THE YEAR OF THE ROAD TRIP  - HIGHWAY 1 & 19 THE ISLAND HWY

The Island Highway is actually a series of highways that follows much of the eastern coastline of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

While the Island Highway has no officially designated starting point, it is understood to begin at the BC Ferries dock in Port Hardy as Highway 19. The highway continues southbound as Highway 19 until it reaches the northern end of Campbell River, at the intersection of Highway 19 and Highway 19A. At this point, Highway 19A becomes the Island Highway, and runs south through Courtenay, Union Bay, Fanny Bay, and Qualicum Beach until it reaches Parksville (this section of the highway is often referred to as the Oceanside Route).

At the southern tip of Parksville, the Island Highway rejoins Highway 19 and continues south to Nanaimo, where it meets Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway. The highway continues through Ladysmith, Duncan, and several other communities before manoeuvring through the Malahat district.

Although the Trans-Canada Highway remains the Island Highway south to Victoria, the name is rarely applied to it there. Rather the Island Highway is the name given to the old highway and particularly a piece of Highway 1A from Goldstream Avenue at Colwood Corner to Admirals Road.

ISLAND HIGHWAY

The Island Highway runs from Victoria to Port Hardy, following the east coast of Vancouver Island for most of the route.


Victoria, BC

There are always things to do in Victoria. An urban oasis surrounded by ocean waters and mountainous wilderness, the city offers the best of both worlds.

Enjoy fabulous shops, restaurants, museums and city parks complementing world-class golf courses, ski hills, hiking trails and fishing expeditions.

What's so amazing about having such a variety of settings in such close proximity is the opportunity to have a number of wildly different experiences in a single day: golf in the morning and ski in the afternoon, visit Victoria Bug Zoo and walk through Butchart Gardens followed by an evening at the symphony, or venture out on a historic driving route through the surrounding area. The possibilities are endless!

 


 


Duncan, BC

Duncan is the unofficial capital of the Cowichan Valley, a fertile crescent of rich farmland, lush vineyards, heritage river systems, and scenic back roads in the southeastern corner of Vancouver Island.

Dubbed the "City of Totems," Duncan has more than 80 First Nations carvings located throughout town, and is also home to the Quw'utsun' Cultural Centre. This Aboriginal cultural centre on the banks of the Cowichan River honours the ancient roots of the Coast Salish in the valley, which takes its name from a Salish word meaning "the warm lands." Duncan is also known for great shopping and dining, the Saturday Farmer's Market, Aboriginal experiences, BC Forestry Discovery Centre, and its historic old-town quarter.

 



Chemainus, BC

Chemainus is a charming Cowichan Valley town located in the Vancouver Island region. Chemainus is noted for its creative community, but its artistic flair is most evident in the 40 plus vivid murals scattered around town that depitct its culture and history.

In fact, the aptly nicknamed "Muraltown" has been internationally renowned since the early 1980s thanks to these widescreen depictions of colourful chapters from the town's past: First Nations, forestry, mining, and maritime culture. 

Chemainus' bold murals gambit sparked a turnaround for a struggling economy threatened with the closure of its major employer, the Horseshoe Bay lumber mill. Suddenly hundreds of thousands of visitors annually began making this quaint Vancouver Island oceanfront village a must-see on roadtrip itineraries. Today one can tour the murals on foot, by trolley car or horse-drawn carriage, or in the classy company of an actress portraying the town's original (European) first lady, Isabel Askew.



 

Nanaimo, BC

Nanaimo is officially known as Harbour City for good reason.

Stretched like a long, lean finger along the east coast of south-central Vancouver Island, British Columbia's sixth-largest city gets its identity, history and a wealth of recreation from a lovely, island-sheltered harbour right in the heart of town. Hiking, boating, kayaking, biking and world-class scuba diving and snorkeling are everyday activities at the bustling waterfront, as seaplanes take flight from sparkling blue waters.

Today, Nanaimo (population 84,228) is a fast-growing urban centre that is no longer merely the premier gateway to Vancouver Island. A boldly revitalized downtown core, delightful harbour front walkway, sparkling new museum, affordable art galleries, and a wealth of cool shopping and dining alternatives are good reasons to park the car, find accommodations and stay awhile.

Parksville, BC

Parksville is a definitive British Columbia summer town, just a half-hour drive north of Nanaimo's ferry terminals.

The beaches here on the south-central coast of eastern Vancouver Island are the stuff of a California dream vacation. However, there is a difference: Parksville's postcard crescents of golden, hard-packed sand beaches are smoother, broader and caressed by gentle Pacific rollers, not pounding surf.

While summer by the sea is a major lure here, Parksville is a four-season outdoor destination. Golf, hiking, and mountain biking enthusiasts are well served in a rare, splendidly protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This area is notable for its pristine watersheds, deep lakes, extensive parkland, forested tracts (notably the old-growth treasure at Cathedral Grove), and challenging trails leading to Mount Arrowsmith's see-forever viewpoints.

 


Courtney, BC

Located on the central east coast of Vancouver Island, the city of Courtenay (population 55,213) is the urban, business and cultural hub of the Comox Valley.

It's the only city in the valley, but its low-rise buildings, flower-filled streets and genuine friendliness make it feel more like a village. If Courtenay has ambitions, they don't include big city stress. In fact, any stress that comes this way can be worked off in a battalion of activities including golfing, hiking, mountain biking, walking tours, fossil-hunting and exploring spectacular gardens.

Courtenay bustles with shops, restaurants, galleries and entertainment. Mapped-out, self-guided urban walking tours lead visitors through the city's history and architecture. The abundance of the Comox Valley has much do to with shaping Courtenay: Eat at Locals, a restaurant specializing in local produce and happiness. Spend a morning at the Saturday Comox Valley Farmers' Market. Drive out to the award-winning Beaufort Winery for a tasting.

 



 

Campbell River, BC

Relax in downtown Campbell River and shop, dine, visit museums, and art galleries, or walk mile after mile of oceanside trails.

Head straight for adventure in a four-seasons playland of ocean, parks, and islands that surround Campbell River on all sides. Either way, there is no shortage of things to do at the southern edge of northern Vancouver Island.

Sports fishing here where salmon congregate en masse continues to draw rod-and-reel purists. For just the cost of a license, fish off the public pier downtown. Stand alongside the anglers in the Campbell River. Or chase the big ones with a professional guide.

Adventure tour companies bring the region's Orcas, grizzly bears, and marine life into camera range on wildlife viewing outings in spring, summer, and fall.

 


Port Hardy, BC

Port Hardy is the last bastion of civilization in the remote and wild north end of Vancouver Island.

The town has a fascinating blue-collar history and a bright green ecotourist future as it evolves into one of North America's best as-yet undiscovered outdoor adventure destinations.

The natural ingredients are all here: fishing, hiking, world-class scuba diving, and serious quantities of wildlife in coastal waters, wilderness parks and the area's nicely mature second-growth woodland habitat make for great viewing.

Other northern Vancouver Island centres have similar super natural assets, but Port Hardy's ace in the hole is Cape Scott Provincial Park. Sitting windswept and ruggedly unspoiled at the island's northern tip, the park is a Disneyland for wilderness hikers and camping enthusiasts. Port Hardy's fine array of shops, restaurants, art galleries, accommodations, and aboriginal cultural attractions are less than an hour away via an upgraded logging road.