Vancouver to San Francisco Tour 2016 – A Cycle Tour by someone who’s never cycle toured before – Day 1 – Vancouver to Schwartz Bay

Day 1 = WTF am I doing

I rose nice and early to catch my first ferry of the day from Horseshoe Bay, but the first task was to cross Vancouver City to get to the North Shore. Vancouver is the biggest city en route before San Francisco so although it’s pretty easy to navigate, it was a bit stressful.

The commuter traffic in the morning plus getting used to a fully loaded bike made it just a little bit more difficult. After a wrong turn and a walk over Granville  Bridge (I wasn’t convinced was bike friendly), I was well on my way to Horseshoe bay. This first section was about 32k and pretty hilly (especially for a loaded bike and inexperienced tourer) so it was a relief to see the ferry terminal around the corner as I rode into a very pretty Horseshoe bay.

Parked up and waiting for the Ferry, I really felt that this was it. I was out of the city, leaving mainland – the real adventure starts here. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was apprehensive but a little tear (of happiness) rolled down my cheek followed by a deep breath to ready myself to board that ferry.

Horseshoe Bay, Vancouver

This beautiful ferry ride was about an hour and a half long, taking me into Nanaimo, Vancouver Island. From here I took the Freeway 1 down to crofton, a small milling community on the East Coast of Vancouver Island. This leg was probably my least favourite of the whole trip. The Freeway was busy, loud and pretty daunting. It’s just as if you are riding down the M25, but with more trucks. There was a lot of shoulder so no one was getting close but the most difficult part that required concentration were the slip roads on and off. Take your time and do not get hit!

Crofton Ferry Terminal – Vancouver Island

Once off – the relief was strong, and the rest of the day was plain sailing in comparison. After an hours wait, Ferry 2 took me from Crofton to Vesuvius on Salt Spring Island, a beautifully hilly and wooded island that was my first taste of rural cycling. In all honesty, by the time I got there I had been on the road maybe 8 or 9 hours. I was pretty tired and the hills didn’t help. What spurred me on was not to miss my final ferry over to Swartz Bay, back on Vancouver Island. Although somewhat worried about this (the general anxiety dropped as the trip went on as I understood my own ability and flexibility with camping) I could not deny the beauty of this cute little island. One thing that I have found out looking back at this is I have an overwhelming feeling of “I wish I spent a little more time here”.  I stopped at Fulford Harbour, had some hot food and waited for the third and final ferry of the day. I got into camp at 9 PM. It was getting dark by then, I had cycled over 100k and I really thought that if this continues, ‘maybe’ I was a little over my head – I was very wrong. 


MacDonald Campground, Schwartz Bay

Day 1 was a baptism of fire in distance, hills and length of time on the road but I had made it. The tent didn’t get unpacked as I rolled out the Bivy bag. This was the first and last time I slept in only a bivy.

Cheers, Scott

Important Details

  • Route can be found HERE

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6 thoughts on “Vancouver to San Francisco Tour 2016 – A Cycle Tour by someone who’s never cycle toured before – Day 1 – Vancouver to Schwartz Bay

  1. wow! you covered a lot of ground.. it’s a shame you didn’t know about the back roads that could take you from Ladysmith to Mill Bay and avoid the Island Highway.. but that would have taken more time if you were on a tight schedule.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Selah! Yeah, As it was day 1, I was certainly sticking to the book. Like with a lot of what came out of this ride . . . I’d take detours from the highways and make sure that I have the time in order to do it. A cycle tour of Van Island is still on my ‘To Do’ list. I think I may have to hit you up when it comes to it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Just came across your adventures over my morning coffee today. Fantastic. I rode with some friends a few years back from Vancouver (Richmond) to Portland. It was an amazing trip. We had plans to tackle Portland to San Francisco this past summer, but after a few changes I ended up tackling a solo cycle from Calgary to Richmond. Looking forward to reading the rest of your trip.



    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Chris

      I hope it didn’t make you choke on your coffee! Did you go down the coast as well and head inland from Astoria or did you take a more direct route?

      A trip through the Rockies certainly sounds like a pretty good alternative! Did you meet anyone on the way? I suppose it’s not as busy a route as the west coast? Next Summer I am going to try and get some time to do Jasper – Canmore – or something along those lines.

      I hope that you like the rest of the trip and you get to do the Portland – San Fran next summer! It’s worth it


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