Options from Vancouver to Nanaimo:
- If you need to bring your car to Vancouver Island, you must take a BC ferry. You have two choices. The first is to take a 1h25min ferry from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver to Departure Bay in Nanaimo, and then drive 5 minutes to downtown Nanaimo parking and the Protection Island ferry. The other option is to take a 2h ferry from Tsawwassen to Duke Point and then drive about 20 minute to downtown Nanaimo. In either case, ferries fill up quickly and there can be several sailing waits. It pays to arrive early – you can track the conditions at the BC ferry website. You can also pay for a reservation on a specific sailing. A regular passenger vehicle is about $55 one-way and you also need to pay for each person in the car ($17 per adult).
- If you do not need your car on Vancouver Island and want to keep costs as low as possible, you should take a BC ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay as a foot passenger for about $17 per adult and $9 per child. There is pay parking at Horseshoe Bay for your car ($16/day), and there are city buses and Greyhound service the route to and from the ferry terminals on both sides. When you arrive in Departure Bay, you are about 4km from where you catch the Protection Island ferry in Nanaimo harbour. You can walk (about 40 minutes) or take a cab (about $15). Although the ferry trip is only 1.5 hrs, it usually takes about 5 hours total if taking city buses. The BC ferry journey is beautiful and there are services on board such as a café and cafeteria style restaurant, as well as a shop with local goods, and a small kids’ play area.
- Harbour Air seaplanes bring you from downtown Vancouver or YVR (Vancouver airport) to Nanaimo harbour in a twenty minute scenic trip. The cost is approximately $100 one way at full fare but there are often seat sales. We’ve paid much less at times. Often these sales are posted online close to the travel date. When arriving by seaplane, you arrive within a 5 minute walk from the Protection Island ferry.
- Helijet brings you by helicopter from downtown Vancouver to downtown Nanaimo. This is an 18 minute trip with a cost of $129 per adult or $79 per child. When you arrive, there is a complementary shuttle bus that will bring you to downtown Nanaimo.
Parking in Nanaimo:
Pioneer Parkade at the Boat Basin Marina: $.75 per hr first 2 hrs/ $1 each additional hr/ $11 per 24 hrs
Harbour Front Parkade at 51 Gordon St underneath the Coast Bastion Hotel and library: $.5 per 1 hr for first 2 hrs/ $1 each additional hour/ $6 per 12 hrs/ $8 per 24 hrs
VI Conference Centre at 101 Gordon St: $.5 per 1 hr for first 2 hrs/ $1 each additional hr/ $6 per 12 hrs/ $8 per 24 hrs
Port Place Mall ta 650 South Terminal Ave: 2 hour free customer parking. Don’t park here overnight as you will be ticketed.
Getting Groceries and Supplies:
There are no stores on Protection Island but Port Place Mall is across the street from the Protection Island ferry. It contains Thrifty Foods grocery store, a BC liquor store, London Drugs, and more.
From Nanaimo to Protection Island:
The Protection Connection foot passenger ferry service is the only transport available to Protection Island other than private boat. This ferry service is owned and run by the owners of the Dinghy Dock floating pub restaurant on Protection Island (worth a visit!). You catch the ferry from the south side of the Nanaimo Boat Basin – the marina in the heart of Nanaimo – across from Port Place Mall. Take the ramp off Promenade Drive near Front Street to the ferry waiting room –which is a boat itself! The ferry leaves Nanaimo at 10 minutes after the hour from 7 or 8am to 10 or 11pm (depends on season and day of week), and returns from Protection Island on the hour. The fare is currently $9 return per adult and $6 return per child with additional fees for dogs or bikes. The journey is in a quaint boat and takes about 10 minutes.
Once you arrive on Protection Island, it is about a 10 minute walk to Ahoy Guesthouse. We supply a wagon and a wheelbarrow to assist you in getting your belongings to the guesthouse; these are common modes of transporting stuff on the island! Please note that there are no taxis or vehicle rentals on the island so if you have mobility restrictions, please talk to us about whether the island is a good fit for you.