A few months ago, when the weather was better than it is currently, Kevin and I cycled to and around Sea Island and Iona Island in Richmond. The area is popular with cyclists, particularly exercise cyclists who ride rapidly around the flat roads. This was our first trip to this area of Richmond, aside from visiting the airport, and we decided to go there after skimming through the expanded and updated guidebook, Easy Cycling around Vancouver by Jean & Norman Cousins (2011).
We borrowed Easy Cycling around Vancouver from the public library because it happened to be checked in on a day we popped by to browse the travel section. In the past we’ve borrowed other local guidebooks and they disappointed us when we discovered the directions began with: “Drive to X and unload bicycles from your car…” This guidebook is different! The authors include transit directions to route starting points, where taking transit is feasible. Because of this and our success with the Iona Island route they outline, we will probably buy a copy of this book before we head out on our next local cycling adventure.
Sea Island and Iona Island are very easy to access without a car. If you want to do a full-day ride, you can start in Vancouver and bike to Richmond via the Canada Line pedestrian/bicycle bridge.
If you’re looking for a shorter adventure, take your bike on the Canada Line to Templeton Station and start riding from there. The journey is about 20 km round-trip from Templeton Station.
If you travel over the Canada Line bridge, as we did, you will be pleasantly greeted by a helpful cycling map as soon as you enter Richmond.
From the Canada Line bridge, head in the direction of Sea Island Way to make the connection to Grauer Road on Sea Island. This is the trickiest part of the ride, but hopefully the Google Street View images below will help (click on the images to see them in Google Maps). Sea Island Way has a bike lane and looks calm in this photo, but it was scary the day we rode it. Large trucks were travelling very fast and close to us. If we do this ride again, we would probably walk our bikes on the sidewalk; it’s also easier to make the connection to Grauer Road from there.
Sea Island Way (Google Street View image)
Take the first right off Sea Island Way and you’ll find a gap where you can take your bike onto various pathways. Follow the one in the middle, which will take you to Grauer Road. Keep following Grauer Road and soon enough you’ll either arrive at or see signs directing you to points of interest, such as Flight Path Park and McDonald Beach Park and Iona Beach Regional Park.
Connection to Grauer Road (Google Street View image)
Unless you love dogs, need a washroom or water, or like gawking at fancy Southlands homes, you can skip McDonald Beach Park and ride straight through to Iona Beach Regional Park. On the way you’ll pass some unusual but beautiful sights.
Iona Beach Regional Park, where the Fraser River meets the Straight of Georgia, is definitely the highlight of this cycling trip. Over 300 bird species feed and rest in the park, and it’s an important migration route for many shorebirds.
Red-winged blackbird taking flight
The park is also home to the Iona Jetty, which transports treated wastewater from the nearby Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant into the Straight of Georgia.
Park visitors can walk or cycle 4 km to the end of the jetty. We had very good weather for the ride, but were still glad for the gloves and windproof clothing we had with us. The wind can be fierce on the jetty even on a perfect day! The reward for travelling a long way on loose gravel, aside from being able to say that you walked or cycled the “poop pipe,” is the view when you reach the end: mountains, sea and birds. It’s not uncommon for eagles to hang out near the end of the jetty. Portable washroom facilities are available.
Our bicycles near the end of the jetty
Iona Jetty path
When visiting Sea Island and Iona Island, definitely build in some time to watch airplanes land. You’ll easily spot the best viewing locations because so many people drive to Sea Island and park their cars for hours to get a close-up view.