pender Island. If you visit in late September then keep an eye out for the Crisp Festival that runs here, which is a mixture of live music, poetry readings, and storytelling.
9. Visit the Boat Nook
The Boat Nook is one of the ‘hidden gems’ on the island and you won’t find any crowds at this picturesque spot on the coast. This is a small viewpoint that overlooks a small cove with the ocean lapping the shore just a few metres below the lookout.
There are a couple of chairs and a set of binoculars so you can keep an eye out for whales swimming by. A small wooden boardwalk will take you right down to the rocks if you want to explore the cove a little further. There is only space for one car to park right at the Boat Nook or you can park further up the street.
10. Walk the Enchanted Forest
This is a great activity for a rainy day and one of our top suggestions of things to do on Pender Island in the winter. The Enchanted Forest has a short and easy trail that you can follow through the mossy-covered trees. You can follow this trail all the way to a viewpoint that overlooks North Pender where you will be surrounded by Arbutus trees.
We tackled the Enchanted Forest on Pender Island on the last rainy morning of our trip and were pleasantly surprised by how cool this spot was. There were very few people (probably due to the rain) and the viewpoint at the end of the trail was surprisingly cool.
11. Stop in at Mortimer Spit Park
As the name suggests, Mortimer Spit is a small spit of land that juts out into the water. You can drive all the way down onto the spit and then take a quick walk along the beach. You’ll get a really cool view of the small wooden bridge than connect North and South Pender Island together. This small one-lane bridge also offers a cool viewpoint above the spit so we recommend parking nearby and taking a quick walk along the bridge.
In the summer months, Mortimer Spit is also a nice spot to go for a swim, kayak, or paddleboard.
12. Eat at Jo’s Place
If you are looking for the best food then head to Jo’s Place on Pender Island. This locally owned and operated restaurant provides delicious food, has a great atmosphere, and is very reasonably priced.
The opening hours are a bit limited so make sure to check their schedule as you plan your trip and we recommend booking in advance if you are visiting on a weekend in the summer. This is probably the best of the Pender Island restaurants.
13. Visit Amy’s Bread Shed & Farm Stands
Amy’s Bread Shed sums up everything we love about the Gulf Islands. It is a small roadside shed that stocks locally made, freshly baked goods. The reason we love it is that it is only open on Tuesdays and Fridays and it works off an honour system as it really is just a small shed on the side of the road.
If you are lucky and you visit on the right day you’ll get some amazing fresh baked bread and maybe some other treats. There aren’t too many other places where you can find a setup quite like this.
There are several other farm stands scattered across the island and it’s awesome to see all of the great fresh produce and funky things they sell.
14. Have a drink at HUB at Hope Bay
Grab a coffee, drink, or a full meal at the HUB which sits right on the water of Hope Bay. The building is situated on a wooden pier and as well as serving food and drinks they also sell some locally made and handcrafted goods.
This is a very quaint location and we enjoyed grabbing a drink and sitting on their patio, taking in the beautiful scenery on a sunny day.
15. Enjoy the lookout at Oak Bluff
Oaks Bluffs on Pender Island is an even shorter hike than Mount Norman but it provides views that are just as spectacular. It is only a 1-kilometre round trip with 60 metres of elevation to get to the rocky bluffs. There are two lookouts and lookout number two is the better of the two viewpoints. But we recommend going to both as it is such a short trail.
The second lookout is right on the edge of the cliff so you need to be careful as you explore. The uninterrupted views of the surrounding islands are incredible from here and there is one of the coolest picnic benches ever up here where you can stop for a snack or lunch. This is a beautiful trail and you will encounter very few people. This was another ‘hidden gem’ on the island that we couldn’t believe wasn’t busier.
16. Visit Medicine Beach
Medicine Beach is one of the many beautiful Pender Island beaches for you to enjoy. You can walk along the beach to take in the scenery, make the short climb to the viewpoint just above the beach, or this is also a great spot to go for a kayak or paddleboard.
Pender Island has no shortage of beautiful coastlines and beaches to explore!
17. Stay or Eat at the Woods on Pender
As we mentioned earlier, this is a very cool place to stay but if you don’t manage to get a booking here (they are often booked out 4 months in advance) then we recommend coming to their cafe or restaurant. There is a funky outdoor seating area and during the day they serve coffee and sweet treats and in the evening they serve dinner.
The yard is beautifully done with some nice picnic tables, pet rabbits and a little garden area.
There are a bunch of awesome things to do on Pender Island and that is why it is one of our favourite Gulf Islands. With so many things to do, you’ll likely want to come back and visit several times, or you can turn this into a long weekend or a week-long trip to really make the most of your time here.
We highly recommend making the short trip to Pender Island and you can visit here any time of year which is nice (although we definitely recommend visiting in the summer months). Have you visited Pender Island recently? Let us know your favourite activity in the comments.
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