This South Island Map contains many links to our pages on Towns,
Lakes, Parks, Trails and Campgrounds. Click on a live area of the
map to link to the desired page.
exposed waters of Vancouver Island's southwestern coast quickly dispel
any notion that an ocean is an ocean is an ocean. The true personality
of the Pacific is revealed as you traverse the slopes of San Juan
Ridge as the Strait of Juan de Fuca makes its entrance from the open
water of the Pacific. Conditions shift dramatically from the sheltered,
rain-shadowed waterways of the Strait of Georgia with its gaggle of
tranquil islands. Here you face the open ocean, where nothing breaks
the rolling swells or deflects the sting of winter storms. For those
who listen for the force of the West Coast, here it begins to speak
up, way up.
Many a dark chapter has been written about ships and crews that perished
in the violent storms that rake the raw shoreline. This is the Pacific's
Davy Jones's Locker. Thrown up on the beach, survivors considered
themselves blessed if they could reach the West Coast Lifesaving Trail.
As harsh today as then, less-endangered people willingly subject themselves
to this legendary trail's test of endurance. Such a reputation adds
a wild spice to adventuring here. Do not treat this environment lightly.
Each year some unfortunate soul ventures too close to the ocean and
pays the ultimate price. Venture with care and you'll come away with
wonderful memories of your time spent by the shoreline, where many
creatures live in splendid harmony with the ocean's deep rhythms.
Southern Vancouver Island covers the country between Port
Renfrew and Bamfield on
the west coast and Malahat
and Nanaimo on the east side.
Most of the population lives along the east coast, where farming in
the lush, rolling Cowichan and Chemainus Valleys has gone hand in
hand with logging since Vancouver Island was an independent Crown
Colony. The heart of agriculture lies south of Nanaimo, the Hub City,
and this pastoral atmosphere persists as you make your way north to
Parksville in central island.
However, its hard to ignore the slopes of the Vancouver Island Mountains
that begin to nudge travellers closer to the coastline for wont of
wide valley bottoms. Most roads west peter out quickly in the face
of this granite tour de force. The exception is the cross-island melange
of paved highway and gravel logging roads that link the sheltered
Cowichan Valley with the storm-battered community of Bamfield on the
west coast. A greater contrast is hard to find, which is what makes
exploring this region so fascinating. There's plenty of easygoing
adventuring to be found by sticking to the main routes, although everyone
should treat themselves to a backroad or two where the valleys meet
the Strait of Georgia. There are beaches here the likes of which are
found nowhere else on the coast, with views that engender intimacy
with the landscape, yet emphasize its isolation.
to the ruggedness of the southwest region, access is limited to
the paved coastal Highway 14 and several unpaved backroads. Highway
14 begins in the Victoria suburb of Colwood Corners. It links the
village of Sooke on the
west side of Sooke Basin with Port Renfrew on the south shore of
Port San Juan (actually a wide bay), a distance of 70 km to the
north. To the north, the Harris Creek Mainline and Hillcrest Logging
Roads link Port Renfrew with Mesachie Lake on Cowichan Lake, and
from there with Highway 18 and the Cowichan Valley.
The most westerly section of the 7809 km Trans-Canada Highway runs
north-south through southern Vancouver Island between Victoria
and Nanaimo, a distance of 113 km. Highway 14 runs 35 km north of
Nanaimo to Parksville, and beyond to the northern end of Vancouver
Island. Highway 18 is a 29 km stretch of blacktop that runs east-west
from Highway 1 through the Cowichan Valley between Duncan
and Youbou. From Youbou a series of logging roads leads 108 km west
to Bamfield on the west coast.
Ferry service from Brentwood
Bay on the Saanich Peninsula with Mill Bay on the north end
of the Malahat Drive also connects with Highway 1. BC Ferries connects
the Lower Mainland with Nanaimo's Departure
Bay from Horseshoe Bay
terminal in West Vancouver, and Duke
Point from the Tsawwassen
terminal in Delta. BC Ferries also connects with southern Vancouver
Island at Crofton From Vesuvius
Bay on Saltspring Island, and with Chemainus from Thetis
and Kuper Islands.