The small waterfront community of Bowser is located on the east coast of Vancouver Island overlooking Georgia Strait. Named after William John Bowser, B.C. Premier in 1915-16, Bowser is a favourite stop for clam and shellfish diggers.
Bowser is part of Lighthouse Country, a stretch of Highway 19A that runs along the oceanside from Qualicum Beach to Fanny Bay across from Denman Island and Hornby Island.
Lighthouse Country incorporates the small communities of Horne Lake, Qualicum Bay, Bowser and Deep Bay. Rich in history, folklore and Native culture, Lighthouse Country offers its many visitors a genuinely friendly welcome and a super BC vacation destination in a charming rural atmosphere.
The Bowser Hotel made history in the 1930s (and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not) by having a bartender dog that served beer to patrons, collected their money and returned with their change. A first from British Columbia!
Bowser area recreational activities include swimming, hiking, golf, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, cave spelunking, kayaking, boating and fishing. Bowser attractions include clam and oyster picking, whale watching and many galleries and artisan in the area – every activity imaginable is within driving distance of Bowser.
Location: Bowser is located 13 miles (21 km) north of Qualicum Beach.
Just off McColl Road, Wildwood Park beckons travellers to stop and rest. An existing 1-km trail will ultimately become the northern trailhead of a proposed Lighthouse Country hiking trail, stretching south to Qualicum Bay.
Golf is played year-round at the Arrowsmith Golf & Country Club, an 18-hole semi-private golf course 10 minutes south of Bowser, near Qualicum Beach. Other courses in Qualicum Beach are Eaglecrest Golf Club, Pheasant Glen Golf Resort, and Qualicum Beach Memorial Golf Club. Vancouver Island Golf Vacations.
Kayaking: Kayakers can put in at Rosewall Creek Provincial Park, just west of Deep Bay, or launch at Deep Bay, a natural harbour on Qualicum Bay, protected by the curve of Mapleguard Point. You’ll also find good windsurfing in the protected waters of Deep Bay.
Fishing: Anglers’ dreams are fulfilled for both freshwater and saltwater catches. The prolific herring spawn and shrimp hatches at nearby Deep Bay attracts the larger chinook salmon, some up to thirty pounds.
Caving: There are several hundred significant caves to explore on Vancouver Island, including those at Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park, 9 miles (14 km) west of Hwy 194 near Qualicum Beach south of Bowser. The park protects seven caves in the Horne Lake Cave system. A small fee is charged for tours in July and August, conducted by knowledgeable guides from the Canadian Cave Conservancy, a nonprofit organization devoted to proper management, protection, and interpretation of Canada’s cave resources. If you’re here in summer, plan on joining the challenging Karst Trail and Riverbend Trail tours, which last about two hours. Tours leave the trailhead on the hour between 10am and 4pm. You can take a self-guided tour of Main Cave and Lower Main Cave throughout the year. Although the distance covered isn’t great – about 0.1 mile (0.2 km) you’ll have to bend, duck, and squeeze your way through a series of narrow passages.
No matter when you arrive, prepare yourself for a tour by dressing warmly, wearing sturdy boots, and carrying a bright flashlight. (Helmets and lights are provided on guided tours. For those with a lust to squeeze deeper into the cave system, the three-to-four-hour Riverbed Bottoming trip leads down through a series of vertical pits, the deepest of which is nearly 60 feet/19 m). A gravel road leads to the parking area and trailhead at the far end of Horne Lake. A footbridge spans the Qualicum River, from where a rough limestone trail leads to the Main Cave.
The 123-hectare Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park is located along the Qualicum River, and is named after a Hudson Bay Company explorer. The road follows the shoreline of Horne Lake to the headwaters of the Qualicum River. The lake is 5 miles (8 km) long and about 1 mile (1.5 km) wide, and features good boat fishing year-round for cutthroat, rainbow, and kokanee trout. Besides caving and fishing, other adventures include canoe and water safety instruction on Horne Lake, kayaking, horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking. There is a private campground adjacent to the park with a boat launch.
Just north of Bowser on Hwy 19 you’ll find Rosewall Creek Provincial Park, a small 63-hectare roadside park straddling both sides of Highway (19A) between the south end of Mud Bay and Deep Bay. Rosewall Creek and adjacent Mud Bay are important winter habitat areas for waterfowl and shorebirds. The park uplands are heavily wooded with second growth forests of Douglas-fir, grand fir, and western red cedar. Western hemlock and sitka spruce are also common. The park offers riverbank casting at the entrance to Qualicum Bay.
Spider Lake Provincial Park, known for its warm water, canoeing and kayaking, is a small lake located 5 miles (8 km) west of Hwy 19A near Horne Lake. There is a lovely stretch of beach beside the warm, clear waters of the lake, on which no motorized boats are allowed. If you’re looking for a respite from travel, spend an hour or two picnicking here at any time year-round; take a dip in summer and toss in a hook if you like smallmouth bass. The lake is stocked regularly, so for best results come in early spring before it warms up, or wait until fall to try your angling luck once temperatures begin to drop. The lake is indented by a number of bays, particularly at its north end, which makes for quiet exploring in a canoe or rowboat.
Take a break from the beach and drive north to Buckley Bay for access to Denman Island and Hornby Island, only a 15-minute ferry ride away. Tranquil and bucolic, Denman Island and Hornby Island sit just off the east coast of Vancouver Island. Denman, the larger of the two, is known for its pastoral farmlands and its population of talented artisans. Stroll down a country lane, bask in the unspoiled countryside of woods and wildflowers or explore hidden coves along the sunny coastline. From Denman, cross to nearby Hornby Island, with its gorgeous white sandy beaches – go hiking, kayaking, cycling or scuba diving.
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