BC Ferries provides year-round service on 25 routes throughout coastal British Columbia, with a fleet of 36 passenger- and vehicle-carrying ferries. The ferry route of special interest to Alaska-bound travelers is the “Inside Passage” service between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert, and service to Vancouver Island from mainland ports at Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay. In addition, Alaska-bound travelers may use “Discovery Coast” service between Port Hardy and Bella Coola.
“Inside Passage” service between Port Hardy, on Vancouver Island, and Prince Rupert offers a convenient connection with the Alaska Marine Highway at Prince Rupert. Prince Rupert is located 450 miles/724 km west of Prince George via the Yellowhead Highway (see YELLOWHEAD HIGHWAY 16 section). Port Hardy is approximately 316 miles/510 km north of Victoria via Trans-Canada Highway 1 and BC Highway 19 (see “Vancouver Island Highway” log on pages 18-20 this section).
Inside Passage summer service between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert is aboard the Northern Expedition, carrying 600 passengers and 130 vehicles. This ferry has an expanded range of cruise-ship-like food service options to include a fine dining buffet, a relaxed atmosphere grill/cafeteria, as well as solarium seating, a gift shop, lounge, children’s playroom, 55 modern staterooms, travel information, telephone, and many other amenities. Summer service on this route is during daylight hours, so cabins are not necessary for the 15-hour trip, although cabins are available for day-use or round-trip passengers. The ferry goes up one day and comes back the next. (Winter sailings include an overnight aboard the Northern Adventure with fewer scheduled sailings than in summer.) Check-in time is 2 hours before departure.
Inside Passage travelers can extend their visit from Prince Rupert out to Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands) via the Northern Adventure. BC Ferries provides 6-day-a-week service to Skidegate on Graham Island in Haida Gwaii. Crossing time is about 7 hours, with one sailing a week an overnight (cabins are available).
Another travel option for Alaska-bound motorists is Discovery Coast service aboard the Queen of Chilliwack between Port Hardy and Bella Coola. This summer-only service connects Port Hardy on Vancouver Island with Bella Coola on the Chilcotin Highway, with stops at Bella Bella, Shearwater, Ocean Falls and Klemtu. The Chilcotin Highway connects Bella Coola with the WEST ACCESS ROUTE to the Alaska Highway (see pages 107-108 for log of the Chilcotin Highway). The Queen of Chilliwack features a cafeteria, gift shop, lounge, reclining seats and showers.
To reach Vancouver Island, travelers may use the passenger and vehicle ferry service to Victoria out of Port Angeles, WA, available from Black Ball, or take BC Ferries passenger and vehicle service from Tsawwassen, south of Vancouver, to Swartz Bay.
Travelers may also take BC Ferries service from Tsawwassen to Duke Point/Nanaimo (2 hours) or from Horseshoe Bay, west of Vancouver, to Departure Bay/Nanaimo. From Nanaimo it is 251 miles/405 km—or about 5 hours’ driving time—to Port Hardy, departure point for Inside Passage and Discovery Coast ferries. If you are driving from Victoria to Port Hardy, allow at least 7 hours. (Vancouver Island is a popular destination for vacationing mainland residents.)
Ferry routes connecting Vancouver and Vancouver Island are serviced by a modern fleet of ferries including 3 new Super C class vessels providing the ultimate in comfort for your passage.
Schedules: BC Ferries Summer 2012 Inside Passage (Port Hardy–Prince Rupert) and Discovery Coast (Port Hardy–Bella Coola) schedules appear, on facing page. Sailing schedules for other months are available online. Tsawwassen–Swartz Bay, Horseshoe Bay–Departure Bay, and Tsawwassen–Duke Point ferries sail daily year-round, with hourly sailings from early morning to late evening during summer with naturalists onboard in summer. Visit website for updates and current ferry schedules on these routes.
Fares: Inside Passage peak season passenger fares, one-way to/from Port Hardy and Prince Rupert are: $180 adult passenger; $90 child, 5 to 11 years; under 5 years of age, free. (Special fares apply for BC residents on school events and for disabled and senior BC resident.) Vehicle fares one-way for vehicles up to 7 feet high, up to 20 feet in length: $410, plus $20.50 each extra foot over 20 feet. One-way fares for overheight vehicles (over 7 feet high, up to 20 feet in length): $700, plus $35 each extra foot more than 20 feet. Other one-way fares: Motorcycle, $205; bicycle, $5; stowage (canoe, kayak, etc.), $10.
Discovery Coast peak season passenger fares, one-way to/from Port Hardy and Bella Coola are: $180 adult passenger; $90 child, 5 to 11 years; under 5 years of age, free. (Special fares apply for BC residents on school events and for disabled and senior BC resident.) One-way vehicles fares are as follows: up to 7 feet high, up to 20 feet in length, $355, plus $17.75 each extra foot; overheight vehicles (over 7 feet high, up to 20 feet in length), $475 plus $23.75 each extra foot more than 20 feet. Other one-way fares: Motorcycle, $178; bicycle, $5; stowage (canoe, kayak, etc.), $10.
Summer cabin rates for the Northern Expedition day-cruise between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert are: Inboard cabins, $90; outboard cabins and wheelchair cabins, $120. All fares shown are in Canadian funds. Terminals accept Visa, Mastercard and American Express, but most terminals cannot accept debit cards (the exceptions are Port Hardy and McLoughlin Bay, which can accept debit cards for payment). Shoulder and low season fares are available during the fall, winter and spring when service is less frequent.
Reservations: Required for passenger and vehicle travel on Inside Passage, Discovery Coast Passage and Queen Charlotte Islands. For reservations, phone toll-free in North America 1-888-223-3779; from outside North America, phone 250-386-3431. Reservations can be made online. Cancellations made fewer than 30 days prior to departure are subject to a cancellation fee.
Information: BC Ferries at 1321 Blanshard St., Victoria, BC V8W 0B7; phone 250-381-1401.