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Swartz to Horseshoe Bay

Swartz to Horseshoe Bay

We had just finished a late brunch at our home in Horseshoe Bay and were relaxing with the local paper. An article explained that the ferry system is financially strapped and that rates will be going up while service goes down. This may mean that we are now in the golden age of ferry travel and maybe should take advantage of it. It was late in the day but what the heck we thought and set out for the Tswassen Ferry. 

After landing in Swartz Bay we made our way down Hwy 17 to Beacon Avenue and the Best Western Emerald Isle.  We booked into our clean and comfortable room before heading to the mall across the street to look for a noodle house we’d heard about and there it was, The Noodle Box. The counter lady was very helpful in making our selections as I didn't recognize much of what I saw. Back in the hotel we were thrilled with the quality of our meals.

The morning came with a ho-hum breakfast at the onsite Smitty’s before heading for the Sidney Pier.  Beacon Avenue is made all the more beautiful by the plantings on the street’s medians. The Pier is home to a fresh Fish Market and the Sidney Pier Bistro.

Several interesting art installations were displayed on the grassy area next to the Pier and provided a rather whimsical start to our walk to the marina. The breakwater at the marina is an impressive structure with a well protected entrance.

We left Sidney by the sea and drove up Hwy 17 to Michell’s Farm. This is always a favourite spot to pick up fresh local produce and have a look at the pumpkin fields that burst forth at this time every year.

We crossed the Peninsula and arrived in Brentwood Bay with plenty of time to wander about before the Mill Bay Ferry arrived. This is a cash only ferry so be prepared.  Brentwood Bay has the feeling of a small resort town with commercial enterprises intermingling with restaurants and resort hotels.

The short crossing to Mill Bay affords views of both sides of the beautiful Saanich Inlet and is used by locals not wishing to cross the Malahat in bad weather. This quiet waterfront village is home to the highly acclaimed Brentwood College School and starting point of our visit to Cowichan Bay.

We headed up Hwy 1 to the turnoff at the Cowichan Bay Road and center of Vancouver Island’s wine country. Cowichan Bay is a unique and historic waterfront village with a ‘Slow Community’ designation.  With all the restaurants, bakeries, galleries and museums to explore Cow Bay is a bustling if not crowded destination. Adding cheese and bread to our fresh produce we left Cowichan Bay heading north to connect to Hwy 1 for a run to Departure Bay.

Departure Bay in Nanaimo provides easy access to the north, south and west coast of Vancouver Island. In fact, Nanaimo has been known as the hub city, a place for visitors to go through on their way elsewhere. This is a shame really as Nanaimo has a lot to offer. Restaurants, live music, heritage sites and a beautiful, accessible waterfront combine to offer the visitor a good time every time. We stopped by  Perkins for a coffee and a piece of carrot cake before heading to Departure Bay.

Soon we were aboard the Queen of Something and on our way to Horseshoe Bay. One and a half hours later we were on the mainland and heading for home with a gnawing thought that life on the Island may be in our immediate future. Let the planning begin. - Elmer Hill


  1. Start: BC Ferry Terminal - Swartz Bay
    Swartz Bay, Vancouver Island to the Mainland (Tsawwassen) and the Gulf Islands. 
  2. Sidney BC
  3. Michell Brothers Farm
    Buy direct from the farm
  4. Brentwood Bay
    Quaint village on the Saanich Inlet
  5. Mill Bay BC
    Quiet waterfront village - Ferry access to Brentwood Bay
  6. Cowichan Bay BC
    Funky Cow Bay awaits!
  7. BC Ferry Terminal - Departure Bay Nanaimo
    Ferry Service Between Nanaimo and West Vancouver 
  8. BC Ferry Terminal - Horseshoe Bay
    Crossings from Horseshoe Bay West Vancouver to Bowen Island, Langdale (Sunshine Coast) or Nanaimo (Departure Bay)
  9. BC Ferry Terminal - Tsawwassen
    Main ferry terminal to Vancouver Island (Victoria - Nanaimo) and the Southern Gulf Islands.
  10. End: BC Ferry Terminal - Swartz Bay
    Swartz Bay, Vancouver Island to the Mainland (Tsawwassen) and the Gulf Islands.