This is a guide to the Lochside Trail, a flat, largely off-road, family-friendly, safe cycling trail on Vancouver Island. Used by about 260 people per day, Lochside Regional Trail is well maintained and a joy to ride. This cycling trail takes you all the way from the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal to the beautiful city of Victoria. It’s a gentle bike ride that will take about two hours. Along the way, there are great views, and a great place to stop for lunch – Mattick’s Farm. You might even choose to detour to Anacortes!
As you can see, this is a great cycling trail, suitable for almost anyone.
Surfaces: mixed: mainly paved, some gravel, some trail
Distance: 29 km (18 miles) one way; about a two-hour gentle bike ride
Difficulty level: easy, mainly flat
Safety level: fairly safe for the whole family, but requires adult supervision for relatively short sections that are on road
Type of bike required: any kind, but a hybrid would be the best
Suitable for: able-bodied people capable of riding bikes or trikes
Things to do: get from Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal on Vancouver Island to Victoria. Or get from the ferry terminal to the Galloping Goose Trail, and head out towards Sooke. Enjoy a lazy ride through the lush farmlands of the Saanich Peninsula. Stop at one of the nearby sandy beaches. Enjoy ocean views from the trail as you approach Sidney. Admire pigs and wildlife!
Rules of use: Keep right except when passing; give way to farm vehicles; be aware of working vehicles in agricultural areas; yield to horses and pedestrians
Average Joe Cyclist Rating: Lochside Trail rates a Gold Bike-Star for a variety of views and terrains, good signposting, and excellent, relaxing cycling!
Did you know you can get all the way from the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal on Vancouver Island to the beautiful city of Victoria on a flat, family-friendly, safe cycling trail? Maggie and I were totally blown away by it.
How to get from Swartz Bay to Victoria on the Lochside Trail
First, you have to get to Tsawwassen ferry terminal in Delta, BC. To get there, it is POSSIBLE to ride from Metro Vancouver, but it is a long way, and you need to bike right next to cars.
The alternative is to take your bikes to the terminus on your car, then park your car. The parking fee is pretty high. Other than that, it is theoretically possible to get your bikes to Tsawwassen on a bus, but as most bikes only take 3 bikes, this could take a while.
Once you have walked your bikes onto the ferry, you get to park right at the front, and are first to disembark on the other side.
The ferry docks in Swartz Bay, cyclists and walkers depart ahead of cars. Follow the helpful signage for cyclists. If in doubt, just follow the other cyclists. You will go up one or two small hills. After passing under the Landsend Road overpass, turn right at the bicycle lane, right at the overpass, and then right onto the very clearly-signposted Lochside Trail.
This video is speeded up, but it is useful in that it shows the process when you exit the ferry and get to the Lochside Trail.
Click here for a review of the Garmin Edge Touring, or the Garmin Edge 510, 810 and 1000. We never do a cycle tour without using a Garmin GPS bike computer to help us navigate. That said, the Lochside Trail is well signposted, so you should be fine if you don’t have one.
After those first couple of hills, the Lochside Trail is very gentle. There are only minor hills, so this really is a trip the whole family can do. The first 10 km (6 miles) of the Lochside Trail are primarily on roads, but they are very quiet roads through a residential neighborhood. Some of them are very close to the Strait of Georgia, which provides cool breezes and great ocean views.
Then for a period you cycle on a paved track alongside the highway, clearly marked.
This short video gives you a taste of what this part of the trail is like:
This will take you to Sidney, a small town by the sea (the town is actually named Sidney-by-the-sea). It’s on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. At this part of this trip, you are often cycling on a road, really close to cars. But the pace is pretty relaxed.
If you wanted to, and you happen to have your passport with you, you could catch a ferry from Sidney to Anacortes Ferry Terminal in Washington state. Anacortes is a coastal town. A trip to Anacortes would be well worth your while, as there are well over 960 bike trails in the town.
If you don’t want to take to the water, have a look around Sidney. It is a year-round tourist destination, well worth a stop. As an option, you could take a ride along the Sidney Esplanade, and then meet up with the Lochside Trail again at Weiler Avenue.
At Weiler Avenue the Lochside Trail travels west, and then runs close to the coastline. At this point it’s mainly gravel, and you are cycling through farmland.
You will be cycling along alternating on-road and off-road trails in lush working farmland. If you are lucky you will come across some glorious, fat pigs, like these ones that we encountered.
The sight of happy pigs was oddly joyful, almost primal. I think it put me in touch with my inner farmer! Depending on the season, you might see fields of ripe pumpkins as far as the eye can see.
Then you exit the farmlands and enter the outskirts of the town of Saanichton. This was where we came across the interesting sight of a pair of peaceful deer grazing in someone’s front garden. We were very entertained by this, although we realized that if they had been eating the flowers in our front garden, we might have been less amused (definitely a case of NIMFY – Not In My Front Yard).
The trail weaves in and out of wooded areas and residential areas, until you get to Cordova Bay. Here, you can stop at Mattick’s Farm – which is actually not a farm, but a collection of shops and restaurants. It’s billed as Victoria’s premiere shopping destination, and has at least 15 shops and boutiques, including a wine shop with a good selection, and lots of good food. There is plenty of bike parking too. I can recommend Adrienne’s Restaurant and Tea Garden, where we had a delicious lunch in a very tranquil setting.
The Lochside Trail is already a great trail, and the good news is that the BC Ministry of Transportation is working on making it even better. As you get closer to Victoria, the Lochside Trail becomes increasingly off-road.
You will come across this lovely park alongside the Lochside Trail.
This part of the ride has many stunning features, such as this lovely pedestrian bridge in Saanich.
This bridge also showcases a memorial plaque and an interesting life-size artwork:
Here is a very short video of the scenery as you cross this bridge on the Lochside Trail. Don’t miss Roy, still hanging out there!
A few kilometers after this point, the Lochside Trail gives you a choice to either continue along the Galloping Goose Trail to Sooke, or go to Victoria. We chose Victoria, and very soon we were rewarded for our 29 km of cycling with a great meal in downtown Victoria. One of the great things about bike touring is you can eat as much as you like, and not gain weight. Cycling burns as much as 500 calories per hour – so four hours of cycling means you get to eat an extra day’s worth of calories. Very worth it!
After our well-deserved meal we went on a little further, to a lovely little bed and breakfast called Cottage Pirouette in Esquimalt, which is very close to Victoria.
I wrote about our stay in Esquimalt here. Our plan was to be up and biking early the next morning, on route to Sooke along the Galloping Goose Trail, which you can read about here.
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