To reach Vancouver Island with our hire car, we had to catch a Ferry.
We arrived at Horseshoe Bay a half hour early, to find lanes and lanes full of cars and trucks. The ferry arrived late from Vancouver Island, unloaded, and then we began to load, only to find that we could not fit, so a long wait for the ferry to go over and return once again.
This really mucked up our day on Vancouver Island.
You can book, so if I had my time again, I would, just incase it was busy like this again, although a local said something must have happened for it to be like this.
Ticket sales at Departure Bay end five minutes before the scheduled sailing time for vehicles and ten minutes before for walk-on passengers.
At Horseshoe Bay only, ticket sales for vehicles and walk-on passengers will end ten minutes before the scheduled sailing time.
We enjoyed our journey across to Vancouver Island. As we ended up sailing at lunchtime, we bought lunch on the Ferry, no complaints here.
For all details, check the website.
Just a few more thoughts about the trip up the inside passage.
1. Most of the travel is through protected areas, but there are short open seas crossings that can cause the ship to rock.
2. The 5th deck observation seating is great. There is a forward viewing cabin (Aurora Lounge), but they charge an additional $30 Cdn each to use it. We did not bother, but if you want to see what is coming straight ahead, it is the only place on the ship where you can do so.
3. The back of the 5th deck (stern)is great for observation. If you don't smoke, don't bother with the end of the 4th deck - this is where the smokers hang out.
4. There is a lounge, cafeteria, gift shop and restaurant. The prices are in line with what you would expect for the captive audience - but I've seen a lot worse.
5. The restaurant was a very pleasant surprise. Buffet style for $30 Cdn, but the selection and quality was quite good. The scenery was fantastic.
6. There is only one ferry on this route. This summer, the northbound departures take place on odd numbered dates and the southbound ones on even numbered days.
The drive from Vancouver to Banff is one you will not want to miss. You need your own vehicle as you can stop when you like, where you want. It is a freedom you will miss otherwise. It's about 850 kilometers and about 9.5 hours.
If you are going from Vancouver Island to the Vancouver area, you will be traveling on BC Ferries. We did this on our return trip and this is a quite scenic trip as well. On a clear day you can see some beautiful peaks in the distance. It cost us C$ 43 and took 1.5 hours. Check their website for current schedules and prices.
This is another route that requires some driving as you leave from Sydney once again and sail to Tsawassen on the British Colombia mainland. It is a 30 kilometer or half hour drive to Vancouver.
There are numerous other routes to get to the mainland of British Colombia if you are traveling around Vancouver Island. Please check their informative website for details.
Check out some of the possibilities on the Rocky Mountaineer.
They have a variety of trips through the most scenic part of Canada.
One option would be to fly to Calgary and take the train to Vancouver.
Second option: Fly to Edmonton and take the bus to Jasper, then take the train from Jasper to Vancouver via the Yellowhead route.
Third option: Fly to Edmonton, take the bus to Jasper, then take the train from Jasper to Vancouver via Whistler.
Either way, its a fabulous trip.
There are several ways of getting from one city to the other, but we took the toll road ($10 for a sedan) route. At first we were upset about the price, but after avoiding any traffic on a Friday afternoon, and experiencing some stunning scenery, we were glad we chose this route. I enjoyed this drive more than through Banff, with the road winding around the mountains and every turn revealing gorgeous vistas. I know now why the BC license plate says “Beautiful British Columbia” on it. Worth the $10, at least once anyways.
If you want to go to Vancouver Island you’ll probably need to catch a ferry. There are four possible routes:
~ Tsawwassen (south of Vancouver) – Swartz Bay, near Victoria
~ Tsawwassen – Duke Point, for Nanaimo
~ Horseshoe Bay (north of Vancouver) - Departure Bay, also near Nanaimo
~ Powell River – Comox, a more northerly option
We used the Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay route in both directions, and were impressed by the service. The ferries were clean and had all the services you need (shops, café etc), with plenty of room even in the summer season. They were punctual, and the organisation at the docks was good, with orderly queuing systems for cars. Also, although we’d pre-booked we had no problem switching to an earlier departure when we arrived earlier than expected. The crossing time on this route is 1 hour 35 minutes, and there are 8 departures a day (more on holiday weekends). The one-way fare for a car currently ranges from $33.00 mid-week in the winter, to $39.00 on a summer weekend. An adult foot passenger would pay $11.15 for a one way ticket on a summer weekend. All prices are in Canadian dollars, and there are lots of options and concessions, so check out the website for the fare that fits your journey.
B C Ferries also operate routes to the Gulf Islands (between Vancouver Island and the mainland) and some useful “corner-cutting” hops across several of the estuaries on the Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver. We didn’t use any of these but I would imagine that they’re of the same high standard and worth considering as part of your route planning.
A car is definitely the easiest way to get around British Columbia. We hired ours from Avis in Vancouver and were very impressed with the service and quality of the car. In fact Chris loved our Pontiac Grand Am so much he decided he would do all the driving instead of asking me to take a spell at the wheel from time to time to give him a rest as we usually do. Also the roads were so good, and relatively quiet even in the most popular areas, that it really wasn’t tiring at all. This arrangement suited me just fine – I love the job of map-reader and navigator much more than that of driver :)
One thing that impressed us about Avis was their flexibility. We had booked a car to be picked up at Vancouver Airport on the morning after our arrival, having planned to spend the night in a nearby hotel first to rest from our journey. On getting up that morning we realised that our hotel (the Best Western Richmond) was right next-door to an Avis office. So we popped inside to see if by chance they would allow us to revise our booking and collect a car from them, and were told immediately that this would be no problem – providing we didn’t mind a (free) upgrade as they didn’t have the car we’d booked available. Of course that was no problem for us at all, so we found ourselves leaving the city about an hour earlier than expected, and in a better car too :) Well done Avis!
The Coquihalla Highway is a major toll highway that connects the Greater Vancouver region with the interior of the province. It starts just north of Hope and ends in Merritt. It was built in the late 80's to basically cut time when travelling east out of Vancouver. So instead of having to travel slowly along the Fraser Canyon along the Trans-Canada highway (Hwy 1), you can now travel at 110km/hour along a relatively straight freeway and be in Merritt in just over one hour.
It also cuts time when travelling to the Okanagan. Whereas previously one had to travel along Hwy 3 (the Crowsnest Hwy) along many switchbacks through Manning Park, arriving in the Okanagan 6-7 hours later, you can drive from downtown Vancouver to downtown Kelowna in 5 hours.
While the Coquihalla is definitely the fastest way to travel east, I find that it's the least scenic option. You therefore have to sacrifice speed for scenery and ask yourself which is more important to you. If you just want to travel large distances as fast as possible, then the Coquihalla certainly helps. If you were hoping to drive leisurely, stopping at parks and small towns along the way, then definitely do not take the Coquihalla, as there really are no stops along the way.
While the Coquihalla is a toll highway, I believe it costs only $10 per vehical. You can pay with cash, credit card, or even debit!
One warning, however: the weather along the Coquihalla is very unstable. Weather changes frequently because it's in the Cascade mountains. The Coquihalla is famous for freak snowfalls in the winter and spring time which can temporarily close parts of the highway. Always check the weather before planning to travel across the Coquihalla, especially in the winter.
This is a jump on jump off bus company who tour through BC and Alberta (as well as the eastern states)
My frinds and I had a fantastic time on this tour, making friends that we still keep in touch with, including the driver!
They take you to all the usual tourist places but they also take you off the beaten track and offer a whole bunch of activities that you can do - some highly adventurous eg bunjy jumping, skydiving, white water rafting, some less adventurous eg canoeing, making s'mores (a novelty for us Aussies) and walks.
I would reccommend Moose tours to anyone travelling within the 18 - 60 age bracket. It has few people, the bus only seats about 25 max, and you'll almost certainly find someone you like (and I'm quite picky).
If you want to visit any of the many islands that dot BC's coast, you really only have two options: flying (in a tiny little plane with no ocean view) or taking a ferry! The BC Ferry service is decent, and it will take you not only to Vancouver Island, but to the Gulf Islands and also the Queen Charlottes and BC's North Coast!
The ferries range in size depending on where they service. The largest ferries run between Vancouver and Victoria/Nanaimo, while smaller ferries deliver cars and supplies to the Gulf Islands.
If you plan to visit Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands or the North Coast, check schedules and fares on the BC Ferries website. Some of the routes only run a few times a week, so if you plan to take them, book well in advance to guarentee a spot. This is especially true for North Coast and Queen Charlotte routes.
This only takes a few hours more than by plane, but it's so much more beautifull!!! The view from the boat, as you float through the small islands/fjords (?). There is even a chance that you get to see Orca's/ 'Killer' Whales.
Just a little tip here, as we made a bit of a mistake on our itenerary. We took the wrong highway from Vancouver to Kamloops, and added hours to our travel time.
Unless you want to take the scenic route, Take highway 5 from Vancouver to Kamloops. We took highway 1, and to be honest, we got a couple of good pictures but it was long and boring.
If you don't have a driving licence in Canada you are considered abnormal and a strange being from another land or planet!!!! Canada does not have a commuter rail line as the population does not support it and therefor most Canadans drive. Especially because the towns are so spread out too. I know you are really worrying about pollution now, but don't worry! Cities like Vancouver have a great pooling system where there is a special lane where only cars with more than 2 people in them can enter. This means people take it in turns to drive eachother to work which is good for the environment, quicker and more sociable too!
A driving licence is the main source of ID here too so make sure you don't forget yours if you visit Canada even if you don't intend to drive!
Most of our travels were based in and around Vancouver and Burnaby. We found the buses to be reliable and efficient. One thing worth noting is the buses take the exact fare only. Im sure it was something like $1.50 off peak, $2 during peak. we found out the hard way when the driver wouldnt take us, after not having the right fare!
B.C. FERRIES, make the crossing between Vancouver and Victoria up to 16 times a day in each direction, passing through the beautiful Gulf Islands en route. Prices March 13 - June 25 Midweek -Vehicle $29.75 Adult $9.50. Weekends--Vehicle $31.50 Adult $9.50. These were the prices when we were there, so please check the website for updated prices and schedules.
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