Vancouver is a great city to live car-free in. You can bike all year round on a great network of bike routes, most of Metro Vancouver is well served by public transit, and there are two car sharing options (my favourite being the Cooperative Auto Network). However, getting out of the city for weekend trips is sometimes a challenge without a vehicle.
One good option is exploring the Gulf Islands, which is easy (and cheap) to do with a combination of bus, ferry, and bike. 2 years ago Emily explored Gabriola Island by bike, and this year we explored Mayne Island.
Getting to Mayne Island is relatively easy. The Canada Line allows bikes on board at all times and will take you to Bridgeport Station, where you transfer onto the 620 Tsawwassen bus. The bus takes you to the ferry terminal where you’ll find a few sailings to Mayne Island. The trickiest part is getting your bike on the bus. Each Translink bus has 2 spots in front for bikes, and they go quickly. On the way to the ferry terminal there were 5 bikes that wanted to get on our bus. On the way back there were 8, plus several people biked into town from the ferry terminal hoping to catch a different bus. Luckily, in both directions we had bus drivers who were accommodating and squeezed extra bikes into the space where wheelchairs normally go. Although both bus drivers said it was a one-time-deal and not to count on extra bike space, we heard other cyclists had similar experiences last weekend. I would be great if Translink found a better long term suggestion – like a bike trailer for the ferry routes on weekends, or extra bike racks on the back of buses.
Now assuming you can get your bike to the ferry terminal, it only costs $2 extra to take your bike on the ferry, and judging by the dozens of bikes we had on our return trip from the gulf islands, it is an increasingly popular travel option. Mayne Island is relatively bike friendly – it is quick to get around the small island, the roads are well paved, and the traffic is light, but there are tons of hills that make exploring a real workout. In addition, you don’t want to be caught biking after the sun goes down. Our ferry was late arriving on Friday night, and at 10:30 the roads are pitch black and the bike lights we had did little to illuminate them.
We stayed at the Springwater Lodge in Miner’s Bay – a short ride from the ferry terminal that felt very long in the darkness. The Springwater offers very basic lodging, in 5 rooms above the pub with a shared washroom. There was noise from the restaurant until midnight on Saturday night, but otherwise it was a quiet – possibly because we were the only guests. If it wasn’t for the shredded curtains, crappy mattress, missing smoke detector, and broken hot water tap this would have been a great place to stay. A little basic repair work would go along way here.
Our exploration of Mayne Island led us all around the island. We hiked the trails in Mount Parke and climbed up to the top of Vulture Ridge.
There are a few hiking loops in Mount Parke, all along well traversed trails. Halliday Ridge and Old Gulch Trail were the best hikes – 2.8 km of medium difficulty trails that take you up to a viewpoint and back. The viewpoint provides vistas of Pender Island and, unfortunately, the gravel pit below. There is also the Plumper Pass Community Park Trail (2 km loop), which was a boring hike. The Mary Jeffery Park trail was an easy flat trail with a giant arbutus tree on the southern portion. We spent just over 2 hours doing all the hikes in the park.
We started our Vulture Ridge hike at Punch’s Alley and hiked half of the Doreen McLeod Beach Access Trail and then ascended Vulture Ridge to the viewpoint. Both trails were slightly overgrown and we had plants whipping at our exposed legs. This was definitely a hike you should do with pants on. The viewpoint from the top of Vulture Ridge was nicer then the one on Halliday Ridge and there was even a bench to sit on. The return trip to the viewpoint from Punch’s Alley took us 90 minutes.
We also explored the area around the light house at Georgina Point and the park at Campbell Point. Both areas had nice sandstone formations, and Campbell Point had a sandy beach for lounging and swimming (although it was too cold for that when we were there).
We ate really well on the island. We had dinner one night at Wild Fennel, a restaurant serving meals highlighting local ingredients. They had a good vegetarian selection but the portions were simply too big. The restaurant is cozy with a nice patio and the walls are lined with great art created by one of the owners.
We also ate the Springwater Lodge one night. I was expecting sub-standard pub food, especially considering how budget the rooms are. But I was surprised by the quality of the food we got. They also have a big patio with great views of Active Pass.