North and South Pender Island provide 34 kilometres of sub-Mediterranean climate in British Columbia's southern Gulf Islands - the chain that peppers the Georgia Strait between Vancouver Island and the Mainland.
Named after Daniel Pender, the Captain who navigated much of the British Columbia coastline in the latter part of the nineteenth century, these two islands are a favourite destination with visitors. Graced with rolling farmlands, forests, beaches, lakes and small mountains it's no wonder the 2.5 thousand person population swells drastically in the summer months with the arrival of campers, cabin-dwellers and day trippers.
Access to these islands is made easy, courtesy of BC Ferries from Victoria or Vancouver as well as seaplanes, planes, water taxis and helicopters. Sailing in? Bedwell Harbour is an official port-of-entry for Canada Customs. As you're arriving, keep your eyes open for the numerous and beautiful islets just offshore. In particular, Skull Island on the harbour's Northwest side is the object of a future medium-sized restoration project.
North and South Pender Island are connected by a one-lane bridge that spans the narrow canal separating the two land-masses. The majority of the population and consequently most guest-services, can be found around Magic Lake on North Pender while the southern island caters to the rural lifestyle.
Don't let the diminutive size of these islands fool you. There's fantastic shopping here, courtesy of an array of restaurants, galleries and shops, not to mention a continual roster of local events. The Driftwood Centre, the north island's commercial hub, is home to a grocery store, liquor store, gym, bank, post office, pharmacy, and bakery, not to mention clothing shops, bookstores and eateries. Only 10 minutes away by car, Hope Bay offers more choices including galleries, cafes, and a jewellers.
Summer times bring one of Pender's most famous events to the community hall: the Saturday morning Farmer's Market - a great chance for locals and visitors to mix and mingle over local produce, arts and crafts and entertainment.
This area is a mecca for water enthusiasts. Whether fishing, boating or scuba diving, the rich ocean heritage in and around Pender and the other Gulf Island is a veritable playground for those inclined toward oceanic pursuits. And if 'terra firma' holds more of an allure, try the island's beautiful nine-hole golf course, the result of a vision a handful of local residents shared back in 1937.
Two Provincial camp grounds provide Pender with some of the best camping in the Gulf Islands - jewels in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve crown. Enjoy either Prior Centennial or Beaumont Marine Park (Although Beaumont is only accessible by foot or by boat) The area provides unforgettable hiking and walking trails. For an astonishing view, trek up Mount Norman - the highest peak on either North or South Pender offers a breathtaking view of this island paradise, any time of year.
But the most fascinating, most unique and definitely most entertaining reason to visit the Pender Islands has nothing to do with the beautiful beaches, mountain vistas, charming shops or tantalizing restaurants. It has to do with a Frisbee and 27 holes...
Yearly, the impressive custom Golf Island Disc Park near Magic Lake plays host to The Pender Island Invitational - an internationally-popular Frisbee golf tournament that began in 1996 and has flourished into an event that attracts 'athletes' from all over North America. Players compete with each other over 27 holes, for The Bark, a gnarled piece of kindling-like arbutus wood with the names of previous champions or Keepers of the Bark, engraved on it. Even non-winners stand to make some prize money as a traditional purse of $5 is paid by everyone in a group to the player who scores an Ace-Pot - the disc golf version of a hole-in-one. The competition is extremely entertaining to watch, as the 27-hole course features tone poles for the first nine holes while the middle and back nine come equipped with chain baskets. Factor in numerous trees, wind and undulating terrain and you have the makings of an amazing 4-day spectacle.
North and South Pender Island are as unique an island experience as you'll find. Just don't forget your Frisbee.