Skip to Content

Experience The Inside Passage Ferry From Port Hardy To Prince Rupert

image source

image source

image source

While some travelers might cringe at the thought of a 16-hour ferry ride, my experience on the Inside Passage Ferry was a highlight of my Northern BC road trip. The stunning views of glaciers, fjords, and pristine coastline made it a must-see for anyone seeking natural beauty and adventure. From the comfort of the ferry, passengers can soak up the scenery, spot wildlife, and experience the majesty of the Pacific Northwest like never before. For travelers seeking an unforgettable journey through British Columbia’s rugged wilderness, taking the BC Ferries ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert through the Inside Passage is a unique way to explore. I was fortunate enough to have been invited by the Northern BC Tourism Association to visit Prince Rupert, Terrace, Nass Valley, Kitimat, and Stewart, and even got to road-trip with my friends Geoff Heith and Kimberley Kufaas after making our way to Prince Rupert on the Inside Passage Ferry.

Overview of Inside Passage Ferry

image source

The Inside Passage Ferry route is an integral part of BC Ferries’ extensive network of 30 routes across British Columbia’s stunning coastline. While the ferry ride itself boasts breathtaking views and abundant wildlife sightings, it’s equally impressive for its comfort, cleanliness, and convenience. The journey provides travelers with a unique opportunity to appreciate the region’s awe-inspiring scenery while effortlessly reaching their desired destination. I’m perhaps a tad biased, but I firmly believe that this route offers some of the most unforgettable adventures in all of British Columbia.

The Route

The Inside Passage Ferry embarks on its 16-hour and 20-minute journey from Bear Cove in Port Hardy, Vancouver Island, to Prince Rupert, with a brief interlude in Bella Bella. As it sets sail, the ferry initially navigates through a short stretch of open ocean before entering the Central Coast archipelago’s Rivers Inlet. From there, the route northward winds its way through a intricate network of channels, passes and reaches, ultimately arriving at Prince Rupert.

History of BC Ferries & Inside Passage Ferry

The Inside Passage has a rich history that spans thousands of years, its formation attributed to ancient glaciers that carved out a stunning 1,600-kilometer route from Seattle, Washington to Skagway, Alaska. Long before European colonization, numerous First Nations communities thrived along the shores, establishing a vibrant maritime culture that thrived on trade and commerce. As the centuries passed, the passage continued to play a vital role in the region’s economy, with logging, mining, and fishing industries driving growth. Today, as you cruise or ferry through the Inside Passage, remnants of this storied past linger, with small islands and quaint settlements bearing testament to the area’s enduring charm. BC Ferries, founded in 1960 with just two vessels, has since grown exponentially, driven by a mission to connect the scattered coastal communities of British Columbia.

Operational Details


As the summer season approaches, the Inside Passage Ferry becomes a daily fixture, departing at 7:30 a.m. and arriving at 11:50 p.m. While it operates throughout the year, the frequency of its departures drops significantly to just two days a week during the winter months, making it an essential mode of transportation for locals and tourists alike.

Boarding the Ferry

image source

image source

When planning your trip, it’s essential to book your ferry ticket well in advance to ensure availability, especially if you’re traveling with a vehicle. In fact, reservations are highly recommended for this route, and if you want to bring your car on board and secure a cabin, booking far ahead is crucial. Once you arrive at the terminal, you’ll need to present your ticket to an agent or use a self-check-in kiosk for further instructions.To avoid missing your designated check-in time, all passengers – including those traveling with vehicles – should plan to arrive early at the ferry terminal. Be aware that the car line can sometimes be lengthy, and if you miss the cut-off time, you’ll have to wait for the next available sailing, which could result in a 24-hour delay.Foot passengers traveling with luggage are permitted to check it upon boarding (free of cost) on select sailings or may choose to keep it with them during the voyage. Keep in mind that since the ferry departs early, you’ll want to travel to Port Hardy on North Vancouver Island the day prior. This charming town is located at the northern end of Hwy 19 on Vancouver Island and offers a range of accommodations, including the Kwa’lilas Hotel and Ecoscape Cabins – both local favorites – as well as various Airbnb options.

Ferry Stops – Bella Bella or Klemtu

The Inside Passage Ferry journey typically involves one additional stop at either Bella Bella or Klemtu, depending on the season and route chosen. The travel time varies between the two destinations, with Bella Bella being approximately 5.5 hours away from Port Hardy, while Klemtu takes around 8 hours to reach. Although these brief stops are a great opportunity to admire the picturesque coastal towns, travelers will not be able to disembark unless it’s their final destination. For those traveling from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, the ferry ride offers an immersive experience of the stunning coastal scenery without the need for physical disembarkation.

Island Hopping

While exploring the region, consider making a stop at Bella Bella or Klemtu as part of your journey. BC Ferries offers services to Haida Gwaii, formerly known as Queen Charlotte Islands, and Bella Coola, providing opportunities for island hopping mid-passage.


image source

While the Inside Passage Ferry may not be a budget-friendly option, it’s significantly more affordable than an Inside Passage cruise. The cost varies depending on the date and season, but one-way fares for foot passengers typically range from $110 to $190. If you’re bringing your own vehicle, be prepared to pay an additional $250 to $425 each way. This might seem steep at first, but consider the cost savings of not having to rent a car during your road trip. By traveling with your own vehicle, you’ll avoid daily rental fees and enjoy the same breathtaking views that cruise ship passengers often pay thousands of dollars for. The ferry experience also offers a unique perspective, distinct from the large-scale cruises.

Travel Like A Local

While often associated with tourism, the Inside Passage ferries also play a vital role in connecting local residents who live in communities accessible only by sea or air. For many, the BC Ferry system is a lifeline, providing essential transportation services. Beyond tourists, you’ll find commercial fishermen, tree planters, and other industry professionals joining walk-on passengers to travel between communities for work or leisure.

The Northern Expedition

BC Ferries boasts an impressive fleet of 39 ships, each designed to navigate specific routes with distinct features and amenities. When embarking on an inside passage journey, you’ll likely board one of two vessels – The Northern Expedition or The Northern Adventure. We had the pleasure of sailing on The Northern Expedition, a sturdy ship capable of transporting 115 cars, 638 passengers and crew members. Its robust design allows it to brave the unpredictable waters of the inside passage. Onboard amenities include cozy cabins, restaurants, elevators, comfortable seating areas, and even a dedicated pet zone.

Northern Expedition Car Decks

The ease of driving our car onto the Northern Expedition’s car deck was unparalleled. This allowed us to explore northwestern British Columbia at our own pace and discover hidden gems that would have been inaccessible otherwise. With a capacity to accommodate 115 cars, it’s crucial to book your spot well in advance. Additionally, keep in mind that once you’re underway, you won’t be able to access your vehicle, so make sure to gather all the essentials for the journey before setting sail.

Northern Expedition Passenger Decks

As you embark on your journey, you’re free to roam the decks 4, 5, and 6, where a plethora of amenities await. From cozy indoor seating areas to outdoor spots with breathtaking vistas, there’s no shortage of places to relax and take in the sights. For added entertainment, kids can have a blast at the play area, while adults can indulge in a meal or snack at one of the restaurants. You’ll also find a convenient gift shop on hand for any last-minute souvenir needs. And if you’re looking for something more low-key, catch a movie at the onboard theater – it’s the perfect way to unwind after a day spent exploring.

Passenger Cabins

As we embarked on our nearly 17-hour journey from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, we opted for the luxurious experience of a cabin on the vessel. Our cozy abode featured two beds, a television, and a private bathroom – a welcome respite from the open waters. While the room itself was straightforward in its amenities, the front desk was stocked with essential toiletries such as shampoo and conditioner. Cabin options ranged from $110 to $150, depending on whether you preferred an inside or outside accommodation (complete with a window) to gaze out at the ocean’s majesty. Having a cabin to call our own allowed us to shower and recharge during our long journey, making it all the more enjoyable.

Vista Buffet Restaurant

The Vista Buffet Restaurant made its debut on several BC Ferries in 2019, but its dinner buffet dining room unfortunately closed on most fleets in 2020. However, the restaurant remains open on the Northern Expedition, where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets while taking in the stunning views from your table. The menu features a diverse selection of soups, a sizeable salad bar, and various entrees to suit every taste. For dinner, I had the pleasure of indulging in their prime rib special, which was incredibly satisfying. What’s more, they offered gluten-free side options, catering to dietary requirements. While it can get quite busy, I highly recommend reserving a table in advance to ensure a smooth dining experience.

Aurora Lounge

While The Aurora Lounge offers premium seating options for a fee, the benefits may not be substantial enough to justify the extra cost. The lounge chairs provide slightly more comfort than other areas on the ship, but the views remain unchanged. If you opt out of a cabin, this might be a viable upgrade consideration, although we found that regular seating was perfectly sufficient for our needs.

Canoe Café

While not as refined as the Vista Buffet Restaurant, the Canoe Café offers a casual and welcoming dining experience on board. The cafeteria-style eatery serves an array of burgers, chicken dishes, and sides that are sure to satisfy. In terms of quality, the food is decent but nothing exceptional – akin to what you might expect from other ferry dining options. If budget or dietary restrictions are a concern, I highly recommend packing your own meal for the trip, as it can be a cost-effective and convenient option.

Raven Lounge

The Raven Lounge offers an entertaining escape during your ferry journey. This cozy movie theater is conveniently located on both the Northern Expedition and the Northern Adventure routes. Before heading to the lounge, be sure to check the schedule outside the Purser’s Office on Deck 4 for the latest showtimes and movie listings. During our own ride, we enjoyed a selection of films including Top Gun and Transformers.

Passages Gift Shop

Step aboard The Passages Gift Shop, where you’ll find not only the essentials you may have forgotten, but also a treasure trove of west-coast inspired clothing, jewelry, and kid-friendly items. This charming shop is the ideal destination for picking up a unique souvenir to commemorate your ferry ride experience.

Kids Zone

Traveling across the waters of British Columbia with little ones in tow can be a daunting task. The prospect of being confined to a ferry for over 16 hours with tiny humans can be overwhelming. However, BC Ferries has thoughtfully created a designated kids’ zone where children can let loose and burn off some energy. Despite its modest size, the area seemed to delight young travelers, keeping them occupied and entertained throughout the journey.

Amenities – Bathrooms and Showers

As you navigate the passenger decks, you’ll have access to public bathrooms at your disposal. What’s more impressive is that some of these facilities even feature showers – a rare find on most modes of transportation. Despite the lengthy queues often seen at these communal restrooms, I was grateful for the luxury of having my own private bathroom and shower waiting for me in my cabin.

Travel Tips for The Inside Passage Ferry

Before embarking on your Inside Passage Ferry adventure, it’s crucial to prepare thoroughly to minimize stress and maximize enjoyment. To get started, take note of these essential travel tips that have helped me navigate this scenic route successfully.

When is the Best Season to Take the Ferry

Summer is an ideal time to embark on the Inside Passage Ferry journey, as it offers the highest likelihood of spotting wildlife and allows for a full exploration of Prince Rupert’s hiking trails and outdoor activities upon arrival. Additionally, this season presents the perfect conditions for taking in the region’s breathtaking scenery. In contrast, the winter months can be quite challenging due to the rough ocean conditions. If you are susceptible to seasickness, it is advisable to consider alternative travel options during this time, as enduring 17 hours of motion sickness would undoubtedly be an unpleasant experience.

What to Bring on The Ferry

When it comes to what to bring along, snacks are a must-have for any trip. If you have specific dietary restrictions, be aware that the options may be limited. On the other hand, there are a few essential items to consider packing beyond just food: a camera to capture those unforgettable moments, a book or e-reader to escape into a good story, and an iPad or laptop with downloaded movies or shows to keep you entertained during downtime. And let’s not forget a pair of reliable headphones to enjoy your favorite tunes in peace.

What to Do on the Ferry

As you embark on the lengthy ferry ride, you might be surprised to find that the time passes quite enjoyably! The journey offers plenty of opportunities to take in the breathtaking views and observe an array of wildlife, making it well worth spending as much time outside or by the windows. However, if you prefer a more leisurely experience, the Raven Lounge provides a cozy setting for watching movies, reading a book, catching some sleep, or even enjoying your own private cabin’s TV.

Wifi and Cell Service

As I embarked on my ride, I was initially taken aback by the lack of WIFI and cellular service for most of the trip. This realization presented a unique opportunity for me to truly unwind and disconnect from the world. No constant stream of notifications or social media updates to distract me! For those traveling with children or planning to enjoy some entertainment during the ride, I recommend downloading content ahead of time to ensure a stress-free experience.On the other hand, if you have an urgent phone call or message that requires attention, the Bella Bella stop offers a brief respite from the digital void. With its fleeting moments of connectivity, this spot provides a welcome chance to catch up on any pressing matters before returning to your journey.

Traveling with Pets

image source

BC Ferries welcomes furry friends! While they’re generally pet-friendly, there are certain guidelines to follow when bringing your beloved companion along for the journey. When it comes to sharing the ride, pets can only be in designated areas or kept within the confines of a vehicle or onboard kennels.

For smaller pets, a carrier is required upon boarding. Larger dogs must remain on a 1-meter leash at all times. Travelers with pets are encouraged to arrive early and board before vehicles depart, ensuring a smooth start to their trip.

Sights on the Inside Passage Ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert

The Inside Passage Ferry ride is an experience that transcends a conventional ferry ride, offering breathtaking views of one of the most stunning regions in the world. As I’ve mentioned before, this 27-mile stretch of coastline is teeming with natural wonders, and the ferry ride itself is a unique adventure. The route takes you through a scenic passage lined with towering mountains, lush forests, and picturesque towns, making it an unforgettable journey.

Wildlife and Whales

As the Inside Passage Ferry glides through its scenic route, one of the most enjoyable activities is scanning the waters for an array of marine life. The crew’s enthusiasm is palpable when they spot humpback whales, and you’ll often receive announcements over the intercom if any are spotted on the bridge. You may also be fortunate enough to catch glimpses of dolphins, killer whales, porpoises, sea lions, eagles, and a variety of seabirds. Even without spotting wildlife, the breathtaking vistas alone make the journey worthwhile.


As we ventured along the water’s edge, I found myself mesmerized by the remnants of an abandoned cannery. It wasn’t quite as breathtaking as the whales we’d encountered earlier in our journey, but it was a close second. Our first stop was Namu, approximately 130 kilometres north of Port Hardy – a once-thriving cannery that operated until the 1980s. For those keen to explore, this abandoned gem is accessible on the eastern side of the ferry route.

Bella Bella

The Northern Expedition Ferry’s journey from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert often includes a brief stop at Bella Bella, a coastal town that offers a tantalizing glimpse of its charm from the boat’s vantage point. While you may not be able to disembark here unless it’s your final destination, taking in the views is still an enjoyable experience.

Despite this brief pause, the ferry ride itself presents numerous opportunities for adventure-seekers. The surrounding waters offer world-class kayaking, hot springs and diving experiences that are simply breathtaking.


As you depart from Bella Bella port, a picturesque white and red beacon comes into view – the Dyrad Point Lighthouse, standing tall at over 7 meters. The journey continues with the Ivory Island Lighthouse, situated on Robb Point, just 11 kilometres further. This historic landmark is still operational today, proudly maintained by the Canadian Coast Guard. Further along your route, the one-of-a-kind Boat Bluff Lighthouse marks the entrance to the Tolmie Channel, its skeletal structure a striking feature of this unique navigation point.


While the Inside Passage Ferry’s typical route doesn’t include a stop at Klemtu, it was still an exhilarating experience to catch glimpses of this secluded coastal community while on board. Klemtu, with its tiny population of 450 permanent residents, is nestled along the waterfront and presents a unique glimpse into life in one of Canada’s most remote regions.

Ghost Towns

As the Inside Passage unfolds, visitors will have the chance to explore a few intriguing ghost towns. The first stop is Swanson Bay, where the inaugural Pulp Mill on the coast was established in 1909. Today, those taking the Inside Passage Ferry can catch glimpses of the rusty chimney and scattered rubble that remain, a poignant reminder of a bygone era. A short while later, Butedale comes into view, its history dating back to the early 1900s as a fishing and logging camp. Passengers on the ferry will be able to spot the remnants of the once-thriving salmon cannery, a testament to the region’s rich industrial heritage.

Grenville Channel

As we made our way on the ferry, I found myself enamored with the Greenville Channel, mesmerized by the awe-inspiring vistas of the majestic mountains that loomed in the distance. Spanning over 70 kilometres and beginning around 4 hours from Prince Rupert, this natural wonder is a sight to behold. What’s more astonishing is that at its narrowest point, the channel tapers down to just 425 meters wide, a testament to nature’s incredible craftsmanship.

BC Ferries Tour Packages

image source

For those seeking a more structured getaway, BC Ferries provides an array of vacation packages to suit your preferences. These carefully crafted itineraries combine your ferry ride (or rides) with hotel stays and guided tours at each destination, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of British Columbia. Packages range from 5 to 17 nights and start at a competitive $1,169. Whether you’re interested in exploring more wildlife or simply enjoying a relaxing vacation, these packages offer an excellent opportunity to experience the best of BC. While I haven’t had the chance to try one out personally, it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to in the future.

Ferry To Alaska

image source

As we set off from Port Hardy, our journey took us to Prince Rupert, where we began a northern BC road trip that would take us through the charming towns of Terrace and Kitimat, as well as the quaint village of Stewart. After exploring these hidden gems, we returned to Prince Rupert to embark on the ferry ride back to Port Hardy. For those looking to venture into Alaska, one option is to start by taking the BC Ferry to Prince Rupert and spending a day or two soaking up the local atmosphere before boarding the Alaska State Ferry System to Haines, Alaska.

Inside Passage Ferry FAQs

The ferry ride from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert takes approximately 16 hours and 20 minutes, but it’s essential to factor in additional time for check-in, boarding, and de-boarding. Reservations are necessary, especially if you’re planning to book a room or travel with a vehicle. In fact, reserving your spot well in advance is highly recommended.During the journey, passengers must remain on board unless they’ve booked a specific stop. As for seasickness, it’s not uncommon to experience some discomfort, particularly during the open-water segments of the trip. To be safe, consider bringing motion sickness medication.Onboard dining options include the Vista Restaurant and Canoe Cafe, but feel free to pack your own food as well. If you have specific dietary needs, it’s best to prepare in advance, as options may be limited. As someone with gluten-free and dairy-free requirements, I found that a meal was easily obtainable, though snacks were scarce.Despite any initial reservations, the Inside Passage Ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert is an experience worth having. The journey proved to be seamless, offering a wealth of exciting activities and breathtaking views along the way. Meeting fellow passengers, lounging in reclining seats, and taking in the scenic islands were just a few highlights.This ferry ride through the Inside Passage is nothing short of captivating and inspiring. From the awe-inspiring natural beauty to the sense of adventure and excitement that comes with exploring this rugged region, there’s something truly special about this journey. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, an adventure-seeker, or simply looking for a unique travel experience, this is a bucket-list-worthy trip.