How to Get to Cortes Car-Free

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— by Carmen

CAR-FREE travel to and from Cortes



Have you considered leaving the car at home when you travel to or from Cortes? You can save yourself money, time, stress, and enviro-guilt by traveling car-free.

There may be reasons why you sometimes need to travel in a private vehicle – disabilities, cargo, scheduling, pets, family, whatevs. But have you done the math? The average round-trip cost (including gas) for one person in a small car to drive to Vancouver and back to Cortes is $304 (less $24 with Experience Card). To Campbell River and back: $73 (less $24 with Experience Card), and how many sailing waits. Going car-free can save a chunk of cash, but beyond that, it is efficient, fast, and dare I suggest—fun. There are plenty of options. Read on.




Hitching is the simplest and cheapest option, if-and-only-if you feel comfortable doing so. I have been hitching back and forth for 12 years and have never not gotten a lift, nor have I (a small single woman) ever had a threatening or nasty experience, aside from a smelly dog or two. I’ve met many kind and friendly folks who have been sincerely glad to help, and in fact, often voiced appreciation for the opportunity to share the ride and reduce their carbon footprint. Endless thanks to all of you for getting me home safely! However, I am fully aware that this has not been everyone’s experience. Getting into a car with a stranger is always a calculated risk. So seriously, if you don’t feel safe hitchhiking, don’t do it—there are other options. But if you’re game, use reasonable caution and go for it as follows:

Stick your thumb out anywhere on the Island. Have a mask in your pocket and ask the driver if they would prefer you to wear it. Someone is bound to pick you up, and if you are lucky they will be going all the way to the Campbell Riviera and will gladly take you there. If not, keep hitching til you get to the ferry terminal and then go from window to window, asking politely of anyone who looks friendly and appears to have room in their vehicle. Don’t be offended if they decline, just move along, there’s lots more cars.

To return from Campbell River: buy your thru-pass at the ferry booth, then go window to window as above and look for that nice person who will give you a ride to Cortes. When ferry madness isn’t at full tilt this is easy: just mosey up to Lane 7 where all the Cortes-bound cars are (check with the Ferryperson to be sure). In summer mania when there are overflows the poor cars get all mixed up and you can’t tell who’s going where so it’s a bit trickier, but keep asking and you are likely to strike gold.

If you don’t get a ride to Cortes you can either walk on to Quadra then point your thumb toward Heriot Bay, or call QUADRA TAXI at at 250-204-0709. If you call when you get on the ferry they will meet you on the other side and take you across the island, for $20. Of course, coming or going, you can also use the Quadra Taxi option and avoid hitchhiking altogether 🙂

At Heriot Bay, of course, everyone is going to Cortes and most Cortesians will be usually be happy to give you a lift if they have room. Visitors are usually thrilled to have a temporary tour guide.

If your ride isn’t going where you need to go, ask someone else, or—you guessed it — hitchhike home from wherever they let you off.

Klahoose Bus

The Klahoose Community Bus runs to Campbell River and back on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from various stops around Cortes. The van boards the 9:50 ferry off Cortes and returns on the 4:30 from Campbell River. Cost for adults is $45 round trip including ferry fare (or $25 to CR, $35 back). Discounts for seniors and kids. Depending on schedule they can often drop you to your door. Masks are optional. Ian the driver is a superhero with the ability to cram an (almost) unlimited amount of groceries into the van. Reserve before 8am on trip day with [email protected] / 250-203-8360. Best to reserve well ahead at peak times. Please support this fabulous community service!



The CR Airport has an Airport Shuttle Taxi, that will pickup/dropoff at Shoppers Drug Tyee Plaza or most anywhere in CR. Cost is $20 per person. Call 250-914-1010 to reserve.



Campbell River and Comox Valley transit
Check schedules at: and

You can travel from Campbell River to Courtenay for $4, in as little as 1.25 hours — f’real! The Campbell River transit system connects with the Comox Valley system at Oyster River. In CR, take the #3 bus from outside the Community Centre to Willow Point, where it will connect with the #6 which will take you to Oyster River. The ride costs $2 cash.

The Oyster River stop is in the little mall with the liquor store and Discovery Foods, and if you’ve got time between buses you can enjoy a hot slice and an Italian soda at Forbidden Zone Pizza. If you have a little more time between connections you can duck behind the mall and have a swim under the bridge in the sparkling Oyster River. The #12 bus (on Comox Valley transit) will arrive at the same spot where you got off, to chauffeur you to downtown Courtney where you can connect to Comox, Cumberland, or Royston. This ride costs another twonie, which is hard to argue with.

To return, do same in reverse. Sometimes the #6 Willow Pt bus from Oyster River goes right into downtown Riviera.

NOTE: you can take your BIKE on the bus for free all the way to Courtenay, or for extra fun, bus it to Oyster River then ride the gorgeous off-highway route along Headquarters Road from there to Courtenay (about 2 hours of flat and sweet farmland riding). Email me at [email protected] if you’d like other bike route tips.



IslandLink Bus

IslandLink Bus is the bomb. It is direct and comfortable, runs several times a day, has good wifi, and is very reasonable at $45. The spiffy white van picks you up at 11th/Cedar, outside the Campbell River Community Centre (15 min walk from the ferry), and drops you right outside Departure Bay ferry terminal at Nanaimo (sometimes pausing en route for a few minutes at Buckley Bay, the ferry to Denman Island). Masks are mandatory onboard. IslandLink does not carry children under 9 yrs of age. Trip is about 2.5 hrs, which is only slightly longer than driving … but did I mention … never a sailing wait? When you get to Horseshoe Bay the #257 Horseshoe Bay Express will pull up right outside the terminal, and will have you in downtown Vancouver in 35 minutes.

IslandLink buses connect at Departure Bay with buses continuing on to Victoria.

At peak season it is a very good idea to reserve the IslandLink several days ahead. If you cancel any time before midnight the night before, you get a full credit for future travel. If something goes awry and you miss your bus you can get on the next one for $5, space permitting.

Vancouver Island Connector

If the Island Link is booked up you can ride from Campbell River to Departure Bay Nanaimo on the Vancouver Island Connector bus, which departs from a small depot approx. 20 walk from the ferry terminal. Cost is $51 each way if you book in advance ($55 walk-on), and they offer 25% discount for BC residents. VI Connector runs full-size buses without wifi (comfortable nevertheless, like riding in a jumbo jet on the highway) and takes kids of all ages. Masks are mandatory onboard. Unlikely to sell out even at peak times, VI Connector also has the advantage of stopping in many smaller communities along the way which the IslandLink skips. Only downside is Greyhound flashbacks, but it’s way better than that. Check for schedule.


OK, so there you go. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t get to/from Cortes without a car. Take a risk and try leaving the car at home, you might just love it. And if this trip isn’t the time for you to do your trip car-free — please take a moment to be grateful to that walk-on or bike-on or van-rider who made space for your car. Smooth sailings, all.