South Island Ferry Connections
Getting to Swartz Bay & the Mill Bay to Brentwood Bay Connector
Victoria, at the south tip of Vancouver Island, is the Island's major city, and home to one of the's best cycling networks - trails and secondary roads with bike lanes. This page has 2 sections:
the 30+km Lochside Regional Cycling Trail, north up the Saanich Peninsula to Swartz Bay BC Ferry Terminal, where you can connect to ferries heading to Vancouver and the fabulous Gulf Islands.
if you're coming down Vancouver Island to reach Swartz Bay, and don't want to loop south into Victoria, or just want to avoid the busy Malahat highway hill, then you should check out the connector ferry route from Mill Bay to the Saanich Peninsula.
Read on for more on these South Vancouver Island ferry connections. First is the section on the Lochside Trail. Click here if you want to jump straight to the section on the Mill Bay to Brentwood Bay ferry connector.
Stretch of the Lochside Regional Trail approaching Sydney, not far from Swartz Bay terminal. Note the fine riding shoulders on this stretch (and the great views). Note the ferry coming in: this is for the Sydney terminal to Anacortes in the US Gulf Islands. Check out the crow crashing this pic.
Lochside Regional Trail (and beyond):
The Lochside Regional Trail runs from Swartz Bay in the north, south down the Saanich Peninsula (see map below), mostly on or near the east coast, with connections to myriad side riding routes along the way. It is well signed. It includes sections of dedicated trails (see collage below), cycling lanes on secondary roads, totally cool wooden trestle bridges, and some sparsely trafficked rural routes that are shared with vehicles. At the south end, it connects to the wider Galloping Goose trail cycling route network, which can get you right into downtown Victoria, up to Sooke and the fabulous SW coast, or to the big Island highway heading north - with an option to connect to the splendid (though tough) Sooke Hills Wilderness Trail, part of the Island Trans Canada Trail (check out blog post).
In the collage below, the bottom right pic shows the Lochside sign & logo. Top right is a section of trail through some farmland down the peninsula. Top left shows a trail stretch right along Hwy 17, the busy highway from Swartz Bay to Victoria. Bottom left shows my bike taking a break on one of the fine trestle bridges, beside the local caretaker. If you look carefully, you just might see a plant bungeed to my front rack: I was heading down into Victoria to join a friend's housewarming party.
Mill Bay to Brentwood Bay Ferry Connector
Check out the map below.
See Mill Bay, along the Island Highway. You branch SE here for 6kms to get to the Mill Bay Ferry Terminal for the hop across to Brentwood Bay. There's also a more direct connection to the highway south of the Terminal, reaching the highway near Bamberton Provincial Park (see below map, for getting to Mill Bay).
There are several routes to get from Brentwood Bay across the Saanich Peninsula to connect with the Lochside Regional Trail. The route I took fom Brentwood followed Verdier Avenue off the ferry for ~2kms, followed by several hundred metres north on Early Place , then onto Stellys Cross Road where you'll continue east for near 3km to East Saanich Road, where you'll branch SE for a km before heading east again onto Island View Road for a final 1/2km to reach Lochside Drive (whew) - the Lochside Trail. It's 19kms north to Swartz Bay on the Trail from this junction.
Here's how to get to Mill Bay village, largely a bedroom community for Victoria these days. It is approx 25kms north of Goldstream Provincial Park & Campground (which is near the south end of Finlayson Inlet). This stretch is almost always very busy with traffic, and includes the extended Malahat climb - not my favourite.
From the Mill Bay village highway turnoff, it's about 18kms north to Duncan, or ~68kms north to Nanaimo.
And another useful ferry connection - Around 18kms NE of Duncan - east off the highway via Mt Sicker, Westholme then Crofton Roads - is the ferry terminal in Crofton, with service to Vesuvius on NW Saltspring Island. Saltspring has 3 terminals, including connections to Swartz Bay and the other southern Gulf Islands.
Took this pic from the Mill Bay pier while waiting for my ferry. Looking north. Check out the fellow passenger chilling out. The road down to the terminal from the highway to the north follows the seaside much of the way.
If you've been coming down the Island on the fantastic Cowichan Valley Trail (see favourite ride), it's possible to get onto roads at the north end of Shawnigan Lake, near Kinsol Trestle (also fabulous), that go almost directly to the Island Highway turnoff at Mill Bay, then down to the the Mill Bay ferry terminal. There are also road connections from the south end of Shawnigan Lake if you want to ride Cowichan Valley Trail as far as possible.
A few more things worth noting on the map above. You can see a point near the SE corner of the Lochside Trail, north of Victoria proper, where you can either continue south (light blue track), or branch west along a route of the Galloping Goose towards both Sooke and/or (another fork in the trail) Goldstream Provincial Park, where you can connect on north via the Sooke Hills Wilderness Trail, or just ride the highway up island (the Sooke Hills Trail is tough - but possible - with a loaded cycle).
Looking back to Mill Bay terminal, from the back of the ferry heading across to Brentwood Bay