Five adults and seven kids, all under the age of four, was the tally for this local cycling trip. Despite being only a 30 minute drive from Vancouver, I have never heard of Barnston Island before. This gem of a farming community in the middle of Fraser River was unearthed earlier this week by a CBC radio host who mentioned it in a fleeting moment during the morning show.
Upon further study I realized that it is a perfect place for a family with small kids to spend a Sunday afternoon and I was happy to share it with my friends and their children.
When to go:
March or April when farms are awash in fresh green of the new growth and the farm animals are nursing the young.
What to do:
Cycling is the way to go. Leave the car on the mainland side of the river as the flat, paved 10 km of island roads are perfect for family outings even with the littlest ones. The free (!) ferry, only a 5-minute ride, adds a great excitement to the trip. Once on the island you can cycle in the counter-clockwise direction first and discover the farmlands.
After the 8 km loop the roads passes by Robert Point which is a teeny weeny park at the western tip of the island but is complete with three picnic tables. We stopped here for lunch and kids had an awesome time playing in the sand and occasional water puddle of the Fraser River (flat beach, safe). It is interesting that even this far up the river, the ocean tide was still clearly visible and the water level dropped as we were having lunch. A galore of tug boats and float planes were parading up and down the river creating an interesting sight for the kids.
There are a number of farms on the island: the famous local Avalon Dairy keeps some of their cattle here and the Barnston Island Herbs supplies delicate culinary herbs to Vancouver restaurants. However, at the time of writing none of them were offering tours so we had to observe only from a distance. That sometimes meant only a fence away from two lovely donkeys and a herd of sheep with little lambs and saw horsies and cows with babies. As you can guess, all these were a huge hit with the kids.
How to get there:
By car: Take Hwy 1 East, over Port Mann Bridge and to Exit 53. Follow signs for Hwy 17 North. Take 104th Avenue exit. Turn Right at 104th Ave and drive 500m to the ferry. Park the car at a large dirt parking lot on your left (free).
By transit & bike: Take the Expo Line to King George Boulevard Station. Follow Fraser Highway down (south) for 1.5 km until you hit Green Timbers Bikeway. This will lead you to Tynehead Perimiter Trail so you’ll be enjoying bike trails and separated ways almost all the way to the ferry. See the detailed bike route from King George Stations at the bottom of the page.
Ferry schedule and info: British Columbia Inland Ferries