Departing Roche Harbor on San Juan Island, we made our way across Haro Strait into Canadian waters and cleared customs in Sidney on Vancouver Island. After clearing customs, we headed for Port Browning on North Pender Island to check out the reported dock improvements and discovered some surprises and creative island hospitality.
We needed to replenish the galley with fruits and vegetables so we walked the short half-mile trek to Driftwood Centre to pick up groceries at the well-stocked Tru-Value Foods, and to buy baked goods from the Vanilla Leaf Bakery. The baked goods and artisan breads, by the way, are excellent. When paying for our groceries, we learned that the store will give you a ride back to the marina with purchases of 25 dollars or more.
We opted to walk back to the marina with our bags in-hand and paused at a bench near the entrance to Driftwood Centre. We were surprise when cars coming by kept stopping to ask if we wanted a ride. We soon realized we were standing next to a sign that read “Car Stop” with a cute poem that explained everything. These “car stops” are found all around North and South Pender Islands, where willing locals stop to offer those on foot a ride. You don’t have to accept the ride of course; but according to the poem, locals consider it a gift. For boaters, these “car stops” open up new possibilities to explore the islands. You can pick up an Island map at most Pender marinas; the green dots on the map show where all of the “car stops” are located.
Island hospitality seems to extend to dogs as well. We found an outdoor complimentary dog wash facility at Driftwood Centre. You enter through a cute gate into a gazebo-style structure, where a large stainless tub and hi-tech facet awaits. There is even a nice ramp up to the tub for the larger dogs that are harder to lift; now that’s what I call creative island service.
Other surprises included the grand-old Victorian home just up the paved road from Port Browning Marina, the Nosy Point B&B is a nice overnight option for those who may want to find their land legs again. Or if you would like to take in a movie with friends and locals, you can now do that at Port Browning Marina. Bridgeman’s Bistro, which serves food and drink on Saturdays and Sundays, becomes The Kraken Theatre on weekdays, showing classic movies; see thekrakentheatre.com for the latest schedule. A dinner before the movie can be had at the adjacent Port Browning Pub, which is open daily year-round and is a local favorite.
For more island fun, you won’t want to miss the award-winning Sea Star Vineyards winery located 1.4 miles (2.25 km) northeast of Port Browning Marina on Harbour Hill Dr. off of Razor Point Road (yes, there are “car stops” along the way). The winery is open for tastings from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through June, and open Thursday through Monday during the months of July and August. The “Island Time” food truck is on the winery premises to offer snacks and lunch items in the licensed picnic area. During the peak cruising season, the marina provides transportation to the winery for a nominal fee. Situated in a park-like setting, the winery hosts special events like art exhibits, plays, and music concerts. On the way to the winery, you will pass the Twin Island Cider company at the corner of Razor Point Road and Lupin Road, another worthwhile stop; cider tastings are available on Saturdays and Sundays from noon until 4 p.m. in the off season, and open Wednesday through Sunday during the summer months.
Boaters may be asking “but what about the docks at Port Browning Marina?” Yes, we found surprises there too. The main dock has been replaced along with a few finger piers; there are plans to replace the rest of the fingers in late 2019. Boaters will also find a 300-foot concrete wave-attenuator has been added near the entrance to the marina, immediately west of red buoy U52, which marks shoaling and rocks. When entering the marina, boaters should favor the wave-attenuator side of the channel. New power stations have been installed and plumbing put in for water at the docks; water, however, is not yet available.
With all of the ongoing improvements at Port Browning Marina and the many delightful activities in the area, Port Browning is fast becoming a major boating destination.