Views from the Ferry in BC’s Southern Gulf Islands

When I visit Vancouver Island or Salt Spring Island, I’m almost always on the ferry deck during the trip. Even in poor weather, the view from there is much nicer than from inside the ship, and I tend to walk around too. During Covid there has been a lot more people on deck than before, but most people still seem to be inside even when the weather is nice and warm. I usually have a camera in my hand when on the deck, and I thought I’d share a few recent photos from the trip between Tsawwassen BC and Salt Spring Island via Victoria (Swartz Bay).

Active Pass

The first photograph below is from Active Pass which connects the Straight of Georgia to Trincomali Channel in British Columbia’s Southern Gulf Islands. This is the Spirit of British Columbia on its way to Tsawwassen, passing my ferry on the way to Victoria. Mayne Island is in the background. Active pass is no longer a route for shipping traffic. There was a recent controversy with a fully loaded oil tanker transiting Active Pass near the ferries, which people did not take kindly to. The area is quite narrow and has history of bad outcomes with shipping traffic. In 1970 the Russian freighter Sergey Yesenin collided with the Queen of Victoria, killing 3 passengers. After the oil tanker used the pass in 2021, the the Pacific Pilotage Authority banned the practice. That said, I enjoy the Active Pass part of the journey. There are a lot of waterfront homes to look at, often some wildlife, and there is often another BC Ferry passing nearby as well as smaller vessels. The photograph below shows the BC Ferry Spirit of British Columbia passing my ferry in Active Pass with Mayne Island in the background.

spirit of british columbia in active pass

BC Ferry Spirit of British Columbia in Active Pass (Purchase)

I’m sure those of you who have taken the Active Pass route on multiple occasions are familiar with this waterfront home with a nice view on Galiano Island. I made this photograph due to all the Gulls feeding off whatever foodstuffs have been churned up by another passing ferry. Active Pass can be a good place to spot wildlife, with seals, gulls, Orcas, and Bald Eagles as frequently spotted species.

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Gulls Feeding in Active Pass near Galiano Island (Purchase)

At the eastern entrance to Active Pass is another structure many will be familiar with – the Active Pass Lighthouse (also known as the Georgia Point Lighthouse) on Mayne Island. The lighthouse at Georgia Point was built in 1969 and is in what is now called Georgia Point Heritage Park. The Lightkeeper’s house was built in the 1940’s. This northeastern point on Mayne Island has been a light station since 1885, and has been home to 3 different lighthouses in that time.

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The Active Pass Lighthouse on Mayne Island (Purchase)

Southern Gulf Islands

Much of the trip between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay in Victoria winds its way past many of the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia including Mayne Island, Galiano Island, Prevost Island, North Pender Island, and Salt Spring Island. Salt Spring is often my destination, and is the largest of the islands in the area. A short 30 minute ferry ride from Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring has some nice views as well, and I’m usually looking off the side of the much smaller ferry that completes this trip. This is the view looking back at Mount Maxwell and Fulford Harbour on the passenger/vehicle ferry Skeena Queen having just left Fulford Harbour.

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Mount Maxwell an Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island (Purchase)

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This photo was made just east of Active Pass showing the Spirit of Vancouver Island about to pass the ferry I was on at the time. The mountains in the background are Crown Mountain and Grouse Mountain. Always interesting in a photo like this to see that the buildings along the water in the background are missing the lower parts, due to the curvature of the earth (they are approximately 35km away).

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BC Ferry Spirit of Vancouver Island in the Salish Sea (Purchase)

While I have yet to visit Mayne Island I have looked at some of the attractions on the island from the ferries. In addition to the Active Pass Lighthouse I usually keep an eye out for the Springwater Lodge shown below. The Springwater Lodge was established in 1892 at Miner’s Bay and became a common stopover spot for mine workers heading to the Fraser River and Caribou Gold rushes.

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Springwater Lodge at Miner’s Bay on Mayne Island (Purchase)

I often photograph other boats from the ferry and sometimes I am able to find some information on them when editing the photographs later. This particular sailboat is named “The Westerly” and is a Santa Cruz 70 racing yacht I photographed off the coast of Vancouver Island in Satellite Channel near Swartz Bay – with Cobble Hill in the background. “The Westerly” has competed in races such as the Pacific Cup in the past.

racing yacht westerly near swartz bay vancouver island

Santa Cruz 70 racing yacht offshore of Cobble Hill (“The Westerly”) (Purchase)

Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island

The Skeena Queen docked at the BC Ferry terminal at Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada.

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Fulford Harbour – Skeena Queen at BC Ferries Terminal (Purchase)

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   Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island is one of the 3 areas on the island with a BC Ferries terminal (in addition to Vesuvius and Long Harbour). I photographed the Skeena Queen dropping off passengers at Fulford Harbour during my last trip there in early June. This BC Ferries route goes between Fulford Harbour and Swartz Bay (near Victoria) on Vancouver Island. I like the Fulford Harbour area – it isn’t as busy as Ganges and offers some nice views of the water from the village itself as well as from Drummond Park. Fulford also offers a cafe and bakery, a restaurant, various artist studios, and a country store. During a previous trip I photographed the historic St. Paul’s Catholic Church (1885) which is near the village.

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Mute swan (Cygnus olor) at Fulford Harbour (Purchase)

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   This Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) immediately swam over when it saw me standing near the shoreline. I presume people feed the small population of the non-native Swans here and this one was heading over for a free snack. It wasn’t going to get anything from me, but I did take the opportunity to make a photograph. This was right near the outflow of Fulford Creek into Fulford Harbour which is probably a good place to forage for tasty morsels in a more natural way.

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Fulford Creek Estuary (Purchase)

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   I made this photograph of Fulford Creek near the old site of the Fulford Inn. Fulford Creek is home to one of the the largest salmon runs in the Southern Gulf Islands. Home to Coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and Chum (O. keta) Salmon as well as Cutthroat Trout (O. clarkii) the creek fish populations are threatened mostly due to low water flows in the summer. I had just photographed the ferry above and failed to judge when the disembarking traffic was going to be going by, so I was stuck on the wrong side of the road for a while before I could get back to my car!

More photographs from my trips to Salt Spring can be found in my Salt Spring Island Gallery.

Southern Gulf Islands Ferry Route Photos

The BC Ferries ship Spirit of Vancouver Island (built in 1994) in Trincomali Channel on the way to Tsawwassen from Victoria (Swartz Bay).

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Spirit of Vancouver Island in Trincomali Channel (Purchase)

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   I’ve been on a number of ferry rides that were in really rainy or windy weather which makes roaming the deck rather uncomfortable. For my last trip to Salt Spring Island, however, it was a nice sunny day that wasn’t too warm and the winds were calm. After the first 30 minutes of my ferry trip from Tsawwassen to Long Harbour on Salt Spring Island, I spent the rest of the time walking the deck with my camera.

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Sturdies Bay Ferry Terminal on Galiano Island (Purchase)

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   I was not on a direct ferry to Salt Spring Island on this trip, but on a Southern Gulf Islands route with BC Ferries that stops at a number of islands (Galiano, Mayne, and Pender) before reaching Long Harbour on Salt Spring. The first stop was Sturdies Bay on Galiano Island. I was on the deck of the BC Ferries ship Salish Eagle which provided a pretty steady platform to photograph from while we were docked. I made this panorama of Sturdies Bay after most of the cars had disembarked onto Galiano but before we had left for the next island.

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Sandstone Cliffs on Galiano Island (Purchase)

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   Also at Sturdies Bay on Galiano were these sandstone cliffs that had a lot of interesting patterns and shapes. The house on this point has a great view but I bet things can get pretty wild in a good storm!

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Village Bay Ferry Terminal on Mayne Island (Purchase)

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   The next stop after Galiano was the nearby Mayne Island and the Village Bay Ferry Terminal (above). I am not sure if this was a normal delay or not, but we had to wait for about 30 minutes to dock at the Village Bay Terminal. This did give me a good chance to photograph various other BC Ferry vessels that were passing by on their way to other destinations. The photo below shows the BC Ferries vessel Spirit of British Columbia (built in 1993) navigating Trincomali Channel on the way to Victoria (Swartz Bay) from Tsawwassen. The island in the background is Prevost Island (front) with Salt Spring Island behind.

spirit of british columbia bc ferry

Spirit of British Columbia in Trincomali Channel (Purchase)

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   The Queen of Cumberland (below) is an Intermediate-class Ferry which left Mayne Island heading for Victoria, BC while I was still waiting to dock at Mayne Island. A lot of the ferries that travel between the various gulf islands are these smaller types of I-class ferries.

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Queen of Cumberland Leaving Mayne Island (Purchase)

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My last stop before arriving at Salt Spring Island was Otter Bay on Pender Island. While docked there I photographed the BC Ferries vessel Coastal Celebration (built in 2007) navigating Swanson Channel on the way to Tsawwassen from Victoria (Swartz Bay). Salt Spring Island (and Mount Maxwell/Baynes Peak) is in the background.

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BC Ferries Vessel Coastal Celebration (Purchase)

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More photographs of various means of travel can be found in my Planes, Trains and Automobiles Gallery.

Spring Views at Saint Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island

Rowboat on the shore of Saint Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada.

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Rowboat at St. Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island (Purchase)

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   Last week I headed back to Salt Spring Island here in British Columbia for a 3 day trip to photograph and visit friends. Last time I was on Salt Spring was in March of last year, and it was nice seeing the views with green grass and the leaves on the trees! I also had better weather overall this time around, with only some rain on my main photography day. As with any weather situation there is always something to photograph, so while I didn’t get as many of the wide, sweeping, ocean shoreline views as I’d wanted, the thin overcast cloud did work for many other situations.

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St. Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island (Purchase)

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   One of many locations I visited for photography was Saint Mary Lake. St. Mary Lake is between Ganges and Vesuvius, and serves as both a recreation area (fishing, swimming, boating) and drinking water supply. I was not able to find all that many publicly accessible spots around the lake to photograph, but this one along North End Road gave me these views of the docks, swimming platforms and general scenery at the lake.

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Private Dock at St. Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island (Purchase)

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   Most of the boats I came across at various locations on Salt Spring Island were not secured – usually just pulled up on shore. This kind of honour system would not likely work well in Vancouver! This boat in the first photograph was not tied up either. I’m sure the majority of the time this works out well for the boat owners on the island, but there was a sign next to this one asking for a boat to be returned that, evidently, had been liberated from it’s unsecured location.

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Swimming Platform at St. Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island (Purchase)

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More photographs of this island can be found in my Salt Spring Island Gallery.