The first level of access is BC Ferries. This is the main way most people access Vancouver Island (some fly over) and certainly is the most common way to access most of the more populated islands along the eastern shore of Vancouver Island (lower Gulf Islands, Gabriola, Quadra and Cortes, Denman and Hornby, Malcolm and Cormorant, etc).
The next level is by private, paid boat. On the west coast there are larger foot passenger/cargo boats that service Nootka Sound as well as Barkley Sound. As well, most coastal communities will have water taxi service available to take you to more remote locations.
Some people prefer float plane as a quick way to access remote coastal areas. This works especially well for the mainland coast where there are no roads and boating across the strait can be time consuming. Float planes operate out of most the towns and cities along Vancouver Island.
Forest Service Roads are the backbone of island access, especially in the central and northern sections of Vancouver Island. These are roads put in for the use of the logging companies, that are open to public use. Caution is always advised when travelling on these roads, and keep in mind smaller forest service roads can be over-grown if they are no longer in service. The larger forest service roads are a major system for recreational access to many of the camping areas and lakes on the island. The most common source of mapping is the BC Backroads MapBook for Vancouver Island, and some Search and Rescue groups also sell maps of the various regions.
Watch for wildlife as well!
The need for some extra planning in accessing these areas is what adds to their beauty and appeal for most people. For those who live and play along the coast, the forest service roads and waterways are an extension of the highway system just as a subway would be to someone from a large city.
It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Pass It On!
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