Getting to Nanaimo is easy!

No matter how you travel to Nanaimo for your meeting or event, the journey is scenic and easy.

Arrive in your vehicle, RV or bicycle on one of the BC Ferries routes. Fly in by float plane or commercial airline and rent a vehicle. Walk onto the new foot-passenger fast ferry linking downtown Vancouver to downtown Nanaimo when it launches in summer 2023.

Here are the various transportation options, what to expect, and a few insider tips.

BC FERRIES (vehicles or walking on)

BC Ferries runs two ferry routes from the Vancouver area with sailings multiple times daily throughout the year. Onboard, enjoy a restaurant, cafe, shopping and a playroom for kids. In summer, watch for whales and porpoises from the sun deck.

  • Depart Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and arrive in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay 1 hour 40 minutes later.
  • Depart Tsawwassen (40-minute drive south of Vancouver) and arrive in Duke Point (15-minute drive south of Nanaimo) just 2 hours later.

Travel time: 1 hour, 40 minutes from West Vancouver or 2 hours, 15 minutes from Tsawwassen

Tip: Make a reservation. Especially during the summer high season and holiday weekends, traffic can be heavy and one- or two-sailing waits are common.

HULLO FERRY – COMING SOON! (passenger only, no vehicles)

Hullo launches a fast-ferry service starting in summer 2023 linking downtown Vancouver and downtown Nanaimo with up to seven round-trip daily sailings. There are 354 reservable seats across 3 service levels: comfort, premium, and business. Wi-Fi is included.

Travel time: 1 hour, 10 minutes between Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre at Canada Place and the downtown Nanaimo Cruise Ship Terminal.

Tip: Make a reservation.


Connect to Nanaimo Airport (YCD) from anywhere in the world. This busy modern airport is home to two air carriers – Air Canada and WestJet. Regularly scheduled flights arrive and depart daily from Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

Located just 18km (11 miles) south of downtown Nanaimo, the airport offers shuttles, taxis, rental car kiosks, as well as short-term and long-term parking.

Tip: Flight availability increases during the summer months.


Regularly scheduled flights between Nanaimo Harbour and downtown Vancouver or Vancouver International Airport South Terminal are available through Harbour Air Seaplanes and Seair Seaplanes. Sunshine Coast Air offers seasonal service from Sechelt. Check with the airlines for luggage allowances.

Travel time: 20 minutes to Vancouver

Tip: Fog occasionally creates low visibility in fall and winter, resulting in cancelled or delayed flights.


Nanaimo’s newest way to travel is via Helijet. Daily flights run between Vancouver Harbour’s heliport (adjacent to Canada Place) and Nanaimo Harbour’s heliport (at cruise ship terminal). Check luggage allowances.

Travel time: 18 minutes

Tip: Passengers receive complimentary parking, (maximum 7 days) in dedicated stalls at both terminals.


Car rental companies will pick up at the airport as well as float plane and ferry terminals. Taxis are also readily available there. Shuttle buses operate at the airport and ferry terminals. Public transit buses run from downtown to Nanaimo Airport, the Departure Bay ferry terminal and near the float plane terminals. Bus service is limited, so check schedules. Ride sharing companies are another option.

Travel times

From Vancouver

  • By ferry — 1 hour, 40 minutes from West Vancouver
  • By ferry — 2 hours from Tsawwassen/Vancouver
  • By ferry – 1 hour, 10 minutes from downtown Vancouver (starting summer 2023)
  • By flight from YVR — 25 minutes +15 minute drive
  • By float plane — 20 minutes

From Victoria

  • By car — 1.5 hours
  • By bus — 2 hours, 15 minutes

From Seattle

  • By BC Ferries — 2.5 hour drive + 2 hour crossing from Tsawwassen/Vancouver
  • By Washington ferries — 1.5 to 3 hours crossing + 1.5 hour drive from Victoria
  • By flight from SEA to YVR then YVR to YCD — 1 hour + 30 minutes