Summer is quickly approaching, and here on the Sunshine Coast, we know what that means—epic tan lines, cool treats, fun festivals, and... the potential for long ferry waits. Let's be honest: waiting at a hot ferry terminal is not an enjoyable part of getting to the Sunshine Coast. At times, it can be downright frustrating. But with a little planning, some creativity, and a lot of patience, there are ways you can turn your ferry wait into a positive part of your next adventure. Read on for some tips to make the most of your ferry wait.
Book in Advance
The easiest way to score a ferry win is to book in advance. Reservations are available only on the Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) to Sunshine Coast/Gibsons (Langdale) and the Comox (Little River) to Powell River (Westview) routes, and can be made weeks ahead of time. The cost to reserve is $15, and it guarantees travel on the sailing of your choice. You can prepay online for both the reservation and vehicle/passenger fares at the same time, which can help save some time when you arrive at the ferry terminal. Reservations are especially encouraged during busier travel periods—that means summer weekends, holidays, and peak daytime hours. To claim your vehicle reservation, you need to arrive a recommended 60 minutes before scheduled departure.
Keep in mind that space is also available on each sailing on a first-come, first-served basis. If reservations are sold out, try to plan your travel during quieter times, such as mid-week and early morning or late evening. If you plan to walk onto the ferry, only the Comox (Little River) to Powell River (Westview) route offers reservations for walk-on passengers.
Taking a few minutes to pack essentials can pay off in the event of an unanticipated ferry wait. Here are a few items to pack before you go:
Sunscreen - shade is limited in the terminals
Water - your bottle can also be refilled at terminal water fountains
A blanket - in case you want to make use of nearby park spaces
Entertainment - card games, books, etc.
On long travel days, staying hydrated is crucial. Both Powell River and Horseshoe Bay are bustling hubs with great options for both hot and iced beverages.
In Horseshoe Bay, try Blenz Coffee, which offers drip and espresso drinks, plus iced coffees—both refreshing and energizing on a hot summer's day. Down the road is Starbucks where more iced drinks await, including iced teas and lemonades for those who like their brew on the lighter (and sweeter) side. And the only thing better than the coffee at Flour Bakery is the pastries themselves. No time to walk into the village? The Good Karma Cafe is a small take-out stand adjacent to the ferry line-up right in the terminal, where you pick up a drink and a quick snack to fend off any hunger pangs.
In Powell River, local favourites 32 Lakes Cafe & Bakery and Base Camp Coffee offer drip and espresso drinks, alongside baked goods, local art, and friendly vibes. There's also coffee at the Earls Cove Terminal, thanks to the on-site take-out café called Sharon’s Grill-it. And at the Langdale Terminal, The Little Black Bean Cafe offers a variety of beverages to keep you hydrated and caffeinated.
Enjoy a Cool Treat or Something to Eat
There's nothing ice cream can't fix, right? In Horseshoe Bay, you'll find two places to get a scoop of something cool and creamy. Baskins Robbins, located next to Blenz, has a wide range of flavours with options that appeal to kids (and kids at heart). Around the corner is locally-owned Berry's, which dishes out frozen yogurt and scoops of ice cream. Need something more substantial? There's a handful of restaurants in the village, including C-Lover's and Troll's for fish n' chips, pub staples at The Troller, and Korean-inspired favourites at Olive & Anchor.
In fact, you'll find yummy treats at most of the Sunshine Coast's terminals. Westview Terminal in Powell River is located a block away from Powell River's main street, and a walk along Marine Ave will yield all sorts of tasty things to eat and drink, like ice cream from Wild Scoop, pizza from Supercharger, Indian food from Little Hut Curry, and more. At Earls Cove, Sharon’s Grill-it offers up burgers, hotdogs, and fries with various toppings. And The Little Black Bean Cafe at the Langdale Terminal offers sandwiches and other to-go items.
Packing a cooler filled with treats is also a good idea, so that you can have your own ferry picnic while waiting. Remember that the options at the Comox (Little River) Terminal are limited to some vending machine options; the same is true at the Saltery Bay Terminal.
Reconnect with your Travel Partners
Why not use this time to reconnect with your fellow travellers? Arm yourself with games ahead of time and you're guaranteed to while away the hours with more than a few laughs. Card games can help you uncover silly details about your fellow passengers while classics like crib and crazy eights don't require much space and are easy to play whether you're in your car, on the ferry, or hanging out in the park while you wait. Kid-friendly favourites like I Spy are sure-fire ways to keep small travellers occupied while building developmental skills. Let the games begin!
Go for a Walk
Every Sunshine Coast ferry terminal is within close walking distance of greenspace. When your car (inevitably) gets too hot, you'll want to pack a blanket, some snacks, plenty of water, and—if you happen to be at Saltery Bay—even your swimsuit. For those who prefer to keep active, there are places to wander where you can stretch your legs and enjoy the fresh air.
Lock In Your Travel Plans
Chances are you've been planning this trip for some time, but even the most diligent and organized of planners can stand to benefit from some last-minute travel arrangements. If you find yourself armed with time in the line-up, check out our blogs or the latest #SunshineCoastBC photos for a dose of travel inspiration in near real-time.
You might find yourself booking a reservation at a new-to-you restaurant, planning a detour to an epic waterfall, mountain top, or beach, or stumbling across a fun event happening during your visit. Heading home? Why not take the time to write that travelogue for family and friends, or share a couple of photos or videos so fellow travellers can benefit from your travel inspiration.
To help tickle your travel planning brain waves, here are a few add-ons for your trip you might want to consider:
Beaches: The Sunshine Coast is home to 180-kilometres of shoreline and many freshwater lakes, all with beaches of varying size, shape, and sand. From the rocky shores of Roberts Creek to the small pebble beaches of Sechelt, to the white-sand sliver of paradise that is Savary Island—there's a beach waiting for you.
Outdoor recreation: The Sunshine Coast is a mecca of play regardless of the season. Whether you prefer diving amongst marine life, cruising on a bike, or embarking on a kayak tour, you're guaranteed to find something that will fuel your adventurous spirit.
Restaurants: The Sunshine Coast is home to a growing culinary scene. New restaurants and food experiences are popping up constantly. Find inspiration here, or ask a local for their favourite recommendations once you land on the other side.
Festivals and events: The Sunshine Coast plays host to signature events, including the Texada Island Roots & Blues Festival and the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, but plenty of local events fly under the radar. From long table dinners at vibrant farms to vintage video game tournaments at local breweries, there's a lot going on. You can find up-to-date community festivals and events here. Pro tip: use the filter button to search for your travel dates.
Bucket list adventures: Dream big. The Sunshine Coast has adventure on a grand scale, and if you have the means and the time to tackle it, you won't be disappointed. Read this Sunshine Coast bucket list, then get inspired to dream up your own while you wait.
Get Out the Binoculars or Camera
Waiting is a game of patience, and also a practice in observation. Bust out the binoculars and dust off your wildlife spotting skills. Most terminals are a hive of activity, with frequent sightings of eagles, ducks, shoreline birds, seals, and other marine life. You likely won't see any whales at Horseshoe Bay, but the far-off glimpse of a humpback or an orca is not uncommon at Langdale or Powell River's Westview Terminal.
For shutterbugs, it's easy to snap a photogenic pic in this part of the world. Venture outside the terminal, where picture-perfect shots are just waiting to be captured. Or, take the time to prep your gear for that rare but always exhilarating moment when you see a pod of dolphins chasing your ferry, or a dorsal fin slicing through the water in the distance.
You made it this far! Life is busy, and planning a trip—while fun—can also be exhausting. Take the extra hours in the line-up to snooze the afternoon away, crack open your vacation book, build a playlist for your Sunshine Coast getaway, knit a few rows, or just sit back and relax. Before you know it, the ferry announcement will chime and you're only minutes away from paradise.