Coming home to Denman IslandThe first time I visited Denman Island I knew within days that it was special.

Like with people, some places you just click with straight away and Denman Island was one of those places for me. It is one of my favourite places in the world and somewhere that I left a piece of my heart.

Denman is a small island located in British Columbia’s Northern Gulf Islands. Home to a small and close-knit community, the island is abundant in natural beauty with stands of temperate rainforest and a rocky shoreline teeming with life.

Rocky coastline on Denman Island

Denman Island is largely overlooked by tourists who prefer to head to the white sand beaches of Hornby Island, one island over, only briefly driving over Denman to catch their onward ferry. I think this is such a shame, they are missing out on so much by not giving this little island any time.

But this time around I did the same, catching the ferry to Denman and hitching over the island to travel on to Hornby. It took me a couple of rides to complete the trip and I spent about half an hour walking along the side of the road among the long grass and wildflowers between rides.

Denman had a different feel to it compared to when I had spent time there in autumn a couple of years ago; there was a freshness in the air. The sun beat down on me and the only sounds I heard between the occasional car passing by was the wind whistling through the trees. I needed another ride but I wasn’t bothered by how long it would take to get one.

Nature was flourishing, at its peak, when last time it felt like things were shutting down for winter. The light was different, the air was different. I couldn’t wait to get back there after visiting Hornby to explore this other side to an island I loved. 

Things didn’t go so well for me on Hornby Island and rather then spending another night there in my coffin sized tent, I ended up heading back to Denman one night earlier than planned. After my mini breakdown on Hornby, being back on Denman Island was very familiar and comforting; a safety blanket enveloping me in it’s folds.

I hadn’t been able to get hold of my friend David so I decided to spend a night at the Earth Club Factory Guesthouse. I had my own little cabin in the backyard of the main house.

Earth Factory Guesthouse on Denman Island

I felt a great weight ease off me as I took off my bags and placed them on the dusty wooden floor. Leaving Hornby early had been the best decision I could have made.

The Guesthouse was rustic and peaceful, perfectly in sync with the Denman vibe. I went for a walk through the tiny town centre which is made up of a Cafe, a General Store, a Hardware Store, a church and the school. Everything you need. A lone deer watched me from a grassy front lawn as I passed by. Denman Island has a massive deer population. They are a nuisance here but I still get a kick out of seeing them wandering the streets.

Deer roaming wild on Denman Island

Everything was closed up and quiet. The wooden buildings were beautiful, bathed in the light of the magic hour before sunset.

Downtown Denman Island

I was in such a rush to catch the last ferry from Hornby to Denman, I hadn’t had time to get anything for dinner and on these small islands, everyone shuts up shop early. Luckily I had some rice crackers and peanut butter in my bag. A meagre dinner but it was better than nothing.

I ate out on my front deck, a local cat winding it’s way around my legs and trying to eat the peanut butter from the open jar.

Cottage at Earth Factory Guesthouse on Denman Island

After a sleepless night the evening before, I slept the sleep of the dead in the quiet of the cabin.

I spent the next morning online and people watching in the Bistro. Sun was streaming through the windows and everyone had a smile on their faces. After feeling so alone and invisible on Hornby, I felt like I was part of the world again. I didn’t speak to anyone except the waitress but I felt included.

Nearly everyone that came in to the Bistro while I sat there were locals and pretty much everyone knew each other. I even saw a couple of familiar faces from when I was last on the Denman. Hornby has so many visitors that descend there en masse in summer that you don’t get that local flavour at all.

I finally got hold of David on Skype, grabbed my bags then stuck my thumb out for a ride to his place, on the other side of the island. I got a ride almost immediately with a lovely local lady who is the caretaker for the Fillongley Provincial Park camping ground.

We stopped off at the park on the way so she could check the sites. I walked down to the long pebbled beach while I waited. The water was as still and clear as glass. I paddled in the cool ocean, wishing I had worn my swimsuit.

Beautiful beach at Fillongley Provincial Park

Waves of familiarity washed over me as I walked up David’s driveway to the house and saw his dogs, Tippy and Skipper. Skipper wasn’t fazed but Tippy stared up at me for a while then got really excited and ran over. I swear I saw recognition in his eyes.

David came out with a couple of beers and we caught up, overlooking the marsh at the back of his property. It was so good to be back!

Looking out over the marsh on Denman Island

While David finished fixing his kitchen sink, I took the dogs down to the beach, a few minutes walk from the house. It bought back great memories of all of the time me and Trav spent down there, going for long walks, playing fetch with Tippy and collecting shellfish off the rocks. I saw a bald eagle soaring above the rocky coastline, the first of this trip. It felt like a sign that I was where I was meant to be.

David and I drove into town and I treated him to lunch back at the Bistro, washed down with homemade berry lemonade. Sitting outside in the shady back garden, we joined a couple of David’s friends, one whom I had met when playing volleyball the last time I was back. Another familiar face.

One of the reasons this island is so special is because of the people. And the community spirit that brings them all together.

Back at the house we picked up Max, David’s quiet Help Exchange volunteer from France, then headed for Graham Lake for a dip. There are two large swimming lakes on the island, Graham and Chicadee. I visited the three Provincial Parks on Denman during my last visit but I still hadn’t made it to either of the lakes.

A short hiking trail through second growth forest led down to the inviting waters of Graham Lake. A wooden dock jutted out into the water, built and maintained by the local community and a popular meeting spot in summer.

Graham Lake on Denman Island Hiking to Graham Lake on Denman Island

The water was cool but refreshing, the perfect temperature on a hot summer’s day. I spent a couple of hours alternating between floating in the lake or drying off on the dock, talking to friendly locals who had congregated at the lake for a lazy afternoon in the sun. It was bliss.

The dogs were loving it too, especially Tippy who fetched a stick constantly, swimming out into the lake over and over again. It was harder to get Skipper interested but he did end up going for a dip a couple of times. I love how different the dogs are despite being father and son.

Swimming dock at Graham Lake

My perfect island summer day ended with a home-cooked meal eaten outside overlooking the marsh as the day cooled into night.

David and I watched a movie then I retired to the upstairs room, usually David’s daughter’s but she had relocated to the cooler ground level room for summer. A smart move. It was roasting up there but you can’t beat the views.

View from the top room View over to Hornby Island

Tippy decided to join me and although I am not a fan of having dogs in bed with me, he was persistent and as I couldn’t physically move him, he stayed. Despite having an unhealthy cat obsession, I truly love that dog.

After coffee on the sunny front balcony in the morning, overlooking the sea and Hornby Island, it was the end to my short visit. Too short.

View from the deck over to Hornby Island

David’s friends were driving me to Courtenay where I was catching the bus down to Victoria in the afternoon. But I wanted to stay.

I hugged David and the dogs goodbye with tears in my eyes. It felt wrong to be leaving so soon but I had already organised my Victoria couch surf and as I was flying to Alaska in a couple of days, I was short on time.

I know I will return one day. How could I not?

It is one of my homes after all.

Have you ever been somewhere that feels like home to you?

8 Comments on Coming home to Denman Island

  1. louisa klimentos
    September 16, 2015 at 9:35 am (2 years ago)

    Very nice and I am glad you loved it.

    Reply
  2. Brooke of Passport Couture
    September 1, 2015 at 12:05 pm (2 years ago)

    It’s always good to have a place to call home that’s in your heart. I feel as though I’m still figuring out where that is, and I’m glad you found it. It’s always wonderful to be somewhere that has everything you need!

    Reply
    • theworldonmynecklace
      September 2, 2015 at 2:15 am (2 years ago)

      Denman is definitely one of the places that I feel at home in around the world. I’m sure you will figure it out Brooke 🙂

      Reply
  3. halekatie
    August 28, 2015 at 8:23 pm (2 years ago)

    This looks like such a beautiful place, Katie. Yes another reason for me to head across the pond to Canada! I love how those spontaneous changes of plan can turn out to be the best decision you could possibly have made. If ever I neede a reminder to be more fluid with my plans, this is it. Thank you 🙂

    http://www.secondhandhedgehog.com

    Reply
    • theworldonmynecklace
      August 28, 2015 at 11:46 pm (2 years ago)

      Thanks so much Katie. I’m trying harder to go with the flow myself and the couple of times that I have changed plans at the last minute on this trip have been for the best

      Reply
      • halekatie
        September 4, 2015 at 10:10 pm (2 years ago)

        That’s great to hear. Yup, I definitely need to start being a bit more go-with-the-flow…

      • theworldonmynecklace
        September 5, 2015 at 1:50 am (2 years ago)

        Don’t worry, it’s not natural for me either!

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