Real Estate

For the price of a studio in Vancouver, you could buy an entire island four hours away

The private half-acre island comes with a two-bedroom cabin, plus two bunkies and a 30-foot dock
Andrea Yu
A small island sits in a large body of water, beside a highway on the left, facing a stunning view of forest covered mountains on the right.

In Vancouver this summer, the average sale price for a one-bedroom condo surpassed $800,000. But why buy a measly studio in downtown Van when you could preside over an entire island for $200,000 less? Head four hours due northeast of the city by car, and you’ll stumble upon a two-bedroom, one-bathroom cabin on a half-acre island abutting scenic Pavilion Lake. Price tag: $599,000.

The exterior of the cabin from ground level. A large terrace sits on the island grounds, surrounded by trees.

The island’s current owner, photographer Joe Borrelli, bought the lot in 2013 as a three-season vacation property for himself and his two kids. At the time of the sale, Borrelli says, the island hadn’t been used in 20 to 30 years, and the main cabin and two bunkies were almost a half-century old.

His first project was disassembling the main cabin and tapping his architect friend, Bill Fisher, to design an updated version. Borrelli wanted to capitalize on the cabin’s stunning lake view, and Fisher’s blueprint delivered: a sleek, 900-square-foot, one-and-a-half-storey structure with metal roofing, wood siding with corrugated metal accents, a wraparound porch and lofted living room awash in windows. The cabin’s shell took shape in about a year, but island life complicated the building process a bit. “We had the local lumber yard supply the materials,” Borrelli says, “then we used a raft to bring them over from the shore.”

The whitewashed interior of the cabin, with a large kitchen island in the foreground. In the background, there are large floor to ceiling windows.

Solar panels on the main cabin’s rooftop power the entire structure, including a stovetop and fridge. There’s also a propane water heater, a composting toilet and a wood stove—for extra warmth on those cooler island days. The interior is lined with white-washed spruce shiplap walls, with an exposed fir beam. The second floor has two small bedrooms and, for any guest overflow, the two older bunkies are an option. “My intent was to renovate the bunkies as well,” Borrelli says, but he never got around to it. The entire property comes turn-key—with all the appliances and furniture—except for the powerboat.

The living room of the cabinm with a log fireplace and wooden chairs. In the background are a set of floor to ceiling windows.

Borrelli, who still keeps a studio in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood, says he’ll leave behind a few paddleboards, kayaks and a rubber duck floatie for the new owner. He raves about his family’s summers spent on Pavilion Lake. “It’s just a hoot,” he says. “We were always out on the boat, and our neighbours are very friendly. The water is perfectly clean, the swimming is amazing—it’s a beautiful piece of nature.” That piece of nature has also been frequented by deer, eagles, coyotes, thousands of trout (which circle the island during spring spawning season) and one very ballsy bear. “It refused to leave the island until I did,” Borrelli says.

Borrelli has decided to offload the property now that his kids are grown; so far, he’s gotten a few inquiries from curious Vancouver-based families, but no takers yet. He’s sure another brood will have as much fun there as he did. He’s also hoping that the new owners will continue his commitment to land maintenance. “Every year, we made sure to take out as much forest fuel as possible to minimize wildfire, if it ever came to us,” he says. “The island is surrounded by water, though, so we hope for the best.”

A closer view of the house on the island, nestled in the trees. It has a grey roof and wood siding. A small dock just into the water. A red boat is tethered to it.