For anyone living or visiting British Columbia’s west coast communities or islands, BC Ferries plays an important role in travel plans as well as in daily work and life. Whether it’s getting to and from work, going on vacation or transporting goods, without ferry service much of what we now take for granted would not exist.
In the early days it was the responsibility of the Hudson’s Bay Company to provide passenger and freight service between the Mainland and Vancouver Island. After many years of planning, hard work, and much determination the “British Columbia Toll Authority Ferry System” was mandated to provide this vital service. In the summer of 1960 bad weather played a large role in the rise of ridership. With airports fogged in much of the time people began depending more on the ferry system. As more people discovered that the trip takes only slightly longer than flying, is less expensive along with the relaxing atmosphere of the trip, popularity began to grow quickly. Along with increased ridership the name (thankfully) was also eventually changed to what we know it as today, BC Ferries.
Several ships were retrofitted, new ones added, and amenities and routes expanded. Today, BC ferries offer an extensive range of travel options including:
- An array of dining options
- Child play areas
- Vacation packages
- Free Wi-Fi
- Work or quit areas
- Unique shops
As with any type of transportation, people will experience times that are quiet along with busier peak travel times. Although BC Ferries is no exception there are steps one can take to ensure you are able to board the ferry of your choice in order to arrive at your destination on time. Exactly when passengers need to arrive at the ferry terminal will depend on factors such as:
- Time of day
- The day of the week
- Time of the year
- Traveling in a vehicle or as a foot passenger
- Foot passengers traveling in a group
- Which terminal you are going to
For most trips it is recommended that you arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled departure. Of course during peak times passengers should arrive earlier to ensure a spot in the vehicle line-up. It is always best to give BC Ferries a quick call to find out their suggested arrival time for any particular sailing. It’s also important to remember that there are specific cut-off times for ticket sales that will vary depending on whether you are a foot passenger or are traveling in a vehicle. Those with reservations must be at the terminal from 45 to 60 minutes prior to their scheduled departure time. It is also important to keep in mind that some trips such as the Tsawwassen-Gulf Island service require reservations for all travelers. If you are unsure when you need to arrive at your terminal, it’s absolutely worth taking a few minutes to either check BC Ferries website or give them a quick call at 1.888.223.3779 well before you plan to travel.
Fares for both foot passengers and vehicles will vary depending on your departure and destination points as well as the time of year one is traveling. BC Ferries also has a wide range of travel schedules that include departures to and from the Mainland as well as travel to and from the area’s many islands. Their main departure points include:
- Metro Vancouver/Vancouver Island
- Sunshine Coast
- Saanich Inlet
- Mid coast Bella Coola/Haida Gwaii
- Southern Gulf Islands
- Northern Gulf Islands
Depending on the route and time of year, foot passengers can travel for as little as $10.00 or less for a one way trip. Children under 5 years of age travel free and there are a number of discounts for situations such as those with a disability or passengers who must travel with an escort. With each departure point offering numerous sailings and each having its own fares and schedules, it is highly recommended that one check either online or by phone for information on specific fares and routes. Differences in rates also apply for vehicles just as they do for foot passengers. Depending on the specific route, day of the week, or time of year rates can be as low as $24.00 for vehicles that are 20 feet in length or less.
The BC Ferries website has a list of all sailings with corresponding rates and fees for such things as bicycle and stowage and over-length vehicles. It’s easy to find out what your trip will cost by going to the website and clicking on your specific route and time of travel.
To found out if BC Ferries provides service to the places you wish to go along with specific departure and arrival times you can visit their site at:
- Metro Vancouver – Vancouver Island and Sunshine Coast Schedules
- Southern Gulf Islands Schedules
- Northern Gulf Islands Schedules
- Inside Passage-Mid Coast-Bella Coola and Haida Gwaii
- Discovery Coast Connector
Traveling on BC Ferries can be an experience unto itself when you consider all the onboard amenities they offer. You can begin by enjoying a meal at one of their many restaurants then spend some time shopping in one of their unique boutique outlets.
- Experience an all-inclusive buffet at the Pacific Buffet
- Enjoy a selection of healthy options at the Coastal Café self-serve restaurant
- Choose from an array of snacks, coffee and other drinks at the Costal Café Express
- Sitka Coffee Place offers guests a light breakfast or lunch
- Passages Gift Shop
Traveling from one point to another is not the only service that BC Ferries provides. Their Vacation Centre also has a wide range of vacation package perfect for a romantic get-away or an exciting adventure for the whole family.
From Victoria to Vancouver, Galiano Island and more, BC Ferries has a vacation package that will be fun filled with memories for years to come. It’s as easy as calling them at: 1.888.223.3779 going online to their Vacation Centre and choosing the kind of holiday that is sure to satisfy your best vacation dreams.