Boat and Ferry Travel

Ferries play a central role in British Columbia's transportation network. In some areas, ferries provide the only access (besides floatplanes) to remote communities. For visitors, ferries are one of the best ways to get a sense of the region and its ties to the sea. BC Ferries operates one of the largest ferry fleets in the world, serving about 40 ports of call on B.C.'s west coast. The ferries carry all vehicles as well as bicycles and foot passengers.

Reservations are recommended between Vancouver and Vancouver Island and on most sailings between Vancouver and the Southern Gulf Islands, especially on weekends and holidays. Most other companies load vehicles on a first-come, first-served basis.

BC Ferries operates two ferry terminals outside Vancouver. From Tsawwassen (an hour south of downtown), ferries sail to Swartz Bay near Victoria, to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, and to the Gulf Islands. From Horseshoe Bay (45 minutes north of downtown), ferries sail to the Sunshine Coast and to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Vehicle reservations on Vancouver to Victoria and Nanaimo and Vancouver to the Sunshine Coast routes are optional and cost an additional C$15 to C$17.50. There's no charge for reservations on Gulf Island routes.

There are several options for getting to Vancouver Island from Washington State: Black Ball Transport operates the MV Coho, a car ferry, daily year-round between Port Angeles, Washington, and Victoria's Inner Harbour. The car and passenger fare is US$57; bikes are US$6.50. The Victoria Clipper runs daily, year-round passenger-only service between downtown Seattle and downtown Victoria. Trips take about three hours, and the one-way fare from mid-May to late September is US$92; bicycles are an extra US$10, and reservations are recommended. Washington State Ferries runs a car ferry daily from April through December from Anacortes, Washington, to Sidney (some runs make stops at different San Juan Islands), about 30 km (18 miles) north of Victoria. Trips take about three hours. One-way high-season fares are US$59.85 for a vehicle and driver, and bikes are US$6.

Boat and Ferry Information

BC Ferries (888/223–3779; 888/223–3779 in B.C., Alberta and Washington State.

Black Ball Ferry Line (250/386–2202 or 360/457–4491.

Clipper Navigations (250/382–8100.

Washington State Ferries (206/464–6400 or 888/808–7977.