posted by: Poets Cove Resort & Spa on: April 27, 2017
Written by Coralie McLean
I’d be laughed at if I said I had to get out of the big city for the weekend to relax on a remote island.  I live in Victoria.  It’s also known as the Garden City, and feel pretty grateful to live there.  However, recently launching my new communications company, LivelyCo, working endlessly, and traveling for work, I felt I needed to treat myself to a weekend away. 
Now, where to go?  Where can I really get away for four days and feel relaxed and recharged, without having to fly far away or leave the country? 
Pender is a fantastic southern Gulf Island that offers so much and boasts some of the best food and local businesses.  It’s close enough to Victoria that you can go for a weekend, but far enough away that you feel you’ve really gone on a holiday.
Easter long weekend is a great time to go to Pender Island and stay at Poets Cove.  It’s the first weekend of the Saturday morning Farmers Market, and the Sea Star Estate Farm and Vineyards opens its tasting room.  There’s a good energy of happy tourists and smiling locals everywhere you go.
If you’re leaving from Victoria, Pender Island is only around 30 minutes by ferry from the Swartz Bay terminal, and Poets Cove is on South Pender, which is about a 20-minute drive south from the ferry terminal.

1. Poets Cove

This resort never disappoints. The main lodge has beautiful rooms with soaker tubs and stunning views of the marina. Outside of the main lodge are many separate cottages, with their own hot tubs and barbeques, which are ideal for a large family or group of friends.
There’s a formal dining room, Aurora, and a more laid back option, Syrens Bistro & Lounge, which has delicious food and drinks, as well as a patio.  I recommend the sesame crusted tuna salad (called the Syrens Salad) with a glass of Sea Star Ortega wine!
There’s a large spa as well, Susurrus Spa, offering a wide range of services, and has a hot tub embedded in rock overlooking the marina, as well as a eucalyptus steam cave.  I had the tension release massage right before hopping on my ferry back home, which was an amazing way to wrap up the trip.

2. Sea Star Estate Farm & Winery

Since opening it has won many awards, including the recent Gold Medal Plates for ‘Best in Show’, where winemaker Ian Baker showcased his 2015 Blanc de Noir Rose.  You’ll be hard pressed to get a bottle of it at the vineyard as it’s sold out, but I hear Olo restaurant in Victoria still sells it. 
Also, good news for Tesla drivers!  The luxury and green car manufacturer chose to install three of its charging stations at Sea Star.  (Note, like a verified blue checkmark on Twitter, you cannot choose to have a Tesla charger, it must choose you).  Sea Star’s proprietor David tells me there will be a big Tesla meet up at Sea Star this year. 
INSIDER TIP: David also gave me the inside scoop that Pender will soon boast a new cider house called Twin Island Cider (playing off the fact that Pender is actually split in two).  According to its website it will be open this spring!

3. Farmers Market

Pender’s main local market runs from Easter long weekend through to Thanksgiving.  It’s filled with everything such as local produce, herbs, flowers, breads, jewelry, carvings, soaps, and healthy eats.  There are some very talented artisans on this island too. This is definitely a must-see to get a sense of the local community.

4. Hope Point & Philly’s Diner

East on North Pender is Hope Point, with some shops and a beautiful lookout.  Right on the main dock is Philly’s Diner, which completely exceeded my expectations.  The food was so good, and service was personable and very quick.  I recommend the Spicy Mango Chicken Wrap or Seafood Chowder. (I’d argue it’s even worth a day trip to Pender just to eat here!).  I’ll definitely be back.

5. Thieves Bay whale watching

On the west coast of North Pender is Thieves Bay. It has its own marina and breakwater, with a row of picnic tables ideal for lounging on for hours while waiting for sea life to pass by.  While I didn’t see whales this time, I’ve spoken to many people who see them often, and large pods of breaching orcas too!  It’s worth the wait if you have time.  Pack a picnic and a bottle of Sea Star wine and you’ll have a great afternoon.

6. Outdoor activities

Whether you’re into biking, hiking, running, kayaking, or boating, you can do it all on Pender Island.

I heard about this trail walk near Poets Cove called the Enchanted Forest Park. It’s short, but beautiful and leads to a nice view point. It only takes about half an hour so why not?  One of the trail heads is off of Spalding Road, just minutes before you reach Poets Cove.  In fact, there are many trail heads off of the main roads to keep your eyes peeled.
I wanted to explore some more of the island on foot so threw my runners on and did a nice 7 km run from Poets Cove, which is easy to do along the main road. 
You can also rent kayaks or canoes from Poets Cove and head off from the marina.
INSIDER TIP: If you’re hiking, running, or biking, you’re in for a good leg workout as Pender has some major hills!
Planning to explore Pender and check out these 6 highlights? Ping me on social media to let me know and happy travels!
Travel tips
-        Traveling with dogs? Poets Cove is pet friendly in the cottages and lodge. I saw so many cute pups and it made me miss my own.
-        Ferries to Pender Island from Swartz Bay fill up quickly on long weekends and you cannot make reservations on this route.  I recommend getting to the terminal at least an hour early.  I got there an hour and a half early and was fine.  (I had work to do anyways!)
-        If you decide to run or cycle on Pender, I recommend leaving your headphones back at the resort as the roads are narrow, hilly, and winding so you need to listen for oncoming traffic almost the whole distance.  (Go ahead, call me a safety nerd!)
-        Wanting to golf? Pender Island Golf & Country Club on the north island is a challenging course normally, but this time was especially the case.  Given our long rainy season in the Pacific Northwest this year, the course is still quite muddy (very muddy). I lost my ball more times than I could count, got bitten by a weird bug, and was so muddy. It wasn’t as enjoyable but the staff are lovely and I’m sure this would be better in May, or June, or with rainboots… So heads up if you’re heading there soon.
-        All rooms at Poets Cove come with a fridge to chill your wine from Sea Star.  That with some good eats from the Farmers Market make for a perfect Happy Hour!
About the author
Coralie McLean is the founder and marketing director of LivelyCo, a marketing and communications company based in Victoria, BC.  She’s a guest contributor to local business magazine Douglas, and a corporate blogger and writer.  Coralie grew up in Victoria and is passionate about exploring the Pacific Northwest while supporting local businesses.
Please drag the indicated image into the “DROP ICON HERE” box
* Required fields