Thursday, February 19, 2009

World's top 10 ferry rides

I've long been a fan of B.C. Ferries' scenic routes, ever since I took my first trip from Vancouver to Victoria (well, from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, if you want to get technical) over two decades ago. And my enthusiasm was rekindled earlier this month when I had the chance to hop aboard several ferries on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast. The scenery rivalled almost anything you'd see from the deck of a pricey cruise ship. Just check out this view along the route from Earl's Cove to Saltery Bay.

It turns out my fellow members of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) agree with me. The B.C. Ferries made SATW's new list of the world's top 10 ferry rides. Here's the whole list, in order of popularity.

1. Star Ferry in Hong Kong
2. Ferries from Sausalito to San Francisco, California
3. Staten Island Ferry, New York Harbour
4. Washington State Ferries, Puget Sound to the San Juan Islands
5. British Columbia Ferry System, including Vancouver to Victoria
6. Ferry from Sydney Harbour to Manly, Australia
This is the only other ferry on the list I've had the chance to try, and SATW was spot on with this choice. Here's a shot I snapped en route to Manly in late 2007.

And here's the gorgeous beach I found in Manly.

7. The Ferry System of the Greek Isles
8. The “Blue Canoes” of the Alaska State Ferry System
9. “Norway in a Nutshell” tour and ferry ride
10. Ferry from Mallaig to Isle of Skye, Scotland

I love ferries because they let you see much of the same scenery you'd pass on a tourist boat cruise, at a fraction of the cost and without the stupefyingly dull taped commentary. ("And on your right you'll see the [words lost due to static on ancient P.A. system], where local magnate Horace P. Bogardus once raised prize guinea fowl.") You also get the chance to rub shoulders with locals, backpackers and all sorts of other fun people. On some ferries, you might even find yourself camping on deck overnight. You can't travel much more like a local than that.

Disclosure: I travelled to Sydney courtesy of Tourism Australia and to British Columbia's Sunshine Coast courtesy of the Vancouver Coast & Mountains Tourism Region.


Vera Marie said...

Laura: Can't believe they left out the ferry from Stockholm to Finland. It is a little Las Vegas on water, with duty free shopping thrown in, not to mention full-fledged cruise bennies like a variety of restaurants and swimming pool and game room for kids!
And Greek Ferry system??? Really? There are some good ferries in Greece, but there are some rusty old tubs. The scenery pretty much makes up for the experience, I guess.

Laura Byrne Paquet said...

Good points, Vera Marie! I've never taken the Stockholm to Finland ferry, but I've heard raves about it for years.

The ferry system I was stunned wasn't on the list was the vaporetto system in Venice. Perhaps it's too big and ubiquitous to be considered a "ferry" system. And yes, it's very crowded. But it's so much fun.

Anonymous said...

Hey Laura,
I live on Bowen Island and can tell you that the under-$10 return trip on BC Ferries across Howe Sound from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver to Snug Cove on Bowen rivals any big-dollar cruise. Howe Sound is the southernmost fjord in North America, so you get the beauty of an Alaska cruise without the big budget! I wrote a piece about it here for the Seattle P-I if anyone's interested:

Tess said...

Well, as you know, I'm a big fan of the routes from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale and Earl's Cove to Saltery Bay *g*. Cool to see they made that list!!

I agree with thesebootstravel about Bowen Island - went hiking there a couple of years ago and took a great pic of gorgeous Snug Cove:

Laura Byrne Paquet said...

Fun story about the Bowen Island ferry, Julie (thesebootstravel). Reinforces my wish to see B.C.'s islands some day--aside from seeing them from the deck of a boat, that is. Living on an island so close to a big city would be cool. I've always been fascinated with the not-nearly-so-scenic Ward's Island in Toronto Harbour for the same reason.

And I loved your shot of Snug Cove, Teresa (Tess). You've got a great eye--and amazing scenery to train it on!

Tess said...

Thanks, Laura - if we didn't live on the Coast, I'd love to live on Bowen. We'll have to get over there the next time you're out here :)