Soaking Up the Quiet on Pender Island
When you need to seriously unplug, there’s no better place than Pender. (Because you can still get a decent cocktail while you’re at it.)
When you live in Vancouver, you don’t have to get very far from the city to find a little greenery or an ocean view or even some wildlife. So while the majesty of nature is in abundance on Pender Island—beautiful coastal forests, 33 public ocean access points, we get it, Pender—that’s not exactly what I’m seeking out.
Rather, it’s that specific type of quiet you find only on an island: a stillness that’s underscored by the occasional chirp or twitter or lazy rustling of leaves, and—more importantly—the knowledge that you have nothing to do and nowhere to be. It’s a peace that has you surrounded.
It’s Higgs Beach, where smooth pebbles and shiny purple mussel shells crunch beneath my sneakers. The waves, lapping at the stones, provide the soundtrack as I lock eyes with the seals bobbing comfortably in the cloudy waters: a real spa vibe, aurally speaking. Down on South Pender (Pender’s actually made up of two islands, connected by a one-lane bridge that seems specifically designed for high-stakes games of vehicular chicken), farmland rolls for miles, rippling, green and dotted with the occasional mellow cow that seems strategically placed for ambience. Hiking Mount Norman (Norm, to the locals), I’m alone but for the beams of sunlight that break through the treetops to cinematically spotlight the forest floor ahead. It’s almost too picturesque, like a parody of a tranquil forest.
Communing with nature here on Pender doesn’t necessarily mean hiking boots and a camp cot are required. Instead, outside a retro-cool Airstream trailer—my accommodation for the weekend at Woods on Pender, a resort that channels summer camp by way of Ace Hotel—I continue to revel in the scenery as I soak in the awfully romantic cedar tub for two. I’m supplementing the experience with a glass of wine from Sea Star, Pender’s best (and only, if you’re going to get technical about it) winery, which runs tastings out of a modern concrete and glass space up island. So yeah, I’m not exactly roughing it, but, surrounded by towering trees and those chirps and rustles, this sort of civility feels perfectly natural.
And when I’m missing a modicum of bustle, it’s not too far to be found. I could drive down the winding main drag, lined by twisted and peeling arbutus trees, to grab a pint on the dock at Port Browning and watch sailboats come and go. I could mingle with the locals at the community centre, where there’s a hula hoop fitness class going on upstairs and a wonderfully unfocused farmers’ market downstairs (would you like some feather earrings to go with your fresh eggs?). There are signs everywhere promoting an upcoming bingo night. But for now: quiet is good. Quiet is nice.
Pender Island Fast Facts
Name Origin Captain Daniel Pender, Royal Navy, who sailed the HMS Plumper, HMS Hecate and the steamship Beaver to survey the coast of British Columbia between 1857 and 1870.
Size 36 sq km
Local Luminaries Err . . . . Raffi lives a short boat ride away.
Signature Dish People actually call ahead to reserve the beef tenderloin at Coffee Kitchen.
Rest Your Head The aforementioned Woods on Pender, a collection of refurbished rustic-modern cabins, lodge rooms and Airstream trailers, plays to the urbanites who prefer simpler luxuries: a cozy bed, a stiff cocktail and highly Instagrammable sleeping quarters.