This guide to Savary Island will take you on a tour of Captain Vancouver’s favorite beach island getaway, and show you how to make it your favorite too.
Vancouver’s Favorite Beach Island Getaway Will Be Yours Too
“About sunset we landed and made camp on a fine smooth beach in a situation most desirable and pleasant, which I named Savary’s Island” – Captain George Vancouver, July 1, 1792.
Based on the above excerpt from Captain Vancouver’s journal, it seems Savary Island has always been a pleasant, picturesque beach getaway from, and for, Vancouver.
And it doesn’t seem to have changed much since Captain Vancouver’s first “beachside retreat” either. There’s still no electricity, nothing but dirt roads, plenty of nature, and, of course, the beaches. Savary is surrounded by beaches. It’s more like a sandbar with some trees on it than an island.
Savary isn’t like B.C.’s Gulf Islands to the south. It’s more, dare we say, tropical. Cap’n Van pretty much said so himself, highlighting it for “having beauty such as we have seldom enjoyed.” Plus they say it has the warmest water north of Mexico.
If so, here’s a guide to Savary Island.
Savary Island Guide Outline
How to Get to Savary Island from Vancouver
The good news? Savary Island is only 140 kilometers from Vancouver as the crow flies (see Google Maps).
The bad news? We’re not crows.
You have two options to get to Savary: Ferry or Float Plane. Here are the details for both.
- 0.5 hours – Drive to Horseshoe Bay
- 0.8 hours – Ferry from Horsehoe Bay to Langdale (see BC Ferries Schedule)
- 1.3 hours – Drive to Earl’s Cove
- 0.8 hours – Ferry from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay (see BC Ferries Schedule)
- 1.0 hour – Drive through Powell River and on to Lund
- 0.2 hours – Water Taxi to Savary Island (see Lund Water Taxi website for rates and info)
- (If necessary) – Land taxi from Savary Island wharf to wherever you’re staying
- 4.5 hours total + Ferry wait times.
- Ferry Tip #1: Save about 20% on your ferries with a BC Ferries Experience Card. Ask for one at the Horseshoe Bay ticket booth. You need to load the card with a minimum of $95, which is fine because the ferries cost more than that ($111.90 for two people and one small car as of August 2018).
- Ferry Tip #2: If you’re coming in your own car, first drive down in front of the water taxi office to drop off your stuff, then go park. There are a couple paid parking lots in Lund (about $10 a day) or you can park for free further up the highway on the side. Park where everyone else is parking to avoid getting towed.
- Ferry Watch-out #1: If traveling on a weekend in the summer, reserve your ferries.
- Ferry Watch-out #2: The last Lund water taxi leaves at 6 p.m.
- Ferry Watch-out #3: Call Lund Water Taxi (604-483-9749) in advance to reserve your spot.
Corilair also offers chartered flights between the South Terminal and Savary for $329 each way per person plus taxes.
You’re only allowed 25 pounds of luggage. Extra luggage is $2 per pound up to 20 pounds.
Get Your Bearings
If you’re like us and like to understand and visualize the lay of the land before you go someplace, these factoids and the map that follows will be helpful.
Understand Savary Island’s Geography:
- Savary Island is 7.5 km long and 0.1 to 0.3 km wide. It takes 1.5 to 2 hours to walk from one end to the other.
- The wharf for the water taxi from Lund (see: getting to Savary) is on the east end of the Island
- Approximately 30% of the island is developed, with the east end by the wharf being the most densely populated.
- Only about 100 people live on Savary full time, but as many 2,000 people share it during peak summer periods.
- Vancouver Boulevard crosses the entire island, but if you’re walking or biking take Savary Island Road to cross the western half. It’s no longer passable by car due to a washout.
- As mentioned, beaches are everywhere on Savary. The most popular, and in our opinion the best—having circled the island—is South Beach on the southeast.
- For the most detailed map of Savary beaches, trails, and attractions print off or purchase in Lund or on Savary this PDF map by the Savary Island Land Trust Society.
Savary Island Map
This map of Savary Island includes all the highlights you’ll read more about below in this guide. You can save this map to Google Maps on your phone by following these simple instructions.
Get Ready for Savary
What to Bring
- Groceries: Savary’s General Store has limited inventory, so bring whatever you need with you
- Flashlight. Savary has no electricity. Most cottages use propane, solar power, or candles at night.
- Garbage bags to take out whatever you brought in.
What Not to Bring
- Bug spray: Don’t worry about bugs! There is no standing water on Savary. Back in the day, The Savary Island Hotel famously advertised they’d refund you if you got a mosquito bite while staying there!
- Bear spray: There are no bears, wolves, cougars, or raccoons on the island.
- Bottled water if you’re staying at a cottage or campsite. Savary’s tap water is potable.
- A lot of work to do. There is no WiFi. Cell signals are generally strong throughout the island, so you could do work… but come on.
Where to Stay on Savary Island
If you want convenience, look to stay on the east end of Savary Island. It’s close to the wharf and most of the island’s amenities, limited as they may be. If you want seclusion, go further west.
- The only official campsite on Savary is Savary Camping & Cottages. It’s $10 per person per night and includes bathroom and kitchen facilities.
Hotels & Vacation Rentals:
- Savary Island Resort no longer rents out individual rooms. They rent the whole place out (max. 20 guests) for $1000/night for a minimum of three nights.
- The Castle, which truly looks like a wooden fortress, offers bunk beds and cheap private rooms, according to their website
- Airbnb has the widest selection
- If you’ve never used Airbnb before, first of all, it’s about time! Secondly, use this link to save $45 on your first stay.
- If you’re anti-Airbnb, check out this list of cottages for rent on the island maintained by Savary.ca.
Things to Do on Savary Island
Whole cottages have been built and decorated with the colorful collections of shells, stones, and driftwood you can find while combing Savary’s beaches.
You’ll need to buy a license at the Lund Store or online
Wherever you stay, they’ll probably have kayaks for you to borrow. If not, a friendly neighbor is sure to have one they can lend you.
Biking is the best way to get around Savary Island. You can bring your own biks ($2 extra for the water taxi) or rent one for $20 a day from the shop up the hill west of the wharf.
Walk the trails, many of which are in the protected center of the island (see Map above), and wander the beaches and sand dunes.
You’re guaranteed to see plenty of eagles, deer, snakes (not dangerous at all), seals. Keep your eyes out for whales, porpoises, otters, and sea lions too.
Pick up some souvenirs and artisanal goodies at the Savary Island Farmers Market (Facebook page). It’s every Tuesday in July and August from 11 a.m to 1 p.m.
Attend a dinner club
Make some new friends and take a night off cooking for yourself by going to the Savary Island Dinner Club at Savary Sands Cottage.
Five of us collected 469 clams in less than twenty minutes this year. Then we ate them in chowders and pastas.
Edit: Gail points out in the comments that there’s a daily limit of 75 clams per person before you need a fishing permit. You’ve been warned! And please don’t tell on us.
If you’re looking for a good book to read, tell Chris what you’re looking for in the comments and he’ll happily suggest something.
Play cards and board games
They’re way better than video games.
Listen to Cortes Radio
Neighboring Cortes Island may only have 1,000 residents, but it has its own radio station. The music is eclectic and the DJs are exactly what you’d expect from a tiny radio station.
Watch the sunset
The sunsets from the western end of the island are particularly beautiful.
Do a beach workout
Use nature’s gym to do unusual terrain-ing, one of our seven tips to stay fit while traveling.
Or play ping pong.
All tennis players are familiar with clay courts, grass courts, and hard courts. But wooden courts? Only on Savary.
Cook and eat with family and friends
When we go up with friends, each couple is in charge of one meal.
Reacquaint yourself with a Canadian pastime.
Do a triathlon
Now in its 18th year, The Savary Island Triathlon is more like a you-don’t-have-to-“Tri”-to-hard-athlon. It’s fun-for-all-levels “race” held towards the end of July that raises funds for the volunteer fire department.
Disconnect and reconnect.
Other Savary Island Guides:
- The Guide to Savary Island by HikesNearVancouver.ca is wonderful
- Savary.ca, run by a local realtor, is charmingly ill-formatted, but it is up-to-date and has a good listing of B&Bs and rentals.
- Let us know what other resources you’ve found helpful and we’ll update this list accordingly!
Life Away from Savary
Eventually, you’ll have to leave Savary and return to civilization. To diminish the despair (slightly), here are some ideas for things to look forward to back in our hometown of Vancouver:
- Our first-time visitors’ guide to Vancouver will get you acquainted with our hometown
- Vancouver travel tips that answer your questions before you ask them
- Our favorite non-touristy things to do in Vancouver
- A non-negotiable list of seven things everyone must do in Vancouver in the summer
- Eight only-in-Vancouver dining experiences (some of which even lifelong Vancouverites don’t know about)
- The best ice cream / gelato and the best California roll sushi (it was invented here) in the city
- A guide to all the Vancouver beaches (some of which are great for doing rock workouts)
- A couple of our favorite off-the-beaten-path hikes nearby Vancouver: Anvil Island and Brandywine Meadows.