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Ferry Vancouver – Vancouver Island (Horseshoe Bay – Nanaimo)

After a few great days where we went great cycling in Vancouver, it was time to make the crossing to Vancouver Island by ferry. After some online research we had the cheapest (and also fastest) ferry connection between Vancouver and Vancouver island (Horseshoe Bay–Nanaimo) found it. In this article I will tell you all about it.

Our journey through the United States and Canada

This article is part of a large one-year tour the United States en Canada, with a Dutch 4×4 camper that we shipped ourselves… It is a bucket list worthy and an once in a lifetime experience that will never be forgotten.

We wrote almost 100 articles about this ultimate tour. Visit our North America page for more information.

The cheapest and fastest ferry option

You can choose multiple ferry connections from Vancouver to get to Vancouver Island, and vice versa. However, the cheapest (and also fastest) connection is from Horseshoe Bay with BC ferries (location here). The crossing with this ferry takes about 1,5 hours.

Ferry Horseshoe Bay - Nanaimo | (Vancouver - Vancouver Island)
Ferry Horseshoe Bay – Nanaimo | (Vancouver-Vancouver Island)

Book the ferry online

Because we never plan far ahead during our trip, we hadn't made an online reservation in advance. When we wanted to do this a few days in advance, everything turned out to be fully booked… At least, everything that could be reserved online.

You can also just drive to the harbor and report to BC ferries. If there is room, you can still come along. This turned out to be a lot easier than expected, because they only sell half of the tickets online. The other half they fill with people who just drive there.

Tip:: Do you book the ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island (and vice versa) online in advance? Then do it alone here on the official website from BC Ferries, without any intermediaries (which are always more expensive).

Cost of the ferry

The price depends on the day, time and size of your vehicle. Count on about 100 Canadian dollars for the crossing with a car, van or small camper (up to 6 meters) and two people. We paid 108 Canadian dollars for our camper (6x2x3 meters) with two people on an early Monday morning during rush hour (08:00). our camper just fell into the passenger car category. So this was actually quite good for us!

The funny thing is that we also found out that just driving to the gate was 15 dollars cheaper than booking online. The night before we tried this and then it said 123 dollars and it was sold out…

The crossing

Although it was a big ferry where we were on with the camper, there was not much else to do except a restaurant and a small shop. We decided to go up to the deck to enjoy the view. We immediately found out that the ferry was going quite fast. Because of the strong wind, Malou's hair looked fantastic! That look says it all.

Malou's hair looks fantastic in the strong wind | Ferry Horseshoe Bay - Nanaimo | (Vancouver - Vancouver Island)
Malou's hair looks fantastic in the strong wind | Ferry Horseshoe Bay – Nanaimo | (Vancouver-Vancouver Island)

In the distance we saw the skyline of the city of Vancouver for the last time. We already knew that we would not take the same route back. On the way back we take another ferry from Victoria to Vancouver Island (location here) nasty Port angeles (Location here) in the United States. More on that later!

Arrive in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island

After filling up our tank for 2.15 Canadian dollars per liter, we spent the rest of the day chilling at Community Beach Park (location here) from Parksville, a little further away.

Filling up with diesel on Vancouver Island for 2.15 dollars per liter
Refueling diesel on Vancouver Island, $2.15 per liter | Ferry to Vancouver Island

We enjoyed ourselves here all day and took a walk along the beach. Strangely enough, while writing the blog, I now find out that we didn't even take one picture here. A shame, because it's a beautiful park that we returned to twice later!

Also read: Our 4×4 world trip camper (1) | Bathroom and interior
Also read: Our 4×4 world trip camper (2) | Gadgets & Upgrades
Also read: Our 4×4 world trip camper (3) | Technique and upgrades to car

Our wild camping spot in Parksville

We had spent a lot of money in Vancouver on RV resort campgrounds ($70 a night!), eating out, snacks, drinks, going out, renting bikes, and public transportation. So it's high time to rebalance your finances and that means doing your own shopping, cooking yourself and camping for a few nights or at least staying overnight for free.

We found on iOverlander a (according to reviews) a very quiet place just behind the Anytime fitness and Canadian Tire (location here). The "Safe-On-Foods" supermarket was also next door so we could do some shopping before we would park it here for the night.

Location of the wild camping spot on Vancouver Island near Parksville on the map, at Anytime Fitness
Location of the wild camping spot on Vancouver Island near Parksville on the map, at Anytime Fitness

It turned out to be a very peaceful place indeed. Finally we were there with about 5 campers and we returned later on our way back to southern Vancouver Island for another quiet night. By the way, don't imagine the place too much, it's just a parking lot… But adjacent to the parking lot is a lawn with some picnic tables, here you can enjoy your breakfast in the morning with a cup of coffee.

What is especially nice about this place is that it is super quiet and 'overnight parking' is still allowed here. This is quite rare in southern Vancouver Island, there are not many places left where you can stay overnight. Free WiFi is also available at Canadian Tire and Safe On Foods, for those who need it.

Closing comments

Hopefully this short but informative article has made the ferry crossing from Vancouver to Vancouver Island a little easier for you, if you want to do it yourself in the future. Again: reservation is recommended but not necessary. If you have the time, you can just get in line and take the first ferry that has a spot left. So just try!

Our advice for camper rental in Canada
Camper trips through Canada from Travelhome

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Chris Thomassen

Owner of Wereldreizigers.nl † Discover the world!
- Full-time blogging world traveler.
- Writes about travel, photography, sustainability and gadgets.
- Likes to discover extreme and unknown places.

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