Ferrying from Vancouver to Nanaimo

Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, British Columbia

A ferry pulls into Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, British Columbia

Ferries ain’t no thing but a chicken wing to many Pacific Northwesties, but until I’d traveled to Nanaimo, a larger town on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, I’d never taken one alone. Driving aboard was childishly thrilling, akin to reaching the next level of a video game; the worlds I’d conquered during my travels thus far—deserts, farmland, mountains—were all “played” on land. Here was the water level, and a new kind of notch in my figurative travel belt.

Boarding the Queen of Cowichan

Boarding the Queen of Cowichan

The Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay crossing is long, at nearly 3 hours and roughly 70 km (43.5 miles) . As we pulled away from West Vancouver, an oddly  named part of town because it is actually directly north of Vancouver, I stood at the bow, alone at first. In time an older couple appeared beside me, also interested in the sweeping views at hand. I offered to take their photo; they took mine in return. We began to chat.


Sean and Sarah from Scotland were traveling the USA as many retirees do. It turned out that the three of us had been traveling all summer through the same parts i.e. a variety of national parks and destination cities in the American West. And somehow we had all ended up here, together, on board a ship  now slowly pulling away from the harbor.


At one point during our chat Sean mentioned a hard truth: that the more you travel, the more it takes for the next place to really standout. Instead of inspiring awe, new cities and landscapes begin to feel redundant.  What would appear beautiful in fresh eyes instead produces a “oh, that’s nice” sort of humdrum response.

This concept is one of the few downsides of long-term travel, but seems to be  dogma for most travelers. A flight attendant friend once alluded to having the same feelings about the  international cities she flies to; to fight the boredom she has taken to creating missions in each city, carrying out tasks often prompted by friends. During her stay in London last year I sent her to Harrod’s to purchase their strawberry black tea for me; it gave her something meaningful to do.

But on occasion a particular landscape will stun even the most weathered traveler. Sean was mostly right, with one exception: he had left out the enduring appreciation a person may have for their native region. I did not tire of the day’s views, but instead spent three hours topside, cold winds tangling my hair and aggravating my eyes, and I full of life and glad to breathe in the familiar Northwest ocean air once again.








Rounding the bend before finally pulling into Nanaimo's Departure Bay

Rounding the bend before finally pulling into Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Learn more about routes offered by BC Ferries here.


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