Fav rides for all

Cycle Touring Vancouver Island

Here's some fantastic bike touring rides on Vancouver Island & the Sunshine Coast to tempt you. I've included lots of photos to give you a first hand view of what to expect.

 

Many of the rides on this page are manageable for most cycle tourists and touring bikes, even beginners. That doesn't mean they're all easy! These are mostly rides on paved, commonly used roads. Some overnighters, some longer trips. The assumption is you'll likely camp (and there's a page of Fav Campgrounds), but you can always find yourself more formal local accommodations.

Just below here is a summary map, with buttons for the rides covered in this section. Under the map, the rides are listed alphabetically, with links to the detailed pages for each. This gives you a geographic overview of riding options. Following the map is a list box of thumbnails with summaries and links to each ride page. At the bottom is a link to a page of route map thumbnails, in case you'd like to toggle through all these riding possibilities. 

 

You'll note lots of rides on Gulf Islands here. No surprise, as they generally have decent roads, quirky personalities, wonderful seaside attractions and all the basic tourism comforts. Island rides are one of the great treats in the region - indulge yourself!

Let me reiterate this caution. Almost all the rides here involve cycling on public roads, including highways. Although almost all feedback I receive is very positive, some find that sharing routes with traffic can be unnerving and unpleasant. If you are uncertain how this will work for you, consider trying out rides that spend less time on shared roadways - perhaps the Cowichan Valley Trail, or some of the shorter island rides. 

If you need more ride details or GPX tracks for your GPS device, email me through the contact page.

See also the companion page ('Fav backroads rides') with rougher, more remote backroads rides, and the 'Honourable Mention rides ...' page I added for still more rides I liked.

 

Check out the fine rides in this section

Below is a guide to the rides from the map above. Click on the pics to jump to the pages. There's a couple of special page links at the bottom:

  • Local maps & Off-Hwy Options - local route maps and options, split out over local area pages, for the main communities on the Island & Sunshine Coast. Alternate routes for all cycle tourists

  • Ride map thumbnails (summary & individual), in case you'd like to toggle about. 

Areas: Cowichan Lake & SW Coast

This ride starts in Duncan, heading south on the wonderful Cowichan Valley Trail (CVT, aka Trans Canada Trail), including Kinsol Trestle, one of the world's largest wooden trestle bridges. Then, south to the gorgeous SW coast for some great riding west to Port Renfrew. Then 60 kms remote riding north to Cowichan Lake, before finishing again on the CVT with a brilliant gradual descent back to Duncan. 

Area: Cowichan Lake

Cowichan Valley Trail (CVT) is the local name for this wonderful stretch of the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) - the finest cycle touring stretch of the Trail on Vancouver Island - well maintained, forests, zero vehicles. The Trail runs from Duncan up to Cowichan Lake, then back east towards the highway.  Before reaching Duncan, it hooks SE to Kinsol Trestle, one of the world's most fabulous wooden trestle bridges.  

Denman & Hornby Islands

Denman and Hornby Islands are a real cycling treat off Central Vancouver Island's east coast. These are smaller islands so this is not a tough riding trip. But there's fabulous beaches, fine camping, local facilities and enough small hills to give you your riding fill. And there's that Island personality. Further Hornby (needs a 2nd ferry hop) gets real popular in summer months, swelling to nearly quadruple its winter population. 

Galiano Mayne - South Island Sojourn

Area: Gulf Islands - South Isles

This is a laid back, easy-riding option, complete with that special Island ambience. It starts and finishes at Swartz Bay ferry terminal north of Victoria (it could also start from Tsawwassen terminal, S Vancouver). First, we visit long (~30kms), narrow Galiano Island for a couple of days, staying at Montague Harbour Park, a new favourite campground.  Then on to Mayne Island for another great day along the seaside.

Area: Sunshine Coast North

The Malaspina Peninsula north of Powell River is not a common destination, but has fine riding, scenic campgrounds and local flavour. This can be an overnight trip to check out Okeover Arm Provincial Park and then the scenic coastal village of Lund. There's other stops and options along the way, should you want to soak up more of the ambience.  

Areas: North Island & Gulf Islands

This ride is modest in terms of riding kms, but big on sights to see. Starting and finishing from Port McNeill along the NE coast of Vancouver Island, you'll find this surprising trio of tourist gems - Telegraph Cove, Alert Bay and Malcolm Island. Natural wonders, good tourist infrastructure, history, rich First Nations culture, and local character make this a wonderful ride to tackle. 

Areas: Central Island & Gulf Islands (Nanaimo)

A Nanaimo Harbour bike tour, is this serious?  You bet. The vibrant, bustling harbourside just east of Departure Bay Ferry Terminal is worth a visit, and you can catch harbourside ferries to 2 nearby islands well worth visiting: small Newcastle and larger Gabriola. Both islands have fine campgrounds and trails or roadways to explore. A laid back, relaxing ride for any and all cyclists.

North Island Highway

Areas: North Island & Campbell River

This ride starts at the north end of Campbell River and finishes ~235 kms later at the ferry terminal just outside Port Hardy. It's an entirely paved road ride, 2 lane, low traffic, with a shoulder the whole way, though it gets pinched in places . This is your chance if you want to stretch your legs out, pound down some kms, get some wilderness, and ride into a bit of a different world. 

Areas: Campbell River & Gulf Islands

I had fond memories of a long ago visit, so headed back again to Quadra & Cortez. A great ride ride - island ambience, ferries and excellent camping. The distances are not great, but sharp hills abound, particularly in Cortez, so you'll get a riding workout. This trip also has its indulgences, as I seemed to be stopping at coffee shops all along my way. Possible as an overnighter, but I recommend 2 nights.

Areas: South Island & Gulf Islands

Ruckle Park is one of my favourite places. The ride starts at Departure Bay Terminal in Nanaimo, heads south on the highway to Ladysmith, then branches onto a more scenic secondary road to Crofton, to catch a ferry over to Vesuvius, NW Saltspring Island. Then a surprisingly hilly ride to SE Saltsping and incredible Ruckle Provincial Campground, with walk-in campsites along the wild sea-side.  In season, you're sure to meet other cycle tourists here. 

Area: Sunshine Coast - Sechelt

This relatively short ride (30+kms each way) from Langdale ferry terminal to Sechelt (and back) is a popular favourite. Most of the riders come over on the ferry from Vancouver. Many tackle the ride over a weekend. Some are trying out cycle touring, others keen to kick back and enjoy the Sunshine Coast vibe. 

This may be a short ride, but it has all the key attractions.

Area: Campbell River (west)

This bike tour starts & finishes in Campbell River. The  key attraction is the glorious stretch of paved riding south down the east shores of Upper Campbell then Buttle Lakes, in wonderful Strathcona Provincial Park, BC's oldest park. Make sure to camp in Ralph River Provincial Park.  
This Ride page has an add-on section about riding paved Hwy 28 a further 45kms west from the lakes out to the town of Gold River.

Area: Gulf Island - Texada

This is a short Island ride - a chance to do some great camping along the oceanside, and soak up a little Island vibe from Texada's colourful past. It includes some options to consider if you're up for some stretches off paved roads. 

Area: Port Alberni (west)

Tofino, Long Beach & Ucluelet are the end of the road as one reaches Vancouver Island's west coast.  Long sandy beaches, big surf, whale watching & wild winter storms attract visitors from around the world. This remoteness and a year round surfing community give the coast an appealing alternate culture.  An excellent (paved but remote) ride out from Port Alberni, camping options and a vast hinterland make this a special destination.  

Areas: Central Island, Courtenay & Sunshine Coast

Classic multi-day bike tour. From Nanaimo, up Vancouver Island to Comox for a ferry to Powell River, west to Saltery Bay, then south down the Sunshine Coast to Langdale. In season, you'll meet other cycle tourists. It's all paved roads with lots of camping options and places to relax and grab a coffee or beer. Best as 3-4 days, to enjoy the sights. No mountains, but lots of hills, particularly down the Sunshine Coast. 

I've pulled together some of the useful community cycling maps I could find. I've added maps of my own creation with some off-highway route options (usually paved) accessible for all cycle tourists heading into & out of towns. This local route info is presented within linked local area pages. 

The pic here is from the Cowichan Valley Trail, Vancouver Island's best cycle touring stretch of the Trans Canada Trail

Ride Maps - thumbnails

Each "Ride Page"includes a map (or maps) detailing the route.  This page ropes these maps together from all the rides on this page, to make it easier for you to toggle about and view different ride routes,if you like.  

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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