Texada Island - riding The Rock

Affectionately known as 'The Rock', Texada is the largest of the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia. It's 50kms long and 10kms wide, aligned with the nearby rugged Sunshine Coast.

It's accessible via a 20 minute ferry hop from Powell River to Blubber Bay, originally a base for whaling. There's daily flights into the small airport. Coming from Courtenay, I took a 630 ferry to Powell River in time for a relaxed 830 connection on to Texada. I was riding by 9am.

With a population of over 1,000, and 3 ferry connections to get there from Vancouver, Texada is no bustling hub. Traffic is limited ... in other words, perfect for cycle tourists.

Fabulous oceanside at Shingle Beach Campground

Texada is a destination with personality, steeped in colourful history, local hospitality and sun-drenched beaches. For a cycle tourist, there are fabulous camping options and your choice of ride difficulty - from moderate paved routes, to remote, hard core backroads.

Looking west over the Strait of Georgia, from Gillies Bay, one of just 2 villages on the Island, the other being Van Anda.

Texada Island is part of traditional Tla'amin First nation land. They call the Island Say yeh yeen.

Starting in the latter 1800s, mining was a cornerstone of Texada. First iron ore, then copper and gold (!), then marble. Today, there are 3 active limestone quarries. As these mines carve out hillsides and are near the north ferry terminal, they can give new arrivees an industrial first impression. But Texada is big, and once you start south, the natural charms take over.

Around 1898, the town of Van Anda was a boomtown, boasting the only opera house north of San Francisco, and three hotels with saloons, a hospital, and more. During US prohibition, Texada had a reputation for illegal distilleries.

Early homesteaders carved farms out of the rough land, some still active today.

Ferry terminal at Blubber Bay. See the limestone mine in the background.

For cycle tourists seeking a liesurely tour, head to the west coast and popular Shelter Point Regional Campground (see pics blow). It's got endless seaside and fine hiking trails, along with all the facilities - showers, electricity, even a canteen in season. You can look out over the ocean or camp amid shade trees. 23 kms from Blubber Bay by paved road - hilly, but nothing over 150m elevation.

12 kms further south, this time on unpaved Mouat Bay Road, is the more laid back campground at Shingle Beach. See photo at the top, and pic below. There's a creek along the beach about 1/2 kms south of the camp, so you can get water. It's $5/day, on the honour system. There's a popular July music festival.

If you're looking for something adventurous, or just want to see the rugged face of the Rock, head south down the spine of the island past a remote forestry campground at Bob's Lake, all the way to glorious Anderson Bay Provincial Park. This ride is for experienced backroaders, with elevation getting up over 650m. Coming back out of the remote bay (see pic below) is one of the toughest climbs around.

Anderson Bay, which I had all to myself, at dusk. Brilliant views south down the narrow bay.

That's Texada Island with the red route below. The paved road route to Shelter Bay passes Van Anda then Gillies Bay along the way, if you want to poke around or grab a beer and some lunch. That's about it for paved roads on the island.

If you like places a little off the usual summer circuit, with fine seaside camping, tough backroads rides, and dashes of local character, Texada Island is highly recommended.

Here's a couple of suggested links worth checking out if you'd like more info: Sunshine Coast Tourism, Destination BC, Texada Arts, Culture & Tourism.

Along Gillies Bay Road

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