The main B.C. Ferry terminal for Victoria and southern Vancouver Island, Swartz Bay is the province’s second largest and busiest ferry terminal after Tsawwassen.
BC Ferries provides vehicle and passenger ferry service between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, as well as the Gulf Islands, the Discovery Coast Passage, and the Queen Charlotte Islands. BC Ferries serves 47 ports of call on 25 routes throughout British Columbia, carrying over 22 million passengers and 8 million vehicles annually.
Location: Swartz Bay is located at the northern tip of the Saanich Peninsula, 20 miles (32 km) north of Victoria.
The Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal provides ferry services from Victoria to Vancouver, and Victoria to the Southern Gulf Island.
There are two routes into Victoria from Swartz Bay: Disembarking the ferry delivers you right onto Highway 17 (the Pat Bay Highway), which rolls through farmland directly into the city centre. Highway 17A is the old Pat Bay Highway that takes a more leisurely run down the scenic western shores of the Saanich Peninsula. After departing the ferry, turn right (west) on Wain Road then south on West Saanich Road, which links up with Highway 17 in Saanich.
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Nearby McDonald Park, part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, provides an overnight stop for campers arriving on a late ferry. You’ll find a lot of marine traffic swirling around the area during the day, and in the evening, the pulse slows to a sleep-inducing rhythm, especially once the last ferries have sailed or docked for the night.
A public boat launch is located beside the federal dock at the north end of Lands End Road at Swartz Bay. This is a good place to put your boat in the water and head for any number of nearby islands or to explore the coastline of the Saanich Peninsula. Those in open canoes should be cautious of the wash from BC Ferries’ boats and larger marine traffic around Swartz Bay.
Travelling between the Southern Gulf Islands can be accomplished in small hops – each island deserves at least a day or two for exploring.
Washington State Ferries offers daily sailings between Sidney, the San Juan Islands, and Anacortes in Washington state (Sidney to Anacortes Ferry Service). The Canadian terminal is located in Sidney, five minutes south of Swartz Bay on Highway 17.