Gabriola Camping Trip Recap

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On Canada Day weekend the AMS Bike Co-op and the Bike Kitchen staff, board members and allstar volunteers embarked on an epic bike camping trip to Gabriola Island. Loaded down with gear and brimming with excitement, we set off from Vancouver early on the misty Friday morning. One group biked to Horseshoe Bay along the winding and hilly Marine Drive route. Another group missioned the gradual escalation of the Highway.  We slayed the terrain and suffered no casualties.

Reconvening at the Horseshoe Bay Ferry terminal, we set off on the ferry to Nanaimo where we loaded up with groceries for the weekend. From Nanaimo we took another ferry to the beautiful Gabriola Island. However, our journey did not end at Gabriola ferry terminal.

Once on Gabriola, we had another 15km to bike across the winding Island roads to our campsite (thank-you Daniel for towing the food trailer!). It was well worth the ride. Our campsite at Silva Bay was a beautiful place to call home for the weekend. After a long day of pumping our gams over 45kms, we did our best to stay awake and bond over dinner and beverages.

On Saturday we ventured around the Island by foot, wheels and sea vessels. Some folks cycled from beach to beach. Others rented kayaks and watched whales. A couple of us even chased snakes through the sand and seaweed. We saw eagles, deer, bats, jellyfish, starfish, clams, chipmunks and alpacas too. We explored lunar-like sandstone formations and the petroglyphs. Such merriment, such fun was had by all—volunteers, staff and board.

On Sunday we packed up our gear and set out on our journey home. Giddy from fatigue, we laughed our way back to Vancouver, beads of sweat mixed with sunscreen cascading across our brows. For many of the participants, it was their first time biking with heavy gear and their first bike camping trip. It was Jen’s first time camping, period. Everyone kicked so much ass. It was inspiring to witness.

Thank you to everyone who came and made the trip as awesome as it was! #bikepile2016

Want to do the trip yourself? Here are the details!

Gabriola Island

Total distance: 25.1 km + 4.2km = 29.3km + biking to the campsite of your choice


1) Bike to Horseshoe Bay. 25.1 km, 519m elevation gain (hilly!). You can also bus this part, just be sure to arrive early as buses only have space for 2 bicycles. The highway is also an option for more gradual hills.

2) Two hour ferry to Nanaimo’s Departure Bay.

3) Short ride through Nanaimo to Gabriola Island ferry. 4.2km, flat

4) 20-25 minute ferry to Gabriola harbour.

5) Bike to your campsite!

Camping Options:

  1. Descanso Bay Regional Park. 1.5 km bike ride from the ferry, a bit uphill.
  2. Pages Resort and Marina. 14.7 km bike ride from the ferry, 122m elevation gain (hilly).

To Bring With You: Camping gear + long bike ride supplies

About the Ride: Gabriola Island is one of the Southern Gulf Island. It’s big enough to have paved roads, but still small enough to get around easily. The loop of the island is do-able in a morning, with many interesting stops along the way: alpaca farms, a small village area with groceries and cute shops, beaches, petroglyphs, among others! The Descanso Bay Regional Park campsite is right off the ferry is an excellent choice, as you can drop your gear off before adventuring around the island with a lighter load. For a more secluded camping adventure, consider biking to the other side of the island to camp.

Notes: The ferry schedule changes a few times a year. Be sure to check times in advance.