From the north end of Nanaimo, head north on Hwy 19 to the end of Nanoose Bay. (Approx. 8 miles). Turn right at the Petro Canada gas station on to NW Bay Rd. This road will end up at the south tip of Parksville, where you turn right on to the #19A Island Hwy. (aka The Old Island Highway). From here, it's approximately 48 miles to Courtney.
NW Bay Rd. is a peaceful and quite stretch that snakes along rural farms and scattered residential properties. When you reach Parksville, you enter the tourist strip of the mid island road, but it doesn't last long, only a few miles. As you continue north you'll reach the beach side community of Qualicum Beach, which again is geared for tourists however it only lasts for a couple of miles. Fortunately, it's all along the side of the ocean. From here scenery varies for the entire route to Courtney as you meander through stretches of forest, along beaches, small communities, rural farms and residential areas.
The first thing to remember is Watch Out For Deer On Road! We have what I call an infestation of deer that are not overly spooked by traffic. The road quality however, is great, as it is the life line to the communities along the way. There are not many straight stretches so if you're following some RVs... take advantage of the passing lanes. Watch your speed as you travel through the communities with a 60km/hr speed limit. Locals aren't fond of anyone flying through their town and these areas are known to have speed traps.
Parksville and Qualicum have the largest number of amenities, particularly resorts or hotels, restaurants, shopping malls etc. North of that are scattered restaurants and/or pubs, bed and breakfasts, and a few resorts, all right along the highway. There are some convenience stores as well, some with ATMs in case you need cash. In Buckley Bay, where the ferry can take you to Demand Island, is a Shell gas station. I recommend going behind the building to find the Fanny Bay Oyster Co retail store for some fresh local seafood snacks.
Motorcycle Road Additional info
If you want to lengthen your trip by about 7 beautiful miles, then turn right on to Powder Point Rd, which is only 1 mile from the start of your trip when you turn on to NW Bay Rd. Powder Point Rd changes it's name to Fairwinds Dr, then to Dolphin Dr, and finally to Stewart Rd, before it connects with NW Bay Rd. again, but it's a continuous loop so it's easy to navigate. This stretch has gentle curves to begin with but once it turns into Dolphin Dr, you'll be navigating some very tight blind corners though a beautiful residential area. Be careful as there are many driveways along that stretch, but still worth the trip.