Buckley Bay is located between Union Bay to the north and Fanny Bay to the south. It is the departure point for the BC Ferries crossing to Denman and Hornby Islands. You can access it from the Old Island or the Inland Island highways. According to a fifteen year old census, Buckley Bay has a population of about 200; however, there have been several acreage developments in the area since then.
The only commercial development is the Petro-can gas station located at the ferry terminal. It is a good place to fuel up your car with petro and your body with a Sub Sandwich before taking the ferry. There is also a decent supply of wines, beers, and ales. Down below you will find the Buckley Bay Beach Comber with a good selection of sea food (including Fanny Bay Oysters).
However, the main feature of Buckley Bay is the Baynes Sound Connector cable ferry that was installed in February, 2016. The cable connecting Vancouver Island to Denman Island is 1900 metres long making it the longest cable ferry crossing in the world. The ferry itself is 258 feet long with a capacity of 150 passengers and 50 vehicles. Crossing time is approximately ten minutes with seventeen daily round trips. During the summer months the lineup of cars on their way to Hornby can extend well down the Old Highway towards Fanny Bay. Travelers wishing to visit Hornby Island must cross Denman and catch the Gravelly Bay ferry. From the ferry, or on the shore looking out onto Baynes Sound, you may notice the red and green transit lights facing oncoming marine traffic in each direction. It is illegal to cross the channel while the red light is on (good idea since it is a cable crossing). On occasion I like to take the ferry by foot or bike to just enjoy the crossing, attend a meeting, or get a refreshment at the General Store.
The first government ferry was the Catherine Graham a self-propelled landing craft that operated from 1954 to 1973. An on-line post by a longtime resident states(1):
“Imagine a stormy, rainy night as the ferry came in. The deck-hand, in his rain slicker, would climb out over the rail at the bow, a heavy rope in one hand, the other gripping the rail. As the ferry came in he would jump off the bow onto the madly bobbing, slippery, wet float and quickly tie the rope to a cleat… and then go to the stern and secure that with a second rope to a cleat. …. It was also interesting when the spring tides would be so low that the ferry couldn’t get close enough to the ramps, or when there were medical emergencies and the ferry would have to wait for those being transported to the nearest hospital at Comox on Vancouver Island, about 25 miles away.”
A nice one day excursion is to park your car at Buckley Bay, unload your bikes, and take the ferry to Denman (much cheaper than taking the car and free during the week if you are a senior). Denman is relatively flat which makes it a good one day ride for causal bikers. If you are an avid mountain biker you might like the challenge of biking over to Hornby. On the ferry ride from Denman Island you can’t help but notice the spectacular cliffs that rise 305 metres above the ferry landing. After climbing the cliff, you can ride the Bench Trail with an excellent view of the sea and lands below or you can move onto one of the many trails that crisscross the island including the No Horses Trail that follows an old riverbed.
The Denman Crossing
The water is calm and the passage smooth.
Time to sit and open my mind to the sea
and let the waters soothe my tired brain.
Today airplanes fly to a thousand destinations
and restless women and men race each other
to see someone else’s house,
and walk on somone else’s street,
and experience someone else’s past,
trying to pack in as many new experiences
as their time on Earth reluctantly allows.
The green shoreline quietly beckons me
to come and feast my soul on times past
when life was simple and cars were few
and the island laid peacefully, consistently
in the arms of the all-knowing, all-wise sea,
a time when Denman was the final destination
for mothers and fathers to take large families
from the ravages of the never peaceful city
to a moment and place of forever togetherness.
I long for the time just to be family again,
to walk quietly with my grandchildren
on Denman’s lonely quiet rocky shores
and watch the sun set on Baynes Sound
and rise again over the Salish Sea,
and nestle into the arms of the woman I love.