Set sail for Vancouver Island

The ferries provide a spectacularly scenic experience and a chance to experience Vancouver Island’s charming communities.

  • May. 9, 2013 5:00 p.m.

One of the most common ways to visit Vancouver Island is also one of the most scenic.

In fact, the majority of people arriving on Vancouver Island do so via BC Ferries, which has been transporting locals and visitors for more than 40 years between both major centres such as Victoria and Vancouver, and smaller, out-of-the-way escapes such as Quadra Island and Powell River.

While the ferries offer both locals and visitors an efficient, year-round transportation solution, they also provide a spectacularly scenic experience and a chance to experience Vancouver Island’s charming communities.

One of the largest ferry systems in the world, boasting a fleet of 36 vessels serving more than 45 ports of call on 25 routes throughout the coast, BC Ferries carries both vehicles and passengers.

The largest ships, including the Coastal Renaissance, Inspiration and Celebration and the Spirit of British Columbia and the Spirit of Vancouver Island – each measuring 560-feet in length, or two football fields back-to-back – serve on major routes between mainland BC and Vancouver Island and feature a variety of food services, gift shops, ship-to-shore telephones, laptop hook-ups, comfortable seating lounges and outdoor seating areas, video games, preschool play areas and elevators. On the two Spirit boats, relax at the seasonal C Spa, a mini-spa featuring licensed aestheticians and spa practitioners whose services include manicures, pedicures and massages (walk-ins welcome; cash only).

While most Vancouver Island visitors arrive with BC Ferries, no matter how you get here, you’ll want to take the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the region’s coastal waterways. Possibilities range from day trips to beautiful destinations such as the northern and southern Gulf Islands to popular northern cruises that include the awe-inspiring Inside Passage (Port Hardy to Prince Rupert), the Queen Charlotte Islands and the Discovery Coast Passage, each providing access to the stunningly scenic northern British Columbia.

Please note: Reservations are available for a fee on major route sailings between Vancouver (Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay) and Vancouver Island (Swartz Bay, Duke Point or Departure Bay) and between Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast (Horseshoe Bay to Langdale).

For BC Ferries information, including schedules, fares, reservations and trip-planning tools, visit or call 1-888-BCFERRY (1-888-223-3779) toll-free throughout North America,  or 250-386-3431 in Victoria. From your cell phone, call *BCF (*223) on Rogers or Telus Mobility networks.

Ferry Service from/to the U.S.

• Blackball Transport’s MV Coho is a year-round auto/passenger ferry between Victoria and Port Angeles, Wa with four sailings daily during the peak summer season. For details, call the office nearest you: 250-386-2202 (Victoria) or 360-457-4491 (Port Angeles) or visit

The Clipper offers high-speed, passenger-only service from Victoria’s Inner Harbour to Seattle, Wa. For schedules, visit or call 1-800-888-2535.

• Washington State Ferries operates the Anacortes Ferry, which leaves from a terminal just south of Sidney, and serves the San Juan Islands and Anacortes, Wa. A beautiful way to see the Islands! For more information, see

Air Service

• Harbour Air provides floatplane service to the Gulf Islands, Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo, including scheduled, charter flights and adventure tours. Call 1-800-665-0212 or 250-385-9131 or see (See ad page 11).

• KD Air is located at the South Terminal at Vancouver International Airport and offers regular flights to Qualicum Beach, Port Alberni and Gillies Bay on Texada Island, plus charter flights. This summer, visitors can also enjoy daily flights between Vancouver and Tofino. Visit or call 1-800-665-4244. See ad on page 37.

• Kenmore Air offers scheduled service between Seattle and Vancouver Islands, the Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast. Call 1-866-435-9524 or visit

• Helijet International offers scheduled service between downtown Victoria and downtown Vancouver. Experience a spectacular, scenic 35-minute flight in the comfort of their spacious helicopters. Call 1-800-665-4354 or visit

• Pacific Coastal Airlines provides daily scheduled flights between Vancouver and Victoria, and to the North Island communities of the Comox Valley, Campbell River and Port McNeill, as well as Powell River on the Sunshine Coast. Call 1-800-663-2872 or visit