We all love to gripe about Washington ferries. They’re too expensive. They’re too crowded. They need a reservation system on more routes.
But after riding some ferries in British Columbia recently, I’m singing the praises of Washington State Ferries — especially of their far cheaper fares.
British Columbia has privatized its ferries in recent years, and the fares have soared as government subsidies have dwindled. To travel from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island to Vancouver (the Horseshoe Bay terminal) in late September cost me about $100 — one way — for the one hour and 40-minute sailing. That was for a small car (and a vehicle reservation), a driver and one passenger.
The B.C. ferry was newer and spiffier than Washington state’s ships, but so what. To pay more than $200 round trip to sail between Vancouver, B.C. and Vancouver Island (and fares are similarly high to B.C.’s Gulf Islands) makes a big dent in a travel budget. And locals, for whom BC Ferries are crucial, are up in arms about the high fares.
Compare the B.C. fare to a Washington ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island. It’s a one-hour and 20-minute sailing — a similar sailing time – and it costs $56.55 round trip for a car, passenger and driver.
No, you can’t make a reservation yet on the sailings to the San Juan Islands. But you can pay a lot less for an island getaway, thanks to Washington State Ferries.