Traveling to Vancouver Island is relatively easy, regardless of where you live. There are several different modes of transportation you can choose from, allowing you to pick the option that best fits your needs and budget. Below you will find a detailed guide on how to get to Vancouver Island and what documents you will need, as well as an overview of travel options and their important details.
How to Get to Vancouver Island by Sea
Many people opt to travel to Vancouver Island by sea, especially for those living elsewhere in British Columbia or along the west coast of the United States. Here is a look at your options for getting to Vancouver Island by water:
The British Columbia Ferry Service (BC Ferries) is the main vessel carrier if you plan on traveling to Vancouver Island by sea. BC Ferries is an independently managed and publicly owned company that offers passenger and vehicle ferry services for coastal and island communities throughout British Columbia.
You have the option to take the ferry from Vancouver on mainland British Columbia to Nanaimo and Victoria, both of which offer spectacular scenery.
Details about the three main routes are as follows:
- Vancouver to Victoria: 1 hour, 35 minutes
- Vancouver to Nanaimo: 2 hours
- West Vancouver to Nanaimo: 1 hour, 35 minutes
There are also several BC Ferries services offered between Comox and Powell River (located on the north end of the Sunshine Coast) and Port Hardy and Port Rupert. Additionally, seasonal services are available between Port Hardy and Bella Coola. Be sure to check the BC Ferries schedule for services to the Gulf Islands, as these may vary depending on availability and time of year.
If traveling from Washington State, Black Ball Ferry Line’s MV Coho offers both passenger and vehicle ferry services year-round to Victoria’s Inner Harbour from Port Angeles (travel time is 2 hours). Additionally, Victoria is the departure point for a passenger-only Clipper that runs to Seattle, Washington (travel time is 2 hours, 45 minutes).
Tips When Traveling Via Ferry
A few helpful tips to keep in mind when travelling via ferry:
- When traveling to and from Vancouver Island during long weekends and summer months, you need to depart early from your start-off point since traffic lineups can cause considerable delay.
- Make sure to take careful note of your travel schedules, as you will have to wait a minimum of 2 hours for the next ferry sailing if you miss it. When heading for the terminal, plan to arrive at least an hour ahead of the scheduled sailing time.
- When traveling during summer weekends (June to September), it is highly recommended that you make necessary reservations ahead of time to ensure you get on the particular ferry and sailing schedule you prefer, as ferry traffic during the peak months can be quite heavy.
- If you are traveling by car, the terminals feature pay parking facilities you can use.
- Once you arrive to downtown Victoria, you will need transportation either by car or by bus. You can purchase tickets from Pacific Coach Lines at the ferry terminals.
- You can generally expect calm waters traveling to Vancouver Island, although you may experience slightly rougher waters during the winter season.
How to Get to Vancouver Island by Air
Flying is by far the quickest as well as the most convenient way to travel to Vancouver Island. There are a number of airline providers available that service Nanaimo Airport, Victoria International Airport, as well as neighboring cities such as Campbell River, Port Hardy and Courtenay/Comox.
Due to schedule and route changes, it is generally recommended to check with your preferred carrier to determine your flight schedules.
Major Airports and Airlines
The two major airports on the Island are:
- Victoria International Airport
- Nanaimo Airport
Regional airports include the following:
- Comox Valley Airport
- Campbell River Airport
- Courtenay Airpark
- Alberni Valley Regional Airport
- Qualicum Beach Airport
- Tofino Airport
The major airlines to fly here are as follows:
- Air Canada
- Alaska Airlines
- Central Mountain Air
- United Airlines
- Pacific Coastal Airlines
- Orca Airways
- Island Express Air
How to Get to Vancouver Island by Bus
Traveling to the Island via bus is another option that is pursued by many. The following routes/lines are available for your convenience:
- Tofino Bus Island Express – This line provides regular transportation to Ucluelet, Tofino, Port Alberni, Nanaimo, and Victoria.
- IslandLinkBus – Offers express bus service to major Vancouver Island points. Daily routes include transportation service from Nanaimo Departure Bay to Victoria – Duncan – Chemainus –Ladysmith – Parksville — French Creek — Qualicum Beach, Buckley Bay – Cumberland – Courtenay — Black Creek – Campbell River.
What You Need to Enter Canada
Before booking your trip to Canada and Vancouver Island, make sure you have the following items:
- Valid Passport.
- Visa (for travelers from other countries).
- U.S. citizens under 16 years of age are required to present an original or copy of their birth certificate, or other proof of citizenship.
As you can see, there are many different ways to get to Vancouver Island. Choose which mode of transportation best fits your needs and come see us as soon as possible!