Friday 2 June 2023

How to get to Vancouver Island

Travelling to Vancouver Island can be confusing as there are lots of different options, and we often get asked questions about the best way to get here.  Here's a quick guide to the major routes and methods of travel to Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island from Vancouver

Float Plane

Our favourite way to travel between the mainland and the island!  There are a number of different options to fly between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, most of the float plane flights are operated by Harbour Air.  

Our preferred route is the one between Victoria Harbour and Vancouver Harbour; you get some great views of the Gulf Islands on the way across and the terminals are both in the heart of the downtown areas.  If you are flying via Vancouver Airport (YVR) there is also a Harbour Air terminal there.

Harbour Air Routes Vancouver Island


Helijet is a great alternative option to Harbour Air.  They also fly between Vancouver Harbour or Vancouver Airport and Victoria Harbour or Nanaimo Harbour.


There are frequent scheduled flights between Vancouver Airport (YVR) and Victoria Airport (YYJ).  Air Canada or West Jet are the most frequent.

Car Ferry

BC Ferries operate the ferry routes between Vancouver and Vancouver Island.  There are three different options:

    1. Vancouver (Tsawwassen) to Victoria (Swartz Bay) - This is the shortest route at 1 hour 35 mins, and is one of the most scenic as you pass through the Southern Gulf Islands.  The Tsawwassen Terminal is actually in Delta, 36km south of downtown Vancouver. Swartz Bay is the closest terminal to Victoria (in Sidney) so is a good choice if you are coming to the southern end of the island.
     2. Vancouver (Tsawwassen) to Nanaimo (Duke Point) - This route is slightly longer, at 2 hours, and lands further north on the island at Nanaimo.  It's worth considering landing in Nanaimo if you are travelling to the north or west of the island.

    3. Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) to Nanaimo (Departure Bay) - This route takes 1 hour 40 mins, and is our most common route.  It's a great terminal if you are heading to/from Whistler, and we find that access to downtown Vancouver is easier from the north than it is from Tsawwassen.  Last weekend we actually left the car in Nanaimo and travelled as foot passengers, as we couldn't get a last minute return booking for the car.  There is a great bus service from Horseshoe Bay right into downtown Vancouver, which takes less than an hour, look for the 250 or 257 (Express).  We were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was, and would definitely reconsider taking the car next time.

Passenger Ferry

There is also a foot passenger ferry service running between downtown Vancouver and Nanaimo.  These fast catamarans run 4 times per day and take 1hr15mins. Check out the website Hullo for more details.

Vancouver Island from the USA

Float Plane

Kenmore Air fly to Victoria Harbour or Nanaimo from either Kenmore (Lake Washington) or Seattle (Lake Union).  You can also fly with Harbour Air from Seattle via Vancouver.


There are frequent scheduled flights to Victoria Airport (YYJ) from various US cities, including flights with Air Canada or Alaska Airlines.

Car Ferry

Black Ball Ferry Line operate a daily service on the Coho Ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria.  The journey takes 90 mins to cross the scenic Juan de Fuca Strait.

Passenger Ferry

The Victoria Clipper runs from downtown Seattle to Victoria Harbour.  The fast catamaran takes 2 hours and 45 mins.

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