Swartz Bay ferry terminal

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Swartz Bay
Ferry terminal
General information
Location11300 Patricia Bay Highway
Sidney, British Columbia
Coordinates48°41′17″N 123°24′37″W / 48.688184°N 123.4101963°W / 48.688184; -123.4101963
Owned byBC Ferries
Operated byBC Ferries
Line(s)Route 1–Tsawwassen
Route 4–Fulford Harbour
Route 5–Lyall Harbour
Bus routes5
  •  70  Downtown Express
  •  71  Downtown via West Sidney
  •  72  Downtown via Fifth
  •  76  UVic
  •  81  Brentwood
Parking172 short-term spaces
544 long-term spaces
Other information
Station codeSWB[1]
OpenedJune 15, 1960
Original companyGulf Islands Ferry Company
Key dates
1961Acquired by BC Ferries
20223 399 578[Note 1]Increase 43.94%

Swartz Bay is a 12.1 ha (30-acre) ferry terminal and a major transportation facility at Swartz Bay in North Saanich, British Columbia. It is located 32 km (20 mi) north of Victoria on Vancouver Island. The terminal is part of the BC Ferries system, as well as part of Highway 17.


In 1889, former British Columbia premier Amor De Cosmos was the first person who is known to have suggested Swartz Bay publicly as a feasible ferry terminal for connections to the Lower Mainland. In 1959, the search for a new ferry terminal north of Victoria involved consideration of the existing San Juan Islands ferry facilities at Sidney. Insufficiently-sheltered waters and added travel time, leading to higher fuel costs, precluded Sidney from being selected.[2]: 36, 55, 67, 69, 105 

A small private ferry dock operated by the Gulf Islands Ferry Company already existed at Swartz Bay when the choice was made to locate the BC Ferry Corporation terminal there.[2]: 55  As a result of the decision, a paved extension of the Patricia Bay Highway to reach the terminal was undertaken.

The first scheduled sailing from the terminal, described as a "mudhole" because of the continuing construction, occurred on June 15, 1960.[2]: 67  On September 1, 1961, the company that built and used the smaller original dock at Swartz Bay was bought out by BC Ferries.

In the SENĆOŦEN language spoken by Indigenous W̱SÁNEĆ people of the area, the bay's name is ŚJEL¸KES.[3]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

A fire, caused by a cutting torch, led to $500,000 worth of damage to the terminal in December 1981. It destroyed part of the passenger walkway and a wingwall, prior to being contained by terminal staff, firefighters and the approaching Queen of Nanaimo, which utilized its hoses to help keep the blaze at bay.[2]: 67 

Residents have expressed noise concerns over the years, and the matter has been raised in the Legislative Assembly.[4] Concerns have also been expressed ranging from terminal expansion to the shooting of pigeons by ferry staff.[5]

On September 14, 2000, the ferry Spirit of Vancouver Island struck a pleasure craft just off Swartz Bay, killing two individuals.[6]

On May 20, 2011, a truck waiting in line drove up the upper ramp of the terminal's first berth and then through several guard barriers and safety netting at an increased speed. The truck then proceeded to drive off the end of the berth at a high speed and into the water.[7] Later the same day, divers located the truck and deceased driver in the water off the end of the berth, identifying him later that week.[8][9]

Ferry facilities and connections[edit]

Currently, there are five ferry berths at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal. Completed in 2006, the Swartz Bay Berth 2 project involved the replacement of the old marine structures and counter-weighted ramp lift system with a $25 million state-of-the-art floating berth.[10] The terminal provides BC Ferries service to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal on the mainland, as well as all the major southern Gulf Islands. In the mid-1990s, a major terminal renovation was undertaken. The Seaspan Ferries Corporation also has a terminal here.

The terminal includes an administration building, and various kiosks run by local artisans and other vendors mainly in the warmer months. There is also a cafeteria and coffee shop in the main building.

The terminal is served by several Victoria Regional Transit System public transit routes, with Route 70 providing express bus service to and from downtown Victoria in about an hour. Short and long-term pay parking is run by a private operator under contract to BC Ferries. The terminal is located about 10 minutes from Victoria International Airport via Highway 17. The 29-kilometre (18 mi) Lochside Regional Trail also runs south from Swartz Bay to Victoria.

Swartz Bay is the only major southern terminal in the BC Ferries system without a traffic signal at its entrance or exit.



  1. ^ Figures obtained for 2021 & 2022 from adding the passengers counted at Swartz Bay from the routes 1, 4, and 5 in each month of the calendar year.[1] The figures under "Total Prev Year" are not used because those denote fiscal years instead of calendar years. The total passenger count at Swartz Bay for 2021 is 2 361 815. Only statistics denoting "passenger" traffic is counted; it is unclear whether passengers from vehicles are included in this statistic. The significant percentage increase from 2021 to 2022 is due to reduced 2021 passenger traffic from the COVID-19 pandemic.


  1. ^ a b "Plans, Reports, Policies and Other Resources". Connecting the Coast | BC Ferries. Retrieved 2023-08-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ a b c d Bannerman, Gary; Bannerman, Patricia (1985). The Ships of British Columbia. Hancock House Publishers Ltd.
  3. ^ "SENĆOŦEN Word List: Place names". itservices.cas.unt.edu.
  4. ^ "Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Hansard Services. Vol. 20 No. 23. Thursday July 6, 2000". Archived from the original on May 10, 2007. Retrieved March 25, 2007.
  5. ^ "Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Hansard Services. Vol. 18 No. 23. Monday April 17, 2000". Archived from the original on May 10, 2007. Retrieved March 25, 2007.
  6. ^ "Fatal ferry accident". CBC News. September 14, 2000.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Truck plunges off Victoria ferry terminal". CTV News. 2011-05-20. Retrieved 2019-01-31.
  8. ^ "Divers pull body from submerged truck at Swartz Bay". CTV News. 2011-05-20. Retrieved 2019-01-31.
  9. ^ "Driver in fatal ferry terminal plunge identified". CTV News. 2011-05-24. Retrieved 2019-01-31.
  10. ^ "Capital Plan – Fiscal Years 2015 through 2026" (PDF). British Columbia Ferry Commission. p. 6. Retrieved 7 December 2015.