Pacific Ferries is a Vancouver company that offers whale watching tours and ferry trips to Coal Harbour, Granville Island, Lonsdale Quay and Bowen Island.
It also has ports of call in Horseshoe Bay and the Sunshine Coast.
Pacific Ferries is back in 2019!
Note: Pacific Ferries operates from spring until very early fall. Tours do not take place during the winter season.
Pacific Ferries Tours and Ferry Services
Offering ferry service to a variety of wonderful places to visit, Pacific Ferries is a locally-based boat company with four vessels – the Coastal Clipper, Coastal Runner, Coastal Commuter and Coastal Explorer.
In this article you’ll find information about the following topics:
Click on any of the above links to jump to a specific topic, or continue reading to learn all about Pacific Ferries and its various ferry and boat tour services. (For an indepth desciption of the trip to Bowen Island and Gibsons, however, click Island Hopping Tour.
Ferries Services Overview
Pacific Ferries offers the following four different boat tours and ferry services.
- Island Hopping – guided tours from Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver to Bowen Island, Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast and Granville Island back in Vancouver. The boat stays at each stop for between around 1 and 2 hours to allow passengers to explore each destination. Click Island Hopping for more.
- Whale Watching – tours go from Coal Harbour out into Howe Sound and the Georgia Straight. In addition to whales, seals, sea lions and eagles are also often spotted. Especially on sunny days, the views of the ocean, islands and Coast Mountains are amazing. Click Whale Watching to learn more.
- Hop on Boat Tours – passengers can hop on and off the boat at Granville Island, near Lonsdale Quay and at Coal Harbour. All three of these destinations are among Vancouver’s top places to visit, and the scenery along the journey is spectacular. Click Hop on Boat Tours for further details.
- Gibsons Ferry Service – Pacific Ferries offers regular passenger ferry service between Coal Harbour, Horseshoe Bay and Gibsons Landing on the Sunshine Coast. The service runs on weekdays throughout the year. Click Gibsons Ferry for more.
Pacific Ferries’ Boat Tours & Services
Below is more detailed information about Pacific Ferries’ Island Hopping, Whale Watching, Hop on Boat Tours and Gibsons Ferry Services.
Note: Boat service times, prices and other details are subject to change. See the Pacific Ferries’ website for the most up-to-date details.
Island Hopping Tours
Cost: $185 per person. (Children ages 4 and under are free).
Time & Duration: The tour begins in the morning and lasts for between 6 and 10 hours (depending on how long you want to stay at Granville Island).
Boat Service Description:
Pacific Ferries’ Island Hopping Tours are highly recommended for people who want to see the Lower Mainland from the water, and visit places one might not otherwise get to.
The Island Hopping Tour begins in Coal Harbour. The view from there is of skyscrapers in one direction, mountains in the other, and water all around.
The trip begins early in the morning at 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, 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.
First stop on the tour is picturesque Bowen Island, a 50-square-kilometre rural and fairly hilly island. The ferry boat stays at this destination long enough for you to go for a stroll around the harbour, have an ice cream, and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee.
Gibsons Landing on the Sunshine Coast
The second stop on the Island Hopping Tour is Gibsons Landing on the Sunshine Coast. It’s a beautiful place that’s only accessible by boat, ferry or seaplane.
The Pacific Ferries’ boat usually remains at Gibsons for a couple of hours or so. This allows plenty of time for passengers to wander around the village, check out the artisan boutiques, have a coffee and even rent a kayak or bicycle for extra exploring.
The last port of call before returning to Coal Harbour on the Pacific Ferries’ Island Hopping Tour is Granville Island. Interestingly, despite being called an “island”, Granville Island is in fact not an island; rather, it’s the one place on the trip that’s actually accessible by car.
Granville Island is one of the City of Vancouver’s most popular tourist destinations and it’s located in the heart of the city, in False Creek, under the Granville Street Bridge.
On Granville Island there is a large public market as well as restaurants, art boutiques, a brewery and a distillery. The place is a wonderful place to walk around, and it’s close to the False Creek Seawall for even more exploring!
Click Island Hopping Tours for more information.
Whale Watching Tours
Cost: $145 per person. (Children ages 4 and under are free).
Duration: Approximately 4 hours.
Times & Operating Season:
- Spring and Fall Tours – once a day departures between mid-April and mid-June and then again from mid-September until the end of October.
- Summer Tours – once or twice a day between mid-June and mid-September.
Boat Service Description:
In addition to boat tours and passenger ferry services to various destinations, Pacific Ferries also offers whale watching tours.
The whale watching excursions depart from Vancouver’s Coal Harbour at the Westin Bayshore Hotel Marina at 1601 Bayshore Drive. From there they head into Burrard Inlet, under the Lions Gate Bridge and on out in search of marine life in Howe Sound and the Georgia Straight.
The Pacific Ferries’ whale-watching vessel has a fully enclosed area with reclining seats and washrooms. It also features an outdoor deck where passengers can enjoy the fresh air and premium views on sunny days.
Whales spotted on the tours often include black and white resident orca “killer” whales, transient pods of orcas and giant Humpback whales. Other maritime life frequently seen are sea lions, seals, eagles and other birds (including of course seagulls).
In addition to the viewing of marine life out in the water, the Pacific Ferries’ crew provide information about Vancouver, the region and area wildlife. So not only is the scenery lovely to look at, but the tour commentary is also fun and informative to hear!
Hop on Boat Tours
Cost: $75 per person for the day. (Children ages 4 and under are free).
Duration: As much as you like between around 9 am and 7 pm.
Times & Operating Season: Departures in July and August are generally hourly every day between 9 o’clock in the morning and 7 o’clock at night. Trips run from the beginning of May until the end of September. Departure times can vary depending on the season.
In July and August boats are scheduled to depart on the hour from Coal Harbour at the Westin Bayshore Hotel Marina starting at 9:00 am and from Granville Island beginning at 10 am. Vessels depart from North Vancouver every hour between 9:20 am and 6:20 pm at twenty minutes past the hour.
HOP ON SCHEDULE FOR JUNE
As of the second week of June, 2018, below was the schedule for the Hop on Boat Tours. The schedule may change though, so see the official Pacific Ferries‘ website for exact details.
- Coal Harbour: 9:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, 3:30 pm & 5:30 pm
- North Vancouver: 9:55 am, 11:10, am, 11:55 am, 1:10 pm, 2:25 pm, 3:10 pm, 4:25 pm, 5:10 pm, 6:25 pm & 7:10 pm.
- Granville Island: 10:35 am, 12:40 pm, 2:40 pm, 4:40 pm & 6:40 pm.
Boat Service Description:
Day passes for the Hop on Boat Tours service are good for unlimited use on the date of purchase during regular operating hours (i.e., from 9 am until 7 pm).
Pacific Ferries’ Hop on Boats depart approximately every hour and ports of call include Granville Island, Shipbuilders’ Square (near Lonsdale Quay) and Coal Harbour. At each location you can stay for as long or as short as you like, and you can board the boat as many times as you want within the same day.
On the Hop on Boat Tours you’ll see the Vancouver skyscraper-lined skyline, all sorts of marine traffic and the North Shore Mountains. In addition to visiting the tour’s three tourist-destination ports of call, you’ll also get to see famous landmarks from the water including False Creek, English Bay, Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge.
On Granville Island you’ll want to visit the public market which is conveniently open most days from 9 am until 7 pm (so during the same hours as the boat service). The neighbourhood can also be a great place to finish your day because of its selection of restaurants and theatres.
Granville Island can be especially busy and interesting on weekends, and on Thursdays it has a small farmers market between 10 am and 3 pm from June until September.
The first boat heading out from Granville Island departs at around 10 am and the last one of the day leaves at around 7 pm.
North Vancouver and St. Roch Dock
On the North Shore the Hop on Boat Tour docks at the Roch Dock in North Vancouver. Close by is a giant pier, Shipbuilders’ Square and a number of restaurants. Also just a short walk away is world-famous Lonsdale Quay.
Lonsdale Quay is located in North Vancouver by the Seabus Terminal at the foot of the North Shore Mountains. It also has a world-famous public market, which is both different from the one at Granville Island and equally interesting.
There are great restaurants in the Lonsdale Quay area. There is also an art gallery nearby, and on Friday evenings a night market with live music at the Shipyards right near where the Pacific Ferries’ Hop on Boat Tour vessel docks.
If you’re in the Lower Lonsdale area on a Friday between 5 and 10 pm you won’t want to miss the market!
The first departure of the day from North Vancouver leaves St. Roch Dock in front of Shipbuilders’ Square at around 9:20 in the morning. The final departure from the North Shore is at around 6:20 in the evening.
Coal Harbour is the area along Vancouver’s waterfront where you’ll find Canada Place, the Vancouver Convention Centre and the terminal for the Harbour Air seaplanes. It’s also where you’ll see massive skyscrapers, yachts in the marinas, and people walking and jogging along the seawall between downtown and Stanley Park.
The docks where you’ll find Pacific Ferries are at the Westin Bayshore Hotel Marina. The hotel is located at 1601 Bayshore Drive and the marina is on the north side, on the water.
Being in the heart of the city, for many visitors, Coal Harbour can be an ideal spot to start and finish the Hop on Boat Tours. It’s close to a variety of hotels and restaurants. It’s also within walking distance of Waterfront Station with its bus, SkyTrain and SeaBus public transit connections to the rest of the region.
The first tour of the day departs from Coal Harbour at around 9 am and the final departure in the evening is at around 6 pm. Schedule times do though vary.
Click Hop on Hop off Boat Tours for more information.
Gibsons, Horseshoe Bay & Coal Harbour Ferry Service
Ferry Costs: Prices vary depending on the service route selected. See below for details.
Ferry Routes & Service Description: Pacific Ferries offers weekday passenger service between Gibsons Landing on the Sunshine Coast, Horseshoe Bay on the North Shore and Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver.
Important Note: This service is primarily a commuter service for people living on the Sunshine Coast or in Horseshoe Bay and working in Vancouver. The route goes from Gibsons to Vancouver (via Horseshoe Bay) in the mornings and then back to Gibsons at the end of the work day. It’s also perfect though for people wanting to spend a night on the Sunshine Coast.
The boat company offers two runs each day from Monday to Friday. The ferry departs Gibsons at around 6:15 am, stops in Horseshoe Bay at 6:55 am, and finishes in Coal Harbour by approximately 7:40 am.
The return trip departs from Coal Harbour at around 4:35 pm, makes a stop in Horseshoe Bay at 5:20 pm and arrives at Gibsons Landing by around 6 o’clock.
Sailings between Gibsons Landing and Horseshoe Bay take about 40 minutes, and sailings between Horseshoe Bay and Coal Harbour take about the same. From start to finish, the entire route takes just under an hour and a half.
2018 Ferry Schedule
Below is the schedule for the 2018 season. Note: times and details are subject to change.
Monday to Friday (Mornings)
- Gibsons – departs at 6:15 am
- Horseshoe Bay – arrives at 6:55 and departs at 7:00 am
- Coal Harbour – arrives at 7:40 am
Monday to Friday (Evenings)
- Coal Harbour – departs at 4:35 pm
- Horseshoe Bay – arrives at 5:15 and departs at 5:20 pm
- Gibsons Landing – arrives at 6:00 pm
Note: Again, schedules and other details are subject to change. Check the Pacific Ferries‘ website for the most up-to-date details.
2018 Ferry Prices
Below are the prices of the various Pacific Ferries’ Gibsons to Horseshoe Bay to Coal Harbour routes and sailings.
- Gibsons to Horseshoe Bay – $10
- Horseshoe Bay to Gibsons – $20
- Gibsons to Coal Harbour – $20
- Coal Harbour to Gibsons – $30
Round trip reservations receive a 20% discount. All prices are plus taxes and rates are subject to change. Children ages 4 and under are free.
Monthly passes are also available for the Gibsons to Horseshoe Bay route for around $420, and for the Gibsons to Coal Harbour route for $700.
The Pacific Ferries’ Fleet
Pacific Ferries’ four vessels are the Coastal Runner, Coastal Explorer, Coastal Commuter and Coastal Clipper. Some of the boats do certain routes more than others, but any of the four can be used on any given day.
Each vessel is fully enclosed which makes them great for any weather conditions. They also all have outdoor deck space, onboard washrooms and comfortable airplane-style seats.
The Coastal Runner carries up to 6 dozen passengers, can reach up to 20 knots and has panoramic windows all around. In preparation for the 2018 season, the vessel has 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. For the 2018 season the vessel has 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.
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 highly 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 boat trips are well worth taking pretty much any day. The sunnier the weather and the clearer the skies, however, the more spectacular the scenery will be!
TIP #6: Pacific Ferries sometimes offers special deals and extra excursions. Click Ferry Specials to see if anything is currently offered.
For further details about this great local ferry and boat tour company, check out the Pacific Ferries‘ website.
For a detailed description about the route to Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast, click Island Hopping Tour. We took that trip in July 2018 and it was amazing!
For more information about the destinations served by Pacific Ferries, check out the following:
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