Biking to Victoria from Vancouver has long been on my to-do list. That said, two things have always gotten in the way; international travel and my complete lack of a cyclist physique.
In a roundabout way, the pandemic finally got me out the door and to the island on my bike. Here’s my recap of biking to Victoria from Vancouver, a ride that is surprisingly flat yet challenging and has some interesting stops along the way.
I am by no means a cyclist. This is part of the reason why I chose to do this trip. The route is very easy door-to-door with minimal elevation change along the way. On top of that, it has a few built-in stops making it the ideal first overnight cycling trip for anyone in the lower mainland or Victoria area.
What to Pack
Since I was biking to Victoria and only staying the night, I packed very light. I initially purchased a rear rack for my bike and a saddle bag to go with it but this was overkill. In the end, I used a small water bottle/bag combo for my phone and GoPro. In a very small backpack I took a change of underwear, socks, shirt, shorts, and toiletries. A mask, hand sanitiser, and not enough sunscreen filled out the list.
UPDATE: Despite recovering from a shoulder injury, I used a backpack for this trip. In retrospect, this was a poor choice. I definitely paid for it with soreness the following week. Next time I will go with a saddlebag.
Biking to Victoria From Vancouver in 60 Seconds
Since I settled on a small backpack and bike bag, I didn’t take my usual camera gear. I did take a GoPro and compiled the trip in to a 60-second clip:
- Door-to-door 50-65 KM (depending on where you start and stop)
- The elevation change between cities is 20.31 meters
- Highlights along the way include breweries, trails through parks, ferry ride, wooden bridges, and the fattest pigs you will ever see.
Leg #1: Vancouver to Richmond
I departed my place in Mount Pleasant Vancouver at 7:15 in the morning. Getting over Queen Elizabeth Park, the highest point in Vancouver is honestly the hardest part of this trip. Once we hit 41st ave, it was all downhill via Ontario Street.
Once across the sky train pedestrian bridge over the Fraser River, we made our way to the Shell Road Trail. This 3.6km straight shot path runs north/south through Richmond’s core and is surprisingly great. I never knew this existed despite having worked just off of Steveston when I first moved to Vancouver. Richmond is incredibly flat and so is this trail. For the most part, it is sheltered by trees making it a comfortable ride as well.
15 minutes later, we arrived at our first pitstop, the Massey Tunnel bike shuttle.
Optional stop: On the way back, we stopped in for a celebratory pint or two at Fuggles and Warlock. I highly recommend fitting this brewery in if time permits!
Leg #2: Delta to Tsawwassen
To keep cyclist safe, the BC Government offers a free shuttle service through the Massey Tunnel. It runs hourly from 6 AM to 6 PM and takes about 10 minutes, depending on traffic. There are limited spots available on the bike rack however if there is a queue, the van will come back and pick up the rest. This stop offers a quick break from peddling and was welcomed by my pandemic body.
Note: If you were to punch in Vancouver to Victoria by bike in Google Maps, the route would take you over the Alex Fraser bridge and way out of the way. Punch in the following address for the tunnel shuttle for southbound pickup: 13433 Rice Mill Rd #12953, Richmond, BC V6W 1A3
From the south side of the shuttle stop, it’s another 16.5 km to the Tawwassan ferry terminal. This was another surprisingly scenic route past farms and large residential homes.
The last few kilometres are down the jetty to the ferry terminal. Depending on the wind direction, This can be a struggle.
We were pushing it in the off chance we could catch the early ferry. If not, it was a two-hour wait till the next one. Although there are plenty of eateries, coffee shops, and stores at the ferry terminal to kill time, we were glad to make the early ferry with minutes to spare.
Cycling onto the ferry is considered a walk-on and cost just $17.30 as of writing this. There are bike racks at the front of the boat however they fill up quick. We just left ours resting on the sidewall as other cyclists were doing the same.
This is the second pitstop of the trip and takes an hour and 45 minutes to cross the Georgia Straight. It was another welcomed break and resting up on the sundeck is a great way to recover for the rest of the ride.
Note: facemasks are currently required on sailings and the cafeteria seating is limited. If the weather permits, the most comfortable option is to head to the sundeck.
Leg #3: Swartz Bay to North Saanich
From Swartz Bay, we made our way onto the Lochside Trail, one of the major trails in the Victoria area. After a short ride past Sydney and some farmland, we detoured to our next pitstop – Category 12 Brewery. It is a short (and sweaty for me) climb up a hill but the beer is your reward at the top.
On the way back to Vancouver, we stopped at Michell’s Farm Market in Saanichton. There is a small food stand popular with cyclist and Sunday drivers. We had a couple of drinks in the grass and split some of the best french fries I have ever had.
The shop is also near the Michell Airpark, home to Victoria’s Largest Little Airshow. The next time I’m biking to Victoria from Vancouver I will be sure to coordinate with this model aeroplane outing. Even if you don’t line up with the airshow, there is a good chance you will see hobbyist flying their planes and makes for a fun stop.
Leg #4: North Saanich to Victoria
Continuing down the Lochside Trail, you’ll pass a farmhouse with two massive pigs out front. Visitors can feed them from a pile of vegetables left out. Certainly a unique highlight of this ride. It was crowded when we biked in but on the way out we were able to feed them with ease.
The Lochside Trail continues through covered trees which brought welcomed shade at this point in our ride. Eventually we met up with the Galloping Goose Trail, a former rail line turned amazing cycling trail. With its wooden bridges and waterfront scenery, it’s easy to see why Victoria is Canada’s top bike-friendly city. I was blown away by the number of people out and about and wondered if this was pandemic related or simply life on the island?
A testament to Victoria’s commitment to being bike-friendly are the numerous self-serve bike repair stations along the way. These actually came in handy on the return as one of our riders required a tune-up before continuing on.
Just over seven hours after leaving home, we crossed the newly completed Johnson Street Bridge and into downtown Victoria. This capped off a great ride, one that was both challenging and relaxing. It was also very comfortable with built-in pitstops and flat trails.
Now, I did say that I was by no means a cyclist however I did purchase a Peloton shortly before this trip. It was amazing how much that played into my ride and 100% helped me keep up with a couple of hard-core cyclist in our group. One cycled for conquering cancer and the other biked from Vancouver to the tip of the Baja.
Note: Order a Peloton through my referral code USSCEB and receive $100 towards shoes and accessories!
Fueling up in Victoria
On top of an excellent ride, we got an afternoon and evening to enjoy Victoria. We stayed at the Best Western Carlton Plaza for its central location and low rates. There is so much to see and do in this laid back city as well as plenty of great places to eat. On this trip, we made up for our 2000+ calories burnt by feasting at Sult Pierogi Bar. After that, we enjoyed a few pints at Phillips (new to me) tasting room and then 10 Acres for late-night happy hour and eats. The next morning we were hit up Habbit coffee before making our way out of town.
For a full breakdown of Victoria highlights, check out my post on travelling around the Pacific Marine Circle Route as well as my foodie guide to the city.
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