With rivers, creeks, inlets, channels, harbours, straits, and sounds, Vancouver is surrounded by waterways. It’s a busy city though, and people need to get around, so you’ll see plenty of different passenger vessels transporting their fares from one shore to the next. When visiting Vancouver it can be extremely helpful to have an idea of which boats will take you where and how to find them. You can find out fares, schedules, trip length, and routes in advance by visiting each business’s website. Below is a breakdown of the different vessels you can board to travel in and around Vancouver via watercraft.
BC Ferries, one of the largest ferry companies in the world, boasts a fleet of 35 ships that sail to 47 different terminals along 25 West Coast routes. They provide service to Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, the Gulf Islands, the Central Coast, Bella Coola, the Queen Charlotte Islands, and other ports along the Pacific NorthWest. On board amenities include restaurants, gift shops, arcades, and plenty of prime spots to lounge and watch as the breathtaking scenery passes you by. You can visit their website for a breakdown of the current fares and the various different ferry schedules.
BC Ferries also offers vacation packages with getaways to Parksville, Salt Spring Island, Tofino, and other gorgeous coastal destinations in BC. You can book your ferry, upgrade your room, and enjoy added perks with every package. You can also book a 7 night Inside Passage Coastal Adventure which will take you from Vancouver to Campbell River, then Port Hardy, Prince Rupert, and Parksville. You’ll enjoy seven nights of hotel accommodations, a grizzly bear tour, and a whale watching tour, along with endless opportunities to soak in the magnificent coastal scenery.
Translink’s SeaBus is a passenger-only ferry that travels from Downtown Vancouver to the North Shore. With terminals at Waterfront Station and Lonsdale Quay, the SeaBus will take you across the Burrard Inlet in 12 minutes, a trip that would normally take around 30 minutes by car. From Waterfront Station you can easily hop on the SkyTrain, the West Coast Express, or any number of city buses. Bus stops are also available at the Lonsdale Quay terminal, connecting travellers to locations all over North Vancouver. The SeaBus departs every 10-15 minutes during the day with decreased frequency late at night. Sailing times start around 6 AM and these ships keep trekking back and forth late into the night with the last sailing at around 1 AM. There are slightly reduced hours on Sundays and holidays from around 8 AM to 11 PM.
The Aquabus runs along False Creek, stopping at Hornby Street, Granville Island, David Lam Park, Stamps Landing, Spyglass Place, Yaletown, Plaza of Nations, and the Village. There are 13 of these electric boats and 7 of those are cyquabuses which will allow travellers to bring their bikes along with them. All boats are pet friendly and most of the boats and docks are wheelchair accessible. Wait times for the next boat are always less than 15 minutes so you’ll never have to wait too long to hop on a ferry. These colourful little boats can always be seen dotting the waters of False Creek and they have become an iconic addition to Vancouer’s waterfront since their first sailing in 1985.
False Creek Ferries
The False Creek Ferries provide services to 9 dock locations along False Creek with 4 different routes. You can catch a boat from the ferry docks at the Maritime Museum. Aquatic Centre, Granville Island, David Lam Park, Stamp’s Landing, Spyglass Place, Yaletown, Plaza of Nations, and the Village. Main St–Science World, Yaletown–Roundhouse, and Olympic Village SkyTrain stations are all within a 5 minute walk to at least one of these ferry docks, perfect for those who will be travelling around the city all day on public transit. If you’re just looking to do a little sightseeing you can also book a 25 or 45 minute scenic tour for about $10 or less. You’ll be treated to interesting commentary about False Creek and the local geography. They also offer Hop-On Hop-Off day passes as well as private charters for special events.
For travel across Howe Sound there are a number of different water taxis you can use to get from one point to the next. Cormorant Marine provides service between Horseshoe Bay, Sunset Marina, Lions Bay, Gibsons, and Snug Cove. The offer scheduled service along popular routes as well as private charters with a capacity between 1 and 90 passengers.
Mercury Transport has been servicing the Howe Sound area for over 50 years, now also providing transport into the Vancouver Harbour. They provide scheduled service from Horseshoe Bay to Gambier, Keats, and Bowyer Island or you can charter a private water taxi for up to 42 people.
Sunshine Coast Water Taxi, based out of Gibsons, provides service to Horseshoe Bay, Downtown Vancouver, Vancouver Island, and the Gulf Islands. They operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and their boats can carry up to 12 passengers plus freight. They offer passenger service, scenic tours, emergency towing, and marine assistance.
Plan Your Sea Excursion
There are plenty of ways to get around the waters of Vancouver and explore every shore. You can board an electric boat just for some sightseeing or hop on a ferry to quickly get from one side of Vancouver to the other. Most of the vessels around downtown Vancouver are cheap to board and it’s typically a very quick ride. Driving your car on to one of the BC Ferries can get a little more costly but you can always choose to park at the terminal and just board as a walk-on. Plan you trips in advance so you’ll know exactly what to expect and you can simply relax and enjoy the ride once you board.