One of the two main islands of British Island, Canada, Hornby Island is a famous summer vacation destination. Denman Island is the second and biggest of the two.
Hornby Island is located near the Comex Valley of Vancouver Island, east of Denman Island. Hornby Island is nearly 20 km south of Courtenay and one hour north of Nanaimo.
From being a serene and pleasant location to being an adventure spot, Hornby Island is a package in itself. With all the adventure sports, art galleries, wineries and many more places to explore, Hornby Island is sure to enter the bucket list of every fellow traveller.
Hornby Island shelters over 1016 inhabitants, according to the 2016 census. The island hustles with tourists worldwide during the summers, and the residents keep it busy during the offseason.
Anybody visiting Hornby Island first visits the beaches here. Hornby has about 4-5 beaches, which offer a pleasant atmosphere for travellers to breathe in.
1. Beaches in Hornby Island
1.1. Whaling Station Bay
Whaling Station Bay Beach is one of the famous beaches of Hornby Island. It is located just north of Helliwell Provincial Park.
Whaling Station Bay Beach is a safe beach with shallow waters. The shore of Whaling Station Bay Beach is lusciously surrounded by hills that have resident abodes lining them. On busy tourist days, the shore of Whaling Station Bay beach is filled with groups playing beach volleyball or having their time enjoying a beach party.
To reach Whaling Station Bay Beach, one must follow St. John’s Point Road to Anderson Drive. Some small lanes will also be visible to get to the beach, and these lanes provide a convenient parking place.
1.2. Fossil Beach
Fossil Beach is popularly also known as Boulder Point.
Fossil Beach is a fantastic location to explore on foot. When the tides are on, this beach becomes a favourite for Paddle Boarders.
Many visitors often visit Fossil Beach to watch the fishes and other wildlife like Crabs, Eagles, and Seals caught in tide pools.
1.3. Little Tribune Bay Beach
Little Tribune Bay Beach is a beach with white sand in the Gulf Islands. Tribune Bay Beach has recently been listed as one of the five best beaches in Canada. The beach is placed just next to the Tribune Bay Provincial Park, hence the name. Tribune Bay Beach is famous for its fascinating stone formations known as Hoodoo rock formations.
The waters of Tribune Bay beach are quite shallow, which makes it very safe for swimming. Apart from the beach, the spot is also equipped with a tennis court and public toilets.
Little Tribune Bay Beach makes a cozy weekend picnic getaway with your family, offering all the needed facilities like picnic tables and a picnic shelter.
1.4. Mushroom Beach
The Mushroom Beach is located in the Helliwell Provincial Park and away from other beaches. Being isolated, this beach passes out all the peaceful vibes within a scenic backdrop of cliffs surrounding the waters. Due to the calmness around, one can hear the pleasant sound of waves as they touch the shore rhythmically.
Apart from these amazing beaches, which attract thousands of tourists every year, there are also other offbeat beaches like Galleon Beach, Hidden Beach and Sandpiper Beach, which are recently catching the vibe of ocean lovers.
2. Things to Do in Hornby Island
Here is a list of Interesting things to do if you are out to spend your day with the Hornby waters.
2.1. Scuba Diving
Low tides and slow currents make diving a famous attraction of Hornby Island, which fascinates many world-class divers across the globe to this mesmerizing location.
Hornby Island is the only place in the world where one can dive with a six-gilled whale, which attracts many divers to the island from May to September. St John Point in Helliwell Provincial Park is where these divers start their adventure.
Harbour seals, Rockfish, lingcod, wolf eels, giant pacific octopus, anemones, and nudibranchs are some of the underwater wonders one can spot while driving. During winters, Steller’s and California sea lions amuse the divers with their unique feeding habits.
2.2. Mountain Biking
Riding your bike over a cliff amidst mist forests overlooking luscious greenery all around you, you wouldn’t want to miss out on this experience; you have to try biking from Denman Island over to Hornby Island.
The Bike trails are open all year round, suitable to all types of bikers, from beginners to pros. The path is also smooth with fewer roots, which helps in fast riding.
You will find trails spread all over the island, and you might be just a few minutes away from any trailhead. The Bench Trail offers the island’s best view; this lies atop a cliff and would require an ascent of 1000m to reach up there.
Apart from the Bench trail, there are also many other trails spread across the pleasant land of Hornby Island.
Visitors can rent bikes from many bike shops- Hornby Island outdoor sports, where you can rent bikes hourly, daily or weekly. They will also provide you with trail maps and safety accessories.
If you are a person who prefers walking more than biking, the Hornby Islands have something for you, too. One of the best Hiking trails lies around the Helliwell Provincial Park. The hiking trails of this park are located just beside the beach of Tribune Bay. The trail extends for 5km, which passes through fields and opens to Douglas fir. Along your walk, you might encounter some exotic wildlife species depending on the season you are visiting.
Another stunning hiking trail passes through Geoffrey Escarpment Provincial Park. Not one or two, you will find several trails which give a marvellous view of Denman Island and Vancouver Island.
‘Cliff trail,’ one of the best trails of the Comox region, lies in this park. The trail is 6km long up and back. To start the hike, one has to climb a set of wooden stairs to the start of the trail.
2.4. Visit and Appreciate Local Art
Hornby is flooded with a massive number of artists excelling in fields of their own. Hornby’s Studios, galleries, and workshops reflect the same.
If you are a sucker for Art, do visit Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park. The sculptures in the park are the artistic work of Jeffrey Rubinoff. It took over three decades to redesign the land of 200 acres, portraying over 100 metallic sculptures.
2.5. Hornby Festival
One of the unique summer events all over Canada, Hornby’s Summer Festival lasts for nine days. The festival features about 12 to 16 concerts by world-renowned artists from all genres.
The festival is held in late July and early August. The most unique display is ‘Art in Unusual Places. These are short sets performed by artists at strange places around the island.
3. When to Visit Hornby Island
When to visit Hornby Island depends upon the vibe you are expecting from the place. The summers are happening and full of events. The winters are for quiet and warmth.
Many food joints and travel services are closed during winter, which is an off-season. The Summers are a fantastic mix of serene beaches, happening events and good weather.
Visitors suggest visiting the Hornby in September after the Labour Day weekend. And for the locals, I advise visiting in late April and early May to catch a glimpse of wildflowers spread over the cliffs.
4. How to Reach Hornby Island
Start your trip from Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver. There are about four ferries from Vancouver which take you to Nanaimo. Take a drive of 45 minutes north to Fanny Bay and from there to Denman Island through a boat ride. Catch your next and final ferry from Denman to Hornby Island.
5. Where to Stay on Hornby Island
Hornby Island hustles with visitors in Summer; it is better to book your stay beforehand, depending on your comfort level.
5.1. Hornby Vacation Rentals
About 75 vacation rentals in Hornby Island offer you to stay mainly in cottages based on your budget and interests. They have cottages up some cliffs overlooking Tribune Bay or cottages deep in the woods.
5.2. Sea Breeze Lodge
Sea Breeze Lodge is a family-run lodge with 16 cottages placed in a fantastic location on Tralee Point. It provides luxurious facilities like a Tennis court, a Hot tub bath and an ocean-view restaurant.
5.3. Hornby Island Camping
These are for someone who wants to enjoy the true essence of Hornby.
Tribune Bay campsite is perfect for setting your base. It is located right next to Tribune Bay Provincial Park and before Shields Road beach access.
Another suitable campsite is Bradsdadsland campsite, overlooking Lambert channel. They have camps for everyone, from shady to sunny to private.
6. Where to Eat on Hornby Island
6.1. Forage Farm and Kitchen
This place offers ingredients right from Hornby farms on a seasonally inspired menu.
This food joint also offers drinks, but only if you order something from the menu with it. Good deal!
Forage is open all through the week
9:30 am – 3 pm: Monday to Wednesday
9:30 am – 3 pm and 5 pm – 8:30 pm: Thursday to Sunday
6.2. Carbrea Vineyard
A vineyard managed by a couple gives you a chance to experiment with your taste of vine. Cabrera Vineyard is now known as Lerena. Hike the Helliwell Provincial Park and enjoy the taste of wine here; that will be an excellent experience to look back at.
6.3. The Thatch Pub and Restaurant
This is the only pub on the island overlooking the waters.
They also offer a private dock upfront; book it for a day and enjoy your lunch or dinner with an incredible view.
Every Friday, you can catch a jazz performance from 7 pm to 10 pm. Check out their special events page for the latest updates.
6.4. Ford’s Cove Marina
A bakery serving pizza whole or by the slice and also ice cream. They also offer cottages for stay and also space for campers and backpackers. One can enjoy the melody of live music every Tuesday from 6.30 pm to 9 pm.
Hornby Island is now open for visitors, but with all the necessary precautions taken. Hornby Island has something for everyone, right from beaches to Art. Visit in the season, and you will love the experience.
Take some time away from your routine and lose yourself in music and serene waters; you are sure to make great memories.