Many interior lakes and rivers are crossed by ferries owned and operated by the government. Of course, no service is available between freeze-up and breakup, but the rest of year, expect daily service from 6 a.m. until at least 10 p.m. Some of the ferries are small, capable of carrying just two vehicles, while others can transport up to 50. Passage is free on all these ferries, including the 45-minute sailing across Kootenay Lake between Balfour and Kootenay Bay (Southern Interior)—the world’s longest free ferry trip.
Government-owned BC Ferries (250/386-3431 or 888/223-3779, www.bcferries.com) serves 46 ports with a fleet of 40 vessels. All fares listed for “vehicles” in this book cover vehicles up to 20 feet long and under seven feet high (or under six feet, eight inches high on a few routes). Larger vehicles such as RVs pay more. Also note that prices listed for all types of vehicles are in addition to the passenger price; the vehicle’s driver is not included in the vehicle fare.
Vancouver has two major ferry terminals. From Tsawwassen, south of downtown, ferries run regularly across the Strait of Georgia to the Vancouver Island centers of Swartz Bay (north of Victoria) and Nanaimo. From Horseshoe Bay, west of downtown Vancouver, ferries ply the strait to Nanaimo. Also from Horseshoe Bay, ferries run across Howe Sound to Langdale, gateway to the Sunshine Coast.
From Powell River, at the north end of the Sunshine Coast, ferries depart for Comox (Vancouver Island), making it possible to visit both Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast without returning to Vancouver. BC Ferries also provides regular services from Vancouver Island to populated islands in the Strait of Georgia.
From Port Hardy at the northern tip of Vancouver Island, a ferry runs north up the coast to Prince Rupert. From the end of May through September the ferry goes every other day, October–April once a week, and during May twice a week. The trip takes 15 hours and links up with the Alaska Marine Highway. Also from Prince Rupert, ferries run out to the Queen Charlotte Islands. These longer sailings require reservations, which should be made as far in advance as possible.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition