All ferries in BC are operated by a Crown Corporation.
That sailing from Tsawwassen to Salt Spring is 100% reservable, the only one that is and it can be really difficult to get on for some dates. The alternative is to sail over to Swartz Bay and then pick up one of the more frequent sailings to Salt Spring from there. Also worth noting there are three different ferry terminals on Salt Spring, so don't assume where you are going to land.
One confusing thing about our ferry system is the terminal names. From Tsawwassen terminal (on the mainland near Vancouver) you sail to Saltspring island to the Long Harbour terminal. If you come into Swartz bay, north of Victoria, you sail to the Fulford harbour terminal on Saltspring on a smaller boat on the other side of the island from Long Harbour. If you bring up a map of Saltspring, it'll be clear.
Yup. I think people get really confused when they haven't had a look at the maps. I find the BC ferries route maps are very clear and really help people see the routes and the terminals and figure out where they are going.
I have to straighten out our relatives regularly about which terminals to use....and they live in BC!
Also, it is important to note that if you are sailing to Saltspring via Swartz the fare option is called a "throughfare"; this info is one of the questions in the FAQ section of bcferries.com
In part it reads: " .......Q: Can I travel between Tsawwassen and the Southern Gulf Islands by way of your Swartz Bay terminal and pay the same amount as the Tsawwassen-Gulf Islands fare?
A: If you're headed to Salt Spring Island from the Lower Mainland, you can travel by taking our Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay and Swartz Bay-Fulford Harbour routes. Ask for a Throughfare ticket when you arrive at Tsawwassen. This will let you travel on both routes at the Tsawwassen-Gulf Islands fare......."
Further info is listed here, under the link entitled Reservations and then Tsawwassen to Gulf Island Options. I hope this link works: https:/…sgioptions
If you do make a reservation on the Tsawwassen to SSI route, note that you must show up precisely 30-60 minutes prior to claim the reservation. Arrive at 29 minutes and you will likely find yourself camping overnight in the ferry terminal parking lot since it is one of the busiest travel days of the year.
I always take the milk run " Tsawwassen Long Harbour, in fact I'm on Salt Spring right now. For tourists I think it's a great route since it stops at Galiano Island, Mayne Island and Pended Island before docking at Salt Spring.
Great views and scenery. Not that the other run doesn't offer some beautiful views as well.
If the OP can't get a reservation for that holiday, and chooses the Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour route, do they still have to drive up the highway and loop back into the lines for the Gulf Islands? If so that bit of information may be helpful. This is one of the reasons I prefer the milk run, one less line-up.
Yes, the throughfares still involve exiting the terminal and driving the loop. The link I provided at the bottom of Post 5 has a further link entitled : ...."Using a Throughfare option? Click here for directions on how to return to Swartz Bay Terminal after disembarking >>". This is a map of the exit and re-entry route to use.....the road has signage, is well marked and easy enough to navigate but it is good to know the procedure beforehand!!
The Gulf Islands milk run is pretty awesome, as is the direct Tsawwassen to SSI ferry. However, the through fare is a decent alternative.Edited: 13 June 2018, 09:13
Let's see if this works.....the map of exiting and re entering the BCFerries Swartz Bay terminal for the purposes of a connecting (throughfare) ferry:. https://www.bcferries.com/files/PDFs/BCF_thr…
Thank you everyone for all your helpful replies and info. It has definitely been confusing trying to sort it out. I will look into it and make a reservation since it seems crucial.We have reservations in a cabin there and obviously don't want to miss it.