Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands of British Columbia are popular destinations for cyclists to explore by bike, whether on a ride for a few hours, a full day, or an extended cycling touring expedition. With a bicycle, a mapbook, a small tent, and just the basic camping equipment, outdoor adventurers can enjoy the solitude of the BC wilderness without incurring excessive cost and hassle.
Cycling & Biking on Vancouver Island
Leisurely rides through quiet forests, rural landscapes and deserted backroads provide a glorious mix of fitness and solitude. Recently named the Cycling Capital of Canada, Victoria is home to several excellent routes. From Victoria, strap your rented bicycle to a bus rack and head out into the countryside, or pick up the Galloping Goose Trail and pedal through fields of golden corn and dozens of parks and forests. The Galloping Goose Trail runs from the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal to Victoria and then on to Sooke and Leechtown.
The Seaside Touring Route, one of the region’s designated cycling routes, follows the coastline, granting gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean and the Olympic Mountains leading through some of the city’s most beautiful residential areas. Beginning at the southwest corner of Beacon Hill Park, travel east following Dallas Road along the coastline, stopping at any of the numerous parking areas to take in the views. Along the way, Dallas Road’s name changes to Beach Drive and continues into the Oak Bay neighbourhood. At the Oak Bay Marina, watch the antics of seals playing in the water and check out the yachts.
The next stop is Willows Beach for a stroll along the shoreline. Carry on to the exclusive neighbourhood of Uplands, the location of Uplands Park and the Cattle Point lookout. Wandering through quiet residential neighbourhoods and densely wooded estates, the Seaside Route heads towards Mount Douglas Park and along suburban Royal Oak Drive to connect with the Lochside Trail. This is where the route heads back towards downtown Victoria.
The Saanich Peninsula has some wonderful routes with names that say it all: Strawberry Fields Forever, Lands End Loop, Best Beach Bike Route, Cole Bay Sun and Surf, and Flatlands Farm Route.
Limited cycling is permitted in Goldstream Provincial Park along the short trail that runs between the day-use parking lot and the Freeman King Visitors Centre. Although brief, the trail does lead through a breathtaking grove of broadleaf maple trees that blaze in fall, as well as some large western red cedar that thrive on the water from the nearby river.
Shawnigan Lake is another wonderful destination for a day ride – a paved road circles the 20-km long lake. Stop at Shawnigan Lake Provincial Park for a picnic or swim. To avoid the steep 1,155-ft climb over the Malahat, cyclists can hop aboard the BC ferry that runs across the Saanich Inlet from Brentwood Bay to Mill Bay.
Follow the Wine Route markers in the Cowichan Valley. Country roads meander through the valley and past several vineyards and cideries, always popular way stations for weekend riders on this 12-km route.
The Parkway and the Railway Trail in Nanaimo are two of the most popular cycle routes in the city of Nanaimo. Bicycles are allowed on both the Kanaka Bay Trail and Mallard Lake Trail in Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park. There are gentle, wide pathways shared with pedestrians. The entire island is a park and can be reached by ferry from Nanaimo’s inner harbour.
The Pacific Marine Circle Route is a sightseeing bonanza of old-growth forests, provincial parks and campgrounds, forest service campsites, remote beaches, waterfalls, hiking trails, and pristine freshwater lakes. The route is approximately 200km long, and you can take as long as you like, staying in campgrounds, cottages, bed & breakfasts, or hotels along the way. View the Premier Listings below for a tour operator offering this adventure as a guided cyling tour. If you prefer to pedal your own path, this route is described in more detail on the Pacific Marine Circle Tour page. You can avoid the sweat and challenge of climbing the Malahat, between Mill Bay and Victoria, by catching the Brentwood Bay/Mill Bay ferry, a most scenic shortcut accross Saanich Inlet.
The Log Train Trail in Port Alberni offers 25 km of trail for hikers and cyclists through the beautiful Alberni Valley and leads to the McLean Mill Historic Site.
Discover the new wilderness bike path from Ucluelet to Pacific Rim National Park. Watch the skies for eagles and the waves for seals – they’ll be watching you!
Cycling & Biking on the BC Gulf Islands
Every year, thousands of cyclists trek to the Gulf Islands in search of secluded country roads and scenic off-road trails taking you on a tour of natural beauty, leading you to hilltops for fabulous views and down to the beach for an afternoon swim. Whether you rent a bike or bring your own, the Gulf Islands provide a perfect destination for cyclists seeking adventure. For inter-island travel to the Southern Gulf Islands of Pender, Mayne, Saturna, Galiano and Saltspring Island, board BC Ferries from either Crofton or Swartz Bay. Foot passengers can take a day trip to a number of islands. Each of these islands is a world unto itself, each with its own history, culture and colourful characters.
Mayne Island is perhaps the most pleasant one to cycle. You can tour the whole island in the course of an easygoing day, with stops around its perimeter at Miners Bay, the Georgina Point Lighthouse, Campbell Bay, Horton Bay, and the BC Ferries dock at Village Bay. As with all islands, freshwater is a precious and often rare substance. One of the few places to fill your water bottles is at Dinner Point Community Day Park, a short ride south of Village Bay. A detailed road map of the island is available at the information kiosk at the dock. If you want to stay overnight on the island, there are many bed and breakfasts as well as a private campground.
A ride around Gabriola Island is lengthy – the island is about 20 km long – but touches on a variety of good beaches, including Gabriola Sands Provincial Park, Sandwell and Drumbeg Provincial Parks, roadside picnic tables at Brickyard Beach, and the sheltered enclave at Silva Bay, a popular stopover for marine traffic in summer, and a good place to wet your whistle.
Pedalling Gabriola is a fairly straightforward endeavour: North and South Roads loop around opposite sides of the island and meet at Silva Bay. For a special insight into the aboriginal mythology of the Cowichan Nation, take time to view the petroglyphs carved in the rock face of a field behind Gabriola United Church on South Road. Follow a trail behind the church through the forest to an open field and begin exploring the rock face for ancient images.
Of all the southern islands, Galiano Island has the most well-organized mountain-biking trail system. While exploring the rugged, spiny island visit Bluffs Park, the site of some spectacular views and the beginning of a network of trails and roads around Mount Galiano.
- Note that helmets are mandatory on public roads in British Columbia.
- Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition