Excursions to Bowen Island began as early as 1902 under Captain John Cates, owner of Terminal Steamships Company. In the next three years, Cates expanded his property to include all the land surrounding Killarney Lake and built Terminal Hotel in 1910 along with a separate dance pavilion. He vigorously promoted Bowen Island through his picnic excursions and developed it to include 300 fruit trees, 5000 feet of water pipe, 12 portable homes and a general store. Of course, picnic excursions could not be possible without the help of a passenger vessel, hence the building of the Britannia, a steam crew vessel with a capacity to hold 300 people along with the luxuries of two salons, upholstered seats, dining room, and promenade deck. She set sail on July 7th, 1902 and served her company for the next eighteen years, until Cates decided to sell his assets of Terminal Steamships Company in December of 1920 to the very ambitious and fortunate Union Steamships Company.
Negotiations between Terminal Steamships Company and Union Steamships Company over the purchase of assets from Terminal Steamships company took place privately over a span of some time and concluded with Cates receiving $250,000 for his property and assets.
The Union sought to expand their routes to include Bowen Island, along with the profitable East Howe Sound route to Squamish and also move into the daily excursions field. They envisioned the transformation of Bowen Island into a “continental resort” and took the appropriate steps to make sure this was achieved. Building onto what Cates had already established, the Union went further in constructing hundreds of cottage bungalows, designing a model farm with imported stock for fresh dairy products, renovating the hotel and assembling the famous dance pavilion that would attract thousands of visitors for the next thirty years.
The reign of the Union Steamships Company slowly started to evaporate shortly after WWII. After the war bunker fuel prices steadily increase and passenger volume slowly began to decrease with the automobile becoming more and more popular and affordable. Potential guests were now venturing off to further tourist destinations by vehicle; furthermore, the airplane took people cheaply to other holiday resorts and locations. In an effort to salvage the resort industry, the Union proposed the building of the luxurious Evergreen Park Resort with new riding stables and a golf course, but this never materialized. The hotel closed at the end of the summer of 1957 and three years later the hotel was destroyed much to the dismay of many Bowen Islanders. Union Steamships Company was later bought out by Northland Navigation Company Limited.