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Getting to the Gulf Islands
(5 - user rating)
Written by Brian Grover   
Tuesday, 17 April 2007 08:09
The previous section, Getting to Tsawwaasen, details how to reach the ferry with or without a bike.

The infrequency of ferry service to the Gulf Islands means special attention must be paid to logistics. The tweak-meisters at both the ferry corporation and TransLink are notorious for making bizarre, ill-thought out changes to scheduling so verify the schedule wherever possible before setting out. Published schedules tend to be fraught with caveats and exceptions and inconsistencies so pay close attention to footnotes. Expect a travel time of approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes between boarding the bus in downtown Vancouver and boarding the ferry. The bus schedule is optimized for reaching Swartz Bay [Victoria] on Vancouver Island more or less efficiently and the Gulf Islands routing suffers as a consequence. In many cases the bus arrives within moments of the ferry sailing. BC Ferries has instituted a policy of closing the ticket gate 10 minutes prior to any sailing making an assured departure impossible.

Use online trip planning tools to generate an optimized schedule for your circumstances. Start off with a target departure time from the BC Ferries website. Then work backwards using the scheduling applets at TransLink. If departing from downtown Vancouver then you'll likely be riding a #601 South Delta or #98 Richmond Centre then transferring somewhere along the line to a #620 Tsawwaasen Ferry depending on the day, time and wind direction.

If you happen to miss a ferry, despair not. A simple if somewhat time consuming work-around exists. Instead of taking the direct ferry to the Gulf Islands it is possible to take the much more frequent Swartz Bay-bound ferry and, after arriving, turn right around and hop on a ferry to the Gulf Island of your choice. Indeed, this routing is ideal for reaching the southern end of Saltspring Island in a timely fashion. Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay ferries run hourly in the summer high season and every other hour on the odd hour in the low season starting at 7:00 AM with the final sailing each day at 9:00 PM.

One other approach requires ample time to cycle first to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island then south to Crofton where a small commuter ferry frequently connects with Saltspring Island. From Ladysmith onward you'll leave the Island Highway behind, opting for the more scenic highway 1A instead. Be sure to get acquainted with the scenic community of Chemainus en route.


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