Victoria to Nanaimo Trans-Canada History

This covers the western-most portion of the Trans-Canada from Victoria to the two BC Ferries terminals to Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, and from there east. Tofino waterfront view

Route of the Trans-Canada

Back in 1909, the town council of Tofino, declared that town to be the "western terminus of the Trans-Canada highway" which was not even built yet at that time. The sign remains today, confounding tourists visiting that scenic city.

Tofino & Ucluelet in the 1960s

When the route of the Trans-Canada Highway was set by Act of Parliament in 1955, it was routed to efficiently connect major population centres, so it included a ferry route from Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) to Nanaimo, and from there south to the provincial capital of Victoria. The route did not extend west to Tofino, which at that time did not even have a road HBC Trading Post on the Nanaimo waterfront

The Vancouver Island branch of Highway 1, known locally as the Island Highway (which continues north of Nanaimo as Highway 19). The original "#1" designated highway was granted in 1941, and connecting Victoria to Campbell River (actually, up to Kelsey Bay, a small coastal community just to the north).

In 1953. Highway 1 on the Island was shortened to terminate in the downtown core of the city of Nanaimo in 1953, with the section north of Nanaimo being re-numbered 19.

When BC Ferries took over the ferry route between Departure Bay in Nanaimo and Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver in 1961, Highway 1 on the Island was extended to the Departure Bay ferry dock

Tofino Photos

Victoria to Nanaimo

Victoria route along Douglas Street northbound The TransCanada Highway navigates through Victoria's business district from the "Mile Zero" plaque along Douglas Street, which is the city's major arterial road. There is a connection north to Sidney for the ferry (at Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal) to the mainland at Tsawwassen, and the Highway itself bends west through View Royal and Goldsteam (and past beautiful Goldstream Provincial Park) before getting out of the lower islands dense communities, and heading past Mill Bay over Malahat Summit.

The route passes though Cowichan Bay, Duncan, and Chemainus before continuing to Nanaimo and the ferry terminal to the mainland. In Nanaimo, Highway 1 then enters Departure Bay just north of Newcastle Island.

This route between Victoria and Nanaimo was upgraded to four-lane over the 1970s.

Construction began in 1993 on four main components:

The project included 90 new bridges, 150 kilometres of new highway and more than 80 kilometres of upgraded highway and many environmental features including wildlife fencing, passages for wildlife and equestrian use and the construction of fish habitats Trans_Canada Highway Mile Zero, at Victoria

Mile One, Victoria

The Trans-Canada begins in Victoria, British Columbia at the intersection of Douglas Street and Dallas Road (where the "Mile 0" plaque stands). This wood carved sign overlooks Dallas Park and the Strait of Juan De Fuca, looking south to the Olympic Mountains in Washington State.

Victoria Photos

Island Highway bridge over Englishman River at Parksville

Island Highway, north to Campbell River

A gravel and rough highway has existed on the Island since about 1912, and complemented the route of the E and N Railway (Esquimalt and Nanaimo, in case you were wondering).

The paved highway #19 first opened in 1953, replacing a stretch of what was up to then Highway #1 between Nanaimo and Campbell River, and was extended to the northern tip of the island in the late 1970s. The total length of the highway is 406 km (252 mi). Island Highway signage for Duke Point and Departure Bay Ferries

Duke Point Ferry to Tsawwassen

Recent concerns about civic traffic congestion caused by the amount of ferry traffic passing through/near downtown Nanaimo, to get to the ferry terminal has created a need for a second terminal away from downtown Nanaimo.

The Duke Point Ferry has its own exit from the Trans-Canada #1 and gives mainland-bound travellers the option of arriving at the mainland on the North Shore (with good access to Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby) or to Tsawwassen (with access the rest of the Lower Mainland, the Fraser Valley and the Trans-Canada Highway to points east.

Nanaimo Photos

Mainland Upgrades

There was also (on the other side of the Georgia Strait) a need to bypass the congested highways through North Vancouver and Burnaby, to get traffic to/from the island, which has led to the new four-lane expressway, a 40 km long, South Fraser Perimeter Road ("SFPR"), also called Highway 17, which meanders along the south side of the Fraser River to connect the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal in southwest Delta to major Fraser bridges and to the Trans-Canada at in Surrey (at the Junction between #1, #15 south, and #17 west).

This new route connects travelers in about 40 minutes(half of the old travel times to the ferry from the Highway 15 junction) and is s stress-free connection from the main Trans-Canada route.

You might even see some eagles or hawks in the adjoining marshlands!

Other Resources

Victoria to Nanaimo itinerary South Fraser Permineter Route

More Trans-Canada Highway History

← West
← Prev
TCH Provincial History  ↑ East →
Next →

Trans-Canada Highway Itinerary Map

Use mouse to drag/move map. Click on "+" or "-" to zoom in or out. "Satellite" combines map & photo.