Update August 2020: I’ve added a few more things to the list after subsequent trips to Hornby!
Last month I got invited to join Kyla and her family for a long weekend of camping on Hornby Island (I’ll ‘b’ careful not to misspell it). We spent five days there, so I was prepared for lots of lazing around, which – don’t get me wrong! – is a fantastic way to spend a vacation. What I didn’t realize was that there’s tons to do and see there! So while the island’s laid-back vibe meant plenty of recharge time, it was balanced out with lots of time exploring cute spots in town, gorgeous beaches and coastal bluffs, and checking out the bottom of many glasses of mead! Here are 5+ suggestions for things to see and do while on Hornby Island:
Stay at Heron Rocks Campground:
This is definitely the place to base yourself! (That said, it’s a co-op and can be difficult to get a reservation. There are other great campgrounds on the island.) The sites are along the water, where you can walk for ages along the sandstone rocks, by tidal pools and cave-like rock formations. It’s the perfect spot to catch the sunset every night, or to watch eagles hanging out in the trees above the campground. Each site has a kitchen structure with shelves, hooks, and a table – easy to set up a tarp overtop if it rains. It’s outhouses only (there’s a major water shortage on the island, plus: camping), and there are no showers, so bring a shower bag or prepare to either be dirty or take a frigid dip in the ocean to wash off!
I kept referring to this area as downtown, although I don’t know if locals would! There’s a centrally-located, co-operative grocery store surrounded by a sprinkling of cute shops and restaurants, including Lix Espresso and Ice Cream, stores with classic Hornby tye-dye t-shirts, and artisan and clothing shops. We had tasty tacos at Vorizo cafe, and there are other options in the same courtyard. Not too far away is the Cardboard House Bakery, which serves treats and lunch during the day, and tasty pizza in the evening.
This is a gorgeous coastal hike along the bluffs, with lots of photo ops! There isn’t much shade for most of it, so pack lots of sunscreen and water if it’s hot out.
This is a beautiful beach! There’s a large stretch of sand for lounging, and shallow water for swimming (apparently it’s “warm”, but IMO that’s all relative when you’re swimming in the Pacific).
Somehow all of my to-do lists seem to include something alcohol-related! Sign of a good vacation, right? There are wineries, a meadery, and a distillery on the island! The distillery is called the Phrogery and it’s a perfectly whimsical and woodsy gin experience. I’m not much of a gin drinker (beer & wine, baby!), but it’s good quality, and they’ve got lots of variety. As a bonus, it’s on a beautiful property, complete with koi fish and chickens! I got excited when chickens swarmed the car when we arrived, which apparently makes me a city girl 😛
The meadery, Middle Mountain Mead, is a fabulous place to try out artisan honey wine! We tasted lots of flavours while sitting on their balcony, overlooking the spectacular garden and lavender fields on the property. From Green Tea Elixir to Magick Mead, which offers “a sense of well being that extends beyond a simple buzz”, there’s something for everyone’s tastes (if you like sweeter liqueur).
Isla de Lerena Vineyard is another lovely property with fun tastings and wonderful wines! Worth a visit.
Visit the Free Store:
This is exactly how it sounds – at the recycling depot there’s a free store: basically like thrift shopping but with no money involved! We picked up some good books.
Stop for Candied Salmon:
Fanny Bay Oysters and Seafood Shop, located right next to the ferry to Denman, on the Vancouver Island side, is the place to get smoked or candied salmon! They have fun and mouth-wateringly yummy flavours, like tequila lime and maple-smoked.
We had a great time on Hornby! I was able to read an entire book, enjoy morning coffees and lots of good food, hang out in a hammock or two, and also get to know the island a bit. I can’t wait to go back!