It’s a tiny island a short drive from Vancouver with its own world-class bird sanctuary, farm stands and acres of pumpkin patches, and waterfront bike trails you’ll likely have all to yourself.
And pretty much no one has heard of it.
Westham Island is roughly a 45-minute drive south of downtown Vancouver, past Richmond and just next door to the small agricultural community of Ladner. I checked out the island recently on a sunny fall day.
A narrow tributary of the Fraser River separates Westham Island from the mainland. To get across, you have to navigate a creaky, one-lane wooden bridge that’s been patched here and there with plywood. Sometimes the bridge rotates to allow passing boats to get by and you might find a half-dozen cars lined up and waiting to get across.
On the other side, the highways and strip malls and hustle-bustle of the Vancouver suburbs give way to flat farmland stretching away on either side of a country road. All kinds of berries, leafy greens and potatoes are grown in the rich soil here, but the cash crop this time of year is pumpkins.
I managed to find a parking spot along the road next to Westham Island Herb Farm, which was crawling with eager pumpkin pickers. A lineup of scarecrows pointed the way to the patch out back, which was studded with bright orange squashes in all shapes and sizes. The going price was $.35 a pound. Alternately – if you had serious pumpkin needs – you could opt to pay $55 to fill up a wheelbarrow with all the gourds you could carry.
After browsing the pumpkins, meeting a pair of donkeys and a shaggy cow at the petting zoo and checking out the organic kale in the general store, I got back in the car and continued on down Westham Island Road. The road, which is pretty much the only one on the island, dead-ends a mile or so later at another highlight: the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
Stay tuned for Part II of this post on Oct. 18.
Anyone else a fan of Westham Island? Let us know below.
For more updates on hidden gems in Vancouver and beyond, follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza.