BC Ferries Route

3 to 7 days, 1109.41 km (689.36 mi)

Travel from Vancouver to Port Hardy by car and ferry. Explore seaside communities, world-renowned gardens, and underground caves.

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Part 1

Ferry to Vancouver Island

In Vancouver, visit the Vancouver Art Gallery to see works by renowned, BC-born artist Emily Carr. Then walk along the seawall in Stanley Park. Stop at historic Gastown to see the world’s first steam clock, based on an 1875 design; watch it whistle every 15 minutes! Head south on Highway 99 & 17 to Tsawwassen to board a ferry and sail Vancouver Island.

Part 2

Sidney and Victoria

Sidney is Canada’s only “Booktown” – booklovers will find nine bookstores within a four block radius that carry modern, used, collector’s, and antiquarian books. Don’t miss the popular Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. Learn about this living eco-system and see marine life from the surrounding waters. Located in Brentwood Bay are the world-famous Butchart Gardens. Stroll through Italian, Sunken, Rose, and Japanese style gardens.

In Victoria, explore the Royal BC Museum, which showcases more than 10,000 years of BC’s natural and human history. Visit Canada’s oldest Chinatown for authentic Asian cuisine. Stroll through the famously narrow Fan Tan Alley, which at its narrowest is only 3ft/0.9m. Overnight in Victoria.

Part 3

Cowichan Valley

Follow Highway 1 through the Cowichan Valley, which is populated with wineries, farms, and artisan markets. Take a wine-tasting tour and stop by BC’s first estate cidery. In Duncan, visit carvers at work at the Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center and see the world’s widest totem pole. Don’t miss the Nanaimo Marine Festival in July, which hosts the International World Championship Bathtub Races.

Part 4

Coombs and Optional Side Trips

From Nanaimo, head to Coombs, which is located west of Parksville and is famous for its market with the goats grazing on the roof. Stop by for lunch and snap some photos. Head north to Qualicum Beach. Garden lovers will appreciate the beauty of the seaside Milner Gardens & Woodland.

Optional: From Parksville, detour west on Highway 4 to Tofino and Ucluelet to experience the renowned surfing and beautiful beaches of BC’s Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Optional: Drive north via Highway 19 and take the Horne Lake exit to Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park and explore some of BC’s most spectacular caves.

Part 5

Comox Valley and Strathcona Provincial Park

Continue north on Hwy 19 and overnight in Comox. Visit the Courtenay & District Museum to dig for fossils in an 80 million year sea bed along the Puntledge River. Hike the trails in Forbidden Plateau in Strathcona Provincial Park, which range from a moderate 3km/1.8mi to a more challenging 10km/6mi.

Part 6

Campbell River

Continue north via Highway 19 to Campbell River. For a unique BC experience, take a guided tour to “snorkel with the salmon” and witness the migration of five species of salmon. Charter a fishing boat and try a hand at catching dinner.

Part 7

Port McNeill and Alert Bay

Follow Highway 19 to Port McNeill. Visit the North Island Heritage Museum for a history of the town’s logging past and see the world’s largest burl. Take a 40 minute ferry ride on BC Ferries to Alert Bay and visit the U’mista Cultural Centre. Learn about Kwakwa_ka_’wakw culture through exhibits and live traditional ceremonies.

Part 8

Port Hardy

Port Hardy is the northern terminus of Highway 19. Hike through old-growth rainforest to a white-sand beach in Cape Scott Provincial Park. Up for a challenge? Try the North Coast Trail, a 7-8 day hike through tough terrain (experienced hikers only).

Part 9

Ferry Options from Port Hardy

From Port Hardy, take one of two options on BC Ferries (Note: Inside Passage option is shown on map):

Inside Passage Ferry: This 15-hour ferry ride takes visitors from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert through the scenic Inside Passage: a narrow, protected channel that runs between the mainland and a series of islands and calm inlets. The scenery is spectacular: pass rocky shorelines, lush rainforests, waterfalls, abandoned fishing villages and lighthouses, accompanied by some of the best wildlife viewing in BC. Watch for porpoises, whales, seals, and black bears.

Optional: From Prince Rupert: board the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system to continue travelling north to Alaska by ferry; take Highway 16 east and connect with the Stewart-Cassiar Highway Driving Route; or drive east to Prince George, then follow Highway 97 north to Dawson Creek, Mile ‘0’ of the world-famous Alaska Highway.

Discovery Coast Connector: This two-stage journey takes visitors from Port Hardy to Bella Bella, along the scenic Inside Passage, and then onwards to Bella Coola. From Bella Bella, a smaller ferry will voyage into the fjords and inlets of mid-coast BC, connecting the communities of Shearwater, Klemtu, Ocean Falls, and Bella Coola. (Note: during the summer, BC Ferries offers different schedules for the Discovery Coast Connector service, varying in duration and ports of call).

Optional: From Bella Coola drive inland on Highway 20 to Williams Lake, and connect to the Gold Rush Trail Driving Route.

Driving Directions

Part 1 - Vancouver
  • 6.25 km
  • 12 min
Show Map & Driving Directions