BC Ferries ferry just off Horshoe Bay

The various BC Ferries connect the Vancouver Island portion of the Trans-Canada Highway south to Victoria, and the Canadian Mainland including the North Shore’s Upper Levels Highway, and the various Bridges and Highways in the Vancouver area.

BC Ferries

Duke Point Ferry Terminal killer wahle statuesFerry service has existed along on the west coast of British Columbia for a long time. The Hudson’s Bay Company provided regular passenger and freight service between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland in the mid 1800s. (The Hudson’s Bay Company administered government until 1850, when Richard Blanshard was appointed British Columbia’s first governor.)

By 1901, Canadian Pacific Railway took over ferry service across the Strait of Georgia. Their ferries transported passengers and vehicles, on a five-hour journey between downtown Vancouver and downtown Victoria, into the 1960s.

On the North Shore, the Black Ball Line had arrived on the scene in the early 1950s to offer service between Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and Departure Bay in Nanaimo, as well as up the Sunshine Coast and Jervis Inlet, just south of Powell River.

Passing Ferry at midpoint of tripIn 1958, Premier W.A.C. Bennett announced that the British Columbia Ferry Authority would take over all ferry service under the provincial government.

Over the years, these ferries have served over 700 million passengers [2010]. In 2003, the organization became British Columbia Ferry Services Inc., with a new name and log, and adding online booking process, updating terminals to be state-of-the-art, and offering modern, cruise-like vessels.

Horsehoe Bay Ferry Terminal

Horseshoe Bay with Ferry at the dockHorseshoe Bay is located on the western tip of West Vancouver, at the entrance to Howe Sound. The village marks the western end of Highway 1 on the British Columbia mainland, as well as the southern end of the Sea-to-Sky Highway

There are currently 3 berths at Horseshoe Bay, making it the third largest BC Ferries terminal, after Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay.

Black Ball Ferries‘ parent company, Puget Sound Navigation Co., and avoided head-to-head competition with Canadian Pacific when in 1951 it launched its B.C. venture, by developing a route between Horseshoe Bay and the Sunshine Coast. Black Ball chose Gibsons Landing as its West Howe Sound terminus. In 1953, Black Ball expanded by providing service between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay in Nanaimo.

Labour disputes with ferry unions in 1958 made for a “summer of chaos”. Premier W.A..C. Bennett was so incensed, that the B.C. government announced its own ferry service in 1960 between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay. The B.C. government soon made a deal to acquire (nationalize) Black Ball assets in for just under $7 million. All they retained was the international route between Port Angeles and Victoria.

Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal

BC Ferries Terminal Loading Ramp

The Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal is a 22.3 ha (55 acres) major transportation facility in Delta, British Columbia. It is located at the end of an approx 2 km (1 mi) man-made causeway, extending off the mainland at Tsawwassen and located just 500 m (550 yd) from the 49th parallel, the Canada-United States border. The terminal is part of the BC Ferry system, as well as an extension of Highway 17.

In the late 1950s, British Columbia needed to connect the Lower Mainland with the Victoria area, on Vancouver Island. Many locations were scouted from Steveston to White Rock and soon the favoured location was the area offshore from the Tsawwassen First Nation Reserve.

Construction of the terminal started in 1959 with an artificial island and the causeway, which was built from the island back towards the mainland. The causeway used about 2.3 million cubic metres (3.0 million cubic yards) of boulder, rock, and gravel fill.

Active Pass viewAn 11 km (7 mi) long freeway was constructed from near the southern end of the Deas Tunnel (on Highway 99) through the edge of Ladner, which became a portion of Highway 17.

The shortest ferry route was between Tsawwassen through Active Pass (between Mayne Island and Galiano Islands) to the Gulf Islands and Swartz Bay. The route passes over approximately 8 km (5 mi) of United States waters. Active Pass itself stretches 5.5 km from northeast to southwest with two roughly right angle bends, which creates interesting hydrodynamics when the tides are strong. The route was first serviced by the M.V. Tsawwassen and the M.V. Sidney m 1960.

The Tsawwassen terminal underwent a major renovation and expansion the mid-1990s. The terminal is also served by public transportation through TransLink’s 620 (Tsawwassen Ferry/Bridgeport) bus route.

More Trans-Canada Highway History

Trans-Canada Highway Itinerary Map

Use mouse to drag/move map. Click on “+” or “” to zoom in or out. “Satellite” combines map & photo.