Hawaii of the North
One of the best things about an Edible Road Trip to Denman and Hornby Islands is that you can make it an eventful day trip. A very full day trip, mind you (and there are certainly many reasons to stay over and make it into a weekend getaway), but it also makes the perfect island adventure for those days when you just need an escape from the ordinary. Both islands feature quaint local shops, cafes, vineyards and more, making them the perfect place for a tranquil getaway.
We began our day at Buckley Bay, where we caught an early morning ferry to Denman. Here you will find one of the Island’s best kept secrets: Weinberg’s Good Food. Weinberg’s is a small specialty store that carries local and organic market goods, an incredible assortment of unique food and gift items, and…coffee! We grabbed a cappuccino for the road and then popped next door to the Fanny Bay Oysters Seafood Shop to pick up some salmon pepperoni (it tastes way better than it sounds), candied salmon and house-made salad rolls (made with local spot prawns) for a snack later in the day.
After a quick ten-minute ferry ride, we found ourselves browsing through books, games and local pottery in Abraxas Books, Gifts and Coffee Bar. We held out a little while longer for a second caffeine fix though, and grabbed a refill and breakfast at Earth Club Factory Guesthouse. This is obviously the island meeting spot, or as they call it, a “B.C. Coast Cultural Hotspot.” Earth Club features an incredible outdoor wood-fired oven and hosts everything from music and poetry events to comedy and live performances. They are a great option if you’re planning an overnight visit; they also have a great selection of local crafts, gift items and frozen pre-made dinner options to take with you.
Left: Weinberg’s Good Food. Right: Earth Club Factory Guesthouse.
Everyone loves a great little General Store, and Denman does not disappoint. First and foremost when you walk in the door, you will find the liquor counter with a surprisingly wide range of local beer and ciders. Then, amongst all manner of local products and grocery items (including local frozen meat and B.C. tuna loins), you can find Denman Island Chocolates, Yvonne’s Bakery goods, and sourdough and challah from Ima’s Kitchen. Ima’s is also well-known for its small-batch, vegan and gluten-free ice cream in decadent flavours like cardamom-mocha.
Many small farms are scattered throughout the island, taking advantage of the year-round mild weather and optimal growing conditions to produce fresh fruits and vegetables. Just north of the ferry terminal you’ll find one such small-scale, family farm called Two Roads Farm. While you can pick up their sustainably grown produce at the Saturday morning Denman Island Farmer’s Market or the General Store, it’s worth the short drive to shop directly from their Farm Honour Stand.
Denman Island Farmers’ Market
It wasn’t quite noon when we reached Corlan Vineyard and Farm on our way to the Hornby Island ferry. This little tasting room is definitely worth the stop, showcasing a variety of award-winning certified organic wines and amazing dessert wines made with local raspberries and blackberries. We picked up a bottle of each to take with us, as well as a bottle of the Sandy Island White—a recent gold medal winner in Germany. Owners Pat and Selwyn Jones also host regular long table dinners (for your small social bubble) throughout the summer months, by reservation only.
Lunch on Hornby Island
After another short ferry hop, we landed on Hornby Island just in time for lunch. Hornby is sometimes referred to as Canada’s Hawaii, and for good reason: the white beaches, clear water and relaxed atmosphere will have you in vacation mode the minute you step off the ferry. Filled with beautiful parks, beaches and forests, Hornby is perfect for family picnics and beautiful hikes—Helliwell Provincial Park and Tribune Bay are both well-known across the country.
And of course, there are a variety of local food and beverage options, all reflecting the island’s unique terroir and relaxed atmosphere. Forage Farm and Kitchen does exactly that, with a fun selection of breakfast and lunch dishes to choose from, all created from ingredients grown on their family-run farm. The menu generally changes with the seasons, but you can always expect the same level of pride taken in their ingredients, recipes and service.
Forage is located in the Ringside Market, the hub of Hornby. It’s a great place to spend some time wandering and browsing the local shops—and snacking! We followed lunch with a cone from the colourful Lix Espresso and Ice Cream, but wished we had room for one of the generously sized (i.e. huge) burritos from Vorizo Café or aromatic pizza from Hornby Island Bakery & Pizzeria.
Left: Lix Espresso and Ice Cream. Right: Meal from Forage Farm and Kitchen.
Hornby Island is where creativity collides with passion to birth businesses like Hornby Organic, which now sells its popular gluten-free organic energy bars across the country—and of course, at the local Co-op. The Hornby Island Co-op, also in the Ringside Market, is a great place to look for local products. You can find Hornby Island Tea on their shelves as well as Sushi Snax, which are triangle-shaped, individually wrapped Japanese rice snacks made on the island.
Further up the road and adjacent to the Ford’s Cove Marina, Ford’s Cove General Store is expecting to open their new oceanfront restaurant this summer. In the meantime, the store carries a great assortment of local products such as vegetarian pâté by Hornby Island Pâté and granola by Cardboard House Bakery. But they are best known for their take-out pizza specials, offered from 4pm–7pm daily.
Sip and savour
After lunch, we were ready for some more tasting! For the oenophiles, check out Lerena Vineyards, who use modern barrel techniques to handcraft their wines—best accompanied with the beautiful views overlooking their vineyards. They even offer a unique “glamping” (glamour camping) experience if you are able to spend the night. Also worth a visit is Hornby Island Estate Winery; they use B.C. fruits and berries to produce delicious wines, ports and sherries.
For a crisp cider, head to Fossil Beach Farm (pictured left) for handcrafted cider created from a blend of apples from the farm and other B.C. orchards. These are only available when the apples are in season, and only from the farm itself, so it’s definitely worth the stop—and they too offer a beachside glamping experience.
Another great destination is Middle Mountain Mead, where you can taste their herb, fruit and spice-flavoured honey fermented beverage from the meadery’s rooftop deck. The breathtaking panoramic view alone is worth the visit. And finally, if it’s spirits you’re after, look no further than Island Spirits Distillery; they even claim that their variety of flavourful Phrog spirits are “hangover free.”
Sea Breeze Lodge is by far one of the best kept secrets on Hornby and one of our favourite island retreats. Enjoy lunch on their outdoor patio or spend the weekend in one of their oceanside cabins. The 12-acre property boasts secluded waterfront views, cozy cottage accommodations and a spectacular restaurant that serves “comfort food with a West Coast flare.” Soak in the expansive view while enjoying a nightcap on the patio and reflecting on your local vacation visit to Denman and Hornby.