A Rookie’s Guide to Backyard Adventures: Winter Camping on Keats Island

Photo by Jack Madeley

When is the best time to plan a trip? At 9 pm after a few pints at Main Street brewery of course. You and your friends say “Hey there is a massive snowstorm happening in Vancouver right now, want to camp in the middle of it on a random island?” you get another round and say – “YES”.  

This IPA inspired trip planning created a wild, adventure-filled weekend at Keats Island. Keats makes for an easy weekend escape from the city and can be done in the winter if you are willing to lug bags of wood on multiple ferries and have people gawk at you.

Photo by Jack Madeley

Keats is a ridiculously cute island just off the mainland of the Sunshine Coast. It takes two ferries and impeccable timing to get on to both the ferries. Take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale (full ferry schedule here) then from Longdale there are ferries that go straight from the drop off HOWEVER these ferries have irregular times and it can be very hard to time to coordinate.

To say that our journey to Keats was effortless would be a bold-faced lie.

Photo by Jack Madeley

We sprinted off the Langdale ferry to catch the small ferry to Keats. Laden with our packs, 4 bags of firewood we got the dock looking like sweaty, stressed out Orcs just as the ferry left the terminal. Standing there bewildered, questioning everything in life and clutching on to our precious firewood we wondered what to do next.

The next ferry was not for 3 hours so we had to get a little creative and we soon discovered the best way to Keats- drum roll please! Upon arriving at the Langdale ferry terminal, take the bus into Gibsons, from Gibsons get off at the Government Bay/ Marina bus stop (full schedule here). From there you can get a water taxi to take you over to Keats Island. The water taxis are less than the ferry ($15 per person) and it will take you directly to the camping area, Plumper Cove. Plus, you feel like an absolute baller taking a private boat.  

Step off the boat and paradise awaits.

Photo by Jack Madeley

The whole island is only 6 km so you can easily hike around the entirety of Keats. In the summer the sites get busy so it’s best to book online. But in the dead of winter, we were the only people there, we felt like Christopher Columbus discovering a brand new land (minus all the messed up stuff). We set up camp, made the warmest fire known to man, drank whiskey, sang songs and despite sleeping in a foot of snow -we had the toastiest sleep.

Our private boat captain came and picked us up in the morning and we started our trek back to Vancouver. We left the island feeling a little lighter (mostly because we were no longer carting around 1000lbs of firewood) and invigorated from our cheeky little private island getaway.  

Photo by Jack Madeley

Winter camping at Keats island makes for a fun weekend if you have the right gear, lots of firewood and some friends who are half crazy enough to camp in the snow with you.

Here’s what you need to know before you heading to Keats

Transportation: You cannot drive onto Keats Island so it is recommended to keep your car at home and either bus to Horseshoe Bay or you can park at Horseshoe Bay for 24 hours for $16.00

Ferry/ Private Boat: If you decide to take the private boat then you can book in advance to ensure you will have someone to drive you.

Equipment: For winter camping ensure you have a winter tent, sleeping bag up to minus 10, firewood (we brought 4 bags and it was the perfect amount), stove, knife, food, water, all that jazz.

Drive from Downtown Vancouver:  30-40s min to Horseshoe Bay

Cellular Service: Good