Slow Down and Embrace the Moment with Island Joy Rides
“Our belief is that when people really connect to their senses and are allowed to slow down and really take in where they’re at, they now have a more invested interest to take care of their area because they’ve made an emotional connection through the senses.”
Island Joy Rides is a boutique tour company that offers guests cycling and kayaking tours in Campbell River, Quadra Island, the Comox Valley, and the Discovery Islands. The company was created by locals with a passion for outdoor adventure and a dream to share the active lifestyle of Vancouver Island with others.
Island Joy Rides Trip and Development Guide, Leah Hill, speaks to the feeling of returning home to Campbell River after working as a tour guide in other parts of the world. “The more I travel, the more I realize just how spectacular this location is. And that’s what brought me back to integrate with the community, with the outdoors, and also introduce it to my son,” says Leah.
For people who have grown up by the forests and oceans and mountains of B.C, it’s a familiar feeling. Time away from the natural beauty of these lands and waters can grow your appreciation. You want to share the transformative power of nature with newcomers, with guests, with loved ones.
Feel the breeze, smell the sea
Island Joy Rides tours are about getting active outdoors while embracing joy, whether that is newfound joy or re-connecting to a playful side that has been lost in the stress of the everyday. Leah says an important part of tours is taking guests through a journey of their senses – from tasting local foods to listening for wildlife to closing their eyes and smelling the salt water in the air.
Knowledgeable local guides share the history and geography of the region, including what it looked like in the past and how vital habitats like the estuary have been restored over time. It’s all about slowing down, connecting to the present moment, and appreciating the vibrancy of nature.
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Restoring the estuary
Leah recalls how the Campbell River estuary was a remarkably different place during her childhood. Her lingering memory is the smell of creosote in the air and the sight of trucks going to the pulp mill. Only a few decades ago the estuary was a very industrial place not necessarily known for sunset kayaks and wildlife sightings.
Today, the estuary is a thriving habitat once more thanks to community restoration work. “It took years of really diligent effort but now the fish are back, the seals are back,” says Leah. She talks about the joy of sharing the estuary with out of town visitors and reintroducing it to locals who remember the old industrial estuary.
The Amazing Makeover of the Campbell River Estuary
This video shows before and after pictures of the industrialized estuary that was revitalized into natural habitat thanks to collaborative community efforts.
On a recent evening paddle, the tour group came across an idyllic scene of locals fishing in a small pool while whales leapt in the distance. “It was just this culmination of every effort that had been put in to have this most perfect night for these people…just to be blown away by how amazing Campbell River is”, Leah says.
Island Joy Rides does ongoing work to protect the estuary. They educate their guests on ‘leave no trace’ principles. On tours, they have a friendly competition to reward the person who picks up the most garbage. Additionally, the company works with the Campbellton Neighborhood Association on community clean-ups and enhancement projects in the estuary and beyond.
Leah says outdoor activities like mountain biking, kayaking, and hiking have played a big part in rejuvenating the community. Island Joy Rides connects guests to guided or self-guided cycling tours so people can have their adventure at their own pace. Hybrid and electric bike options can elevate the fun!
Company founder Laurel Cronk was involved in developing the Greenways Loop, a 28-kilometer trail that is a major biking and recreation route in Campbell River. This project was designed to encourage low-impact transportation alternatives and accessible outdoor options. Another benefit, Leah says, is that the Greenways Loop reconnects people to different parts of Campbell River so they can learn about the environment around them.
Visitors can find maps of the Greenways Loop in several locations around town including the Pier, the Spit, and along the Seawalk. Be sure to look for the frog signs designed by the late Curtis Wilson, an influential artist and councilor from the Wei Wai Kum First Nation. Wilson created the popular Canadian Native flag and his legacy is felt throughout Campbell River. The frog is an important symbol in Northwest Coast Indigenous culture and also represents the acronym of natural places that local organizations seek to protect. FROG: forests, rivers, ocean, greenways.
Other notable cycling routes include the Beaver Lodge Forest Lands and the River Route.
Leah encourages visitors to support local businesses as much as they can when they visit Campbell River. These businesses have a connection to the community, sourcing quality ingredients and minimizing their environmental impact. Leah says, “it’s also a really great way to connect with the culture. It’s growing. It’s changing. It’s really exciting.”
Island Joy Rides offers day, multi-day, guided, self-guided, and custom experiences.
Reach out today to book your adventure!