If you want to voyage up the Inside passage in Canada, famous for its breath-taking scenery and whale watching, you don’t have to take a full-blown cruise. BC Ferries, who mainly shuttle passengers between the mainland and Vancouver Island, have a hidden gem of a route that takes you through some of the most spectacular parts.
The “Queen of Chilliwack” may not be the most modern of ferries, but what she lacks in surfing pools (or any pools for that matter), she makes up for in character and friendliness. The route between Port Hardy, situated on the northern end of Vancouver Island, and Bella Coola, a small community high up in the wilderness of the mainland, offers a 20 hour journey to savour.
Whales are announced over the ships tanoy, telling you where to look and what you are looking for. You enjoy views of the Coastal mountains tumbling down into the sea, thick with forest and bereft of any sign of human habitation. Fish eagles soar overhead, seagulls float alongside screaming for food and dolphins swim with you. The further you travel, the narrower the channel gets, ending in a tight Fjord where the boat docks.
There is a restaurant on board which serves meals, snacks and drinks. There are no cabins but plenty of reclining seats and floor space to camp on. A sun room on top makes a peaceful place to relax and read. The crew and staff are friendly and knowledgeable, some seemingly been travelling the route form years. You stop several times en route, including Bella Bella, (although there are direct sailings) with local island inhabitants getting on and off with an unfeasibly large amount of baggage.
It’s not expensive, it’s not grand but it is the way to travel the Inside Passage.