Adventures on Canada’s Ferries

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Canada’s ferry system is extensive. Did you know that 7 out of 10 provinces operate ferries? There’s something about summertime, ferries and vacations that go hand in hand. It’s almost always easier and far cheaper to go as a ‘walk on’ or to ride your bike and then you’re loaded first.

Here are some ferry adventures you might want to consider.

British Columbia

"Schwartz Bay-Tsawwassen Ferry"

Schwartz Bay-Tsawwassen Ferry

  • The 90 minute ride between Tsawwassen and Schwartz Bay on Vancouver Island is especially scenic. Pass Galiano and Mayne Islands as you head through Active Pass. If you’re lucky you’ll see whales and porpoises.
  • The southern and northern Gulf Islands are linked by a smaller set of  ferries. Most of the rides between islands are short – 15 minutes to 45 minutes. It’s quite easy to island hop over the course of a few days. Here’s an example of what you can do: Tsawwassen – Galiano – Mayne – Pender – Saturna – Salt Spring Island – Schwartz Bay. You’ll need to plan where you want to night over and work around the ferry schedule. Download my free bike guide to the Gulf Islands for the details.
  • A summer only service is available from Port Hardy at the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the mid coast ports of Bella Bella, Shearwater, Klemtu, Ocean Falls and Bella Coola. This route is referred to as the Discovery Coast Passage. You can also continue all the way up to Prince Rupert on a summertime 15 hour cruise and then head over to Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands). The coastal route is particularly stunning…in sunny weather the scenery will dazzle.

Ontario

  • Ontario has 12 ferries. Visit Manitoulin Island, the world’s largest fresh water island, from Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula. Or try a trip to Pelee Island, the most southerly point in Canada. It’s particularly good for bike riding and bird watching. You can actually continue via ferry to Sandusky, Ohio from there. Other short trips connect Kingston to Wolfe Island , where there’s quieter backroad type biking, and Adolphustown to Glenora, a ferry that puts you squarely in Prince Edward County wine country.

Quebec

  • Fourteen ferries ply the waters of Quebec. The short 10 minute ride across the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord is one of the shorter rides. Another short but scenic ferry ride takes you to Isle aux Coudres, an island discovered in 1535.  It’s famous for its craftspeople, apple and nut orchards, summer theatre and great food. The hour long Riviere-du-Loup – Saint Simeon ferry crosses the St. Lawrence River in an area frequented by whales. The Iles de la Madeleine are far removed from the Quebec mainland and in fact are accessed via  a 5 hour ferry from Prince Edward Island. Here you can easily spend a week exploring. The islands are renowed for their restaurants, wind surfing, kite surfing, snorkeling, caving and biking.

New Brunswick

  • Fourteen ferries operate within New Brunswick and one three hour ferry leaves Saint John, New Brunswick for Digby, Nova Scotia. Most of the provincial ferries are short 5-7 minute affairs. The exception is the 90 minute crossing to Grand Manan Island. Grand Manan Island has plenty to offer the visitor. Whale watching, kayaking, biking, beachcombing and bird watching are all possibilities. Wildflowers, interesting rock formations and trips to nine different lighthouses all help round out your experience.

Nova Scotia

  • The three ferries operating in Nova Scotia take you to either Saint John, New Brunswick, Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island or Port aus Basques/Argentia, Newfoundland from North Sydney. They offer time saving alternatives to alot of driving and make it possible for Newoundlanders to leave their island without flying.

Prince Edward Island

  • Look for ferries to Nova Scotia on the 75 minute route between Woods Islands, PEI and Caribou, Nova Scotia or the 5 hour ferry to the Iles de la Madeleine.

Newfoundland

  • Newfoundland has ferry service to Nova Scotia, Quebec (near the Labrador border) and St. Pierre and Miquelon. In addition 17 ferriesunite small communities up the coast of Labrador and along the remote southern edge of the island. The Port aux Basques – North Sydney, Nova Scotia route crosses the Cabot Strait and can be done as one very long day trip during the summer months. The St. Barbe-Blanc Sablon ferry takes just under 2 hours and connects Newfoundland to Labrador via ferry and a short drive from the Quebec ferry terminal. The return trip can be easily done in a day. Look for whales as you make the crossing.
  • The St. Pierre and Miquelon ferry will take you to another country – quite literally. France is the proud owner of these two small islands. Daily trips during the summer will allow you to get a real taste of Europe, complete with croissants, Euros and French culture.

Leigh McAdam

www.hikebiketravel.com

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