Pacific Ferries is a locally-owned company that offers boat tours from downtown Vancouver in Coal Harbour to some of the region’s most beautiful places.
The tours include a 2.5-hour trip up Indian Arm where you’ll see waterfalls and stunning mountain views, and a 3-hour Eco-Wildlife Excursion around Howe Sound.
Note: This tour company may or may not still be operating. Check pacificferries.ca for the most up-to-date information (although the last time we checked their website was no longer working).
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Pacific Ferries Sightseeing Boat Tours
Offering boat tour services to a variety of wonderful places, Pacific Ferries is a Vancouver-based company with four vessels – the Coastal Clipper, Coastal Runner, Coastal Commuter and Coastal Explorer.
Pacific Ferries’ boats are based in Coal Harbour near the Westin Bayshore Hotel at 1601 Bayshore Drive in downtown Vancouver. In 2019 the company offers private charter services as well as tours around Indian Arm and Howe Sound.
Pacific Ferries operates from spring until early fall. Tours do not take place during the winter season.
Indian Arm Tour
The following is information about Pacific Ferries’ Indian Arm Tour. (For details about the company’s Eco-Wildlife Excursions, see further below.)
What and Where is Indian Arm?
An amazing experience is traveling up Indian Arm from Vancouver by boat, and you can do that with Pacific Ferries. The views on the trip are spectacular, both of the City of Vancouver (at the start and end of the trip) and the water and mountains up Indian Arm.
Indian Arm is a glacial fjord that stretches for about twenty kilometres (or close to 12.5 miles). It’s located north of the eastern end of Burrard Inlet (which is the main body of water between Vancouver and the North Shore).
Indian Arm extends from Deep Cove to Iron Bay and Wigwam Inn. The mountainous terrain on the west side is Mt. Seymour Provincial Park. The equally amazing views on the east side belong to Belcarra Regional Park and Say Nuth Khaw Yum Provincial Park. The scenery all along the way is stunning and world-class!
Pacific Ferries Indian Arm Tour
In 2019 Pacific Ferries offers 2.5-hour tours from Coal Harbour to Indian Arm. The docks where you’ll find Pacific Ferries are at the Westin Bayshore Hotel‘s marina. The hotel is located at 1601 Bayshore Drive and the marina is on the north side, on the water.
The tours usually take place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from the late spring until the end of the summer and early fall. Passengers board the boat at Coal Harbour at around 2:00 pm and return by 4:30 pm. (Note: Exact times and other details may vary.)
Pacific Ferries’ Indian Arm Tour goes from Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver, along the waterfront lined with skyscrapers, out into Burrard Inlet and past the Port of Vancouver towards the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge (over which the Trans-Canada Highway passes).
The boat then goes under the bridge, along the inlet between the shores of Burnaby and North Vancouver, and then north up into Indian Arm. To the south you’ll see Burnaby Mountain, and as you enter Indian Arm you’ll pass North Vancouver’s Cates Park, Deep Cove and Quarry Rock on the port side.
The Pacific Ferries tour doesn’t go all around Indian Arm, from one end to the other. It’s too large an area to cover within two and a half hours. Some of the sights you might see though include Granite Falls, Spray of Pearls Falls at Wigwam Creek and/or Silver Falls. Marine life, birds and even bears can also sometimes be seen. And the mountains – towering overhead and rising high out of the water – are amazing!
If you want to see Canada’s rugged West Coast at its finest, and within a short afternoon trip from downtown Vancouver, then a boat tour up Indian Arm can be a memory-making experience!
Regular price for the Indian Arm Tour is $99 plus GST. Children under age 5 are free. Including boarding and disembarking times, the entire trip lasts for about 2.5 hours.
Pacific Ferries’ Eco-Wildlife Excursion also begins in Coal Harbour. The view from the start is of skyscrapers in one direction, mountains in the other, and water all around.
The Eco-Wildlife Excursion begins in the morning at around 10:00 am from the Westin Bayshore Hotel Marina on the north side of the hotel at 1601 Bayshore Drive. From there the boat heads out into Burrard Inlet, past Stanley Park, under the iconic Lions Gate Bridge and out into the waters of Howe Sound.
Along the way you’ll see seaplanes taking off and landing as well as massive cargo ships in the harbour. On days with clear skies you’ll also see the majestic North Shore Mountains rising up out of the water.
Exact destinations on the tour may vary, but common sights include the shorelines of West Vancouver, Anvil Island, Bowen Island, the Point Atkinson Lighthouse at Lighthouse Park and Pam Rocks (which is a popular place for marine life to hang out).
As of the beginning of the 2019 season, regular price for the Eco-Wildlife Excursion is $119 plus GST. Children under age 5 are free. Including boarding and disembarking times, the entire trip lasts for about 3 hours.
The Pacific Ferries’ Fleet
Pacific Ferries’ four vessels are the Coastal Runner, Coastal Explorer, Coastal Commuter and Coastal Clipper. Any of the four can be used on a given day, and all can be rented for private charter (subject to availability). For the Indian Arm and Eco-Wildlife Excursion in 2019, however, the main boats are the Coastal Runner and Coastal Commuter.
Each vessel is fully enclosed which makes them great for all weather conditions. They also all have outdoor deck space, onboard washrooms and comfortable airplane-style seating.
The Coastal Runner carries up to 60 passengers, can reach up to 20 knots and has panoramic windows all around. In preparation for the previous season, the vessel had a fresh coat of paint as well as all of its windows replaced to enhance passenger viewing.
The Coastal Explorer is the smallest vessel in the Pacific Ferries’ fleet. It has a cozy interior and outdoor deck. The boat is certified for up to 12 passengers and can reach speeds of over 20 knots per hour. The Coastal Commuter has a similar capacity and maximum speed.
The Coastal Clipper holds up to 4 dozen passengers, can travel at speeds as high as 30 knots per hour, and has an outdoor observation deck at its stern. In time for the beginning of its previous season, the vessel had a new paint job and newly reupholstered chairs.
Tips and Advice
Below are some general tips to help you make the most out of your experience with Pacific Ferries.
TIP #1: Take warm clothing, including something that’s windproof. It can get cool out on the water, especially with the breeze! You’ll be warm inside the vessels, but the views and experience are extra-exceptional when viewed from outside (or at least that’s our opinion).
TIP #2: If the weather is good and you’re dressed appropriately, then spend at least some of the time outside on the deck! The air is so fresh, you’ll feel the ocean breeze and you’ll be missing out on some additional enjoyment if you stay inside the whole time!
TIP #3: Are you visiting Vancouver for the first time, or do you have guests visiting from out of town? We recommend these boat trips as a way to experience Vancouver and the region in a way that you’ll long remember.
TIP #4: Don’t forget your camera, plus sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses if it’s sunny. Just remember though to hold on tight to your hat when outside on the deck!
TIP #5: The sunnier the weather and the clearer the skies, the more spectacular the scenery will be!
TIP #6: There are stairs on the vessels (to get down to the passenger area inside), as well as steps to get on the boat in the first place. Consequently, the trip is not wheelchair accessible and can be challenging for people with mobility issues. It’s a boat!
TIP #7: It’s not compulsory to tip the captain and crew at the end of the trip. If you enjoyed the tour and their service, however, gratuities are greatly appreciated (but again not expected or required).
Other topics that may be of interest include the following:
- Vancouver’s Monthly Events Calendar (Note: from this page click whatever months are of interest)
- Festivals & Events Calendar
- Vancouver’s Top 24 Tourist Attractions (Note: being out on the water isn’t on the list, but it definitely should be!)
- Metro Vancouver’s Top 100 Places
- Vancouver Sightseeing Tours
- Vancouver Whale Watching Tours