Highway which runs the full length of the Island, from Victoria (the BC provincial capital) in the south to the Municipality of Port Hardy at its northernmost tip. Beginning in Victoria as Highway 1, (the western end of the Trans-Canada Highway) the road heads north, transforming into Provincial Highway 19. This primary route extends northward and passes through virtually all of the major communities along Vancouver Island’s eastern shoreline. After departing Victoria and the world of attractions and services this dynamic city has to offer, the route transects the Cowichan Valley, known for its lush agricultural lands, producing vineyards, First Nation cultural sites and tourism friendly service sector.
From Cowichan the northbound motorized traveler will pass through the Town of Chemainus and its world-famous collection of outdoor murals and the historic and beautiful Town of Ladysmith before reaching the City of Nanaimo – Vancouver Island’s second largest city and the principle service centre for the entire Central Island region. Nanaimo, which began life as a resource driven industrial community has evolved into a hub for education, innovative high tech start up firms, a vibrant business community and a full range of shops, services, restaurants, as well as a dynamic and active hospitality sector.
Heading northward from Nanaimo, a traveler has to make a hard choice – one that offers rewards and adventures regardless of the decision made. Just past Nanaimo the campervan driver will reach Vancouver Island’s Oceanside area, which encompasses the City of Parksville and the Towns of Qualicum Beach and Qualicum Bay. This entire region is famous for its exceptional beaches, fantastic campgrounds (both private and provincial), parks, recreation and modern facilities and services.
The decision the traveler has to make in the Oceanside area is whether to continue north along Highway 19, or veer off to the west on Highway 4, the route that leads through the bustling and vibrant City of Port Alberni, which serves as the gateway to Vancouver Island’s west coast and the world famous tourist destinations of Tofino, Bamfield and Ucluelet. With its spectacular scenery, roaring surf, wildlife, art, services, First Nation heritage and countless other attractions the west coast of Vancouver Island is unmatched for beauty and appeal – drawing visitors annually from all across the globe.
But the motorist who opted to continue along Highway 19 won’t be disappointed either. Heading northward from the Oceanside region travelers enter the Comox Valley, another historic section of Vancouver Island that has transformed from its rugged industrial roots into a cosmopolitan centre that serves as the home for universities, dynamic businesses and with an established and sophisticated hospitality sector. The Three C’s of the Comox Valley are the cities of Courtenay and Comox (home of a major Royal Canadian Air Force base), and the picturesque Village of Cumberland. Within the region are countless sights, recreational activities (including Mount Washington, Vancouver Island’s principal skiing destination) and all of the services and amenities any visitor could desire.
But that’s only part of what awaits the northbound traveler. Heading north from the Comox Valley, transiting some of the most beautiful and productive agricultural land on Vancouver Island, the campervan-equipped visitor will reach the beautiful coastal city of Campbell River, the self-described Salmon Capital of the World. Like many of the Island communities, this once rough and rugged forestry-driven community has transformed into a sophisticated population centre that serves as the key embarkation point for explorers heading into Vancouver Island’s northern third.
Sport fishing has helped put Campbell River clearly on the world’s tourism maps, offering some of the most exciting salmon fishing found anywhere. The city is especially famous for its legendary Tyee, which are Spring Salmon weighing in at more than 14 kg (30 pounds) that have to be caught using light tackle and numerous other strict restrictions set out by the Tyee Club in its official regulations. Even if not after a monster salmon, the Campbell River area offers a host of services and attractions that helps to make it one of Vancouver Island’s premier visitor destinations.
But back on the road, another decision awaits the northbound driver. Just outside of Campbell River the route north along Highway 19 heads to Port Hardy (passing through the Town of Port McNeill along the way), or shifts west along Highway 28, which terminates at the Village of Gold River on the northern west coast. Either of these routes carry visitors back in time, to visit regions of the Island that continue to focus on their forestry and commercial fishing roots as the cores of their local economies – while welcoming a growing and emerging tourism sector.
From north to south, east to west, the network of interlocking roads and highways that connect all of Vancouver Island’s many communities (the Island has a population of more than 750,000) are like magic carpets that carry motorized visitors to destinations both pristine and sophisticated, and offer rewards and experiences as varied and charming as the island itself. When you have a desire to explore roads less travelled, come to Vancouver Island, rent a camper van rental from Van Ventures, and head out on an adventure of your own making. The island awaits, just reach out, take the keys, and let the adventure begin!