BC Ferries – A Tale of Two Terminals

Before proceeding, if you have a car with a sensitive alarm system, turn it off before leaving the car on the vehicle deck.  It will be appreciated by many, including you when your car and plate number is called out on the loudspeaker later.

To sail from Vancouver to Victoria, the main gateway is the Tsawwassen (pronounced sah-wass-en) ferry terminal located in Delta BC.  You will land at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal located near Sidney BC.

Sailing on BC Ferries often requires a lot of waiting.  If you book in advance, you still have to arrive 45 minutes before the sailing to be sure to be on it.  If you add a buffer for the possibility of a tangle at the Massey Tunnel, you could be at the terminal really early.

On the day I most recently sailed, I was by myself, and did not have a tight schedule.  Therefore, I took my chances and simply waited for whatever sailing would fit me.  They said I had to wait about 90 minutes for the 11 AM as the 10 AM was full.  I walked over to the terminal’s shopping and eating area and found a place to work.

In Tsawwassen ferry terminal, there’s a Starbucks and a pizza joint and other fairly formal looking vendors.  It was a bit of a crowd on the Friday morning I was sailing.  But nothing jumped out as unique.  There were a few souvenir shops.

Speaking of jumping out, a travel tip for you.  Go to your car when they say, even if you were told you weren’t making the 10 AM sailing.  The reason is that they may move your line up and if there were a lot of no-shows, you have a chance of getting on the earlier sailing.  I had the joy of hearing “would the driver of the car in lane 40 please move the car” announced on the loudspeakers.  Sadly by the time I ran to the car, moved it, the boat was full.  I could have left earlier.  I’m a bit embarrassed, so please don’t mention this to my family who never read my articles.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed a visit with folks on Vancouver Island.

Coming home, the Swartz Bay terminal is a distinct contrast.  It has a small cafĂ© area that’s primarily indoors.  It was renovated in the last couple of years, but it seems more like mandatory minimum maintenance rather than a proper upgrade.

But, it’s the use of the outdoor space that’s the contrast.  As you will see, the shopping is all outside and is operated by clearly local independent vendors.  This is not your usual souvenir shopping.

I find the little bit of personality of the vendors refreshing.  I’m a support local kind of person and if I were buying trinkets after a trip, Swartz Bay would be my preferred choice.

All the goofy signage you could want
Canadian made not imported
Not your brand names

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