Denman & Hornby Islands

Fav ride for all

I first had this ride included as an Honourable Mention, but a couple of things happened:

  • site visitors would email for more info

  • I kept going back

So I decided this was definitely worth a regular Fav Ride page.​

Interestingly, it's the further Hornby Island, requiring an extra ferry link, that is the most popular with tourists. I think this largely reflects earlier history, as well as directions taken by different local residents associations.

These are smaller sized islands, so this is not a hard riding trip. That said, you'll find a succession of small hills, and you can find your way into corners with very little around other than wilderness (like NE Denman - see bottom pic).

Ferries are pretty regular for this popular route. Schedules do change occasionally, so check out the BC ferries page.

Seaside at Fillongley Provincial Campground, along the east shores of Denman Island, a 10km ride over from the ferry terminal on the west shores. The campground is small & basic but there's great beach walking. Sometimes, they will let tenters set up in clearings down the shoreline from the regular camping area: a treat.

Main Lake Provincial Park Rec Camp | Cycle touring backroads of Quadra Island | cycle touring Gulf Islands

One reaches Denman Island via a short ferry hop from Buckley Bay terminal (complete with food and coffee options) along the east shores of Vancouver Island. This is the only cable ferry running off Vancouver Island. The island is 19kms long and 5kms wide, with a population of ~1,100. There's a small village up from the terminal, where you can get food and the basics. Historically, many Denman Islanders came to get away from the city, so there's real personality and a vibrant artisan community. There's beautiful beaches, a central rise, and considerable wildlife. The ferry onward to Hornby Island sails from Gravelly Bay on the SE of the Island.

Hornby Island kicks back in the offseason then gears up to welcome the world in the warmer months. There's a thousand residents living on about 30 square kms, but the population can quadruple in summer! The ferry terminal to/from Denman is at Shingle Spit on the west shores. Therte's hiking and biking in the shoulder seasons, but the beaches are the main summer attraction - Tribune Bay to the south is known as BC's Hawaii. I've gone by at least 4 commercial campgrounds (reservations recommended in summer), and there's lots more resorts and cabins and B&Bs. 

Buckley Bay & Denman Island (west) ferry terminals. On  the top, we are looking across from Denman Island to Buc kley Bay, with the Beaufort Range of Vancouver Island in behind. 

Some highlights:

  • waking up to hollering sea lions at Fillongley Provincial Campground (and beach walking along the shores, or if you are so inclined, clam digging in season)

  • the renowned sandy beach of Tribune Bay on south Hornby if you're seeking an energized summertime tourist destination

  • checking out some of the artisan galleries alongs the roads of Denman and Hornby (or try a tour of the local wineries)

Shades of Andy Warhol, on a side road up near Grassy Point, NE Hornby Island

Quathiaski ferry terminal, Quadra Island | cycle touring Quadra Island | cycle touring Gulf Islands

Days for Ride:

These two fabulous islands can deliver several types of great rides:

  • spend a few days visiting both islands and sampling the charms (2 to 4 days)

  • do an overnighter to Fillongley Provincial Campground on the east shores of Denman. This makes for a fine short ride from Courtenay (my home), 25kms to the north, or a longer workout from Nanaimo, 80kms to the south. Or just an excellent stopover, as you're heading up or down the central island.

Tribune Bay | cycle touring Hornby Island

A couple of pics near dusk from Tribune Bay, SE Hornby, which I visited in February (and wild camped, as the regular campground was closed). It's a hugely popular long sandy bay in the summertime. There's a commercial campground nearby - but make reservations, in season.

Following is the route map & directions guide. I have not done a separate ​elevation chart for this ride. Both Denman & Hornby Islands rise from the shores to bluffs along their east coasts. Roads climb sharply up from the ferry terminals and get up to over 100m as you start off. Hornby is the tougher ride with some challenging upping & downing. You'll climb over 100m up off the ferry, then get over 150m in the NW corner, up over 100m again in the NE corner, and then over 100m in the south as you approach Tribune Bay, Sandpiper Park and Ford's Cove to the SW. 

Here's some distances and directions to help you plan your ride. 

 

There are a few different routes I've ridden on Denman that you'll see on the map:​

  • West Denman Isle terminal east across the Island to Fillongley Park: ~7kms.

    • Head off the ferry up to Denman Road, with a  beastly little climb before it heads straight across the island. Just before descending to the east shores you'll see signs for Fillongley, and turn left/north onto Swan Road for under a km, then east/right onto Beadnell Road for another 700m down to the seaside and park.

  • From Fillongley Park south to Gravelly Bay Ferry Terminal (over to Hornby) is about ​9kms. Just follow East Road down the seaside south. This is a beautiful riding stretch.

  • You'll see on the map below there's a southern route across to Gravelly Bay terminal. This is roughly 12 kms.

    • You'll follow Denman Rd up off the ferry. After ~1km, turn right/SW onto Lacon Road. After ~5.5 kms, turn left/east up onto McFarlane Road for a little climb (up near 100m) to cross the island and turn right onto seaside East Road after ~3kms. Then it's a further 2+kms to Gravelly Bay Terminal. 

  • On the map, you'll also see a northern route on Denman.  This is ~18kms to reach Fillongley Park. This is a beautiful and remote ride.

    • To head around the NE loop​, keep your eyes open as you get off the ferry and after ~1/2km, turn left onto Northwest Road. Follow NW road for ~5.5kms up the west coast to a Y junction with Gladstone Way - keep right/north for another ~700m. Here things get a little murky on my map. At ~ lat/long N49° 35.101' W124° 49.955', keep right/NW for ~1/2km more to reach N49° 35.126' W124° 49.658'. From here just follow the road before you (no name, and not on my maps) SE for 9+ looping kms.  By this time, your road will have become Swan Road coming into Fillongley from the north: you'll be at the final junction with Beadnell down to the park (if you want, email me for the GPX file for this track).

See below map for Hornby Island directions.

Distance & direction guide, continued ....

From the Shingle Spit ferry terminal on west Hornby Island, you'll climb out and head north up the coast along Shingle Spit Road. There's some shops and services near the terminal if you need something.

 

After ~2.5kms, you pass Bradsdadsland Campground. Another half km north and the road angles NE and becomes Central Road. Follow Central Road, looping north then south for 6.5kms all the way to the junction with Ostby & Shields Road just above Tribune Bay. There's a bunch of shops about, and the campground is a block east, close to the seaside. Interestingly, a turn right/south keeps you on Central Road. You can head NE into Tribune & Helliwell Provincial Parks, or follow Central Road south (which we'll do). A fine ride for ~6kms will get you to Ford's Cove, where there's a little village, marina, shops and 2 campgrounds. Ford's Cove is the end of the road, and you need to backtrack to the ferry terminal.

As you pass the NE corner of Hornby along Central Road, consider a short side trip out to Grassy Point and Hidden Beach. I took Sollans Road north to the coast (1.5km), and looped back to Central Road on Carmichael Road. 

Looking NW across to the Beaufort Range of Vancouver Island from the route down the NE coast of Denman Island. This comes down right behind Fillongley Park Campground, and is a fine ride.

Caution - Safety First:

This website does not encourage anyone to undertake activities in the backwoods without considering fully issues of safety, access and readiness. There are no guarantees with any information provided in this website.  Please read  the FAQs, research further as appropriate, and use your judgement at all times