How To Get To Vancouver Island From Vancouver

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Vancouver Island is one of the best places to visit in British Columbia. There are many cities and small towns, provincial parks, waterfalls, lakes, and more.

I’ve travelled to Vancouver Island many times, as I live on the mainland in Vancouver.

While the most common way to Vancouver Island is by ferry using BC Ferries, there are a few other ways to travel to the island.

How To Get To Vancouver Island From Vancouver

Here are all the details and information for getting to Vancouver Island from Vancouver. Don’t worry; there are also ways to get to Vancouver Island without a car.

Ferry

Getting to Vancouver Island from Vancouver by ferry is the most common transportation route. There are two common ferry routes you can take from the mainland.

A large white with blue accents ferry vessel operated by the BC Ferries. THe Spirit of Vancouver Island is one of the ferries that travel between Vancouver Island and Vancouver. Travelling by ferry is the most common way for how to get to Vancouver Island from Vancouver.

Option 1: Tsawwassen To Victoria (Swartz Bay)

Tsawwassen to Victoria is the most used route to Vancouver Island. Many local daily commuters travel in both directions for work, day trips, vacations, etc.

It’s a non-stop 1 hour and 35 minutes and a beautiful ferry ride that will pass through the Southern Gulf Islands. On the off chance, you may even see Orcas swimming in the open waters.

As a kid, I remember riding the ferry to Victoria once, and we saw a pod of Orcas in the water.

Usually, when the ferries are also on schedule, you’ll likely see another ferry travelling in the opposite direction. Sometimes, people like to wave to each other as they don’t pass that far from each other.

Option 2: Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo (Departure Bay)

The next option for getting to Vancouver Island from Vancouver is taking the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal in West Vancouver to Nanaimo. This will be the best route if you’re travelling to Tofino from Vancouver.

The ferry ride is 1 hour and 40 minutes long, and you can see part of the Sunshine Coast from the distance.

Me (The Travelling City Girl) standing on the outside deck on a ferry looking out onto the islands, water, and the mountain ranges in the distance.

Optional Option 3: Tsawwassen to Nanaimo

It’s not a standard route many take to Nanaimo, but it’s another option if you want to travel to the island. However, it’s the longest route, a non-stop 2-hour ride.

Seaplane

One of the most expensive ways to travel to Vancouver Island is by seaplane, but it’s also one of the quickest.

The seaplanes can take you to Victoria, Nanaimo, Comox, Maple Bay (Cowichan Valley), Patricia Bay (near the Victoria Airport), and Tofino.

There’s also the option to take the seaplane from Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

Seaplanes only fly during certain times of the year, so check the flight schedule before visiting the island.

A sunset view of Coal Harbour. In the inlet there are buildings to the left, part of Stanley Park in the distance. To the right you can see the Harbour Air seaplane company with seaplanes docked.

Commercial Flights

If you want to avoid taking a ferry or a seaplane, there are commercial flight options from Vancouver International Airport to smaller airports on the island, such as Victoria, Nanaimo, Campbell River, Tofino, Comox, and a few more options.

The flights, however, can be expensive depending on where you’re flying to on Vancouver Island. 

Shuttle (Vancouver Island Connector)

The Vancouver Island Connector connects the southern part of the island from Victoria to Tofino. It’s the cheapest option to get around the bottom half of the island; however, it will take you longer to reach locations.

There are currently no shuttles that will take you to the island’s northern locations, so you’ll need a car if you plan to explore further north.

BC Ferries Travelling Tips

These are a couple of local tips when travelling on BC Ferries.

🎫 Book Ferry Tickets Online

I highly recommend booking your ferry tickets online on the BC Ferries website in advance. Those tickets could or will sell out if you travel on a weekend or during high-traffic hours.

While you can purchase ferry tickets at the ticket booth when you drive into the terminals, you’re not always guaranteed a spot for the next sailing, especially during the summer or a holiday.

Also, costs vary depending on how many people are going and the size of the vehicle you’re driving onto the ferry. The prices also change depending on the time of day you go. Honestly, the prices fluctuate all the time, especially if there are specials or holidays.

Travelling on a weekday rather than a weekend can also be somewhat cheaper, but not by much. Also, the last sailing of the day is usually the least expensive ferry ride, and prices vary depending on which ferry terminal you’re travelling to and from.

🚗 Parking Nightmare

If you plan on walking onto the ferry, I recommend taking an Uber, the bus, taxi, etc., instead of parking at the terminal. Not only is the parking lot small, but prices for overnight parking are expensive.

🍟 Food & Gift Shop

There’s a cafeteria on board the vessels where you can purchase food if necessary. There will be a long line at the beginning when you board. It’s also not cheap! I recommend purchasing food before or after the ferry ride.

There are also vending machines if you’re only looking for a snack.

There’s also a small gift shop on board to buy souvenirs, magazines, clothing, and more.

Where To Go On Vancouver Island

While there are many places to visit on Vancouver Island, these are some popular locations. I would also recommend going on a Vancouver Island road trip.

Victoria

Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and one of the most visited places on Vancouver Island. In the largest city on the island, Victoria is worth visiting because of its history, which includes historical buildings, landmarks, and neighbourhoods.

The city also has beautiful oceanfront views, fresh food, and many tourist spots.

While visiting Victoria, I recommend checking out Chinatown, where you can experience North America’s narrowest commercial street, Fan Tan Alley.

The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia offers free tours inside. Tickets are given out in front of the building by the steps.

You can also enjoy a history and food walking tour to learn more about Victoria’s history while eating from local restaurants.

I also suggest checking out the Royal BC Museum and the Victoria Bug Zoo, shopping along Government Street for Canadian souvenirs, exploring the colourful floating homes of Fisherman’s Wharf, and experiencing high tea at the famous Fairmont Empress Hotel.

Floating colourful and eclectic homes in Fisherman's Wharf in Victoria BC on a sunny day.

Tofino

Tofino is one of the most sought-after places people like travelling to on Vancouver Island. Known as the surf capital of Canada, you can find many surfers surfing the large swells that the beaches in Tofino offer.

While there are other things to do in Tofino, like storm watching, you can also purchase food from the famous Tacofino Food Truck. Their fish tacos and burritos are their most popular menu item. I personally like the beef or pork tacos or the pork gringas.

There are also hiking trails, or you can check out the many beaches, such as Long Beach, Chesterman Beach (my favourite), Cox Bay Beach, Mackenzie Beach, Wickinnish Beach, and Middle Beach.

One of the beaches in Tofino, Chesterman Beach. During low tide you can walk quite far out. There's a small island  with trees and rocks on it.
Chesterman Beach

Ucluelet

I personally love Ucluelet more than Tofino. She’s the sister to Tofino and a 35-minute drive away. Ucluelet has a more rugged and rocky coastline, with black rocks surrounding the town.

There are places to check out, such as the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse and the Lighthouse Loop trail – my boyfriend and I really enjoy this easy and scenic trail.

We were exploring Ucluelet and came across Big Beach, which you should also check out. It’s beautiful, especially during the sunset. There’s also the Ucluelet Aquarium, which would be excellent for children.

If you’re looking for a bite to eat, we enjoyed Shipwreck Pizza (we’re also pizza lovers), which our Airbnb host also recommended.

A white two layer base of the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse with a red top for the light to shine through. It's sitting on a small cliff of rocks with stairs leading up to the entrance.

How To Get To Vancouver Island From Vancouver – FAQs

These are frequently asked questions about how to get to Vancouver Island from Vancouver.

Can You Do A Day Trip To Vancouver Island From Vancouver?

Yes, you can take a day trip to Vancouver Island. Victoria is the most popular location for a day trip.

How Long Is The Ferry From Vancouver To Vancouver Island?

It takes 1 hour and 40 minutes to travel from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and 1 hour and 35 minutes from Tsawwassen to Victoria.

Can You Do Vancouver Island Without A Car?

Yes and no. While you can use the shuttle services from Victoria to Tofino, you can’t get around the North half of the island without a car.

Using a car to get around Vancouver Island will be much easier.

Do You Need A Passport To Visit Vancouver Island?

No, you don’t need a passport to visit Vancouver Island from British Columbia’s mainland.

However, if you’re taking the ferry from the United States (Port Angeles or from cruise ships) to Victoria, in that case you’ll need your passport because it will be crossing borders.

Conclusion

As you can see, getting to Vancouver Island from Vancouver is relatively easy. Vancouver Island is an excellent place to explore nature, small towns, cities, and historical locations. I hope you enjoy the beautiful journey to Vancouver Island.

Have a good day 🙂