Island Hopping – Barnston Style

Barnston Island Ferry Photo: Rob Weiss

Island hopping vacations are often described in tourism magazines as “active holidays combined with a relaxing cruise.”   Although Port Kells may not be considered by most as an exotic destination, it is a wonderful launch site for a bicycling day trip and island hopping excursion to Barnston Island. Home to the Katzie First Nation, this terrific, little island, is located on the Fraser River between Surrey and Pitt Meadows.   Charming, quaint, peaceful, this gem is the ideal destination for a family cycling adventure.

Barnston Island – Rural Community Photo: Rob Weiss

From the moment we saw the Barnston Island Ferry, we knew it was going to be an interesting day. With a capacity for only six vehicles, the ferry, which is in truth a barge pushed by a tugboat is an adventure unto itself. Rolling our bikes down the ramp, we could feel the excitement building.  Our departure was delayed for a few minutes as we patiently waited for another massive barge travelling north on the river to pass us. What a thrill to be so close to the workings of the mighty Fraser River.  Finally, it was our turn, and with engines revving, our tugboat Captain expertly manoeuvred away from the dock and began battling the current to cross Parsons Channel.  In less than five minutes, we arrived on the Island, and our ten-kilometre circumnavigation of Barnston began.

Farmland on Barnston Island Photo: Rob Weiss

Departing from the ferry dock, we commenced cycling in a counter-clockwise direction. Immediately, we were captivated by this active farming community.  Looking across the river, toward the heavy industrial area of Port Kells and the bustling Golden Ears bridge, it seemed surreal that this rural area could exist.  What a contrast!  Compared to the hectic pace of city life, Barnston Island is peaceful, a diamond in the rough.

Maternity Ward on Barnston Island Photo: Rob Weiss

Delighted to see crocuses blooming, we continued along the roadway hoping to view other signs of spring.  We were not disappointed!  Within a few minutes, we arrived at what appeared to be the Island’s maternity ward.  Countless lambs were frolicking in the fields.  Although the adult sheep did not seem impressed with the antics of the young ones, we certainly enjoyed them.  In fact, we appreciated watching all the animals, from the lambs and goats to donkeys and one misguided, comical Pheasant.

Barnston Island Resident Photo: Rob Weiss

We ended our day at the Robert Point Rest Area, a perfect pit stop and picnic locale.  Looking south along the Fraser River we sat in silence, watching the tugboats and float planes navigating the waters.  Like something out of a movie, eagles soared above us.  Feeling relaxed and calm, we casually returned to our bikes and slowly cycled the last couple of kilometres back to the ferry. Rejuvenated by the relaxed pace of island life and invigorating dose of nature, it was time to return to the mainland.  Anchors away!

Getting There:

Located on the Fraser River at the end of 104th Street in Surrey.  Travelling east from Vancouver, follow the 176th Avenue exit from the Trans Canada Highway and head north to the intersection with 104th Street.  Turn right and follow the signs to the parking area.  Remember, public parking is not permitted on the Island.  Free public parking is available adjacent to the ferry dock.

Ferry Schedule:

Operated by Western Pacific Marine, the Barnston Island Ferry is a free, on-demand service.  Regular service begins daily at 6:15 a.m.

Robert Point Rest Area, Barnston Island Photo: Rob Weiss

Island Etiquette:

Visitors are asked to respect the Island’s rural community.  All lands, including the riverfront, are private, except for the public road and park lands located at Mann Point and Robert Point.  Services are not available on the Island, so remember to pack your own snacks and water.  Washrooms and picnic tables are located at the Robert Point Rest Area.

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