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Area Views

Cycle Touring Vancouver Island

Trying to figure out where you should go ride? Want to know a little more about the different areas and riding hubs of Vancouver Island & the Sunshine Coast? Want suggestions about some of the best rides and campgrounds?

Here's a bit of a different view of where the rides are - broken down by area, including a focus on the main riding hubs. Each pic below links to more info, pics and maps for each Area. You'll see some overlap in places, as the boundaries are a little blurry. There's also an 'Area maps' page link at the bottom, that brings thumbnails for all area maps into one spot so you can toggle about.

I've included lots of photos to give you a first hand view of what to expect in each Area.

Side Bay Camp | bikepacking west of Port Alice | cycle touring north Vancouver Island

One of the series of wonderful camping bays at remote Side Bay, west of Port Alice. A fabulous north Island wilderness camping destination.

Below is a summary map, with buttons for the different Areas I've used to organize content. Under the map, the Areas are listed alphabetically, with links to the detailed pages for each. This gives you a good high level geographic overview.


Following the map & links is a list box of thumbnails with summaries and links to each Area page. The bottom thumbnail links to a page of Area map thumbnails, in case you'd like to toggle through all different Area maps.

If you are interested in local cycling maps and off-highway (mostly paved) alternate routes, you should check out this section.

All area map
All cycling areas map | Vancouver Island & Sunshine Coast | cycle touring & bikepacking

Links for buttons in above map - click to jump to detailed Area pages

Or use the list box (thumbnails) following, with Area summaries & pics for each link

Area thumbs

Check out the different Areas in this section

Below is a guide to the Areas in this section. Click on the pics to jump to the pages.  

The north of Vancouver Island is enormous, sparsely populated, criss-crossed with rugged backroads, lakes and long fjord-like inlets. In other words, perfect for backroad bike touring or bikepacking, and wilderness camping. This incredible area, north from Campbell River, offers endless options for exploration

Campbell River is the jump off point for the greatest concentration of Rec camps & wilderness lakes anywhere.  It's also the starting point to head north, or west to incredible Strathcona Park. Nearby Courtenay sits at the foot of the rugged interior mountains of Vancouver Island, with extensive backroads, hidden lakes and rustic camping. To top it off, there's relaxed Gulf Island touring - kick back on Quadra, Cortez, Denman & Hornby. 

Port Alberni is at the centre of so many rides and hinterlands. You can head west to the big surf of Tofino, SW to Nitinat, Carmanah Walbran and Cowichan Lake, SE up to the mountains and high altitude lakes around Mounts Arrowsmith & Moriarty, or north through the backroads to Great Central Lake and Courtenay. An incredible hub for cycle touring & bikepacking.  

This section focuses mostly along the popular east coast of Central Vancouver Island, from Nanaimo up to Courtenay. I've included the page to highlight the relaxed paved road riding, scenic seaside beaches, island connections, interesting little towns, and some of my very favourite campgrounds. 

Cowichan Lake is a major riding destination, as well as a hub with myriad links. You can head south (on backroads or paved road) to Port Renfrew & the SW coast, or SE on Vancouver Island's best stretches of the Trans Canada Trail (known locally as the Cowichan Valley Trail). Or, take the backroads west & NW to Nitinat Lake, Carmanah Walbran and Port Alberni. Countless camping options.

Where to start?  There's so many Gulf Isles off Vancouver Island's east coast, some of them big enough to have wilderness and backroads riding. A popular destination is Saltspring Island, with beautiful Ruckle Provincial Park. Or check out scenic Quadra & Cortez Islands. Denman Island has been a favourite for years. Texada Island is big, with a unique culture and lots to see. Try out some of that special Island vibe.

Technically, the Sunshine Coast is part of mainland BC. But, for cyclists, it's only accessible by ferry. So it's a distinctive place, a lot like Vancouver Island. Sweet riding, often along the coast, with high mountains rising to the west if you're looking for some tough backroads bikepacking. Beaches, character towns, services and fine camping. A few backroads hinterlands to explore. So much choice.  

Courtenay has a varied cycle touring backyard of its own, along with easy access to a host of great neighbouring areas. Check out the local seaside camping, Gulf Islands, rugged backroads, ferry connections, high mountain ranges. Or ride some hours to reach neighbouring attractions in easily accessed surrounding areas like Campbell River.

This page ropes together all the area maps as thumbnail links on one page, making it easy for you to toggle about if you like.  Each cycling Area maps the area, along with Fav rides and campgrounds.

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