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A primer on overlanding: a backcountry experience on Vancouver Island

Road trips consistently come up in conversations around planning a Vancouver Island vacation. Whether a traveller is looking to rent a car or van and experience our highways for the first time, or Island residents pack up to make a cross Island adventure, road trips are one of the best ways of seeing different communities and meeting new folks. For those who seek a little bit of quiet time in the back country, or like a rugged road, Hastings Overland is catering to you. We sat down with Maxwell Webster, one of the owners, to learn more about overlanding, what it is, and how to overland on Vancouver Island.

What is overlanding exactly?

Overlanding describes self-reliant adventure travel to remote destinations where the journey is the primary goal. Hastings Overland aims to cater to both those who have never tried overlanding and those who are veterans of this type of travel. We offer trip planning services, a detailed orientation to all of the gear, and manuals in the vehicle, which help build skills along the journey such as environmental awareness, 4-wheel driving techniques, and what to do when encountering wildlife.

What is it that lends Vancouver Island so well to a road trip?

First of all, for those new to BC, simply taking the ferry either to Victoria or Nanaimo is a great introduction to the beautiful island. Once on “The Rock” there are so many different routes to avoid seeing the same thing twice. With a good mix between front and backcountry camping there is something for everyone. Our customers often find themselves enjoying the towns just as much as the adventure locations due to the friendly island hospitality!

What’s the longest trip one of your guests has booked on the Island? How much is there to explore?

We’ve had customers focus solely on the island for up to two weeks. Especially when including some of the southern and northern Gulf Islands in the itinerary really means you could even go for longer than two weeks. From the south west coast near Port Renfrew up the Pacific Marine Route and north to Port Alberni to Tofino there are many options for backroad adventures. With the ferry service once again connecting the north of the island to the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast we are now sending more and more customers up to the north of Vancouver Island which we are really excited about as there is so much to see near Campbell River all the way up to Cape Scott!

Your Vancouver Island route is a Canada Signature Experience. What part of the trip do you think helped land that title?

We are very excited to be a part of Destination Canada’s program and proud to be the youngest company in the mix. The nature of our trip plan which helped the most in our opinion was the backroad aspect of it and getting those visiting the island past the typical stops of Victoria and Tofino. Although our routing does allow our customers to see these places the way in which they reach these places is different than the typical route.

What are your five top locations on Vancouver Island?

It’s tough to visit Vancouver Island and not see Tofino. But there are so many other amazing places such as the south west coast and Lake Cowichan, Sproat Lake, the endless backcountry options near Campbell River, and up north near Telegraph Cove.

Tell us more about Hastings Overland. What can travellers expect?

At Hastings Overland our number one focus is the customer experience. When our customers arrive at our depot they are greeted by young and energetic owners of the company who love to get to know each of their customers and share adventure stories before getting into the details of what to expect for the trip. We review the their trip plan with them and make sure they are confident in all aspects of their trip before departing including how to build the roof top tent and use the camping gear. Once they depart we are there to support them along the way whenever they need it. In 2 years we have only received 5/5 reviews. We simply cannot be beat when it comes to considering the entire experience from start to finish.

Looking to overland this month? Check out 7 Reason Why May Is Our Favourite Month for a BC Road Trip.
All photos courtesy of Hastings Overland & Victor Aerden.

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