Getting from Vancouver to Vancouver Island is easier than you’d think. There are two ways to get here: you can fly, or take the ferry. Flying is the fastest option, as the ferries take at least an hour and a half to cross the strait. But if you’re on a budget, the ferry is the way to go. This guide covers everything you need to know about taking the ferry between Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
Routes Connecting Vancouver and Vancouver Island
Are you looking to land mid-island in Nanaimo, or further south in Victoria? Maybe you care more about the departure terminals in Vancouver, as they’re 78 km apart. Picking the right ferry will save you travel time and headaches. Here are the three options:
Vancouver to Victoria: One Route
Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen
Only one route connects Victoria and Vancouver, and that’s the Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, which is a 1 hour and 35 minute trip (24 nautical miles). Once you arrive at Swartz Bay Terminal in Saanich, drive south toward BC-17 to get to Victoria. It’ll take about 35 minutes. Those looking to take public transit will use Route 70.
Vancouver to Nanaimo: Two Routes
Duke Point to Tsawwassen
Anyone looking to get to Nanaimo from south of Vancouver by car should opt for the Duke Point-Tsawwassen route. This terminal is further outside of Nanaimo than the alternative route–about a 15 minute drive. There are no local transit options to get a foot passenger from Duke Point to Nanaimo, but there are taxis and a shuttle. The ferry ride takes 2 hours and covers 38 nautical miles.
Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay
A great option for foot passengers to Nanaimo from Vancouver is the Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay route, which takes 1 hour and 40 minutes to cross the 30 nautical miles. The Vancouver terminal, Horseshoe Bay, is located in West Vancouver. Once you arrive in Nanaimo, the Route 25 takes you downtown. By car, it’s just over a five-minute drive.
BC Ferry Rates
Fares for BC Ferries changes annually, so the fares included here are up to date for 2018. The rates are the same regardless of which route you take (Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay, Duke Point-Tsawwassen, and Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay) and are for one-way travel only. If you’re looking to travel on a budget, ditch the car and go by foot. Anyone travelling by car will pay the fare for the vehicle and the passengers inside the vehicle. All prices are in CAD, and payment can be made by credit card, cash and travellers cheques.
|Passenger (12 and older)||$17.20|
|Passenger (5 to 11)||$8.60|
|Passenger (under 5)||FREE|
|Bicycle or Stowage||$2|
Pets on BC Ferries
There are two decks that your car could end up in: the lower closed deck and the upper open deck. If you end up in the closed deck, you’re required to leave your vehicle during the trip, but your pet can stay behind in your car. If you want to stay with your pet, you can take him or her to the closed-off pet area on the open deck. Alternatively, you can request to be placed on the upper deck when purchasing your ticket, and that way, you’ll both be able to stay in the car for the duration of the trip.
Anyone boarding the ferry as a foot passenger with a pet will board the vessel alongside the cars. There are heated pet-friendly rooms with water and kennels, so you can hang out with your dog in the room, or put them in a kennel and go upstairs. There’s no cost for bringing a pet on the ferry.
BC Ferry Discounts
BC residents aged 65 and older and students aged 18 and younger get reduced or free fares on the ferry. Large groups travelling together are also eligible for a reduced rate.
BC Seniors (65+) ride free Monday to Thursday except for when these days land on a holiday.
Students aged 12-18 ride for $8.60 and those aged 5-11 ride for $4.30. Student ID is required.
Groups of 10+
Whether travelling all together in one vehicle, or boarding by foot, groups of 10 or more passengers pay $14.70 per person (12 and older), and $7.35 per child (5-11).
BC Residents with Disabilities
BC residents with disabilities are eligible to ride the ferry for a reduced rate of $8.60 (12 and older) and $4.30 (aged 5 to 11).
Booking your BC Ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island ahead of time is a good idea for long weekends. It costs $10 to reserve a spot on the ferry (one way), and you’re required to show up at least a half-hour before departure–otherwise you’ll travel via stand-by.
Ticket sales are cut off 10 minutes before departure for foot passengers and 5 minutes before departure for cars, so be sure to arrive on time, or you’ll be waiting x hours for the next one.