Victoria & Gulf Islands Cycling

Trip Length 7 Days
Group Size 4?12
Difficulty
Starting from
$3,439 for REI Members
$3,789 for non-members
Departures Jul 2020-Aug 2020

Spend 7 blissful days cycling British Columbia?s Gulf Islands, exploring the coast, countryside and refined capital city, Victoria.

Join an expert guide and a handful of fellow travelers for this ramble through three gorgeous Gulf Islands: Vancouver, Pender and Salt Spring. Graced with a Mediterranean-like climate, these islands pair Pacific Northwest natural beauty with a European vibe. This trip is right for cycling enthusiasts of any level who love sightseeing from the saddle. All the details are handled for you. Experience country roads, seaside paths, misty moss-draped forests, and the frontier elegance of British Columbia?s capital, Victoria.

Expect fresh coastal cuisine and leisurely rides through storybook landscapes. Great snow-crowned peaks rise around us as we discover Gulf Islands National Park and beyond. Ride rolling hills through lush countryside; visit Victoria?s world-renowned Butchart Gardens; experience the Cowichan Valley and the time-honored crafts of totem poles and hand-woven sweaters; stroll through quaint harbor towns and fishing villages; and venture into a park where basalt canyons cradle a jewel-green river. Go home beautifully relaxed after a week on island time.

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Trip Highlights

  • Glimpse more than 900 varieties of colorful flowers and plants at Butchart Gardens
  • Overnights in European-influenced capital city Victoria
  • Ride the Galloping Goose, Cowichan Valley and Lochside Trails
  • Island hop on Vancouver, Pender and Salt Spring Islands.
  • Cycle rural, rolling, sometimes "punchy" hills, and gravel, car-free trails. E-bikes available.

Activities

This trip is rated Moderate [3]. Participants should be experienced riders who are comfortable in the saddle for 2?6 hours per day; they should be comfortable riding on a variety of surfaces besides paved roads, including dirt trails, city streets with vehicle traffic, and narrow island roads.

Rides range from 15?35 miles with the ability to add 10 miles on a few days. Terrain is flat to rolling hills with a few steeper ascents and descents. Total elevation gains and losses range from 500'?2,300'. Most hill gradients average 2?4% and a few short hills can reach up to 9% grades. Vehicle support is available when needed.

  • Road Cycling
  • Cycling

What's Included

Six nights accommodations; all meals as noted in the daily itinerary; bikes (including E-bikes in limited quantities) ferry ride tickets, Butchart Gardens entry fee.

Accommodations

Lodge or cottage accommodations, 6 nights

Your wheels for the journey

Every great tour begins with a great bike, and our top-flight fleet has been carefully curated for your cycling adventure.

Want to bring your own bike?  You can do that too.

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Set sail for British Columbia and ride the Saanich Peninsula to Butchart Gardens.

Grab your passports and meet your guides and fellow travelers in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, Washington. Our first voyage of the morning by ferry crosses the Haro Strait and border of the United States and Canada. Between views of islands sailing by, we?ll have an orientation and brief history of different places we?ll visit this week. Docked in Sidney and through customs, you?ll immediately feel the colonial charm through the vibrant colors and groomed English gardens in the neighborhood. From a local park, we?ll have a picnic lunch before a bike fit, route and cycle safety debrief. Along the ride, we?ll hug the coastline of the northern peninsula with window views of the Saanich Islet between evergreens. Concluding our afternoon ride, we?ll check out Butchart Gardens and the old limestone quarry transformed to lush gardens known as the Sunken Garden. After, we?ll shuttle back to Sidney to our hotel and dinner along the waterfront. Lunch and dinner included.

Cycling: 20 miles (2?3 hours, 100% paved); Elevation gain/loss: +1,127'/-1,103'; Boat transfer: 1.5 hours.

Day 2

Ferry to Pender Island, ride and explore Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and its abundant wildlife.

Up early today we?ll take a brisk morning pedal, four miles to Swartz Bay ferry terminal. With earned appetites, breakfast is aboard the ferry on our passage to Pender Island. Once on the other side, let?s ease into "island time" and enjoy a smooth change of pace on quiet roads. Millions of years ago, the Canadian Gulf Islands were part of a rugged mountain range smoothed overtime by a massive glacier from the last ice age. Today, we get to feel like "king of the mountain" as we cycle over gentle hills barely cresting 400' above sea level. Finishing in South Pender, we?ll ride into Poet?s Cove, and our resort for the night. Topping off an early dinner, we?ll take a short sunset hike to the top of Mount Norman. Looking out, you?ll catch a glistening view of Salt Spring Island and our next stop tomorrow. All meals included.

Cycling: 25 miles (3?4 hours, 100% paved); Elevation gain/loss: +2,851'/-2,770'; Boat transfer: 1 hour.

Day 3

A Poet?s Cove morning then ferry to Salt Spring Island, known for its island charm.

Take it easy this morning and enjoy coffee from your deck. You?ve earned it! We?ll have a casual breakfast this morning and give you time on your own. Be charmed by a nature walk through the Enchanted Forest (right next door) or watch the float planes take off from the cove right from the hotel. After check-out, we?ll cycle 10 miles back to the ferry terminal for the noon crossing to Salt Spring Island. On the northern end of the island, bask in a tranquil ride of the northern shore and inland lake. Salt Spring Island has some the warmest average temperatures annually in Canada, making it a perfect island ride. We?ll end our day with a tasting from a local cidery from apples grown from the region before we take a van to our new hotel in Ganges for the evening. Take time for yourself to explore this harbor town filled with creative culinary fare, galleries, and charm. Breakfast and lunch included.

Cycling: 24 miles (3?4 hours, 100% paved); Elevation gain/loss: +1,535'/-1,585'; Boat transfer: 30 min.

Day 4

Cycle along the eastern shoreline before heading to the Cowichan Valley.

Rise ready for another great ride on Salt Spring Island. After breakfast, we?ll head to the southern tip Ruckle Provincial Park for an excellent opportunity to experience the large tidal exchange throughout the Salish Sea. We?ll have lunch at a local cheese farm before catching an early afternoon ferry to the Cowichan Valley. Spend the afternoon learning about the Cowichan Tribes and the Coastal Salish peoples known for the carved Totem pole and chunky wool woven Cowichan sweaters. Tonight, we?ll stay and dine in Cowichan. All meals included.

Cycling: 23 miles (3 hours, 90% paved, 10% trail); Elevation gain/loss: +1676'/-1388'; Van transfer: 1 hour; Boat transfer: 30 min.

Day 5

Ride car-free on the Cowichan Trail. Pass over iconic wooden trestle bridges.

A stunning day of cycling along an old rail-trail and over some of the largest trestles in the world. After breakfast, we?ll transfer outside of Duncan and start cycling to Lake Cowichan and then up the Cowichan River. Part of the iconic Trans-Canada bike route, this abandoned railway was once an important economic builder for Vancouver Island and the logging industry. Our gravel ride takes us into lush natural forests through tunnels of green trees and ferns. Throughout the day we will cross a number of trestle bridges, including the Kinsol Trestle (one of the tallest free-standing and incredible timber trestles in the world), riding miles of gravel, car-free bliss. The cycling will be characterized by easy grade riding with some gravel and rocky areas on the trail. Tonight, we?ll stay in Sooke Harbour, the southernmost tip of western Canada. All meals included.

Cycling: 42 miles (4?5 hours, 100% trail); Elevation gain/loss: +1,893'/-1,692'; Van transfer: 1.5 hours.

Day 6

Cycle the Galloping Goose Trail to Victoria, BC.

Today we ride one of the finest sections of the Galloping Goose Regional Trail from Sooke to Victoria. Starting our ride from Potholes Provincial Park, we?ll have a chance to spot the salmon upstream swim where they go to spawn. Starting from the top, we?ll ride a gradual downhill on packed gravel trail, over trestles, and along the shore. Rustic forest will begin to transform to colonial cosmopolitan as we get closer to the city. We?ll triumphantly end our ride over the Johnson Street Bridge entering the bustling downtown Victoria. Top off your afternoon with a walk-through town, or spend time watching the world-famous street performers outside the Parliament building. We?ll toast our last night together at dinner and celebrate the beautiful places we?ve visited this week. All meals included.

Cycling: 36 miles (3?5 hours, 60% trail, 40% paved); Elevation gain/loss: +995'/-1,583'; Van transfer: 30 min.

Day 7

A morning ride of Victoria before Canadian brunch and a fond farewell.

This morning, we?ll take the opportunity to ride a loop of Victoria and uncommon sites of the city. We?ll take you past the Craigdarroch Castle, built with the wealth of Vancouver industrial era?a time that impacted many of the places we visited earlier this week. After, we?ll ride a perfect stretch of road along the shore. Our views will be across the Salish Sea toward the USA, but we'll embrace this morning like locals, riding with casual weekend cyclists and joggers. You?ll be happy you cycled to work up an appetite, as breakfast in Canada is not taken lightly! After our hearty breakfast, we?ll pack up and say our farewells. Victoria is a perfect location to extend your trip?there are many connection options back to Seattle or Vancouver, BC to continue your travels. Breakfast included.

Cycling: 12 miles (1?2 hours, 100% paved); Elevation gain/loss: +465'/-468'.

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary?this will help you and the field staff.

Collection of selected R E I Co-op cycling merchandise and snacks laid out to pack for a bike tour

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.