Traveling To and Around Vancouver Island North

Update October 2021: For visitors hoping to travel by bus to or from Vancouver Island North, please be aware that Tofino Bus/Vancouver Island Connector has eliminated passenger service to the region. Waivin’ Flags Taxi has been approved by the Passenger Transportation Board to serve the region with three scheduled trips each week.  Please visit their website for complete details and to confirm the schedule.  

Between research, preparation and packing – getting ready for a holiday can sometimes feel like a chore.  Here are some time savers for the transportation part of the equation to plan your perfect getaway.  There are loads of options to get here and once you arrive you’ll find North Vancouver Island easy to navigate.  Along with unforgettable scenery, charming towns and unlimited adventure opportunities.

By Road

If you’re looking for an epic road trip explore roads less travelled keep in mind Vancouver Island is big.  At 460 kilometres in length and 100 kilometres in width at the widest part it’s bigger than some countries.  So, while you can definitely make the trip from one end of the island to the other in one day we recommend taking the time to relax and enjoy the journey.

Highway 19 is a paved and well maintained super scenic highway from Campbell River to Port Hardy. If you are travelling from further south on the Island, consider taking Highway 19A, the Seaside Route, from Parksville to Campbell River. It will add a bit of driving time, but the scenery is well worth it.  For up to date information about road conditions visit Drive BC.

Secondary roads leading to many communities are also paved but some roads, like the one leading to San Josef Bay and the Cape Scott Trail, are gravel roads shared with logging traffic.  For more information visit Western Forest Products WFP Road Information or stop in at their office in Holberg and the staff will radio ahead for you.

Things to know when you’re traveling the region by road:

  • Vancouver Island North has several electric vehicle charging stations including Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Port Alice, Telegraph Cove and Woss
  • Highway speeds and distances are shown in metric. Highway speeds usually range between 90-100 kilometres per hour or 55-62 miles per hour.  Speeds are much lower going through communities and school zones and range between 30-50 km/h.
  • All provinces in Canada enforce seat belt laws so remember to buckle up!!

By Air

The sky is the limit traveling to Vancouver Island North.  Many international flights stop or transfer through Vancouver Airport. Domestic flights are then available with WestJet and Air Canada to Victoria, Nanaimo and Comox airports.  A number of regional airlines also provide scheduled (Pacific Coastal) and charter flights (Wilderness Seaplanes) to smaller airports in Campbell River and Port Hardy.  Another super scenic option during the summer months includes a harbour to harbour seaplane flight with Kenmore Air from Seattle to Port McNeill.

By Water

One of the largest ferry operators in the world BC Ferries provides oodles of options from the mainland to Vancouver Island to get you here.

  • Vancouver to Nanaimo or Tssawassen to Victoria
  • Powell River to Comox
  • Bella Coola to Port Hardy
  • Prince Rupert to Port Hardy. This 16-hour journey is one of the best ways to explore BC’s coast

Ferries can accommodate vehicles, campers, trucks, buses, bikes/motorcycles and walk-on passengers. Some of our visitors arrive on private vessels.  Most coastal communities have full service marinas with easy access to fuel, laundry, restaurants and shopping.

While You’re Here

For those traveling without a set of wheels here are a few different ways to get you to your destination.  Mount Waddington Regional Transit provides regional bus rides Monday to Saturday to and from Port McNeill, Port Hardy & Fort Rupert, Coal Harbour, Woss and from December to March offers an extra route called Mount Cain Ski Connector.  They also have local Port Hardy and Port McNeill routes.

For door to door service taxi cabs are available in Port Hardy, Port McNeill and Alert Bay.  If you’re catching a flight or an adventure tour we recommend making a reservation to ensure you arrive in plenty of time.

While visiting Sointula on Malcolm Island sign up to borrow one of the free bicycles from the Resource Centre located across the road from the ferry terminal and then peddle your way across the island.

For more information about getting here.

Accessible by land, sea and air Vancouver Island North offers countless opportunities for hiking, fishing, diving, wildlife tours and indigenous cultural experiences.  Follow your bliss – it’s waiting for you here.

Karen Stewart – Freelance Writer

Karen is the author of a blog titled This is Port McNeill

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