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Market Insights - BC Waterfront Real Estate

There are a lot of "how-to" articles online that regurgitate the same advice about real estate related topics such as getting a good mortgage or prepping your home for the market. While those things are obviously very important, we want to write articles that are enlightening and valuable for visitors to our site. Rather than write about the same-old, same-old, we endeavour to create interesting and compelling articles specifically for people interested in (BC) waterfront real estate.

Thanks for reading.
Sharleen Kneeland
Publisher, Waterfront West

Living in Lake Cowichan - Your Guide to Life, Work and Real Estate in "Vancouver Island's Best Kept Secret"

Today, it is exceedingly rare to find a peaceful lakefront town that is close to larger cities, offers proximity to shopping, recreation, and healthcare, and is still relatively uncrowded and affordable. Perhaps this is why Lake Cowichan has been named "Vancouver Island's Best Kept Secret" by locals.



Cowichan Lake Aerial View


Cowichan Lake, known as "B.C.'s second most pristine lake" according to Wikipedia,  is situated midway between Victoria and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. It is a large freshwater lake and was formerly an integral part of the once thriving logging industry in the Cowichan Valley. Logging companies still own much of the land surrounding the lake; however, the mills closed long ago and bit by bit, small parcels are being sold off. Today,  new development is focused more on the recreational opportunities offered by lakefront living than the potential profits from the lumber surrounding the lake."


"Set in one of Vancouver Island’s sunniest valleys, this area boasts the highest average annual temperature in Canada."

 Gordon Bay Provincial Park Website


There are several communities located on Cowichan Lake including Mesachie Lake and Honeymoon Bay, along the south side, and Youbou on the north side. The largest town on the lake; Lake Cowichan, is located on the eastern shore. With a population just under 3,000, Lake Cowichan's location and natural beauty, combined with its proximity to essential services, are making it an increasingly popular,  though still "off-the-beaten-path" retirement and second home destination. 



The location of Lake Cowichan, as seen in relation to Victoria and Nanaimo.


Our member agents and area experts, Sandy Stinson and Pat Duringer, have both lived in Lake Cowichan since the days when the mills were still running and have experienced all of the changes that are coming with the new focus on recreation and tourism in the area. We recently had the chance to talk to Sandy and Pat about real estate on the lake and what it's like to live in this quiet community.


To find out more, check out our Q&A with Sandy and Pat below: 


w160h120.jpgSandy has lived and worked in Lake Cowichan for many years, which included raising a family of four and working in property management. She has decades of experience in real estate. She was licensed back in 1993, and since then, her life has revolved around real estate. Sandy is also an "eco-broker" and tiny house enthusiast.

Sandy Stinson, Owner & Broker, RE/MAX Lake Cowichan



1. How is the current market and what is the average price of a typical single-family dwelling, lot or waterfront property in the area?


The market is fantastic right now. We have had our best year since 2007 this year and are even experiencing a lack of inventory currently. The waterfront market is hot and well-priced properties are selling right away.




In addition to developers, who are just beginning to see the tourism and retirement potential of the area, Sunfest has put us on the map. Sunfest is a family friendly annual country music festival started by a local entrepreneur.  He purchased a 170-acre parcel and built a world class amphitheater for the arts on it. Sunfest has hosted big name headliners such as Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, and Tim McGraw so this has brought an influx of new people to discover the area each year.


Lake Cowichan Area Real Estate Statistics (as of Nov. 2016)


Single-Family Dwelling

• Average List  Price  

$291, 205

Average Sales Price  

$281, 302



• Average List  Price  

$123, 055

Average Sales Price  

$111, 412


Waterfront Single Family Dwelling

• Average List  Price  

$734, 705

• Average Sale  Price  

$692, 502


Waterfront Lot

• Average List  Price  

$383, 133

• Average Sale  Price  

$360, 833



2. Can you tell us a bit about demographics? What is the typical profile of someone who lives in Lake Cowichan year-round and where do buyers originate?


The Vancouver market pushes the Victoria market, and the Victoria market pushes people in our direction, so most of our buyers are retirees from Vancouver or Victoria; however, we still see a lot of Albertans, despite the downturn in the oil industry. We also have the occasional American who chooses to move and settle or invest here.



Rainbow across the water in this picturesque retirement community.


The community is a mixed bag of different types of people. We have a lot of younger retirees who are still very active and into the farm to table movement. They have moved here to take advantage of the excellent growing conditions and create rural homesteads to grow organic fruits and vegetables. Interestingly, there are also a lot of new wineries popping up in the Cowichan Valley, with 15+ tasting rooms in the area

We also have quite a few buyers from other areas of the island that are purchasing second homes or vacation homes here. 



Pristine and peaceful, Lake Cowichan makes a great second home spot for islanders looking to escape the city.


Densification is just starting to happen with the recent introduction of the area's largest development, Woodland Shores. There is also a growing group of tiny house enthusiasts here who have large yards and small living spaces.


 3. What type of jobs are available for people who live in Lake Cowichan and the surrounding areas year-round?


While we have many retirees, there are also people here who work year-round. Some work in the service industry, while others are professionals and they either commute to Nanaimo, have small local practices or work from home and online. The drive to Nanaimo is generally under an hour and is predominantly flat highway driving, so it's faster than going over the Malahat to Victoria. 


4. What are the most sought-after waterfront neighbourhoods in the area?


The most sought after area for lakefront is probably the sunny side of Lake Cowichan up to Youbou, including Spring Beach. This area is popular because it gets the late afternoon sun. Honeymoon Bay, on the other side of the lake, is also popular and has some upscale properties and expensive waterfronts. Properties with existing homes are also sought-after because you can own right out into the lake, whereas for new development, there is a new 90FT riparian setback. 



This pristine lakefront home, located in Youbou, includes direct lake access, your own dock, and an upscale 3-bedroom home for only $775, 000.


Cowichan Lake is a warm swimming lake and the are is said to have excellent feng-shui due to the positioning of the mountain. I was told by a geologist once that the marble composition of the mountain also helps retain the heat of the lake. This warm weather makes lakefront a hot commodity for people looking to buy here for recreation. 


5. What are the medical and elder support options in the area?


While we have a clinic here, one of the great things about our area is that we are also so close to major medical facilities in Duncan.  Duncan has a full hospital with emergency services, and a brand new hospital is in the works too. We have emergency service in Lake Cowichan and can get to the hospital quickly as it's only about 30 km from here. 


 6. What about educational facilities? 


We have both an elementary (K-3) and an intermediate/high school here (grades 4-7/8-12). The elementary school is right next to a salmon bearing stream, and the school is responsible for partial stewardship of it. This setup provides the students with a great opportunity to learn about nature firsthand.

We are also close to am few prestigious private schools including Queen Margaret's in Duncan and Brentwood College in Mill Bay. 


7. What do people do for fun?


Besides gardening, which is very popular here, of course, there are a plethora of other outdoor activities to enjoy. The lake offers great fishing (trout), windsurfing, paddleboarding, houseboats (in summer) and even sailing. Quadding and hiking are also very popular as there are a lot of trails here. Finally, the Cowichan River runs right through the town of Lake Cowichan, and tubing is very popular in the summer.



Loads of trails surround the lake with many opportunities for biking, quadding or hiking.


Gordon Bay Provinciial Park is a favourite spot for camping and swimming at the sandy beach. 

We are also very close to the ocean and salt water activities like salmon fishing, crabbing, sailing and more. With Cowichan Bay and Mill Bay to the west and Port Renfrew to the east, we can access it from either direction.

We have a local ice rink for skating, hockey, Lacrosse, Curling and the like, but we are also close to excellent recreational facilities and team sports opportunities in Duncan.


8. Are there grocery and shopping options close to Lake Cowichan?


Yes, we have a local Country Grocer and pharmacy which supply all of the basics. We also have a wonderful local Farmer's Market. Besides that, it's just a hop, skip and a jump to the larger cities with the big box stores. 


9. What is your favourite thing about the area?


The area is drop dead gorgeous. It's close to the major cities but is still a small town with the small town vibe and tight-knit community. We can be at the ocean, lake or mountains within thirty minutes. 


w160h120-1.jpgPat has lived and worked in Lake Cowichan for 20 years. She has worked in both property management and real estate sales, and she loves the tight-knit and welcoming community along with all of the recreational opportunities the lake offers.



Pat Duringer - Realtor, RE/MAX Lake Cowichan


1. How long have you lived in Lake Cowichan and what drew you here?


I moved to the Lake Cowichan from Duncan 20 years ago to work with Sandy. We have been working together for 20 years, and we make a great team. Originally, I was in property management, but now I do both property management and real estate sales.


2. What is your favourite thing about the area?


I love the outdoor opportunities. My husband loves to fish, and he can fish for trout with his down rigger because the lake is deep. I swim almost every day in the summer, and we live right on the water, so it's very convenient to access all of the recreational activities the lake offers.



A sandy beach, privacy, and warm water swimming: A perfect combination for summer fun.


My other favourite thing is the people. The community is very welcoming and friendly, and everyone knows each other. With my current position, I can say that I know almost everyone who has moved here in the last 17 years, which I love!



So the verdict is in: with a superb climate, a plethora of outdoor opportunities, a tight-knit community and easy access to medical services, shopping and recreation facilities, Lake Cowichan remains an affordable escape and retirement destination...for now. 


Based on all of these benefits, it should be interesting to see just how long it will remain "Vancouver Island's Best Kept Secret." 




23125 Hits

Hot Vancouver Real Estate Market Creates Ripple Effect in Smaller Communities


Homes are selling like hot cakes in many areas within a few hours of Vancouver.

Back in January, we noticed an uptick in the number of buyers registering on our site. This was an early sign of things to come. It's no secret that real estate in many areas of British Columbia is hot right now. In the last few weeks, we have spoken to Realtors all around the province and many are reporting bidding wars, fast sales, and eager buyers. Much of the invigorated market is in areas within a few hours reach of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. Some areas further East, like the Kootenays and Shuswap have picked up as well but are quiet in comparison. 

In Vancouver, super low interest rates , combined with a very tight rental market and pressure from foreign investment have led to skyrocketing housing prices. A mini-exodus of young families and retirees to outlying areas of B.C. has ensued. Our member agents are seeing Vancouver homeowners cashing out and first-time buyers moving to areas where real estate is more affordable such as the Fraser Valley, communities on Vancouver Island including Victoria, Parksville and the Comox Valley, and the Gulf Islands.  

In some of these communities, the already brisk real estate market conditions, plus this added pressure from former Vancouverites has pushed housing sales to almost frenzied levels. Moreover, transplanted Vancouverites are accustomed to a very competitive market and are more at ease with aggressive buying strategies including subject free and over asking offers. These strategies, combined with low listing inventories has created a scarcity, which is, in turn, driving prices up.

It's not just native British Columbians that are looking outside of Vancouver for real estate. While Germans and British investors have long been a market for B.C. recreational real estate, we are starting to hear anecdotal reports of increasing numbers of Chinese investors purchasing larger plots of land, small businesses and residential and recreational properties in these smaller communities. Finally, the low Canadian dollar, combined with the "Trump Effect" also has US buyers looking North for real estate again, putting even more pressure on the market.

The chart below, provided with stats courtesy of Landcor Data Corporation, shows the year over year price gains for single-family dwellings January - April 2015 to January-April 2016 in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island. A notable fact is that the highest sale price for a Metro Vancouver single family home in this time frame was a whopping $31, 100, 000, whereas on Vancouver Island, the highest sale price was a mere $5, 285, 714 (!)

b2ap3_thumbnail_Screen-Shot-2016-06-17-at-12.53.40-PM.pngAverage SFD price Jan-April 2015 vs. Jan-April 2016. Metro Vancouver & Vancouver Island.

Victoria, in particular, seems to be a spillover area for Vancouver buyers, with one agent reporting that her last four sales were all to middle age Vancouver couples with young children making the move. In their June market summary, the Greater Victoria Real Estate Association reports:

"A total of 1,289 properties sold in the Victoria Real Estate Board region this May, an increase of 42.4 percent compared to the 905 properties sold in the same month last year.

Inventory levels remain lower than the previous year, with 2,406 active listings for sale on the Victoria Real Estate Board Multiple Listing Service® at the end of May, 40.5 percent fewer than the 4,043 active listings at the end of May 2015.

“These are very interesting times in local real estate,” notes Mike Nugent, 2016 President of the Board. “The market we are experiencing has exceeded our expectations. There are influences in the marketplace that we do not fully understand yet, like the impact of out-of-town buyers and millennials moving into the market, and the seemingly sudden international attention our island city has started to receive. And some folks may be buying now because they are concerned that the market is going to continue to increase in value. Traditionally spring is the most active season for real estate, so it will be interesting to see if this feverish pace continues into the summer months.” The Multiple Listing Service® Home Price Index benchmark."


This chart, showing the decline in listings in Victoria, tells the story in a nutshell.

Chart courtesy of Greater Victoria Real Estate Board.

If we take the Comox Valley as another example, Kutyn Appraisals reports that the sell to list ratio for May 2016 was 103 percent and the month to month comparison figures (May '15 over May '16) show price increases in the double digits. The challenge right now, according to one agent I spoke to here, is trying to get listings. She mentioned that people are afraid to sell because they are scared they won't be able to find anywhere to live.

Judging by the chart and statistics above, these concerns are valid. With the housing market so hot, many potential sellers might consider renting as an option; however, rental markets in some of these areas are equally as hot. With investors cashing in on long term holding properties, there are fewer options for potential tenants. The existence of AirBnB is also being cited as a factor in making rentals increasingly difficult to come by, especially in larger cities like Vancouver and Victoria. Having been a landlord for over 10 years in the Comox Valley, I can personally attest to the tight rental market. I have never seen so many eager and well-qualified people desperate to find a rental. After having to turn away some excellent potential tenants, I only wish I had more units to rent.

Our conclusion: If you already own real estate in one of these busy markets and are thinking of selling, it's a great time to list your property; however, make sure you have another place to rent or purchase when you sign the documents.

Late News: According to one article we read recently, the Vancouver market MAY be cooling ever so slightly due to increased government regulations taking hold; however, we are not holding our breath on that one. It could be just because people are afraid to sell for lack of housing inventory.


© Waterfront West Real Estate

10450 Hits

Life & Real Estate on Denman Island: A Haven of Beaches, Bees & Butterflies

When my husband and I first moved to the Comox Valley twelve years ago, my father-in-law had just purchased a waterfront acreage on Denman Island. The five-acre property was well-treed and the house itself (a vacant "fixer-upper") was situated in a sunny picturesque glade at the end of a long driveway. The true highlight of the property, however, was its location on Morrison Marsh, which gave it both privacy and unparalleled access to mother nature.


b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_8990.jpgOur private, sunny retreat in the forest on Denman Island. 


My father in-law immediately began the work of bringing the property back to its glory. He fixed up the interior of the home, cleared some land, built a chicken coop and then planted an organic vegetable garden. When we visited, we enjoyed taking it all in. Even coming from Courtenay, it felt like a real getaway from the city. We would sit by the garden on the sun-dappled patio, enjoying the buzz of hummingbird wings as they zoomed past or venture out to canoe on the marsh, where we would see a wide range of wild birds and even a beaver dam or two. It was the perfect retreat: A private and peaceful homestead with bountiful gardens, in a close knit community of creative and conservation minded people. The ability to enjoy this type of lifestyle is a large part of what makes Denman Island such a popular place for the influx of young urban homesteaders and active retirees moving there today.


b2ap3_thumbnail_lonepine.jpgLone Pine Farm, Denman Island: Rich in agricultural history, Denman Island is popular with young families involved in the clean food movement. 


If you are considering moving to one of the Gulf Islands, you are probably aware that each island has its own vibe. While neighbouring Hornby Island is known as a popular tourism destination, Denman keeps a low profile when it comes to tourism (according to a recent study, 85% of visitors to Denman are friends and family of residents). Denman enjoys hugely diverse settings of natural beauty with many forests and endless beaches that surround this long and narrow shaped island made up from a range of different geological substrates. The defining features that draw people to Denman (apart from being one ferry ride less than going to Hornby) are its rich agricultural history, pristine swimming lakes, and a year round active and vibrant community. Life on Denman is like stepping back into an era when time moved slower. It truly is a “slow island” and young and older newcomers alike have moved to Denman to enjoy a safe and peaceful place so “close to everything, but away from it all”.

b2ap3_thumbnail_imgres.jpgI recently spoke to our member agent and area real estate expert Bente Pilgaard, Managing Broker of RE/MAX The Islands, the longest serving real estate office on Denman Island,  about what it's like to live and work here.  I found out some very interesting facts about the island and its current real estate market.

To find out more, check out our Q&A with Bente below: 


1. What is the average price of a typical single family dwelling, lot or waterfront property on Denman?


The big market news for 2016 is that the market is showing signs of recovery after a slow 7 year period with about 2 sales/month average in the last 3 years. So far this year 11 properties have already sold, and we have seen a large increase in inquiries and office drop-ins here at RE/MAX. Offers are being written at near asking price and the island market has a great selection of still well priced properties for sale with its total 82 listings of accumulated inventory.  


Denman Island Real Estate Statistics for 2015

TOTAL SOLD 2015:    23  (lots and single family dwellings)

Average Sales price – Non waterfront

12 SFD $359,833

4 LOTS  $168,000  

Average Sales Price – Waterfront

7 SFD $620,623 
No waterfront lots sold in 2015. 


Denman Island Real Estate Statistics for 2016 

TOTAL SOLD  (As of May 1, 2016):    11  (lots and single family dwellings)

Average Sales price – Non waterfront

7 SFD $349,940

Average Sales price – Waterfront

3 SFD $721,333 

1 LOT  $286,000  


b2ap3_thumbnail_DSCN5703.jpgSpectacular ocean views at sunset from Denman Island. 


2. Can you tell us a bit about demographics? What is the typical profile of someone who lives on Denman year-round and where are buyers from?


Denman Island is home to 1100 full time residents of still active professionals, young and old farmers, IT consultants with a portable career, artists and retirees together forming a very robust community of old timers, newcomers and everything in between.

Located in the rain shadow of the Beaufort Mountain Range on Vancouver Island, Denman Island enjoys optimal conditions for gardening and growing food; some areas even have a Mediterranean style climate to support a more exotic range of crops like peaches and kiwis. In recent years we have seen many young families settling here to start small organic farms as their way of life and to support the local food security movement so rapidly developing in this fertile coastal area of BC. A great effect of this is the growing school population so welcomed after many years of declining numbers of students in our once 120 school children strong community school.


b2ap3_thumbnail_Chickadee-Lake.jpgChickadee Lake is part of Denman Island's large watershed and a popular summer swimming destination.


A large segment of our community are retired professionals, who are very active in the conservation efforts on the island. In 2002, 5% of the island was under protection, but today 25% of it has been set aside for conservation due to the tireless efforts of the Denman Conservancy Association as well as a local family, who recently organized 2000 acres of the island to be put under protection.  1700 acres of these form the new Denman Island Provincial Park surrounding Chickadee Lake near the Northlands.  

There is a lot of work being done in other conservation projects as well. Local volunteers have already built kilometres of beautiful trails in some of these park areas for all hikers and cyclists to enjoy for many years to come with more being planned every year. Outdoor pursuits are a common thread in island living on Denman with its abundance of recreational opportunities. Also, it was recently discovered that the island is home to a special kind of rare butterfly called the Taylor Checkerspot and now 10 hectares of parkland have been dedicated to develop the population and encourage breeding.


b2ap3_thumbnail_800px-Taylor_checkerspot_butterfly_on_yellowish_flower_euphydryas_editha_taylori.jpgDenman is home to this rare butterfly the Taylor Checkerspot and conservation efforts are in place to encourage breeding. Photo: Wikipedia Commons


Island living is not for everyone, but once settled in here on Denman, perhaps as a renter at first, many people find that this unique island becomes a truly meaningful place to call your home, a place where you belong and can make significant contributions to your community.  With today’s options of portable careers, and due to the advances in internet mobility, a fixed work place is no longer a necessity.  

For those looking to purchase here, our buyers are mostly coming from BC’s urban centres like Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver, with a growing number of US buyers taking advantage of their strong US dollar.  Albertan buyers are returning to Denman after many years of absence. They all share a desire to escape the hustle and bustle of city life with its noise and pollution, and to simplify their lives whether full time or part time. We see a lot of doers and dreamers, empty nesters and young idealists, Intellectuals and business people all here mixing and contributing to a multi-faceted fabric of island character, so easy to fall in love with.


3. What type of jobs are available for people who live on Denman year-round?


Traditional employment opportunities are scattered throughout the island. The ferries, the school, and the shops all employ a number of locals. As with many small communities, a good number of people are self-employed. Tradespeople, home support workers, consultants, and craftspeople, and the aforementioned farmers, form a large part of the work force. Those with IT experience are able to telecommute, though the proximity of Courtenay allows for a more traditional commute to a larger range of opportunities in virtually any industry.  


4. What are the popular waterfront neighbourhoods and beaches on Denman?



In the area around Fillongley Provincial Park, which features Denman Island’s only campground and main sandy beach, there are an extremely limited number of homes on ½ acre lots. This neighbourhood has a pronounced family-friendly feeling. 


The Northlands (THE POINT and THE PARKLANDS) 

At the north end of the Island is The Point Project, an 8 lot development with some newly built homes along the Komas Bluffs (3 large lots unsold), and just a little further south, the Parklands Project offers 13 new lots on sweeping acreages of recovering forest, having been logged 15 years ago.  Due to covenants protecting the area’s sand-dune ecosystem, including the bluff forest, people access the beach through a set of sturdy stairs at Morning Beach Park, another of Denman Island’s sandy, well-kept secrets. Largely undeveloped, this area is ideal for those seeking sweet isolation, but not too far from the village.


b2ap3_thumbnail_ArrowsmithAerialPhotography_Lot-7-10.jpgSand Bluffs at The Point / Morning Beach Park, Denman Island.


East Rd and “Little Burnaby” 

Anyone who has ever travelled to Denman’s sister island, Hornby, has passed through this charming area of homes on their way to the ferry. In reality, the area bears no resemblance to Burnaby, but is so nicknamed because of the denser population on smaller lot sizes relative to the rest of the island, typically around ½ acre.  Homes range from modest seasonal cottages to deluxe designer show homes, and the advantages of living in the area include an abundant water system, and close-knit community, a “talk-to-your-neighbours-over-the-fence” kind of feel. Prices of homes in this area tend to be lower, as they reflect the smaller property sizes.  


b2ap3_thumbnail_Lot-6-2.jpgThe area nicknamed "Little Burnaby" on Denman.


The West Side  

The West side of the island is all about watching the sun set over the Vancouver Island mountains. Beaches along this side might be shale or crushed oyster shell, pebble or fossil-studded rocky coastlines. With large acreages and warmer microclimates, this area lends itself very well to gardeners and hobby farmers alike.  Several waterfront homes are available here in all price brackets, some with brand new deluxe homes.


Boyle Point and South of the Hornby Ferry 

Further along East Rd, beyond the Hornby Ferry and on the way to Boyle Point Provincial Park, the road turns to gravel and one enters a forested area. With larger acreages, virtually no traffic, and houses set back from the road amidst the trees, it is sometimes difficult to believe anyone lives here. A few pebbled beaches are interspersed with rocky coves and calm swimming waters overlooking spectacular sunrises and views to Hornby Island.   


“Downtown” Denman 

Within walking distance of downtown Denman are properties ideal for retirees, with easy access to shops, the library, community hall, restaurants and the medical clinic. Virtually all homes in this area are located on moderate-sized, low-maintenance lots, and residents can enjoy the bustle of both pedestrian and marine traffic in the area. 


b2ap3_thumbnail_Nixon-beach-2.jpgLocated on the West Side of Denman not far from downtown, Nixon Beach features stunning sunsets overlooking the ocean & Vancouver Island.


5. What are the medical and elder support options on the island?


Denman Island has a full-service medical clinic with Doctors on call. The nearest hospital is 30 minutes away in Courtenay, and well-trained paramedics and first responders are available 24-7 in the event of an emergency.  

We have a very high profile dentist (a reconstructive surgery expert) who runs the dental bus between Denman and Hornby Islands.

A large number of other health professionals, including a Registered Massage Therapist, and an Acupuncturist and Dr. of Traditional Chinese Medicine, make their home and practice here, and excellent home support services are available to the island’s elders.


6. What about educational facilities? 


Denman Island Community School serves grades k-7, and high school students are taken by bus to Vanier in Courtenay. Many adults of all ages choose to further their education at North Island College in Courtenay, a short commute from Denman.  There is also a pre-school on the island. 


7. What do kids do for fun?


As in most waterfront communities in the summer, kids can be found playing in the water and along the shore of Denman’s many beaches and two lakes. The playground is a popular stop for local and visiting children, and the easy access to trails and parks arounds the island offers endless opportunities for nature walks.


b2ap3_thumbnail_DSCN7613.jpgResidents of Denman can choose from a multitude of water based activities in summer.


The Community School is the centre for children’s activities on the island.  It offers a number of after-school, evening and summertime activities including team sports, self-defence, crafts, and day camp. On Friday Nights, the school is dedicated to the very popular Teen Night. A couple of adult facilitators and our youth outreach worker help to organize a series of free-choice activities – the computer lab, gym, multi-purpose room are all available for sports, art activities, and cards or other games.  

The proximity of Courtenay/Comox means that high school aged children can participate in after school sports, band, and other extracurricular activities.  It also means that the movie theatre, swimming pools, and ice rink are available for child and youth enjoyment. 


8. How do you find living on the island and what are the transport options to Vancouver Island?


When I first moved to Denman, I knew it would be a big change from city living and I kept commuting to Vancouver for my semesters teaching at Emily Carr University. I spent 4 days in the city and 3 days a week on Denman until I realized that the island had everything I could ever want or need. 


b2ap3_thumbnail_Screen-Shot-2016-05-12-at-12.58.17-PM.pngThe Denman Village Square in downtown Denman.


Activities abound on Denman. Culturally, Denman is a hopping place with a summer art gallery series and a concert series year-round. Locals in the know might be able to direct you to a house concert. In addition to outdoor activities such as hiking swimming or kayaking, residents keep active throughout the year by community organized Nia, badminton, or Sunday Soccer. 

For foodies, Denman offers three great eateries. The Café-Pourium, located in a cozy vintage nook in the back of the Hardware Emporium, offers great espresso drinks and light lunches. The café at the Guesthouse often features live music, art openings, and other evening events, while the seasonal Chuck Wagon can simply not be beat for alfresco burgers with an ocean view. 

There is a General Store for food and other necessities, the Hardware Emporium for building and gardening needs, and Abraxas supplies books, stationery, gifts and art supplies.

We have the ability to take a 10-minute ferry ride to the white beaches on Hornby for summer fun and Friday Jazz nights, or a 10 minute ferry ride in the opposite direction to Vancouver Island (approximately $20 return trip with discount card). The ferry runs almost hourly, from 6:40 am until 9:45 at night, so the access is one of the best in all the Gulf Islands.  

Today, a day in town is a fun outing, but not a necessity.

A hard place to leave once you are here” says Bente. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_2931-1.jpg"Tree" Island Paradise, Just off of Denman Island. 


I will leave you with one other little known Denman Island gem. The Provincial Marine Park named Sandy Island (locally known as Tree Island) is located just off of the northwest tip of the island. At low tide, you can walk miles of sandy beach to get to this amazing little paradise. There is a beautiful community built staircase from Morning Tree Park which has made the area more accessible to locals and the public. 

Thanks to Bente for all of her information and fabulous photos.

18132 Hits

Considering Real Estate on Hornby Island? Find Out What Makes it More than Just a Summer Retreat

When you think of Hornby Island, British Columbia, images of white sand beaches, clear blue warm waters, summer sunsets and artsy studios might flash across your mind. At least that's what comes to my mind when I think back to our last vacation there several years ago.

We rented a fantastic waterfront cabin with three separate funky caravan type rooms and an expansive ocean view deck. From this amazing spot at Phipps Point, we enjoyed Hornby on a quiet weekend in May. It was the perfect weekend escape: The weather was just warm enough to suntan on the local beaches and enjoy a soak in the outdoor bathtub; but the summer crowds had yet to arrive. We got a really good sense of how Hornby feels in the off-season, when the locals get this little paradise all to themselves.



Our little guy enjoying the outdoor bath at our Hornby Island vacation rental.


Like us, many people flock to Hornby Island in the summer. With its relaxed and funky vibe, tropical feeling beaches, and unusually warm swimming waters, Hornby Island has become a go-to summer destination for many a weary city dweller: So much so, that the population of the island, which is around 1000 people in the off-season, swells to as many as 5000 in the summer. The arrival of summer beach-goers makes accommodations scarce and creates the buzz of energy that many local businesses owners depend on to enable them to live in this utopia year-round. 



Popular Tribune Bay in Summer- Almost feels like Hawaii!


For long-time Hornby residents Donna Tuele and her husband Ron,  moving to Hornby in 1999 was a conscious lifestyle choice. Before their move, Donna and Ron lived on remote Morseby Island in the Queen Charlottes. Having worked for B.C. ferries for several years, Ron was offered the opportunity of moving and with two small children about to start school, the couple jumped at the chance to be closer to family. 

Donna and Ron loved the close-knit community on Moresby, so they made a specific choice to settle down in a similar type of community. Their main criteria for a new place to live were as follows:


  • Natural beauty & opportunity for outdoor activities.
  • Geographically defined, close-knit community.
  • Great elementary school.


With outstanding parks, ocean & mountain vistas, majestic cliffs and white sand beaches, Hornby surpassed their criteria for natural beauty. The geography of the island also created a close-knit community and a plethora of outdoor activities to enjoy. If they moved to Hornby, the family would be able to partake in year-round mountain biking at Mount Geoffrey, winter skiing at nearby Mount Washington and almost any type of water activity you can name (except maybe surfing) in the summer. Other activities (including swimming, circus and soccer) were and are still available through organized groups on the island or in nearby Courtenay/Comox. Finally, the community elementary school came highly recommended and the 4-day school week would give them long weekends to enjoy together. After researching several available options, Hornby stood out as the #1 choice for Donna and Ron to raise their family, so they took the plunge and relocated to the island.



A quiet day at Ford's Cove Marina.


b2ap3_thumbnail_551192ca7ee99.jpgToday, Donna is the local area real estate expert and our Hornby waterfront property expert. I recently spoke to Donna about the real estate market on Hornby and what it's like to live there year-round and here are her insights.

Donna Tuele, Resident Hornby Island Realtor



What is the average price of a typical single family dwelling, lot or waterfront property on Hornby? 


The non-waterfront single family home price in 2015 was $339, 504 and 1/2 acre lots averaged $149, 500. Lots larger than 2 acres averaged $354, 125.

For waterfront properties, single family homes averaged $824, 000 and the average price for waterfront lots was $671, 800.


Can you tell us a bit about demographics? What is the typical profile of someone who lives on Hornby year-round and where are buyers from?


The last census said (2011) said the average age was in the low 60's. We have a real variety of great people here: retired CEOs, engineers and even puppeteers. It feels like we have a resurgence of young adults moving to the island and our preschool is bursting at the seams.  The community school is underpopulated, but still provides an amazing place for our kids.  

Buyers currently are coming from Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.  Previously we had large influx of Albertan's and previous to that when the US dollar was strong we had many US buyers, who are starting to pop up again now. 


What type of jobs are available for people who live on Hornby year-round?


Many professionals who move here start their own businesses (ie. counselling, accounting, etc...). The B.C. Ferries and the Co-Op Grocery also provide local jobs. Construction is also going strong on the island, with new builds and or renovations. In addition, we have a vibrant community of artists and musicians who live here year-round.


What are the popular waterfront neighbourhoods and beaches on Hornby?


Popular waterfront areas are Whaling Station & Tribune (boating, swimming, sunbathing, beach activities for all ages). In the summer, you can see in excess of 50 boats anchored in Tribune  - it looks like a city at night. Sandpiper is great for swimming, kayaking, yoga & pilates & Grassy Point has amazing sunsets -  although there are many other great beaches.  Big Tribune is a park, while Little Trib is the clothing optional beach.  A real treasure is swimming in the bioluminescence after a few weeks of sunshine.



In the off-season, locals have places like Whaling Station Beach all to themselves.


We know you have a great community elementary school there, where do kids go after that?


Public school goes to grade 7. Kids are then bussed to the Comox Valley (Vanier). The trip is two hours each way and kids often get a real sense of camaraderie by travelling together each day. 


What about medical & dental facilities?


Hornby has a great clinic with two full time doctors.  The clinic was built 100% by donations and volunteers about 5 years ago. For emergencies, there is a team of first responders on the island and patients can be taken via ambulance or airlifted to St. Josephs's Hospital in Comox.  There is also a new firehall currently being built. We have a mobile dental bus with the dentist residing on Hornby. He covers both Denman and Hornby.  



The Hornby & Denman Island Dental Bus.


Is there any public transport on the island? How much are the ferries to Vancouver Island?


Although there is no public transport, it's easy to ride share or hitch hike on the island.  Most of the locals love giving rides and meeting people or spending time with community members. For the ferries, the best way to save money is with an experience card. These pre-loaded cards give you 38% off of all Gulf Islands BC Ferries sailings, making the return cost for a car and driver to the island around $45 CAD (Winter 2016).


What kind of cultural and sporting activities are available on Hornby?


Hornby has a great musical and artistic community that is very sharing. We have a Blues festival in May, World Music Festival in August, Jazz every Friday night at the Thatch, Celtic Music festival every second year.  Everyone loves music at the bakery weekly in the summer - especially the local Marimba Band.

Hornby is extremely popular for its mountain biking trails on Mount Geoffrey all year round. In the summer we offer a variety of activities from sailing, biking, circus, swimming, soccer... The Hornby Island Outdoor Education Centre has great facilities that students from all over come and use.  In winter, locals enjoy all the natural beauty of Hornby without the crowds - they have the beaches to themselves and enjoy a real sense of community and connectedness you can't find in larger centres.


What is your best local/insider tip about Hornby?


Hornby has amazing trails, whether you are a biker, hiker, runner or horseback rider (that’s me). We have  warm swimming beaches in the summer and beautiful deserted beaches the rest of the year. Helliwell Provincial Park hike is awesome and was at one time on CBS's top 10 in Canada. 



The cliffs at Helliwell Provincial Park - Great trails for hiking and biking.


When asked her favourite thing about living on Hornby, without hesitation Donna says that besides the obvious natural beauty, "the people are amazing treasures." She loves the comfort of knowing everyone on the island and enjoys the inclusive, helpful and friendly attitude of her fellow islanders.

Sixteen years after moving to Hornby, Donna and Ron's children are all grown up. One of their daughters continues to live on Hornby with her young family, while the other one lives in nearby Fanny Bay. The couple are still happily ensconced on the island, celebrating 40 years of marriage this year. Congrats you two!



Hornby Island sunset from our rental cabin at Phipps Point.


I'll finish off this post with a glimpse into our fabulous weekend on Hornby. The photo above is a snapshot of one of our evenings at the cabin. Shortly after this was taken, we watched last rays of the sun set slowly over the ocean and as we sat on the beach taking it all in, we heard the sound of orca whales breaching offshore. Seriously, can life get any better?


 If you have any more questions about Hornby Island Real Estate or waterfront properties for sale on the island, please feel free to contact Donna with any questions. 

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A Little Story About Life, Work & Real Estate in Ucluelet, B.C | PLUS: Your Guide to "Living on the Edge"

Imagine a life "living on the edge" of nature, with boundless outdoor adventure opportunities and the ability to carve out your own self-directed future, free from the constraints and congestion of city life.

That is what Marilyn McEwen and Lance Blackwell envisioned when they decided to move to Ucluelet from Vancouver 18 years ago.

When they arrived, things were not exactly as they had imagined.


Ucluelet Harbour on a Sunny Day.

Back then, the small village, located on the "Wild West Coast" of Vancouver Island and a 1 1/2 hour drive down a long and winding road from the nearest large centre (Port Alberni on Vancouver Island), was known primarily for fishing.

Upon arrival, Marilyn and Lance realized that theirs was the first home sale in the area in 18 months.

To make matters worse, the logging and fishing industries, which had supported the community for many years, were both in decline.

With the exception of the nascent tourism industry in neighbouring Tofino, the future looked uncertain.


Marilyn & Lance in their Scuba Diving Gear.

Marilyn and Lance moved to the area for the lifestyle. At the time, the contrast with big city life took a bit of getting used to, but the trade off of living amid captivating beaches, spectacular old growth forests and the commune with nature was well worth it. With the goal of "working to live", rather than "living to work", they initially secured tourism jobs in Tofino, then quickly started businesses of their own in Ucluelet, and quite frankly, they never looked back.

Eighteen years later, the "Wild West Coast" area is a booming and well-established mecca for tourism, hosting up to 1 million visitors a year; most of whom visit during the high season of June to September. During these summer months, many of the long white sand beaches between Tofino & Ucluelet are dotted with families happily frolicking on the shores, while surfers test their abilities out on the waves.


Surfers test the waves at Long Beach, even in inclement weather!

In the off-season, the area attracts some intrepid foreigners, as well as a healthy dose of British Columbians looking to escape the city for a quick getaway. Winter visitors like to cosy up by a fire or walk the beaches in rain slickers, while watching storms brew over the Pacific Ocean. In March, the hordes start to return again for the Pacific Rim Whale Festival. 

When tourism first took off In Tofino, Ucluelet was seen as the alternate place to stay; a lesser known secret where locals or savvy tourists could retreat from the crowds. In recent years, however, it has become a sought-after destination itself. Development took off with the real estate boom of the early 2000s and the establishment of new neighbourhoods and resorts, including the stunning, contemporary Black Rock Resort (2009), situated on a rocky promontory with magnificent views looking out to the Pacific Ocean. 

Next, the fantastic Wild Pacific Trail finally broke ground. The longtime vision and continuing creation of local oyster fisherman "Oyster Jim," the Wild Pacific Trail is carved out of the rugged shoreline and winds gently along the coast amongst towering firs and cedars, with views of crashing waves, endless ocean and abundant wildlife. Voted TripAdvisor's #2 attraction in British Columbia, the trail is a must see when in the area and definitely bucket list worthy. I have personally hiked the trail twice and will be returning time and time again for the spectacular vistas. Lance, now a well-known producer, director and editor of television and video for the area, and the owner of Long Beach TV, created the video below, to showcase the trail and its natural beauty.


Marilyn, who is now also deeply rooted in the community, grew her business called Aperture Overtures Photography to the point where she shot 100 weddings per year (mainly on the beautiful area beaches) and now keeps busy running the couples' oceanfront resort. As if that is not enough, she is also a newly elected member of the Ucluelet council. She says that she has definitely seen an upswing in recent years, noting that there are very few vacant buildings in the municipality, real estate has gone up substantially, and that rental units for the work force that arrives for the summer is very hard to come by: so much so that all newly built resorts are now required to provide rental units for their staff.

In contrast to what it was like when Marilyn and Lance arrived, Marilyn describes the Ucluelet of today as a lively and hip close-knit community of entrepreneurs and young families. In an area where the average age is 34, she says it is now common to see young mothers stroll along with kids in tow and mentions new small businesses popping up around town. Like Marilyn and Lance, many of these families have chosen to settle in Ucluelet for the lifestyle and the majestic beauty of the area. While many of the small businesses are focused on outdoor pursuits such as surfing and kayaking, Marilyn says that new retailers are also springing up to serve the tourists and the surge of families: coffee shops, clothing stores and more. 

This spectacular semi-oceanfront home, currently listed by our member waterfront expert Dave Koszegi of The Dave Team, is a prime example of the upscale nature of much of the recent development in Ucluelet. 


 Listed at $947, 500 the west coast style log home features high-end finishing and outstanding workmanship.

When asked about any down sides of Ucluelet, Marilyn has little to say. She mentions that crime is not much of an issue, except sometimes during the summer, when you have to keep more of an eye on your gear (bikes, surfboards, etc..) and be a little more wary. She attributes this mainly to the large influx of transient people in the high season. A solution for her only other issue,  lack of a good indoor recreation facility, is already in the works. The Multi-Plex Society has a designated building lot out by the airport (between Tofino and Ucluelet). Phase one, an indoor ice rink, is slated to start next year and phase two will be an indoor pool. 

As for Marilyn and Lance, they are happy with their life in Ucluelet. They have carefully crafted their own successful careers, and just like when they arrived, they continue to be inspired by the raw beauty and splendour of nature that surrounds their home. Today, one of their favourite things to do is take a long walks on the beach with their dogs. "We planned it this way," says Lance.


A beach day on the Wild West Coast.

Want to know more about Ucluelet ("Ukee")?

Check out our fast facts in the guide below.


Your Guide to "Living on the Edge" In Ucluelet:

Fast Facts & Information for 2015-2016



The following real estate statistics are provided courtesy of the waterfront real estate experts at The Dave Team.  

SFD = Single Family Dwelling


SFD 2015

Jan 1, 2015 - Dec 5, 2015: Average sale price $264,500.  

(This does not include ocean view, or waterfront sales or 3 sales of B & B properties as this would skew the results.)



According to MLS stats, the average price for an ocean view home sold this year was $272,500.






460 Marine Drive for $2,298,000.



Highest sale price was in 2007 for an oceanfront home which sold for $1,675,000. 



Commonly misspelled, the word Ucluelet (pronounced you-KLEW-let) is a local First Nations word meaning "safe harbor". Ucluelet’s tagline is “Living on the Edge” which refers to its location on the edge of the Wild Pacific Ocean & Barkley Sound.  




Ucluelet in relation to Vancouver, Victoria & Tofino, Courtesy Google Maps.

Ucluelet is a district municipality with a population of about 1,627 on the Ucluelet Peninsula, on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. 

Located on the western edge of Barkley Sound, the closest city is Port Alberni approximately 100 km to the east. The District of Tofino is 40 km northwest of Ucluelet on Highway 4. Barkley Sound lies southeast of Ucluelet and is a marine area that features the Broken Islands Group unit of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The fishing and scientific research community of Bamfield lies on its farther shore.

In between Tofino and Ucluelet is Long Beach, arguably the most famous beach on Vancouver Island’s West Coast. There are several other fantastic beaches nearby with breathtaking, unforgettable vistas. Many of these beaches also have access to the renowned Wild Pacific Trail. 



Known as a true working harbour, Ucluelet provides the ultimate West Coast experience, with its rugged coastline and abundance of outdoor activities like fishing, surfing, whale watching, kayaking, camping, hiking, storm watching, biking, swimming, and beachcombing. Storm watching has become a major West Coast attraction during the winter months – the perfect opportunity to snuggle up on the couch with a glass of BC wine in hand! Many accommodations offer unique ‘Storm watching’ packages for tourists. 



The West Coast cuisine in Ucluelet is incredible! Try the Floathouse on the Inner Harbor, where you can watch the boats, sea lions, and other marine wildlife as you dine. Those with refined tastes will delight in the artisanal fare offered by Fetch Restaurant in Black Rock Oceanfront Resort 



You can check out a great assortment of waterfront resorts in the area on our sister site, Simply Beachfront. Remember to sign-up for our free Beach Club to get special offers and exclusive deals you see advertised on the site. 

For a list of waterfront accommodations Ucluelet, please click here. 

For oceanfront accommodations in Tofino, please click here.



There are two elementary schools in the area: Wickaninnish Community School in Tofino and Ucluelet Elementary School in Ucluelet. There is one high school in the area, Ucluelet Secondary School. Tofino students are bussed there on weekdays (about a 30 minute drive).



There is a small hospital located in Tofino which serves the area. Local doctors must live within 5 minutes of the hospital for emergency purposes. According to the VIHA website, the hospital offers the following:

  • Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • 10 acute medical inpatient beds 
  • 5 Emergency Room stretchers
  • Physician is on-call to the site
  • TGH offers emergency obstetrics only (expectant mothers go to larger island hospitals for births).
  • Outpatient Ambulatory Care
  • Emergency Department

There is a clinic located in Ucluelet that is open 4 days a week for alternative care.

West Coast General Hospital is a larger facility located in Port Alberni (about a 1 1/2hr drive inland).

For seniors, VIHA also operates an assisted living centre called Forest Glen in Ucluelet.



A small airport, Tofino Ucluelet Airport, is located between Ucluelet & Tofino. There is also the ability to land floatplanes in Ucluelet Harbour.

Travelling by car, you can access it via Highway 4 from Port Alberni. This is a very windy road and winter tires or chains are required Oct-May.

Bus service is provided by Tofino Bus from larger centres on Vancouver Island. 


Do you live in Ucluelet or have anything else to add about the area?

Please feel free to post additional information in the comments.



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