West Coast Trail Transportation- Bamfield Bound

Welcome to Part 3 of my West Coast Trail blog series! This post will be focusing on the West Coast Trail Transportation! Because really, apart from actually walking the trail, getting there is the hardest part of the whole operation. As stated in my Preparation for the West Coast Trail post, there are several ways you can get to the trail heads, which at the North end is Pachena Bay in Bamfield and at the South end is Gordon River in Port Renfrew.

West Coast Trail transportation

Driving to the West Coast Trail

The easiest, of course, is driving a car, either your own or a rental (many rental places both at the Victoria airport or in Nanaimo/Victoria cities. But even this comes with a hiccup. It’s a one-way trail. You parked at one end and 7 days later you’re standing 75km away. Some more trusting hikers ask people going the opposite direction if they have a key to their car, and Hiker #1 will drive Hiker #2’s car to the opposite end so it will be waiting when Hiker #2 gets to their end point. This also puts Hiker #1 back in the same parking lot as their car. This is a great plan, if you are trustful enough to do it. Reasonably though, that’s a pretty elaborate racket, hiking the entire West Coast Trail to steal a car? I’m sure a trip to the mall parking lot would prove equally effective.

But say you don’t trust someone with your car. Well then you can take the West Coast Trail Express Bus from one entry point to the other, either at the start or the end of your hike. Ok, necessary evil.

getting to the West Coast Trail

But say you don’t have a car. Like me. Neither Bamfield or Port Renfrew are on major roads, they are actually the literal ends of the roads. Neither have public transportation, nor Greyhounds. They don’t even really have cell phone reception. So what’s a girl to do?

getting to the West Coast Trail

West Coast Trail Express Bus?

Well, you can take that West Coast Express Bus, the website can tell you more. The idea of the bus clearly bores me. 

West Coast Trail Boat to Bamfield

But I am a deadly combo of frugal and stubborn, hate paying more than I think I should and normally fall on the side of complication as opposed to ease. So I did some more research and discovered Lady Rose Marine Services of Port Alberni. This is a boat that plies the Alberni Inlet to Bamfield (every day in the summer, 3 times a week in off-season), delivering mail, goods, food, and people to the small coastal hamlets along the inlet and to Bamfield. It is also a great way to avoid sitting on a bus on a logging road for 6 hours. You get to see the gorgeous Alberni Inlet, and bonus, it’s cheaper than the bus!! Plus the lady on the phone was super nice to me!

West Coast Trail boat

First off, Port Alberni is located kind of in the middle of the island, about 90 minutes west from Nanaimo. So coming from Langley on the mainland,  I took the Skytrain into Vancouver and then transferred to the Horseshoe Bay public bus (Bus #257, thanks Translink!). You need to go to Departure Bay ferry terminal in Nanaimo, as this is where the bus to Port Alberni leaves from (as opposed to going to Duke Point ferry terminal, which is South of Nanaimo and impossible to get to without a car). So BC Ferries took me from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay, crossing that glorious Straight of Georgia, and then I boarded the Island Link Bus to Port Alberni.

Port Alberni Inlet

The 90 minute ride to Port Alberni takes you up the coast a ways, and then cuts West through Cathedral Grove, an old growth redwood forest. Passing gorgeous lakes and forests, you eventually arrive in the small town of Port Alberni, which though on the map appears to sit in the middle of the island, actually sits on the ocean at the base of the 40km Alberni Inlet.

The West Coast Trail on Canada's Vancouver island is a formidable hike. Making or breaking this 7 day trek is what and how you pack your backpack! Check out my packing mistakes and my wins from my experience hiking the West Coast Trail.
If you liked this post, you may also like: West Coast Trail Packing List and Hiking Gear List

West Coast Trail transportation Alberni Inlet

Where to Stay Before You Start the West Coast Trail


Port Alberni (North end)

Best Western Plus Barclay Hotel

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Hospitality Inn

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Swept Away Inn

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Cedar Wood Lodge Bed and Breakfast

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Redford Motel

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Bamfield (North end)

The Bamfield Motel

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The Kingfisher Lodge and Marina

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Sooke (South End)

Sooke Harbour House

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Prestige Oceanfront Resort

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Moonlit Cove B&B

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Victoria (South End)

Oak Bay Beach Hotel

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Swans Hotel and Brewpub

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Hotel Rialto

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Alberni Inlet- Transportation to the West Coast Trail

After a night spent with friends of a friend (thanks Michelle and Aaron!), I showed up at the Lady Rose Marine Services dock with all of my gear, looking like a true hiker! The Lady Rose is an interesting thing. It is a boat service that is both practical and touristy. It serves residents and business, as well as the long lens wildlife photographer. There were many hikers on the boat, all heading for Bamfield and the Northern end of the West Coast Trail. The only alternative to get to Bamfield is bumping along a logging road for 2 hours, so boarding the MV. Frances Barkley was clearly up more of our alleys!

Bamfield is the Northern start point for the famous West Coast Trail. Learn how to get to the West Coast Trail in British Columbia Canada in this instalment of the West Coast Trail blog series!

Cruising the Alberni Inlet was gorgeous. The trip takes about 4 hours, and you pass by the glorious Vancouver Island forests and ocean waters, hundreds of fishing boats, and several small settlements where isolation and quiet prevail. The day I went was pretty foggy, this is one of the rainiest places in the world after all, but I could see the banks of the inlets and the beautiful nature that makes the West Coast of British Columbia so incredible. I loved seeing the seiner fishing people with their wide circles of nets, and the gillnetters with their wing-like boats, out looking for delicious sockeye salmon, another incredible BC gift!

Getting to the West Coast Trail Bamfield

Upon arrival in Bamfield, in was time for major unloading. The bow of the Frances Barkley was full of large totes and pallets full of anything a person or business could need: building supplies, fresh produce, antique furniture, plywood, and mail. Yes that is right, this was an official Canada Post vehicle. A well oiled winch system loaded everything off the boat in fairly quick manner, sometimes directly into an awaiting truck: I watched a hot tub go from the boat to the flat bed of a pick-up and then driving away in short order! It was pretty impressive! I watched mesmerized by the seamlessness of the operation. These guys knew what they were doing! I would trust my hot tub with them, if I had a hot tub, or a truck, or a house. Whatever!

Bamfield Vancouver Island

The Frances Barkley took all us hikers to East Bamfield on Vancouver Island, which is about 5km from Pachena Bay, the Northern entry point for the West Coast Trail and where the Parks Canada information office is located. This is when I started weaseling my way into a group of 5 hikers that was starting their hike the next day. I had chatted with this group a bit on the boat, and then shared the taxi with them to the info centre to attend the orientation. By the end of the orientation, I was part of the team and I was camping with them that night at the Pachena Bay campsite! Friends!!!! 

If you liked this post, you may also like: Reflections of the Hike: A West Coast Trail Blog

West coast trail transportation

We were ready to start the West Coast Trail the next day, though there were talks of returning to Bamfield that night to go to the pub. Pachena Bay is a gorgeous beach, surrounded by that famous West Coast fog, made even better on that first night by a pod of visiting grey whales, right inside the bay! Like, right inside the bay, barely off the beach! It was an amazing way to be welcomed to the West Coast of Vancouver Island, and I think truly meant that great things were coming our way! Bring on the West Coast Trail!!!

Pachena Bay West Coast Trail campsite

****This post is Part 3 of my 6-part West Coast Trail blog series.****

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