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In the Press

In search of an island paradise

Buyers for recreation homes seeking out islands in B.C

Ozzie Jurock, For CanWest News Service
Published: Saturday, July 08, 2006

VANCOUVER - Dreams of wafting aromas from the barbecue, peaceful kids (well, it is a dream after all), blood red suns sinking over your own waterfront cottage after a hot sunny day, warm balmy waters (I know we are in Canada, but remember, it is a dream).

Ah ... that's the life - all the stresses of the week falling away as you quietly fish ... or deftly tie that trap on your own dock ... only to lift it out with six or seven (legal-sized) crabs every night.

Ah, that's the life. And many of us manage to buy exactly that dream.

But all too often, while what we buy is great, actually using it is another thing.

Access is vital when you eye that recreational piece of joy anywhere -- but particularly so for purchases on B.C.'s coastal islands.

Yes, it is great to own a piece of the beach, but getting there is not as easy for Albertans as driving to the Columbia Valley, where the deer and the weekenders from Alberta roam.

Remember -- all island properties are great in the summer ... when you are there standing on them.

But to have family use, there must be facilities that suit your personal lifestyle and you must be able, and willing, to spend the time it takes to get there.

If you can't, it is just a trophy to talk about, but actually walking the beach, picking the oysters and catching them thar' prawns ... well ... it just does not happen.

So, we need to drive through B.C. to get there, and then take our boat ... failing that, we need the friendly and much-indebted B.C. Ferries to get us there.

There are hundreds of West Coast islands stretching all the way north to Alaska.

ALL have lazy afternoon charm, fishing, diving, and hiking offering a hundred splendiferous vistas -- every little and large island with its own charm, and its very own access problems.

However, depending on which island you chose to buy on, even regular ferry service may not get you there in time for a Saturday night barbecue if you began your journey west early on a Friday.

Texada Island, while beautiful, takes actually three sets of ferries to get to, while others may take even longer.

So, while we love all islands, we particularly like the close-in ones in Howe Sound just north of Vancouver, and those across from Sechelt and Secret Cove on the Sunshine Coast.

That's why after years of cruising the "American boat haven" called Desolation Sound near the Powell River area, the Jurock clan now cruises Howe Sound near Vancouver, and its coastal islands, more than any other.

It is beautiful, the fishing is spectacular, the marine parks are great, but most of all, you can get there relatively easier.

Leave Vancouver by boat at 4 p.m.; tie up on any Howe Sound island or Secret Cove by 6:30 p.m.

So, let's look at the islands in the Sound.

Bowen Island has not only ferry service, but also drive-on ferry service.

Vancouverites came and bought ... driving values to the sky. Unfortunately, while cheap four years ago, today you will need to hock your family jewels to own waterfront here.

But there is more to Howe Sound than Bowen Island. Passage Island at the entrance to the sound is one of the smallest islands.

The largest island is Gambier Island, which dominates the northeastern part of the Sound.

Looking straight across the "sailboat eating channel" from Gibsons (the tide brings the water depth up to only a few feet), you will see Keats Island with Plumper Cove's Provincial Park on its northwest corner.

We like Keats and Gambier. From time to time in our newsletter, we featured properties on Keats Island, which were (and still are) relatively cheap.

Small cottages non-waterfront can be had for under $150,000.

Of course, you may want to spend more, but if you truly just want to get away and not go broke in the process, you can here.

Gambier, just north of Bowen Island, is close enough to be easily seen from Horseshoe Bay, a mere 1/2-hour boat ride away.

Yet, it remains quiet and has a small, year-round population.

There is one small general store that sells staples and meals and is located at the New Brighton ferry landing in Thornbrough Bay, on the West Coast of the island.

Gambier Island, itself, is a great place to explore, as it is mostly unpopulated with many secluded bays providing protected moorage for a boat.

There are a number of subdivisions on Gambier. There was recently a 1.4-hectare parcel non-waterfront being offered at $169,000.

I also really like the quality subdivision at Brigade Bay and Douglas Bay, where waterfront lots start at just over $200,000.

The developer has installed four sheltered communal docks to provide year-round sheltered moorage for all the owners.

Secret Cove's famous Lord Jim Inn was bought by an Albertan developer two years ago, ostensibly for redevelopment, and in fact the whole area (Sechelt to Pender Harbour) abounds in developments where waterfront, while not cheap, is still affordable.

Properties in Secret Cove are in the $250,000 to $500,000 range.

Thurmanby Island across from Secret Cove dries into two islands at low tide, creating snow-white beaches in the process.

The locals call it "welfare Hawaii" because of its inexpensive boat access. You can drive on a Friday night via ferry through Gibsons to Secret Cove and take a $20 watertaxi to get there.

If you are dreaming about a getaway, invest in a boat ride (from Horseshoe Bay a private water taxi takes you to anywhere on Gambier for $18, from Langdale it is even cheaper) and take a look.

Take a professional "island realtor" with you, though. We even know one with a boat.

So, if you are looking for a true getaway that's close to Vancouver, but where no hordes of weekenders with their smelly cars will bother you, take a look at Keats.

If you want inexpensive waterfront acreage, take a look at Gambier. And if you are cruising this summer -- and you find yourself in Plumpers Cove on Keats or in Secret Cove in the early part of July -- look for the SS Proper Tee and I will treat you to a cup of coffee.

© The Edmonton Journal 2006


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