Populated by artists, this small island is worth a camping trip.
Hornby Island, the northernmost of the Gulf Islands between the British Columbia mainland and Vancouver Island, is a quirky piece of Earth. You’ll find funky touches, like water tank art installations and the community hall reminiscent of a giant mushroom—anywhere you look, the population of counterculture creative types is evident. The island comes alive in July and August with festivals and a market, while winters and shoulder season weekdays (from mid-May to June, plus September) are much quieter. Getting to Hornby is part of the adventure, with a ferry running from Buckley Bay (30 minutes south of Comox) on Vancouver Island to Denman Island, then a quick drive across Denman, where you can catch the Hornby Island ferry.
Home to the sandy beach and warm water of Tribune Bay, this provincial park is one of the most popular spots on Hornby Island. There are a few camping options within walking distance of the park, including the largest campground on the island, Tribune Bay Campground. Make sure you book a Tribune Bay campsite in advance, as it gets very busy in summer. An outdoor adventure centre also entertains families with tent camping. Just remember: Don’t confuse family-friendly Tribune Bay Beach with Little Tribune Bay Beach—the “little” one is clothing-optional.
At the southeast tip of the island is Helliwell Provincial Park. There is no camping within the park, but on a small island such as this, the campgrounds near Tribune Bay are also close to Helliwell. The park is popular for birding and wildlife watching, canoeing, and even scuba diving, as well as hiking along the bluffs for stunning bay views. Head north to Whaling Station Bay for a swim—it’s one of the most popular beaches on the island.
On the west side of the island, Ford’s Cove has a small campground, a marina, and a shop. The beach is known for strange rock formations, which campers check out before heading onto the water for fishing or kayaking from Ford’s Cove. You can also stay on land to take the short walk to Mount Geoffrey Provincial Park. Here, you can hike, bike, or horseback ride on the three trails, and take in the views from the rocky cliffs.