Vancouver Island Highway Connects: Victoria to Part Hardy, BC
Route#: Trans-Canada #1 and BC 19
Length: 312 miles
Season: Open all year
Most Vancouver Island Highway motorists begin their island visit in Victoria, located at the southern end of the island. Then they drive the 312-miles/503-kms to Port Hardy, on the northeastern tip of the island. Allow plenty of time for this route because it is a world-renowned travel destination. Vancouver Island offers travelers many attractions, enough to keep them on the island for at least several days, so plan accordingly.
Ferries from the mainland to south Vancouver Island land at Victoria include Swartz Bay, Sidney, Nanaimo/Duke Point, and Nanaimo/Departure Bay. Trans-Canada Highway 1 connects Victoria and Nanaimo. Highway 19 connects Nanaimo with the northern portion of the island and Port Hardy.
An additional ferry option for travelers coming from the south is to take the Washington state ferry from Edmonds to Kingston, WA. Then take the Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, BC.
Alaska-bound travelers taking BC Ferries Inside Passage service from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert must drive to the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. Prince Rupert is at the west end of Yellowhead Highway 16. To reach the Alaska Highway from Prince Rupert, take the Yellowhead Highway 150 miles east to the Cassiar Highway, and take the Cassiar Highway 450 miles north to its junction with the Alaska Highway. This itinerary may also be driven in reverse for return travelers.
The MILEPOST® Quick Reference Log
Miles from Victoria (V) shown.
V 0 VICTORIA (pop. 92,141) is the capital city of British Columbia and a major tourist destination for international travelers. As such, the city offers an extensive array of accommodations, dining experiences, shopping and sightseeing opportunities.
V 4.8 Exit 8 for Helmcken Road; Victoria General Hospital. NOTE: Trans-Canada 1 between Victoria and Nanaimo has 2- and 4-lane divided and undivided highway as well as 3-lane road with intermittent north- and southbound passing lanes. Sections of highway divided by concrete barriers restrict left-hand turns. Watch for U-turn routes: these are narrow with short turning radius and may be diffi- cult for large RVs and trailers to negotiate. Posted speed limits from 50 to 100 kmph/31 to 62 mph, with speed zones and curves as posted. Narrow road shoulders. CAUTION: Watch for bicyclists along the highway, day and night! Freeway portions of highway have both exit ramps and traffic lights controlling 3-way and 4-way stops at junctions.
V 9 Exit 15 to McCallum; Shell gas/diesel station to east, Subway.
V 23.6 Exit for Bamberton, Mill Bay Road to Mill Bay–Brentwood Bay Ferry dock. Also access to Bamberton Provincial Park with camping, sandy beach, fishing.
V 26.9 Access for side trip to the Historic Kinsol Trestle (12 km/7.5 miles), one of 8 trestles on the Cowichan Valley Trail and one of the tallest (44m/144 feet) and longest (187m/614 feet) free-standing timber rail trestle structures in the world.
V 38.2 DUNCAN (pop. 4,944) Traffic light at Trunk Road/Government Street; Co-op, Petro-Canada, Chevron gas/diesel stations; convenience stores, fast food, Save-On-Foods. Turn west for downtown Duncan. Gateway to the Cowichan Valley region, Duncan has all visitor services, a post office, medical clinics, RCMP, and many churches. Shopping and services are found along Trans-Canada 1. City of Duncan is host to over 40 totem poles. Guided totem pole tours from June to September from the train station on Canada Ave. Year-round self-guided totem tours. The Duncan Farmers Market takes place in Market Square, Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
V 48.2 Traffic light at Henry Road; Co-op gas/diesel with convenience store at northwest corner. Exit east for CHEMAINUS (pop. 3,035), famous for its 55 outdoor murals and for the Boeing 737, sunk off the coast as an artificial reef for scuba divers. All services available.
V 55.7 Traffic light at Roberts Street with Petro-Canada gas/diesel station. Drive west on Roberts Street to First Avenue and downtown LADYSMITH (pop. 8,537); all services. Old Town Bakery here is a very popular bakery.
V 66.2Highway splits northbound: exit right for Highway 19 North to Parksville, Campbell River and Port Hardy; go straight for Trans- Canada Highway 1/Highway 19A (log fol- lows) for Nanaimo city center (description follows) and BC Ferries Departure Bay termi- nal for ferry service to Horseshoe Bay. Port Hardy-bound travelers exit from Trans-Canada Highway 1 to continue north on Highway 19/ Nanaimo Parkway. Kilometerposts north- bound show distance from Duke Point.
NANAIMO (pop. 90,505) is a transportation hub, connecting passengers and vehicles to/from the mainland via BC Ferries Tsawwassen–Duke Point service, and Horseshoe Bay–Departure Bay service, via floatplane terminals and airport. This is a good-sized city with complete tourist facilities including major-chain hotels/motels, restaurants and retail stores. The Nanaimo Harbourfront Walkway (5 km/3 miles) is one of Nanaimo’s main attractions in the downtown area.
V 88.3 Exit 46 to PARKSVILLE (pop. 12,514) and junction with Highway 19A North/Oceanside Route, a 2-lane highway that gives access to a string of resorts, beaches and tourist facilities between Parksville and Qualicum Beach.
V 91.2 Exit west and follow Highway 4A 1.5 miles and turn on Errington Road. It is approximately 5 miles/9 km to Englishman River Falls Provincial Park with campground.
V 96.7 Exit 60 to Highway 4 for side trip to Port Alberni, Tofino, and Pacific Rim National Park. Other major attractions west off this exit include Little Qualicum Falls (camping; day-use areas on Cameron Lake), and MacMillan Park, which contains the famous Cathedral Grove stand of Douglas fir.
V 149.4 Traffic light at Exit 144 Hamm Road; Saratoga Beach, Oyster Bay and Miracle Beach Provincial Park (8 km/5 miles), one of Vancouver Island’s most popular camping and day use parks. Camping and day-use.
V 165.8 Traffic light at junction of Highway 19 with Highway 19A/Island Highway east to Campbell River. Walmart is 1.3 km/0.8 miles east on Highway 19A which continues to Visitor Center (2 km/1.2 miles) and Campbell River’s waterfront.
CAMPBELL RIVER (pop. 36,096) is located on the east coast of North/Central Vancouver Island, 3.5-hour drive from Victoria and less than 2 hours north of Nanaimo. The waterfront Robert V. Ostler Park is several blocks from the Tyee Plaza and has beautiful gardens, totems and walkways. Continue along the harbor front to see the Discovery Fishing Pier, Discovery Passages Aquarium (open May–August) and Maritime Heritage Centre. Pier Street Farmers Market is here on Sundays, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., May to September.
V 174.9 Turnoff on gravel road for Morton Lake Provincial Park, 19 km/12 miles west.
V 282.1 Turnout to east at junction with Beaver Cove Road, which leads southeast 6 km/3.7 miles to turnoff for Alder Bay RV Park & Marina, and 15 km/9 miles to TELEGRAPH COVE (pop. 20), a historic boardwalk village and picturesque community that is a popular tourist destination in summer.
V 286.6 Turnoff for Port McNeill via Campbell Way PORT MCNEILL (pop. 2,600) is located on the northeast coast of Vancouver Island on Broughton Strait. With its full-service harbor facility, Port McNeill plays host to Inside Passage marine traffic and is also a gateway to a variety of activities, from salmon fishing and whale watching to kayaking and helicopter tours. Port McNeill is home to 2 of the world’s largest burls.
V 309.2 Junction with Bear Cove Highway. Turnout at junction with Welcome to Port Hardy sign, interpretive signs and wind farm turbine blade on display. Highway leads east 5 km/3 miles to BC Ferries Bear Cove Terminal.
V 309.9 Coal Harbour Road leads 0.5 mile/0.8 km southwest to Byng Road for access to Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre and Quatse River Regional Park and Campground.
V 312.3 Highway 19 ends/begins at junction with Market Street in PORT HARDY (pop. 4,132); all services. Located on Hardy Bay on the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, Port Hardy is a base for outdoor adventures such as hiking, kayaking and fishing. Additional visitor experiences include cultural tours, wildlife viewing and scenic boat tours with K’awat’si Tours, as well as guided day trips out to San Josef Bay. Water enthusiasts can rent stand-up paddle boards and surf gear (boards and suits).