Georgia Strait Cycling Tour 2017
Bob and I were joined by Chris, Matt, and James on a six-day cycling tour of the Strait of Georgia in southwest British Columbia and northwest Washington on August 6-11, 2017, riding along the Sunshine Coast, the east shore of Vancouver Island, the north shore of the Olympic Peninsula, and the northwest coast of Washington.

Sunshine, tailwinds, beautiful views, and safe roads were with us the entire route, along with good food and beer in cool towns at the end of each day, and not a single flat nor mechanical issue. We had initially considered doing the route in a clockwise direction. Upon examining prior weather data, we figured we would be more likely to have tailwinds riding counter-clockwise, since the prevailing winds in August are consistently from the southeast on the Sunshine Coast, from the north in Nanaimo, from the northwest or west in Port Angeles, and from the south in Bellingham; the historial trend was accurate, as we encountered headwinds only occasionally for a few kilometres (e.g., where our route had significant bends) while benefitting from gentle tailwinds for much of the route.

Our route started and finished in Vancouver. Ferry access to Victoria, Nanaimo, and Anacortes allowed Chris, Matt, and James to leave or join the ride partway. In total, our route included six ferry crossings.

total distance cycled: 724 km
total elevation gain: 7537 m
total time cycling: 30 hours, 12 minutes (over 6 days)
average speed: 24 km/h (the same as last year)

photo: Bob rides along the eastern shore of Whidbey Island on Day 5, a few kilometres northwest of Coupeville, where we had lunch after the ferry from Port Townsend. We met James in Anacortes later that afternoon.
Day 1: Vancouver to Gibsons
distance cycled: 68 km
elevation gain: 1394 m
time cycling: 3 hours, 23 minutes
Strava, Relive: Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay
ferry: Horseshoe Bay to Langdale
Strava, Relive: Langdale to Gibsons
My flight to Vancouver was delayed nearly six hours; thankfully we had planned a shorter first day. We considered skipping the climb up Cypress to catch an earlier ferry, but sticking to our route was the right call. Chris, Bob, and I made our way through downtown traffic and crowds, around Stanley Park, over the Lions Gate Bridge, and up Cypress Mountain. Views were unavailable due to forest fire smoke, but we enjoyed the ascent nonetheless! A fast descent allowed us to catch the 6:35 pm ferry from Horseshoe Bay to the Sunshine Coast. We parted ways with Chris, who was taking a different ferry. Once across, opting for the scenic route along the water required ascending a steep climb from sea level to the centre of Gibsons, where we met Matt. The three of us had dinner at Blackfish Pub and stayed at the Cedars Inn Hotel.
photo: With only 5 km to our hotel on the other shore, we relaxed on the ferry to Langdale; we weren't yet aware of the upcoming steep climb to end the day (a pattern throughout the trip).
Day 2: Gibsons to Powell River
distance cycled: 116 km
elevation gain: 1608 m
time cycling: 4 hours, 47 minutes
Strava, Relive: Gibsons to Earls Cove
ferry: Earls Cove to Saltery Bay
Strava, Relive: Saltery Bay to Powell River
After breakfast at Wheatberries Bakery, Matt, Bob, and I rode the length of the Sunshine Coast to Powell River. Highlights included the quiet Lower Road through Roberts Creek, Redroofs Road to Halfmoon Bay, and lunch at The Cove. We caught the 12:55 pm ferry in Earls Cove, rode the final 35 km to Powell River, and checked in to the Island View Lodge, leaving us plenty of time to visit with Cédric and Chloe and sample their delicious range of taps at Townsite Brewing!
photo: Bob rides along the Sunshine Coast Hwy towards Powell River. A hazy Texada Island is visible across the water.
Day 3: Powell River to Nanaimo
distance cycled: 117 km
elevation gain: 870 m
time cycling: 4 hours, 13 minutes
Strava: ride to the ferry
ferry: Powell River to Comox
Strava, Relive: Comox to Nanaimo
After a quick ride south from our hotel and breakfast at Base Camp Coffee, we caught the first ferry to Comox at 8:05 am. Once on the island, a light tailwind and less elevation gain than the first two days, combined with Matt's awesome pace pulling at the front, led to a fast (and scenic) ride along the eastern shore of Vancouver Island. We stopped for lunch at The Beach Hut in Qualicum Beach and got caught in Parksville traffic before continuing to Nanaimo. Highlights included the long stretches of Hwy 19A along the water and NW Bay Road. We spent the evening with Bob's family in Nanaimo (thank you!). Matt continued to Departure Bay to catch the ferry back to Horseshoe Bay and return home to Seattle.
photo: about to depart from our lunch stop in Qualicum Beach
Day 4: Nanaimo to Victoria
distance cycled: 123 km
elevation gain: 1121 m
time cycling: 5 hours, 18 minutes
Strava, Relive: Nanaimo to Brentwood Bay
ferry: Brentwood Bay to Mill Bay
Strava, Relive: Mill Bay to Victoria
We joined Bob's brother Andy on his cycle commute, after which we met Bob's brother Nathan and their mother, who treated us to breakfast and some home-baked cookies for the road! Being our fourth day and not having to rush to a ferry (or so we thought) we rode at a more relaxed pace. Cowichan Bay Marina provided good lunch options; we chose the Rock Cod Cafe, where Bob had the good idea to order milkshakes with lunch. Most of the roads were quite enjoyable (except possibly for a 8 km stretch along Hwy 1 through Ladysmith). We missed the 2:25 pm ferry to Mill Bay by 10 minutes, and had to wait until 3:35 pm for the next one. There we met four cyclists riding a similar route, with cold beer to share. The ride to downtown Victoria was both enjoyable and efficient thanks to the Galloping Goose and Lochside trails. Bicycles have priority over motor vehicles on this path, i.e., at all intersections bikes continue straight through, whereas cars have a stop sign. We had dinner by the harbour on the patio at The Local, beer at the Garrick's Head Pub, and stayed at the Bedford Regency Hotel.
photo: Our route went inland through farmland, such as this road north of Quamichan Lake.
Day 5: Victoria to Anacortes
distance cycled: 142 km
elevation gain: 1373 m
time cycling: 6 hours, 10 minutes
ferry: Victoria to Port Angeles
Strava, Relive: Port Angeles to Port Townsend
ferry: Port Townsend to Coupeville
Strava, Relive: Coupeville to Anacortes
Our hotel was located a few hundred metres from the ferry terminal, allowing us to catch the 6:10 am ferry to the U.S. Starting at the ferry terminal in Port Angeles, we followed the Olympic Discovery Trail for over half the route, a scenic paved trail through forest and farmland. This trail is very enjoyable and would be nice for family cycle touring (safe for children). After leaving the trail we stopped for a break (proper espresso for Bob) at the Discovery Bay Village Store. Leaving Hwy 101, we headed north onto Hwy 20 for a steep, high-traffic, and shoulderless 10 km stretch before we could escape to a pleasant ride along South Discovery Road to the west. The route eventually rejoins Hwy 20 for the final 5 km into Port Townsend to the ferry along a bike lane. We caught the 12:30 pm ferry to Coupeville (our sixth and final ferry of the trip) but only because it was running 20 minutes late.
photo: Bob rides through the fog along the Olympic Discovery Trail east from Port Angeles along miles of coastline. Vancouver Island lies to the right (Bob's left).
The ferry took us to Whidbey Island, where we rode 7 km to Coupeville and had lunch at the Front Street Grill. The ride on Madrona Way along the shore of Penn Cove was beautiful (see the top photo), unlike the next portion of Hwy 20 we followed through high traffic to cross the town of Oak Harbor; a secondary road would have been a better choice here. Deception Pass State Park is nice and the views from the bridge across the pass to Fidalgo Island are spectacular. After the pass we left Hwy 20 onto Rosario Road, Marine Drive, and Havekost Road; lots of up and down led to a steep downhill into Anacortes and to our hotel, Cap Sante Inn. James met us at the hotel and the three of us had dinner at the Rock Fish Grill.
photo: We were happy to escape the busy and shoulderless Hwy 20 to the quiet and scenic South Discovery Road.
Day 6: Anacortes to Vancouver
distance cycled: 156 km
elevation gain: 1171 m
time cycling: 6 hours, 21 minutes
Strava, Relive: Anacortes to Vancouver
After breakfast at Calico Cafe, James, Bob, and I started our day on a pleasant paved bike path south out of Anacortes and across Fidalgo Bay on a 1 km causeway and bridge. We rode north along the flat east shore of Padilla Bay (fast thanks to a tailwind) to the hilly and scenic Larrabee State Park and Chuckanut, which is an amazing combination of rolling hills through shady forest with ocean views. We coasted downhill into Fairhaven, where we had coffee in a pleasant town square, on the patio of Colophon Cafe. We continued north through Bellingham to Ferndale for lunch at Chihuahua Restaurant. After lunch James returned to Bellingham, while Bob and I continued north to the border.
photo: We stopped at this viewpoint along Chuckanut Drive where we met a couple from Whyte Ridge (where I live in Winnipeg).
Bob and I continued to Blaine and into Canada at the Peace Arch border crossing. After a long ride through traffic in Surrey (on bike lanes) and passing over the Alec Fraser and Annacis Channel bridges, we enjoyed crossing Richmond along River Road (unexpectedly great riding through an oasis of undeveloped waterfront land) and over the Canada Line Bikeway across the Fraser River (at the south end of Cambie Street) before finishing our ride into Vancouver on Marine Drive. We rejoined Chris and his family at their home, who welcome us with pizza and beer. Thanks!
photo: Bob and James enjoy coffee in Fairhaven.
Equipment and Logistics
This year we reserved all of our hotels in advance, which worked well, choosing hotels located close to restaurant districts and ferries. Our daily average distance of 120 km also worked well, with distances gradually increasing throughout the trip. We were careful to leave ourselves time to catch the more critical ferries without needing to rush (Earls Cove to Saltery Bay, Powell River to Comox, and Victoria to Port Angeles). My equipment was essentially identical to what I used in the Okanagan in 2016.

The route was excellent for the entire six days, with the only major potential change to recommend for future riders of this loop being the latter half of the sixth day, from Fairhaven to Richmond. A route closer to the water, through Neptune Beach, Birch Bay, White Rock, and along the western perimeter of Surrey to the Alec Fraser Bridge would likely provide more enjoyable cycling, while only increasing the distance by 10 km or so. We intentionally avoided the George Massey Tunnel since, in addition to being on the busy Hwy 99, bicycles are not allowed in the tunnel and require a shuttle to cross. Also, as mentioned above, choosing secondary roads for the 3 km stretch through the town of Oak Harbor would likely have been more pleasant (less traffic) than the route we took along Hwy 20.

photo: entering Canada at the Peace Arch border crossing
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