BC Ferries

Travelling by ferry via BC Ferries is one of the most popular — and most relaxing — ways to travel to and from the eastern shore of Vancouver Island.

BC Ferries in Vancouver Island

BC Ferries operates two sailing routes between Nanaimo, Vancouver Island — approximately a 30-minute drive from Parksville Qualicum Beach — and the terminals of Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen in Vancouver, with sailing times of 1.5 to 2 hours based on your mainland destination. The ferry service is able to accommodate both foot passengers and vehicles, and advanced reservations are recommended.

See What It's Like to Arrive by Ferry

The journey itself is a peaceful one, as you comfortably cruise across the Strait of Georgia while enjoying stunning views of the Gulf Islands, distant mountains, coastal towns and local wildlife, including marine animals and birds. While onboard, passengers can enjoy amenities such as food and beverage service for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Coastal Cafe. Passengers can also shop at Passages, a gift, clothing and accessory store, visit the kids play area, or work at available work spaces. Washrooms are also available, as are dedicated areas for pets.

BC Ferries operates out of two main terminals near Parksville Qualicum Beach, both located in the city of Nanaimo — Departure Bay and Duke Point.

NOTE: Available routes, schedules and other ferry services are subject to change at any time and may be impacted by weather or other circumstances. Visit BCFerries.com for the latest information, including route schedules and current conditions.

Departure Bay (NAN)

The Departure Bay terminal welcomes ferry service from West Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay terminal and is conveniently located just a five minute drive north from Nanaimo’s city centre and offers a waiting area with Wi-Fi, a dedicated pet area, vending machines, an ATM, coffee and other amenities. The nearby Nanaimo Quay Market offers a wide range of dining and retail options for visitors to browse. In addition to on-site parking and taxi service, Departure Bay is accessible via public transit, including BC Transit, Island Link Bus, and the Vancouver Island Connector.

Duke Point (DUK)

The Duke Point terminal is located approximately 20 minutes south from downtown Nanaimo and connects via ferry with Vancouver’s Tsawwassen terminal. The Duke Point terminal features limited amenities as compared to Departure Bay, including a waiting area with Wi-Fi, children’s play area, pet area, vending machines, and an ATM. Travellers are recommended to bring their own food and drink to the terminal given the limited options available on-site. During the summer, travellers can benefit from the range of food and retail options at the nearby marketplace. Parking is available on-site and the terminal is accessible via taxi. Unlike Departure Bay, there is no public transit service to and from the Duke Point terminal.

Parking Options at Vancouver terminals (Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen)

Short parking is available at Horseshoe Bay, with short and long term options available at Tsawwassen. Parking at both terminals is operated by Impark.

Short term parking rates at Horseshoe Bay are $1 for 15 minutes, $4 for 1 hour, and $19 per day, ending at midnight. Multiple day parking is allowed. Long term parking is currently unavailable.

Short term parking rates at Tsawwassen are $1 for 20 minutes with a 2 hour maximum, or $19 per day, ending at midnight. Multiple day parking is allowed.

Long term parking requires a stall number to purchase and passengers will take their ticket with them. The rates are $11.50 for 6 hours, $17 for 24 hours, and $8.50 each additional 12 hour period following the initial 24 hours.

For the most up to date parking information and pricing for Horseshoe Bay, including current availability, click here. For the most up to date parking information for Tsawwassen, click here.

Horseshoe Bay (HSB) to Departure Bay (NAN)

The most popular choice to reach Parksville Qualicum Beach via BC Ferries is the route from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver to Departure Bay in Nanaimo. Horseshoe Bay is about a 20 km and a 25-minute drive away from downtown Vancouver and easily accessible from Trans Canada Highway 1. Once you arrive on the island, it is about a 33 km or 30-minute drive from Departure Bay ferry terminal to Parksville Qualicum Beach.

In general, departures from Horseshoe Bay terminal begin in the morning around 6:15-:30 a.m., followed by sailings approximately every 2 to 2.5 hours, with final departures ranging from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. depending on the season. The BC Ferries schedule changes throughout the year, with additional departures added during peak seasons. To view the most current schedule, click here.

BC Ferries service is subject to cancellation with little to no notice due to weather or other circumstances. Always check current BC Ferries conditions prior to your trip.

How long is the ferry ride between Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo?

This route offers a shorter 1.5 hour sailing time to Nanaimo, compared with 2 hours when departing from Tsawwassen. You will pass Bowen Island and Gabriola Island as you enjoy scenic vistas of the Strait of Georgia and surrounding mountains and coastline, with a strong likelihood of observing birds and other wildlife along the way.

Tsawwassen (TSA) to Duke Point (DUK)

BC Ferries service between the Duke Point terminal and Tsawwassen terminal is a convenient choice for those travelling from Washington State or Greater Vancouver's southern communities of Richmond and White Rock. The Duke Point ferry terminal in Nanaimo is about a 50 km or 45-minute drive from Parksville Qualicum Beach.

In general, departures from Tsawwassen terminal begin in the morning around 5:15 a.m., followed by sailings approximately every 2.5 hours, with final departures at 10:45 p.m. The BC Ferries schedule changes throughout the year, with additional departures added during peak seasons. To view the most current schedule, click here.

BC Ferries service is subject to cancellation with little to no notice due to weather or other circumstances. Always check current BC Ferries conditions prior to your trip.

How long is the ferry ride between Nanaimo and Tsawwassen?

The journey is approximately 2 hours, slightly longer than the route from Horseshoe Bay. Along the way, you will be able to observe Galiano Island, Valdes Island and Gabriola Island in the distance as you sail across the Strait of Georgia. Similar to the route from Horseshoe Bay, passengers are likely to spot wildlife when travelling to and from Tsawwassen.

Find Your Inspiration

Discovery Guide

Order a free copy of our Discovery Guide, a comprehensive travel planning tool to help you plan your visit to Parksville Qualicum Beach.

Request

FAQs about travelling to Parksville via Nanaimo on BC Ferries

Are reservations necessary for BC Ferries?

Reservations are strongly encouraged for all BC Ferries routes. Those travelling with reservations are recommended to check-in at the terminal between 30 and 120 minutes prior to departure, depending on your terminal. Travel for those arriving without an advanced reservation are at risk of extended wait times.

As always, it is recommended travellers check current BC Ferries conditions prior to their trip.

When does booking check-in open and close for BC Ferries?

All travellers should check current BC Ferries conditions prior to their trip for the latest updates.

Booking check-in at Departure Bay, Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay terminals for passengers and vehicles with advance reservations opens 120 minutes prior to the scheduled departure and closes 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure. Check-in at the Duke Point terminal opens 60 minutes prior to the scheduled departure and closes 30 minutes prior to scheduled departure.

At Departure Bay, Duke Point, and Tsawwassen terminals, ticket sales and booking check-in for passengers and vehicles without reservations closes 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure for foot passengers and 5 minutes prior to the scheduled departure for vehicles. At Horseshoe Bay, ticket sales and check-in closes 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure for both foot passengers and vehicles without reservations.

Note that services and amenities at several terminals are not centrally located near the vehicle line and instead require a long walk to reach. As such, it is recommended travellers bring their own food and drink to the terminal if possible, or be prepared with appropriate weather gear — such as a raincoat — should they need to walk to any of the services.

How much does it cost to take a car on the ferry?

Car fees for BC Ferries are in addition to standard passenger fares. BC Ferries fares and fees are subject to change. Please check BC Ferries official website for the most up to date information and a convenient fare calculator.

Beginning April 8, 2022, for service between Departure Bay and Horseshoe Bay, as well as service between Duke Point and Tsawwassen, fees for standard vehicles such as cars, trucks and motorhomes up to 20 feet in length were $62, with $7.05 extra per additional foot over 20 feet. Motorcycle fees are $31.05, with additional fee rates for buses and commercial vehicles.

How do you pay for BC Ferries?

BC Ferries accepts payment via cash and debit (Debit Interac), credit (American Express, Visa and Mastercard), and the BC Ferries Experience Card. Booking may be done in advance on BCFerries.com or by contacting the Customer Service Centre.

Note that passengers must redeem their booking to get a boarding pass at a self-serve kiosk or with a ticket agent prior proceeding to the waiting rooms at Departure Bay, Duke Point, Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen terminals. For more information, click here.

Do seniors get a discount on BC Ferries?

BC residents ages 65 years and older are able to travel free on select routes, including those to and from Nanaimo, Monday through Thursday each week (excluding Statutory Holidays), and must present either a valid BC Services Card, BC Driver’s License, BC Identification Card or Birth Certificate (proof of BC residency is required). This discount only applies to passenger fares.

Is Wi-Fi available onboard BC Ferries?

As of 2021, less reliable Wi-Fi service was no longer available on certain BC Ferries routes, including service between Departure Bay and Horseshoe Bay. Most passengers are able to use cellular service while onboard BC Ferries, though a spotty signal may be present mid-voyage. Complimentary Wi-Fi service is still available at the Departure Bay, Duke Point, Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen terminals.

What accessibility features are available onboard BC Ferries?

BC Ferries offers a range of accessibility options, both at their terminals and aboard their ferries. Terminals are equipped with accessible parking spaces, wheelchair access to all passenger areas and designated priority seating in waiting areas, while ferries feature designated priority seating, elevator access, induction loop hearing systems, accessible passenger areas and ramps to board and disembark the ferry. To learn more about BC Ferries’ accessibility offerings, click here.

What should I bring with me for the voyage?

In addition to your luggage and other travel essentials, it is also recommended that passengers bring their own food and water to help avoid potentially long wait times both at the terminal and onboard the ferry. Services and amenities at some terminals, especially Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen, may require a lengthy walk to reach when terminal lines are long due to demand and potential sailing waits. As such, appropriate weather gear is also recommended, like a raincoat or umbrella.

Bringing games will help keep younger members of your party entertained while waiting to board or during the voyage. Of course, a camera is also recommended for those looking to document the stunning views along the way.

How do I get to Parksville or Qualicum Beach from Nanaimo?

Once arriving in one of Nanaimo’s terminals, if you did not ferry your own vehicle, you may reach Parksville Qualicum Beach easily via taxi or, if arriving in Departure Bay, via BC Transit.

Plan Your Trip

Whether it’s your first time visiting Parksville Qualicum Beach or you haven't been for a while, here are resources to help...

Getting Here

Parksville Qualicum Beach is conveniently situated for your Vancouver Island vacation on the island’s curving eastern flank,...

Communities

A collection of 12 friendly and small communities, the Parksville Qualicum Beach area stretches along the sheltered Strait...

Vancouver Island Attractions

Escape to Parksville Qualicum Beach and uncover the natural beauty and relaxed pace of Vancouver Island.

Outdoor Activities

It’s easy to get outside, get on the water, and stay active when you visit Parksville Qualicum Beach.

5 Waterfalls to Explore Near Parksville Qualicum Beach

Let the relaxing sound of gushing water overwhelm your senses on your next hike.

Pet-Friendly Travel Tips for Parksville Qualicum Beach

What fun is a family vacation or weekend getaway without your furry companion? Leave some paw prints in the sand with this...

Top 52 Eats - Best Restaurants Parksville Qualicum Beach

Want to sample the best this area has to offer but not sure where to go and what to order?

Parks & Nature

Natural Wonders

Our unique geographical setting provides a wide range of parks, gardens, rivers, lakes, and trails where you can unplug and reconnect with nature. Within minutes of downtown, you can visit our parks to escape the everyday.

Learn More

Family Time

Big reunion? Or just a family road trip? Our safe place is perfect for curious explorers of all ages.

Get Your Family Fix