Denman Island offers a pleasant mix of beaches, art galleries, and opportunities to picnic and relax. Just up the hill from the ferry landing is Denman Village, for which the word quaint might have been invented. The old-fashioned Denman Island General Store (tel. 250/335-2293), with a cafe, bike rentals, gasoline, and a liquor store, is the primary gathering point on the island. Worth exploring in the village is the Denman Island Craft Shop (tel. 250/335-0881), which represents over 70 island craftspeople; also check out the summer-only Denman Island Art Gallery (no phone) and the Island Time Bakery (tel. 250/335-3319), with excellent pizza. Denman also has a number of sandy beaches, including Bayle Point, which also has a spectacular view of the Chrome Island Lighthouse. The majestic stands of old-growth Douglas fir in Fillongley Provincial Park are an inspiration to many of the local artisans. The beaches at Fillongley are pleasant for beachcombing or swimming in summer. While driving the back roads, watch for farm stands with local produce and signs for open studios. Potters, jewelers, painters, and sculptors open their doors so visitors can view their work during the summer months.
Hornby Island is, if possible, even more laid-back, decentralized, and alternative than Denman. The commercial center of the island, which is basically the Hornby Island Co-op general store, at the corner of Central and Shields roads (tel. 250/335-1121), with groceries, liquor, deli, and gasoline, is on the opposite side of the island from the ferry landing. Next to the Co-op is Island Potters (tel. 250/335-1153), which offers both paintings and pottery from area artists. An intriguing addition to Hornby Island is Carbrea Vineyard and Winery, 1885 Central Rd. (tel. 250/335-1240), a small, family-owned winery with a tasting room where you can sample estate Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Gewürztraminer, and an unusual fortified wine made with blackberries. The tasting room is open noon to 6pm Wednesday through Sunday in summer and 1 to 5pm weekends only in spring and fall. Call ahead to confirm hours. Gardeners will love Old Rose Nursery, 1020 Central Rd. (tel. 250/335-2603), a long-established nursery that specializes in heritage and English roses. The display garden, with over 1,000 mature rose plants, is open to the public from late May through July, but it is at its peak in mid- to late June. Phone ahead for hours.
Tribune Bay Provincial Park on Hornby is one of the finest white-sand beaches on the Canadian west coast; during low tides in summer, the sun bakes the sand, which then warms the incoming tides, making the water perfect for swimming. Hornby is also a great destination for birding. The Heliwell Bluffs in Heliwell Bay Provincial Park are home to thousands of nesting birds in the high cliffs along the coast; walking trails edge along the cliffs, making this a dramatically scenic hike.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.