Taking a ferry during your BC trip? It’s a fun, enjoyable, quirky way to get around BC.
There’s some nuances that might surprise first-time passengers. In our BC Ferries checklist, we’ll unpack everything to expect on your ferry trip.
Plan in advance
In summer, ferry reservations are absolutely essential, especially on weekends and holidays. You don’t want end up stuck on a 6AM ferry, or without a reservation all together. Book a few days in advance.
A limited number of walk-ons are allowed on every sailing, but it almost always means a long wait. The ocean views Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay ferry terminals are nice, but it’s not a place you want to spend a day of your vacation.
With a vehicle reservation, arrive at the terminal at least an hour before boarding. If you miss your sailing, you’ll end up in a standby line. At times, you might end up needing to pay for a new reservation all together.
A few ferry routes do not take vehicle bookings, most notably Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island and Bowen Island. All non-bookable routes are marked with a * on the BC Ferries site.
For the most part, we’ll help you plan your trip to avoid these routes (chat with us here!). If you’re taking a non-bookable ferry, we recommend showing up 90 minutes early. Most non-bookable routes have nearby markets and cafes to help you keep busy. It’s better to wait 90 minutes than miss a sailing altogether. If you don’t get a spot on the ship, you’ll wait for another 2-3 hours!
By BC Ferry standards, a FarOut Wilderness overland vehicle is an oversized vehicle. When you make a reservation, you’ll be asked about vehicle size. Select the option that says your vehicle is over 7 feet tall and under 20 feet long. Luckily, this doesn’t impact the price. But don’t be surprised when you end up in a line with trucks and RVs!
BC Ferries food is generally overpriced and a bit underwhelming. It’s best to bring food onboard with you. Most of the local terminals have good options nearby.
If you have to order food on a ferry, we recommend the salmon burger. It’s a solid, fresh piece of local fish.
On a sunny day, being on a BC ferry is absolutely stunning! We recommend heading straight up to the outdoor decks to soak up the views.
Bring some warm clothes! Temperatures don’t get much warmer than 25C (75F) along the coast. The wind from the ship will often make it feel quite a bit colder. Even in peak summer, we often find ourselves wearing a sweater onboard.