Can you Drive to Vancouver Island?

You can drive to Vancouver Island, but only with the help of one of the numerous vehicle ferries that serve the island.  The island is located 75 miles off the west coast of Vancouver, meaning there are no direct road connections. Despite its proximity to Vancouver and the Canadian and American west coasts, no bridges or tunnels connect the island to the mainland. So, while getting your vehicle to Vancouver Island using one of the various vehicle ferry connections is possible, you can’t drive there directly.

Where is Vancouver Island?

Vancouver Island lies off of Canada’s Pacific Coast. Measuring 283 miles in length and 62 miles in width, the island covers 12,407 square miles. The island is situated adjacent to the city of Vancouver. The island stretches north to the Duke of Edinburgh Ecological Reserve and south of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, USA.

How to Get to Vancouver Island

Despite mirroring the Canadian and American coastline along its 283-mile length, Vancouver Island has no direct road connections with the mainland. Therefore, anyone visiting must include a flight or ferry in their travel plans. 

Car – With no bridges or tunnel connections to the mainland, you’ll need to take a ferry to Vancouver Island to be able to bring your vehicle. All ferry services operated by BC Ferries carry vehicles, ensuring a good range of connection options.

Boat – The sole ferry operator to Vancouver Island is BC Ferries. They operate from 3 ports on the mainland and Prince Rupert port on Kaien Island, close to Alaska. The full range of ferry connections are as follows:

  1. Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay (Victoria Island)
  2. Tsawwassen to Duke Point (Victoria Island)
  3. Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay (Victoria Island)
  4. Powell River to Comox (Victoria Island)
  5. Prince Rupert to Port Hardy (Victoria Island) 


Ferries run up to 8 times daily between the ports near Vancouver and Vancouver Island. The journey takes between 90 minutes and 120 minutes. The ferry frequencies decrease, and journey times increase as you get further north. This culminates with the Port Hardy to Port Rupert ferry, which runs twice weekly and takes 15 hours.

Air – There are seven commercial airports on Vancouver Island, stretching from Victoria in the south to Port Hardy in the north. The airports predominantly service domestic destinations, with Flair Airlines and WestJet offering the most destinations. There are also limited international connections to cities on the U.S. West Coast.

Kinsol Trestle on Vancouver Island
Kinsol Trestle is one of the largest rail trestles in the world at 187 metres in height.

Can you Drive on Vancouver Island?

You can indeed drive on Vancouver Island. Bringing your vehicle or renting one is the best way to explore the island. Despite its size and relatively hospitable climate, the island has very few roads. The main road is Highway 19, which connects Victoria in the south with Port Hardy in the island’s north. The journey from north to south takes around 6 hours, but there are plenty of great reasons to stop along the way.  

Best Things to do on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is renowned for its rich history, wonderful national parks, and nature. When visiting the island, these areas feature prominently in the list of best things to do. While it’s not been an easy decision to make, here are our top 5 best things to do on Vancouver Island:

Royal BC Museum – Home to British Columbia’s human and natural history, this world-class museum is a must-visit if you’re in the area. Some natural exhibits are excellent, and a visit to the 3D IMAX is highly recommended.

Chesterman Beach – Located in Tofino, this fabulous beach gives some of the best walks and views on Canada’s west coast. Popular among surfers and windsurfers alike, this is a place to be active or relaxed as you take in the incredible scenery.  

Kinsol Trestle – A wooden railway trestle located just north of Lake Shawnigan. This bridge provides stunning views of the surrounding rainforest and river below. The bridge is very picturesque and is unique in its design. Situated just over a kilometer from the car park, it is an easy hike and well worth the time and effort to visit. 

Victoria Inner Harbour – This scenic waterfront area is home to many of Victoria’s beautiful historic buildings. It’s also home to many of the city’s main attractions, bars, and restaurants. If you’re visiting the city of Victoria, this should be the first place you visit.

Pacific Rim National Park – This is probably the premier destination to hike on Vancouver Island. The park is home to beaches, rainforests, multiple outstanding hiking trails, and many small islands. Often referred to as a bucket list destination for the outdoors, it’s well worth spending a few days here. You’ll struggle to find a better-designed park and managed habitat in Canada or elsewhere.

Best Time to Visit Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island enjoys a relatively dry and mild climate. While there’s no wrong time to visit this wonderful destination, the period from March to October is generally considered the best. Temperatures increase during this period, and rainfall declines to negligible levels. The peak summer months of June, July, and August can see Vancouver Island hit by swathes of visitors, pushing up hotel and travel prices. Therefore, it’s best to try and avoid this period and visit during the spring months of April and May or the autumn months of September and October. 

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