The Great Outdoors: Hornby Island

Those that have been, know. Those that visit for the first time are lovers for life.

My childhood summers on Hornby Island were far more impressionable on me than words can tell the tales of, so last week I packed up the camping gear and brought J along for his first trip.

After two quick ferry rides, we found ourselves at Tribune Bay Campsite and quickly set up. Unsure if the rain would come, we hung the world’s largest tarp over our site, I pitched the tent and J got busy chopping firewood. I’m quite proud to say that not only did he teach me to chop firewood with an axe that weighs as much as I do, but he also showed me how to start and maintain an excellent campfire.

Relaxation was the priority for our first evening – something that’s not hard to do on Hornby Island. Rather than spend time exploring, we grabbed cold beer from the Co-op and grilled up some dinner. My only “luxury” when camping? A pop-up kitchen.

I love this guy…

Despite rumours to the contrary, I found Tribune Bay campsite to be exactly as it was over a decade ago the last time I was there. It’s a quiet, family-friendly campground filled with happy dogs, kids racing around on their bikes and crackling fires at every site. We were lucky enough to have fun neighbours that challenged our Monopoly skills on the second night.

One of Hornby Island’s must-sees is Helliwell Provincial Park. On our first full day, we pulled into the parking lot before the sun got too hot and readied ourselves for the 5-km picturesque trek.

Flip flops might not be the greatest of ideas, but I made do with what I had.

The biggest draw to Helliwell Park is the breathtaking cliffs that bring hikers out of the woods and along the water. A bit of common sense is all that’s required. Keep kids close and dogs on leashes. The stunning views are not to be missed!

Taking our time, we veered off the path for some beach-combing fun! Vibrant purple starfish scattered the shoreline amongst slippery seaweed and crunchy barnacles.

Another often missed but worthwhile visit on Hornby Island is Ford’s Cove. Found at the furthest end of Central Road, this marina defines “quaint.” With a pizza cafe, boat-shaped fish n’ chips stand and organic fair trade coffee, spending a quiet morning at Ford’s Cove is hard to beat.

We scrambled over and around crater-like sandstone formations that felt more like moon-walking than exploring a shoreline. Shallow waters surround the area, so spotting crabs, geoduck sprays and fish in the water provides for some natural entertainment.

For anyone that has ever visited Hornby Island, the star attraction is undoubtedly Tribune Bay beach and the adjacent Little Tribune Bay beach.

Nestled in between tall trees on one side and incredible, natural sandstone sculptures on the other, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more stunning beach in BC.

Tribune Bay features aqua water, powdery white sand and stunning vistas into the Georgia Strait further than they eye can see. J constructed a “deck” out of driftwood, I slathered us in SPF 45 and we spent a sunny afternoon at Tribune Bay.

Noshing on organic strawberries, tossing a football around and watching skilled skimboarders made for a perfect beach day.

Rarely is dining out acceptable when camping, but Hornby Island is most certainly an exception. Visiting the Cardboard Bakery is unavoidable with their tasty pastries and chocolate shakes. On our final day, we visited Jan’s Cafe for breakfast.

Jan’s Cafe has been a staple in the Ringside Market for more years than I can remember. Known for creating fresh, delicious and healthy food, my favourite part of eating at Jan’s is the sunny atmosphere and infectious smile served up by Jan herself.

Four days and three nights wasn’t long enough for us, but we’ll take what we can get. There’s so much more on Hornby Island to explore, including wineries, a distillery, a meadery, more beaches, petroglyphs, a free store with an incredible local recycling program, kayaking and biking. I suppose that only means we’ll have to visit again next year with a few extra days added for good measure! You can view all my photos from Hornby Island on Flickr.

P.S. Do as we did. If you’re visiting Hornby, fill jugs with tap water and bring it with you. Water is a scarce commodity on the Island, so leave what’s there for the locals to use.

To stay connected to the Hornby Island community or to plan a vacation to the island, visit Real Hornby online.


On September 11th I’ll be participating in the BC-SPCA’s Paws For A Cause fundraiser – for the fourth time! Please considering donating to this extremely worthwhile cause and offering support to Jordy and I! Click here to read more.

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3 Comments on “The Great Outdoors: Hornby Island

  1. I <3 Hornby!
    Glad that BigTrib wasn't what I've seen/heard it to be. We might actually end up going camping on my last week before school. Hard to decide, it's either that or a drop to Banff/Jasper.

    When the tide is low at BigTrib, I do like to go looking for Spider Crabs. Though i do have the fear of accidently stepping on them as they tend to hide among the clumps of spider grass.

    Helliwell will always be a very special place to both of us. It's where I proposed to Robyn!

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