Canada has the longest coastline in the world so it is no surprise that some of the best views in the country come from the water.
Thanks to a vast network of ferry routes connecting different harbours, you can hop from island to coastal town to waterfront city in the most economical way possible — all without sacrificing the stunning views.
From west to east, here are our favourites scenic ferry crossings in Canada.
When it comes to coastal scenery, it’s hard to beat British Columbia. Take advantage of the relatively low cost of ferry rides to explore the stunning West Coast scenery. Keep watch for whales in the water.
BC Ferries operate 30 different routes and you really can’t go wrong as each journey is very scenic. Here are three we highly recommend:
Horseshoe Bay Ferry
If you are visiting Vancouver, be sure to take a ferry out of the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal as it is one of the most scenic spots for ferry departures in Canada. As a bonus, it is conveniently located close to Vancouver so even those pressed for time can take a day trip to Bowen Island and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.
The Inside Passage to Prince Rupert
Starting in Port Hardy on the northern edge of Vancouver Island, take the ferry to Prince Rupert for an epic journey with stunning views of the rugged mountain coastline, lush forested islands and the narrow channels (with towering cliffs) that make up this part of the world. In the summer months, the trip takes 15 hours and reservations — both for a spot on the ferry and for accommodations after you dock — are a necessity as it is a very popular trip.
See the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast
Also leaving from Port Hardy is a summertime ferry headed directly to Bella Coola in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region of BC. This 10-hour journey is as scenic as they come. The ferry heads through the Inside Passage and along one of the most incredible fjords in the country. The direct ferry is only available during the summer season (other times of the year, the route is offered in two stages — a transfer in Bella Bella is required) and reservations are highly recommended.
A cable ferry is guided across a river or body of water using cables on both shores and makes for a cool experience, even if the journey is short. There are several of these crossings in central Canada. Here are two of our favourites:
The Bleriot Ferry connects the North Dinosaur Trail (Highway 838) as it crosses the Red Deer River northwest of Drumheller in Alberta’s Badlands. The trip across the river is just 105 metres and takes less than seven minutes but is a great experience on a road trip through the area. The ferry operates from May until the end of October.
If you are travelling on Highway 42 in Saskatchewan and reach Lake Diefenbaker, you’ll need to take the Riverhurst Ferry. The 1.5 km journey across the lake links the village of Riverhurst on the east side with the community of Lucky Lake on the west. While short, the trip is free and saves you having to travel 150 km around the lake. The ferry only operates during the warmer months when the lake is free of ice. In the winter, the route goes over the lake via an ice road.
With four of the five Great Lakes and parts of the mighty St. Lawrence River within its boundaries, Ontario has some awesome ferry rides on offer. Here are a few of our favourites:
Toronto Islands Ferry
Leaving from the Jack Layton terminal on the shore of Lake Ontario, the Toronto Islands Ferries head to three different islands in the 15-island archipelago: Centre, Hanlan’s and Ward’s. All of the routes offer incredible views of the Toronto harbour and skyline, making this journey a perfect way to get that iconic photo of the city. Keep in mind that the islands are car-free and the ferries take passengers (and bicycles) only. The Ward’s Island ferry operates year round while the other two are seasonal.
Georgian Bay Ferry
Fondly referred to as the Big Canoe, the MS Chi-Cheemaun links South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island with Tobermory at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula. The 2-hour journey has sweeping views of Georgian Bay and the rugged coastline of the Bruce Peninsula on the one end of the trip and a lovely view of Manitoulin Island — the largest freshwater island in the world — on the other side.
You can take a day trip on the ferry just to enjoy the sights or use it as a method of transportation to avoid going around the lake.
Thousand Islands Ferry
Set out from the lovely Kingston waterfront on a scenic ferry crossing to Wolfe Island, the largest in the Thousand Islands archipelago. This 20-minute journey provides beautiful views of the St. Lawrence River and various landmarks in Kingston, such as historic Fort Henry. Best of all, it is absolutely free to ride!
The ferry leaves from the Marysville Dock until ice forms on the river, at which point it begins to leave from the Dawson Point Dock.
Québec’s lakes, rivers and mountains make for some pretty spectacular scenery. Experience some of the best views on these stunning ferry crossings:
Saguenay Fjord Ferry
Zip from one side of the Saguenay fjord to the other in a matter of minutes on the Tadoussac-Baie-Sainte-Catherine ferry. Relax and enjoy the magnificent views of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park and the spectacular fjord. If you’re lucky, you might even spot whales during the ride. The region is known for its incredible whale watching. Best of all, the ferry is free and operates year round.
Québec City Ferry
For stunning views of Québec City from the water, take the 12-minute ferry ride across the St. Lawrence River to Lévis and back. You won’t be disappointed! Québec City sparkles from the water — the iconic Chateau Frontenac takes centre stage with the varied architecture of Old Québec at its feet. The ferry offers the best view of the city skyline bar none — try it both by day and by night!
PEI to Îles de la Madeleine Ferry
The Magdalen Islands — or the Îles de la Madeleine — are located in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and are officially part of the province of Québec. One of the most scenic ways to reach this island archipelago is via a 5-hour ferry crossing from Souris, Prince Edward Island. The ferry route skirts around the eastern tip of PEI and makes its way across the Gulf towards the islands.
Enjoy endless water views (perhaps even a glimpse of a whale or two) before being rewarded with lovely vistas as the islands come into view.
Water is part of every aspect of life in the Maritimes so it is no surprise that the Atlantic provinces have some of the most scenic ferry crossings in the country. Here are a few of the best:
Alderney Ferry in Nova Scotia
The ferry between Halifax and Dartmouth might only be 15-minutes long but it is a must-do experience when visiting Nova Scotia’s capital city. From the top of the ferry deck, you’ll have a front-row seat to the incredible view of Halifax Harbour and its many notable landmarks. Keep your camera ready.
Founded in 1752, this route is the second oldest saltwater ferry crossing in the world and definitely the least expensive way to see Halifax from the water.
Bay of Fundy Ferry
Famous for having the highest tides in the world, the Bay of Fundy lies between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. See the wonders of the bay on a ferry crossing between Saint John, New Brunswick and Digby, Nova Scotia. It takes just over two hours to cross the Bay of Fundy during which time you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the water and lovely coastline on both sides of the crossing.
Northumberland Strait Ferry
Before the Confederation Bridge was constructed, the only way to access Prince Edward Island with your car was by ferry — and today it is still a lovely way to travel across the Northumberland Strait.
The 75-minute ferry crossing between Wood Islands, PEI and Caribou, Nova Scotia, offers amazing views of the water and gorgeous coastal scenery as you approach/sail away from the coastlines. Keep a lookout for marine life as you cross.