A Bike, a Ferry Ride, and a Credit Card
Interested in an easy, reasonably priced weekend getaway that involves only a bike, a credit card, and a Vancouver Island ferry ride?
A few years ago John and I did a fantastic trip that involved just those things.
It started with a drive to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, about 45 minutes from downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. We left our car in a long-term parking lot, attached the panniers to our bikes (loaded with only a change of clothes and some rain gear), and headed to purchase ferry tickets. The terminal has a special booth for cyclists. Rates these days are $15.50 per adult, plus an extra $2 to bring a bike on board. The beauty of traveling with a bike, as opposed to a car, is that you can always get on, and it’s $47.25 cheaper each way without the car (based on two people traveling with bikes). BC Ferries also has a first-on, first-off policy for cyclists. Just be sure to bring a lock for peace of mind -- and remember which level on the ferry you left your bikes.
Ninety minutes after heading out, we got off the ferry in Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. As the first ones off, we got a head start and almost reached the Lochside Trail before the flow of passing cars began. The signs for the trail are at the top of the first hill off the ferry; you can’t miss seeing them.
The Lochside Trail is a 29-kilometer multi-use pathway that started off as a railway line. It connects the ferry terminal to the 55-kilometer Galloping Goose Trail -- another trail that takes you out to Sooke, but also leads into downtown Victoria.
A leafy section of the Lochside Trail. Photo credit
We cycled the Lochside Trail past the town of Sidney, through farmland, and past many a horse before meeting up with the Galloping Goose Trail near the intersection of Douglas and Highway 1. Occasionally we were on roads we had to share with cars or farm vehicles, but traffic was minimal. It got a tad confusing on the approach to the Galloping Goose Trail -- but if you pay close attention to the signage you should be okay. (We hadn’t been.)
A section of the Galloping Goose Trail near Victoria. Photo credit
It's 4 kilometers into downtown Victoria from the intersection of the two trails, but we elected not to visit there. Instead, we continued along the Galloping Goose, passing Portage Inlet and Royal Roads University. After that, we felt like we had gotten away from civilization, though the trail was always in great shape. We stopped for lunch at a small rodeo we just happened upon, and caught some calf roping and barrel racing.
A treed section of the Galloping Goose Trail. Photo credit
Then we enjoyed almost 5 kilometers of cycling through Roche Cove Regional Park, followed by another pretty section with ocean views of the Sooke Basin. Once we reached Sooke we diverted from the trail and headed for the Sooke Harbour area, where we had a reservation for the night at a cliffside B&B. That one may no longer be operating today, but there are loads of other B&Bs in the area, as well as the famous Sooke Harbour House. The rooms there were out of our price range, but we did walk over -- in our one change of clothes -- and relish the food the establishment is so well known for.
The beautiful gardens and views at Sooke Harbour House. Photo credit
The next day, after a breakfast filled with great conversation and endless cups of coffee, it was time to retrace our tire tracks. All told, it was about 75 kilometers (46 miles) of biking each way -- a reasonable amount, especially considering that there weren’t too many hills.
Have you ever taken off for a weekend trip with just a bike, a few extra clothes, and a credit card? I highly recommend it!
Tip for this ride: If we'd had more time, visits off of the Lochside Trail to some of the wineries would have been fun. As a weekend trip, this one’s a winner for anyone living in or visiting the Pacific Northwest. You could easily make it into a weeklong trip if you wanted to. Check out my Gulf Island Cycling Guide or my Cowichan Bay Bike and Wine Tour Guide for detailed ideas.