The trail begins at the site of the old Steamer Wharf (1) which was in the area that is now occupied by Dallas Marina, the Government Wharf, BC Ferry dock and Union Steamships Marina. Begin the trail by walking onto the wooden Government Wharf, just to the north of the ferry dock. Based on 1937 map.

  • Aerial photo of Snug Cove in the thirties showing resort and log booms
  • A large steamer, with smoke coming out of the smokestack, tuba-shaped ventilation funnels, small pleasure boats moored at small docks in front.
  • two young women walk on the wide wooden bridge under a sign which reads Bowen Island - Bowen Park Estates - Playgrounds, picnic tables, lawn bowling, summer cottages

Arriving on Bowen

During the Union Steamship glory days as many as 5,000 people were ferried to Bowen Island on the summer weekend. The all-time high of 101,000 visitors was reached in 1946 when Vancouver’s population was still only 365,000.

The Lady Alexander, the pride of the Union Steamship fleet, used to deliver huge crowds of picnic excursions and Moonlight Cruises. She could accommodate up to 1400 people and boasted a formal dining room, comfortable lounges, and a fine maple dance floor. Daytime visitors arrived for concerts in the band shell, refreshments in the tearoom and enormous company picnics at the 6 large picnic grounds. Weekend excitement began with the arrival of the “daddy boats” which were greeted at the dock by wives and children who spent the week vacationing on Bowen.

Another very important presence at the dock were the Sannies, a small fleet of gasoline powered launches that taxied people and small cargo to Bowen year round. The word “Sannie” comes from the name of an Australian race horse. From 1921 to 1954, the Sannie Transportation Company provided an essential service to island residents. Amazingly, the 25 cent fare remained the same for thirty years.

Looking north, the remains of a stone retaining wall can be seen, on the left shore at the water’s edge. A pathway led up from the wharf, across a sloping lawn, to the tearoom and dance pavilion. The tearoom stood roughly where the brown house stands now.

The Dance Pavilion

In its day, the Bowen dance pavilion was the largest dance hall in British Columbia. Built in 1921, the octagonal building boasted a polished, hardwood, spring floor (designed to give more bounce) with a raised dais for the bandstand. It could dance 800 couples and featured some of the big bands with leaders such as Frank Scott, Barney Potts, Dal Richards and Frank Bolney.

On the popular $1.00 Moonlight Cruises, Union Steamship Company vessels ferried merrymakers across Howe Sound to the dock at Snug Cove. Having fox-trotted their way across the water, the dancers were primed for a fun evening at the pavilion. From the dock, the dancing crowd followed the band up the hill to the dancehall. In the beginning, the Moonlight Cruises were simple fun affairs. In later years, they became rowdier and dubbed the “booze cruises”. Although alcohol was never sold on the ships or at the dancehall, people brought their own supply.

Van Archives –  Dance At the Dance Pavilion

The Merry-Go-Round

In the early 1900’s, Jack Dorman operated a merry-go-round behind the Tea Room. It had a canvas roof, a slatted wooden platform, painted ponies and a calliope that played three tunes. Jake Dorman was also an engineer and built a steam engine to propel it. As a religious man, he did not operate the carousel on Sundays.

Lessons in the Tea Room

The Tea Room

Built c. 1910 by Captain John Cates, the tearoom was a popular spot for summer visitors to sip afternoon tea and enjoy the view of Snug Cove. During Union days, people came for typical summer fare such as hot dogs, hamburgers, milk shacks and banana splits. In the 1940’s, and 50’s, music from the juke box added to the fun.

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