Need to recharge? Denman Island is the perfect solo getaway
Do you need a weekend getaway on your own this winter to recharge, connect with nature, creativity, and yourself? Do you dream of time alone at a little B&B, of taking long walks on the shore or in the forest, of reading a book for hours, of exploring alternative healing or of browsing pottery studios at your leisure?
With it’s low-key, authentic Gulf Island vibe, and 51 square kilometres of scenic forest, wetlands, and farmland, Denman Island, B.C., attracts artists, musicians and writers, alternative health and exercise practitioners, naturalists, hikers, farmers and creative work-from-home types.
Here are 7 Reasons you’ll love a solo trip to Denman Island
1. It’s an easy road trip
A solo road trip can be a relaxing way to start your getaway, but you don’t want to drive to exhaustion. Denman is easily accessible from anywhere on Vancouver Island within a few hours, and only a ten-minute cable ferry ride from Buckley Bay (about an hour north of Nanaimo, a half-hour south of Courtenay), From the North Island, you can take the seaside route (Hwy 19A) from Campbell River or hop on the Inland Highway 19, and take the Buckley Bay exit straight into the ferry line.
TIP: The ferry runs roughly every hour – but sometimes not! CHECK the ferry schedule!
Buses also run right to the Buckley Bay ferry terminal. You can walk on and arrange for a pickup from your host. There is no public transportation on island yet but check for The Wrong Bus coming this summer!
TIP: Electric car? Recharge at the Denman Community Hall.
2. It’s great (and safe) for solo hiking
If hiking alone makes you nervous, you can relax on Denman trails. With a low crime rate and rare animal predator visits to the island (one of the reasons there are so many deer) you can free your senses to just enjoy the surroundings.
Three provincial parks, plus several regional parks and conservancies offer different levels of hiking trails. There are many easy in-and-out trails, so less chance of injury or getting lost. The trails are crowd-free, but are still used regularly.
TIP: Take a phone photo of any trail maps so you can refer to it on the trail!
Try Fillongley Provincial Park for a combination of short, wide trails through the forest, a loop trail to a meadow (an original homestead location), a 1 km flat creekside path and the sand and gravel shoreline. Seaside picnic tables here are a great place to bring your lunch.
Boyle Point Provincial Park has a wide trail taking you to two ocean viewpoints overlooking Eagle Rock and Chrome Island lighthouse.
For the more adventurous, there are also multiple more technical trails off the main trail through this 188- hectare park.
Central Park on Denman Road includes multiple trails developed by the Denman Conservation Association through 60 hectares of forest and wetlands, including board walks and views to Vancouver Island’s Beaufort Mountains.
And if you want an easy roadside trail, Denman’s Cross-Island trail between the Denman West ferry terminal and East Road is a wide 5km path winding through trees, farmland and residences.
3. You can try something new
A solo trip is a great time to expand your horizons and try something new. Denman has some creative movement programs that connect body and soul.
Try some Hoopdance fitness using a hula hoop, Systema training at Roots Dojo, or Nia barefoot dance/free-movement classes, Tae kwondo, Tai Chi and a variety of yoga (in warmer months, look for outdoor yoga classes).
If you’re looking for a spiritual growth and retreat experiences, look into The Hermitage, a Western Buddhist practice centre for meditation and yoga, or Spiral Healing workshops at Ayni Farm Retreat Centre, where you can explore art, yoga, homeopathy and Indigenous cultural healing methods.
4. You can be yourself.
What to wear? Who cares! You can really relax and be yourself on Denman Island. Nobody’s judging. You’ll see a lot of fresh, natural faces, upcycled clothing (which you can find a great selection of at Denman’s Free Store or the Cheshire Cat in downtown Denman), echoes of the 70s, and plenty of gumboots, hiking boots and Birkenstocks.
The average temperature is 7-10 degrees C in February and March, and you can expect rain at some point. You’ll be fine to go anywhere on the island with a good sweater, a light toque, hiking shoes and a rain jacket.
5. Explore Art Studios at your leisure
Remember all the times you’ve longed to stop into pottery and art studios, but the family is eager to get to the mall or a fast-food joint?
This is your chance to take your time to explore one of over 30 artist studios on the island that you’ll find down tree-lined winding gravel roads and laneways, or along ocean views.
Since you are on your own time schedule, you can linger, browse and chat to the artists. They love to share their inspiration, techniques and way of life on Denman Island. Some studios have specific hours, some are only open when the sign is out. It’s always a good idea to call ahead to make sure they are open during your visit.
Three art studio & galleries to check out this winter are:
Lilac Sun Pottery, right on the ferry hill, has colourful, textured decorative and functional pottery to fit any budget.
Gordon Hutchens Pottery, where the award-winning master potter creates museum-quality pieces in his outdoor Tozan-style Anagama wood-fired kiln.
Gordon Hutchens at his outdoor wood-fired kiln.
LeBaron Studio and Vasilia Clayworks with outdoor and indoor galleries, and the studio where two potters create everything from plates, bowls and mugs to whimsical animals and mythical goddesses and dragons.
The Denman Craft Shop is a great place to get an overview of the work of more than 50 island artisans.
If you want to dive into a new book during your solo weekend, Abraxas Books and Gifts has a great selection, including many local authors, and art supplies to feed your creativity.
You’ll also find great gift ideas from local artists (everything from handmade notebooks to pottery and knitwear) and a selection of children’s toys and activities.
6. You’ll see wildlife up close
Denman’s uncrowded trails and shorelines give you the best uninterrupted views of nature. Whether you bring high-quality camera equipment or use your iPhone, you’ll have access to prime nature and wildlife photography on Denman Island.
When you’re alone, you’re more likely to be quiet and aware, and notice more wildlife. Denman Island has an abundance of Black-tailed deer- they will meander across roads (drive carefully!) and group together munching grass in roadside fields.
It’s common to see otters and seals from shore. And there’s a large birding community due to the diversity of birds, including many rare species and several normally migrating species, like Anna’s hummingbird, which you can see year-round. Eagles are everywhere.
Every late-February to early-March, huge schools of herring come to the east coast of Vancouver Island to spawn. It’s a spectacular sight as the waters turn a milky light blue from the herring milt and attract thousands of birds and marine life to the area around Denman Island. More than ever, you will see gulls, many species of ducks, eagles, ravens as well as river otters, seals, sea lions and even orca and humpback whales in Baynes Sound and Lambert Channel off Denman Island.
7. You’ll love Denman’s hospitality
Go to bed early or sleep in as long as you like when you stay at a cozy Denman Island Bed & Breakfast with forest or water views, great rates and knowledgeable hosts. The local B&B owners know that their guests come to get away from their hectic routines – they offer a peaceful sanctuary, will give you space but are nearby for anything you may need. Most B&B’s are self-contained with a private entrance, bathroom and well-stocked kitchenette, and WiFi, some offer a woodstove or soaker tub.
Try one of these long-established and well-reviewed B&Bs:
- The Blue Owl B&B Retreat – Tucked in a private, peaceful little corner on Denman Island, for the past 12 years this all-season cottage has been a place to relax, retreat and unwind for guests from around the world. This relocated heritage cottage has a wood stove, an infrared sauna and Slipper Tub (with forest view!), and a sleeping loft looking into the trees. Kitchenette, screened porch and private yard area.
- Cabin in the Woods Retreat – This two-bedroom (both with lake views) cedar-clad studio with all amenities is in a private, self-contained part of the owners’ residence, nestled on a 10-acre natural woodland. A nature-lovers paradise, you can stroll through the extensive flower gardens, wander the wooded trails, or just enjoy the picturesque serenity of Graham Lake. A five-minute walk to a beautiful beach with views of Hornby Island, Texada, and the Sunshine Coast mountains.
Winter rates (October to March): $125 per night for one bedroom.
- China Moon B&B – This 750 square-foot cottage on Lake Farm offers pure seclusion, infinite silence, and all the amenities. Hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings in the great room with windows on all sides, large bedroom, and a huge bathroom. A private entrance, private sundeck, kitchenette, and BBQ available.
- Lognest B&B – One bedroom cottage with kitchenette on 7 forested acres overlooking Baynes Sound and the Beaufort Mountain range. Access to hot tub, bicycles, and kayaks.
Single: $130 Oct-May 17.
- If you still like a little company on your solo trip, stay at The Guesthouse @Earth Club Factory. You’ll have your own space but know others are close by, and you can use the communal kitchen in the evening and be right next to the Bistro for a homemade breakfast special.
Private single room: $45.
Take some time to treat yourself to a nurturing solo trip and re-connect with nature and yourself. Denman Island offers a safe place with beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife, plentiful art, unique health and wellness opportunities, and outstanding B&Bs.
It may be the key to recharging your mind, body and spirit this winter.
by Trish Weatherall
More stories from Denman Island…
For more information go to VisitDenmanIsland.ca