The Getaway
Disc Golf Is Just the Start on Pretty Pender Island

Pender Island, one of the Southern Gulf Islands, actually comprises two islands, North Pender Island and South Pender Island. This is Coast Salish territory, and it is soul-stirring. Come for the Swanson Channel views and stay for a round of disc golf and a melding of the modern and pastoral. Purchase some salted sea stars from Pender Chocolates and let them melt in your mouth while you canoe, learn about history, and enjoy long beach walks.

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01 Discovering Disc Golf on Pender Island

Have you ever tried playing disc golf? This fast-growing sport is super fun, and Pender Island's Golf Island Disc Park has a scenic, world-class 27-hole course (3 x 9 holes) for you to take on, whatever your skill level. Disc golf involves aiming a Frisbee-like disc at a basket or pole and reaching the target in as few throws as possible. The trees make this course interesting and challenging. Go on; give this free, must-do Pender Island activity a go—you can play alone for the practice or compete for low-stakes glory.

02 Kayaking and Paddleboarding Adventures

Pender Island Kayak Adventures (PIKA) is everything you could hope for from a family-owned tourism company—friendly, professional, and passionate about people and the planet. You can rent stand-up paddleboards, canoes, bikes, and even disc golf frisbees from PIKA or go on a sea kayaking tour with them. Tours last anywhere from two hours to multiple days, and beginners are welcome. The island's waters are serene and allow visitors to see lots of marine wildlife, including the J, K, and L orca pods that are no strangers to these shores.

03 Hiking Trails Galore

Hike to Pender Island's highest point on Mount Norman, and you'll see panoramic views of neighboring islands, including the northern San Juan islands. You'll find the trailhead at Ainslie Point Road, and it'll take about an hour of huffing and puffing before you reach the boardwalk at the summit. The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve has other trails worth trekking, too. The year-round Roe Lake loop trail is a slightly shorter, less strenuous nature walk featuring forested, marshy landscapes and beavers. It's relatively flat, provides a healthy dose of peace and quiet, and birders can encounter the Great Horned Owl, Pacific Slope Flycatcher, and American Coot.

04 Wildlife Watching

The Southern Gulf islands are a happy hunting ground for animal lovers. In the spring, Pender Island's freshwater lakes come alive with twilit frog croaking. Thieves Bay Marina offers some of the best land-based whale watching in the region—you can see seals, humpbacks, and two different types of orcas.

Birdwatchers can have a field day in this stretch of the Pacific Flyway. Places like Brooks Point Regional Park prove rewarding—keep your eyes peeled for the endangered Marbled Murrelet. At Hope Bay, you can spy Pied-billed Grebes, Belted Kingfishers, and waterfowl. The Pender Islands Audubon Count Circle tallies feathered creatures during the annual Christmas Bird Count.

05 Beach Exploration

Pender Island has the most public beach access points in the Southern Gulf Islands, which makes it rather special in a region where a lot of the coastal land is privately owned. Rocky beachcombing beaches abound. Mortimer Spit is a rare sandy beach on the island. It's the best place for swimming in warm waters and sunbathing during the warmer months. Lively Hamilton Beach is a hit with folks who collect sunsets, and Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary is undeveloped and all the better for it. Sit your behind on some driftwood and count your blessings.

06 Sea Star Vineyards

There's just something about vine rows with ocean views that's so aesthetically pleasing. Sea Star Vineyards is a picture-perfect setting for a slow afternoon or evening on Pender Island. The vineyard has an intimate feel, patrons are treated to excellent customer service, and live music adds to the lovely ambiance. Order food from the Truss Food Truck, and your meal will rival many fancy restaurants in the big city. The jams and flavorful preserves for sale make great gifts or edible souvenirs.

07 Artistic Endeavors

You'll often find creative types in places like Pender Island, where nature is easy on the eye. It's hard not to be inspired when the sea, sky, and all things bright and beautiful are on your doorstep. Some of the island's art studios are open by appointment, but the Red Tree Gallery is open almost daily. You can find fiber arts, handpainted glass, jewelry, paintings, and other mediums, and the collective hosts events too. Blue Artisan signs elsewhere on the island indicate artsy spots for spontaneous browsing. You'll also find handmade crafts at the Farmers' Market every Saturday during the warmer months.

Farmers' Market sign on Pender Island. Jennifer Jessica Peck / Shutterstock.com

08 Culinary Delights

Burger fans have much to celebrate at Copper Otter Bar and Grill, and the freshly baked cinnamon buns, muffins, and pies at Vanilla Leaf Bakery Cafe satisfy any sweet tooth. Magic Lake and Mortimer Spit Park are just two awesome spots to lay down a mat for a picnic, but you'll find many more. Grab some supplies from Driftwood Center or treats from the farmer's market, take a deck of cards, and you'll have a grand 'ol time. You can purchase healthy farm-to-table fare to go at Coffee + Kitchen at WOODS on Pender.

09 Relaxing Spa Experiences

After being closed for some time, the spa at Poets Cove Resort & Spa is back in business and invites visitors to unwind with a eucalyptus steam cave and hydrotherapy experience. Submit to the healing ministrations of a masseuse, and your post-workout muscles will thank you. Over at WOODS on Pender, you can have a unique massage in a renovated vintage Airstream trailer—it's like entering your own little bubble of tranquility.

10 Boating and Sailing

If you plan on arriving by boat for a day trip or overnight stay, you have three marinas to choose from. Otter Bay Marina offers a heated pool, bistro, kayak, scooter rentals, and other services. Port Browning Marina also has impressive amenities. You could dock at Poet's Cove Marina in Bedwell Harbor, voted one of the Western Hemisphere's best anchorages. Alternatively, charter a boat for guided tours and fishing—Bon Chovy and Saltwater Moon are two local outfits to consider.

11 Golfing on Pender

If you prefer regular golf to disc golf, Pender Island Golf & Country Club features a challenging nine-hole public golf course. The course is well-maintained for year-round recreation. You'll find a pro shop and an amazing pizzeria that sells some of the best pies around—seriously, you might want to visit just for a slice. In spring, daisies add to the scenery but make seeing a white ball more difficult. Watch out for goose poop as you make your way from tee to green.

12 Camping and Outdoor Stays

Parks Canada manages multiple campsites on Pender Island. These include Beaumont Marine Park, Prior Centennial Campground, and Shingle Bay. These sites have waterfront views, food caches, and pit toilets, but you'll have to bring potable water. For glamping options, check out WOODS on Pender for their stylish retro trailers and accommodation options with hot tubs, hammocks, and other cool touches. You can book a comfortable bell tent at Otter Shores and canopy tents at Port Browning Marina Resort.

13 Seasonal Events and Festivals

The Mosaic Arts and Culture Festival usually occurs every August in Hope Bay. It adds a memorable element to the summer calendar with live entertainment and scheduled fun in the sun. Other annual music events include the Crisp Festival and Outhouse Fest. Hope Boat Days on the Canada Day long weekend spotlights handmade wooden watercraft. In the fall, the Fall Crawl Studio Tour brings visual art to the forefront, and spring features a short film festival. Finally, the Pender Island Lantern Festival is a New Year's Eve highlight.

14 Scenic Drives and Viewpoints

Compact Pender is a pleasure to drive, so consider taking your car on the ferry. Undulating rural landscapes complement stunning ocean views. The Mount Menzies viewpoint looks out over Saturna, and the views from Gowlland Point are also incredible. If you'd like to go green, the island has a ride-share program for hitchhikers, or you can cycle from point A to point B.

15 Waterfront Dining and Entertainment

The Pender Island Pub offers photo-worthy views of Browning Harbor. The HUB at Hope Bay is another dining establishment looking out over enviable scenery. It also happens to be vegetarian and hosts supper club events with moody live music. The restaurants at c are also spoiled with postcard-perfect surroundings.

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