Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

Snacks & Supplies

I had an unexpected couple of days off work and the weather was holding well for mid-October. So, I decided to load up the bike and head off to Salt Spring Island for a one-night campout at Ruckle Provincial Park.

It’s about 35 kilometers from where I live in Victoria out to Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal. Except for the initial leg through downtown Victoria, it's on the Lochside Trail the whole way out. Bikes even have their own entrance to the ferry terminal, with signs on the Lochside Trail and the highway directing you. BC Ferries charges an extra $2 for a bike on top of the $11.90 per person fare; that’s round-trip, as you don’t have to pay again to get off on any of the Gulf Islands.

Bike Signage En Route To Swartz Bay

Fulford Harbour ferry landing to Ruckle Park is about 10 kilometers all told. Even if you get off the ferry a bit ahead of the cars (bikes load and unload with the foot traffic on the Gulf Island ferries), I highly recommend spending a few minutes loitering near the ferry terminal so you aren’t jousting with impatient car traffic up the steep hill out of Fulford Harbour. I recommend the Rock Salt Cafe right next to the ferry landing. There you can get caffeine, chocolate, WiFi, and a plug-in to charge your phone — four of life’s necessities all taken care of!

Fulford Harbour Ferry Landing

Speaking of phones, cell reception across Salt Spring is decidedly spotty; even if you can get a bar or two of reception, don't count on getting data service. It’s a hilly, rugged island and a lot of the locals aren’t too fond of the idea of a cell tower on every hilltop.

Ruckle Park Entrance

Ruckle Provincial Park out on Beaver Point is lovely. While it’s crowded in the summer, on a Monday in mid-October there were exactly three sites in use (according to the park operator who took my $18 site fee). I had my pick of sites right up from the shoreline, with spectacular 180+ degree views of the other islands and passing ferries. No showers or flush toilets, but lots of drinking water taps around the campsite.

Campsite With A View

I had nice dry, weather on the hilly 10-lilometer ride from the ferry to Ruckle, which took about an hour with a moderately loaded touring bike. Island roads are universally narrow, and they lack shoulders, but the few drivers I encountered were all courteous enough. If you’re doing this ride in mid-summer, it may be a different story (more cars, that is).

Ruckle Park is named after the Ruckle family, who have farmed the land here since the early years of the 20th century. They deeded the land to the provincial government as a park, but they still operate part of it as a working farm and orchard. Their apples are scrumptious, and if I could have somehow carried one of their squashes home on the bike I would have — their farm stand is well worth a stop.

Ruckle Farm Stand

It rained on me a bit as it got dark around 8 p.m., so I retired to my tent to read a bit before going to sleep early.

The next morning dawned sunny and clear; this was the view from my tent door when I woke up!

Bike Morning

I took my time with breakfast and multiple cups of tea, taking advantage of the October sunshine both for myself and to let the dew-covered tent dry a bit before packing it away. The stated checkout time at the campground is 10 a.m., but nobody had shown up to fuss when I didn’t roll out until just before eleven. I headed over to a relative’s house for lunch, then went back to Fulford Harbour in time for the 2:50 p.m. ferry back to Swartz Bay. I arrived there in plenty of time for another dose of coffee, chocolate, WiFi, and recharging at Rock Salt!

The ride back to Victoria from Swartz Bay was routine, but using the Lochside Trail is always a pleasure. I stopped in Sidney for a quick early dinner and did get rained on pretty hard for about twenty minutes of the ride home. But, other than that, the weather had held up remarkably well for a mid-October adventure. I’ll be back to Salt Spring Island, I’m sure. Ruckle is a lovely campground and an easy ride out from Victoria, provided you’re okay with Salt Spring’s narrow and hilly roads.

Get more information about bike overnights.

Tips for this adventure: Sometimes biking is just an excuse to eat good, rich food. The peppermint chocolate brownies at Rock Salt Cafe just off the ferry landing at Fulford Harbour are excellent fuel for the 10-kilometer ride to Ruckle Park. Due to the spotty cell reception, if your navigation plan is "Google Maps/GPS on my phone," do have a backup plan, even if it’s just a quick sketch map. (BTW, I love the Bike Overnights site. Even if I never get to the parts of the world other people are writing about, it's inspiring to be reminded that bike touring doesn't always have to be a massive epic, and that small tours can be great, too!)

Favorite local bike shop: North Park Bikes in Victoria, B.C.

 

5 responses so far ↓

Mandy - Nov 10, 2014 at 4:17 PM

This sounds lovely! A friend and I did a week long loop from Vancouver, up the Sunshine Coast, across to Vancouver Island, hopping off on Salt Spring for two days, then on to Victoria and back to Vancouver. Hilly but wonderful, and we used the charming inns and thrifty hostels all week long. What a gorgeous place you have there!

Kathleen - Nov 11, 2014 at 9:18 AM

Nice ride. Been to Salt Spring Island just the once and vowed to come back to ride it. Yes, lots more cars in the summer, and hilly, but a great place to explore. Sounds like you had a great time. Thanks for writing this.

Roland - Dec 10, 2014 at 1:55 PM

You choose a beautiful spot. Hope you had a wonderful time.

Don - Dec 18, 2014 at 1:17 PM

I'm from Vancouver, Wa. and have biked this route many times on my touring vacations. Ruckle is my favorite destination for camping. You chose wisely.

Barb - May 6, 2015 at 9:06 AM

Great story and I agree to both loving the Bike Overnight website and also that a nice tour doesn't have to be epic. Thanks for sharing your story.

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