9 Things to do on Pender Island
Pender Island is one of those places that will remain etched in your heart forever once you’ve visited its magical shores. Imagine an island with all of the splendor of BC’s western coastline: wild and rural, with old growth forests, rolling hills, pretty pebbled beaches and the quaint feel of small town life. Sounds a bit like paradise, no? Pender Island is one of the most beautiful islands we’ve ever visited and one of our absolute favourite spots for a BC getaway, year round. While many of the Southern Gulf Islands share similarities in their landscape, what makes Pender special is the abundance of adventure to be had and the local magic that can’t be found anywhere else.
We’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite things to do and see on Pender, so without further ado, go ahead and start planning!
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9 Things to do on Pender Island
Stay at WOODS on Pender
Camping meets casual luxury. Glamping, if you will. It’s not often that you’ll encounter a place quite like Woods on Pender. On this patch of beautiful land you’ll find rustic cabins, cozy bunkies, modernized airstreams, and a stand out motel. What makes Woods so special isn’t just the location, it’s the attention to small details and the passion behind the project, led by owner Curtis Redel. In Curtis’ words, “it’s like summer camp with the things we love in the city but never got when we were at camp as kids like a hot shower and great food”. WOODS has all the elements of a camp getaway in the forest, except with beautifully well kept grounds, comfortable beds, and thoughtful decor. WOODS on Pender features the Coffee + Kitchen farm-to-table restaurant where Curtis also acts as head chef, serving mindblowingly delicious dishes with fresh, local ingredients. Curtis has blown us away with his talent, both in running this unique accommodation and with the most beautiful dishes he creates sourced from local vendors. Whether you’re wanting to stay in a customized airstream (with a hot tub in the woods!) or a rustic cabin with your family, your stay at WOODS will be transformative.
Hike Mount Norman
Craving some of those quintessential Gulf Island views? Mount Norman is THE hike to do! It’s a bit of a steep uphill slog to the viewpoint but it couldn’t be more worth it – even on a foggy day. This relatively short, 2.6km (round trip) hike has a quick elevation gain of 200m and we’d definitely consider the trail to be kid friendly. Up at the top you’ll be treated with phenomenal views overlooking the San Juan Islands and Olympic Peninsula, as well as the Southern Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island.
Enjoy a tasting at Twin Island Cider
If you’re wanting something a little different, pay a visit to Twin Island Cider. This sweet little local cidery is a must visit and will change the way you think about cider. In a small wooden hut surrounded by rural land, taste some of the delicious goodness from their current batches or fill up a growler or two. All of Twin Island’s apples are hand picked from over thirty heritage orchards and backyards on Pender, Saturna & Mayne Islands, and they’re dedicated to making traditional cider fermented only with native yeasts. There’s truly nothing like it! (Plus, Ollie loved visiting the resident goats!)
Grab a coffee and a snack at Slow Coast Coffee
Stepping into this cute little coffee shop will help remind you that time slows down a little on Pender Island. With comfy armchairs, books, (including kids books!) and games, settle in with a delicious hand crafted beverage, take in the view and embrace the island lifestyle. Their baked goods are also really tasty!
Explore Enchanted Forest Nature Park
A real-life fairyland on Pender Island. This lush, forested park truly does feel enchanted as you meander through the ferns and over beautiful wooden boardwalks and bridges. Take the trail to the waterfall, (keep in mind that the waterfall is usually dry in the summer), and make your way to the lookout overlooking Bedwell Harbour. A fun visit for the whole family!
Eat at WOODS on Pender
If you are camping or staying elsewhere on the island, you MUST enjoy at least one meal at the restaurant at WOODS on Pender, Coffee + Kitchen. Curtis Redel, the owner and head chef, was a former Vancouverite who left city life for a slower paced environment. His work however, has not slowed down. Chances are, Curtis himself will be making your meal – pastries baked in house, (the cinnamon buns are incredible), hearty breakfasts with perfectly poached local eggs, one of the best pizzas we’ve ever had, (no word of a lie), and please, we beg of you, do NOT skip the dessert! Each dish is made lovingly from scratch using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, (both from Pender and the other Gulf Islands), and they even have a greenhouse on site. We’ve had a lot of amazing meals in our travels, but we would visit Pender Island just for the food at Coffee + Kitchen.
Drive out to Mortimer Spit Park
One of the coolest things you can do on Pender Island that’s super accessible is to drive out to Mortimer Spit Park. This spit juts out into the sea giving you pretty water views on either side. Here you can enjoy some time at the sandy beach, swim in the warm waters in the summertime and watch the boats come through the Pender Canal. This spot also serves as a great launch point for a paddle with Pender Island Kayak Adventures.
Explore Port Browning Marina and stroll along the beach
Port Browning Marina and Pub is a local hotspot for residents and visitors alike! It’s the perfect place to take in some views while you dine, or grab some eats to go and bring to the beach to enjoy. This long, pebbled beach is great for kids to explore, with tons of critters to spot and wildlife to watch from afar. If you are looking to rent a kayak or take a tour, Pender Island Kayak Adventures’ shop is located at Port Browning Marina.
Grab your essentials at the Driftwood Centre
If you’re camping or visiting Pender for a few days, you’ll want to load up on goods at the Driftwood Centre, Pender Island’s main shopping area. Here you’ll find a grocery store, pharmacy, bookstore, post office, liquor store, gift shops, and a gas station. You’ll also want to have a meal at beloved brunch spot Jo’s Place for some amazing homemade eats. From fresh salads to stacked pancakes, benny’s, burgers and more, their dishes will have you salivating. In addition to their delicious food, their welcoming and lovely staff will surely win you over! Another great spot to stop is Vanilla Leaf Bakery Cafe, which is the perfect place to grab fresh sandwiches, muffins, and other yummy goodies to fuel your outdoor adventures.
And for something out of the ordinary...
If you’re lucky enough to visit Pender Island on a Friday or Saturday, be sure to stop in a the Nu-To-Yu thrift store to hunt for treasures! One of our other favourite things to do is to peruse the stands at the Pender Island Farmer’s Market, located at the Pender Island Community Hall, and open on Saturdays from 9:30am to 1:00pm. Here you can purchase produce, baked goods, jams, jewelry and other handmade crafts from talented local vendors, and meet some lovely local residents while you’re at it! Their mission is, “Made, baked or grown on Pender Island”, and they’re open from May long weekend to Labour Day weekend. You can also find a smaller version of the market during other times of the year. (We recommend checking their website as COVID closures may have changed opening hours).