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Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay in August

Turin, Italy
Level Contributor
71 posts
3 reviews
3 helpful votes
Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay in August

Hello everyone, on August 6th my partner and I will land in Vancouver from Italy. Our b&b is located in Barclay Street and from there we will leave with our rental car to take the ferry to Nanaimo on August 8th. I am not sure whether it is better to start from Horseshoe Bay or Tsawwassen, considering that we have never been to Canada and therefore everything will be new for us. I add that when we arrive in Nanaimo, we will immediately move to Tofino. Looking on the site, from Tsawwassen is already "sold out" the start of 11.30, which would have been more convenient for us, while from Horseshoe is still available the departure of 11.25, so I thought to book the latter option. What do you think? Thank you all!

11 replies to this topic
Port Moody, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver, British Columbia
Level Contributor
20,275 posts
167 reviews
142 helpful votes
1. Re: Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay in August

Book Horseshoe Bay. It’s much more convenient from downtown Vancouver and more scenic than Tsawwassen to Duke Point. . Book now.

Turin, Italy
Level Contributor
71 posts
3 reviews
3 helpful votes
2. Re: Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay in August

Thanks for the advice, it was also my idea! I got a bit scared because on some forums I read that when there are staff strikes, they tend to cancel ferries from Horseshoe and not those from Tsawwassen...

Port Moody, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver, British Columbia
Level Contributor
20,275 posts
167 reviews
142 helpful votes
3. Re: Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay in August

You can’t predict what will happen in August. The past few years have been fraught with staff shortages, broken ferries, various disruptions. Tswassen is very much out of the way . I would make plans based on the best scenery and most convenience.

Just pay the reservation fee, pay balance at the ticket window. You can change sailings for a small fee if necessary. You will need to be AT the ferry ticket window a minimum of 30 minutes before the sailing or else reservation is cancelled ( they are strict…not 29 minutes lol). At Horseshoe Bay IIRC you can arrive up to 2 hours before sailing. ( need to confirm but definitely more than an hour ahead) You can arrive, put car in line then go for a walk into Horseshoe Bay. Absolutely be back to your car 30 minutes before sailing as sometimes they move lines ahead. The lineup will be inside the terminal area, after ticketing.

You will drive up and give your name & reservation number. Pay balance then ticket clerk will direct your car to a specific lane number. Drive all the way down ( it’s long) and park directly behind car in front of you in your lane. We usually bring our own snacks and a book for the wait.

If you look at google maps you can see the ferry terminal, the community next to it.

Once the ferry loads you leave your car and go up to seating and outside areas as well.

Go on deck for the start of the sailing past the various islands. It’s quite lovely and from time to time if really really lucky you might see a whale.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
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13,880 posts
215 reviews
434 helpful votes
4. Re: Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay in August

A little more about the community at Horseshoe Bay: There is a waterfront park, a couple of fish n chip sit down restaurants, a pub, sushi place and some shops. It's a cute little walk-about so no issue if you're early for any ferry. Simply park and walk...watching the time.

Nanaimo, Canada
Destination Expert
for Nanaimo, Vancouver Island
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6,090 posts
564 reviews
553 helpful votes
5. Re: Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay in August

As already stated, Horseshoe Bay to Departure is the better choice.

Consider hiring a car in Nanaimo for the Island portion of your trip unless you will be hiring and dropping off in Vancouver. This way you would not need to worry about what ferry and just walk on BC Ferries or pre-book seats on Hullo Ferry. Or even better fly on Harbour Air or Seair from the Convention Centre in Downtown Vancouver on a seaplane and get a 'free' sightseeing tour of the Salish Sea.

Port Moody, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver, British Columbia
Level Contributor
20,275 posts
167 reviews
142 helpful votes
6. Re: Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay in August

+1 to Dave's idea about doing your car rental on the island. Can save a lot of time/hassle.

Maybe post your complete itinerary for comments???

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
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87,407 posts
62 reviews
97 helpful votes
7. Re: Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay in August

There will be no problem with a ferry worker strike in August. There are about 4,000 ferry workers in the BC Ferries network (the BC Ferry & Marine Workers' Union). Their Collective Agreement (contract) runs to October 31, 2025. It is very unlikely there will even be any wildcat strikes.

As mentioned, a ferry may be cancelled due to not enough workers to safely run a ferry, or a disabled ferry, but what the company is now doing is to contact travellers with reservations on the affected ferry to offer passage on the next ferry with available room. The journey from downtown Vancouver to Departure Bay ferry terminal (Nanaimo) takes about 3.5 hours - including the 1 hour wait for the ferry with a reservation, with an additional 3 hour drive from there to Tofino.

The idea of taking Harbour Air from Vancouver harbour to Nanaimo harbour is a terrific idea. 35 min flight which in August would have a high probability of being a sunny day. The flightseeing would be very nice in that case. The cost of two passengers would exceed the cost of a car and two passengers on the ferry.

A rental car, on the other hand gives you flexibility and freedom. As you are arriving to Vancouver and staying at somewhere like Barclay House or O Canada House I would be inclined to rent a car out of Vancouver. We don't know the context of your question about which ferry terminal though, other than you are starting in Vancouver. For example, will you want to go down to Victoria and come back to Vancouver on the Swartz Bay > Tsawwassen ferry route?

If you do decide on a rental car to Horseshoe Bay, you can leave the ferry's staging area through a gate on the west side very close to Bay St. and the immediate waterfront. You need to take your boarding pass with you for easy re-entry to the staging area later.

Edited: 22 February 2024, 12:45
Turin, Italy
Level Contributor
71 posts
3 reviews
3 helpful votes
8. Re: Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay in August

Hello everyone, thank you for your very useful answers. I will try to be more precise, apologizing for the bad English and the late response (9 hours of jet lag!). My itinerary is as follows:

August 6: Vancouver - no car rental (night at O Canada House)

August 7 - in the afternoon car rental with Avis in Hornby Street (night at O Canda House)

August 8 - ferry to Nanaimo - From Nanaimo leaving for Tofino (night in Tofino)

August 9 - Tofino - Pacific Rim National Park Reserve - leaving for Campbell River (night at CR)

August 10: Whale watching tour from Campbell River to Johnson Strait (night at CR)

August 11: from Campbell River to Telegraph Cove (night at TC)

12 August: From Telegraph Cove Grizzly Great Bear Rainforest tour - Leaving for Victoria with stop/night maybe in Courtenay(???)

August 13: from Courtenay to Victoria and car release Avis at 1001 Douglas Street - h 17:30 leaving for Seattle by Clipper.

From August 14th we will begin the descent in the United States in a tour on the road that will take us to San Francisco.

The problem with renting a car on the island is that the costs were very high, but I can try to look again. new solutions. Regarding the flight with Harbour Air, you have to consider that maybe have a baggage surcharge ? We travel with two cabin trolleys + two backpacks.

I accept your advice!

Many thanks from an inexperienced Italian!

Chiara

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
Level Contributor
87,407 posts
62 reviews
97 helpful votes
9. Re: Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay in August

I think you will be very sad to spend so little time in the Tofino/Ucluelet area. These towns are bookends for the Pacific Rim National Park and it's very likely you will want to spend 2 full days (3 nights) exploring nature, beaches, trails, attractions in the Park.

Turin, Italy
Level Contributor
71 posts
3 reviews
3 helpful votes
10. Re: Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay in August

Actually I can still make some changes, only we don’t have a lot of time and we are particularly interested in making tours for the observation of killer whales and grizzlies, only Telegraoh Cove is very far away!

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