Lengthy stop-and-go journeys can be the opposite of magical. But sometimes, taking two ferries — from the Comox Valley on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, to Denman Island, then off to Hornby Island — provides the necessary time to decompress. Leave whatever it may be behind, and embrace the West Coast island lifestyle.

Photography: Jake Berman, Howard/Harriet Greenwood, Brad Steels, Goya Ngan and Tyler Ingram | Words: Emily Ross

Once the population balloons during the warmer months, the kitschy shops re-open their doors and the craggy beaches become strewn with haphazard beach blankets. Escapists flock to modest, bohemian campgrounds and picturesque, forested cabins to get away and explore. The rural life they seek is full of morning paddles, fresh food and sea air.

Helliwell Provincial Park. Photography: Howard/Harriet Greenwood

Hornby lies across the Salish Sea from the east coast of Vancouver Island. For artists, there are golden grass–topped bluffs at Helliwell Provincial Park. For writers, there are arbutus-shrouded hideaways. And for city dwellers, there’s the Free Store, a playful nod to the cliché and the quirky.

Helliwell Provincial Park. Photography: Howard/Harriet Greenwood

The day begins in the mist of Ford’s Cove Marina. Uniquely pocked and sculpted sandstone provides the perfect perch to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and a savoury breakfast pastry from the Cardboard House Bakery. Once the sun cuts through the low-lying fog, there are nearby docks to explore and a small artist shop to browse when the mid-morning sun becomes sweltering.

Sandstone Shoreline. Photography: Brad Steels/Shutterstock

It’s difficult to ignore the magic of Hornby when riding a bike down a steep, breezy hill to visit local potters like the famed Wayne Ngan, or while swimming in the crystal clear waters of Tribune Bay.

Each day’s sunset allows for a whole new layer of discovery. Wade into the crisp waters of Whaling Station Bay in the still of night to watch the phosphorescence dance — tiny gleams of neon light move throughout the darkness of the secluded cove. Or enjoy the unadulterated view of the stars above — no city lights mar the galaxy on display.

Ceramics by Wayne Ngan. Photography: Goya Ngan

Once a treasured secret of Vancouver Island locals, the word about Hornby Island has spread, but its moderate seclusion has kept it somewhat untouched. Here, long summer days are punctuated by extraordinarily simple moments that are nothing short of magical.

Hornby Island Night. Photography: Tyler Ingram