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Although traveling over 16 hours on a ferry may not appeal to everyone, my experience on the Inside Passage Ferry was a highlight of my Northern BC road trip. With stunning views of glaciers, fjords, and pristine coastline, this journey is a must-see for anyone seeking natural beauty and adventure. From the comfort of the ferry, passengers can soak up the scenery, spot wildlife, and experience the majesty of the Pacific Northwest like never before. Here’s a complete guide with everything you need to know about taking the Inside Passage Ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert.

Two women standing on the deck of the Northern Expedition BC Ferry through the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert from Port Hardy, BC.

For travelers seeking a truly unforgettable journey through the rugged and breathtaking wilderness of British Columbia’s coast, there’s no better way to explore than by taking the BC Ferries ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert through the Inside Passage.

Photo credits to my road trip buddies, Geoff Heith and Kimberley Kufaas. Thank you to the Northern BC Tourism Association for inviting us on an Inside Passage Ferry and Northwest BC road trip adventure to visit Prince Rupert, Terrace, Nass Valley, Kitimat, and Stewart.

Loading the Northern Expedition BC Ferry in early morning darkness in Port Hardy, BC.

Northern BC Road Trip: Follow along with our Northern BC road trip with all my comprehensive travel guides! After making our way to Prince Rupert on the Inside Passage Ferry, we road-tripped through Northeast British Columbia to Terrace and the Nass Valley, Stewart and Kitimat. See the road trip itinerary for all the details.

Overview of Inside Passage Ferry

The Inside Passage Ferry is the longest of BC Ferries’ 30 different routes across coastal British Columbia.

Aside from the breathtaking views and ample wildlife sightings, the ferry itself was comfortable, clean, and so very convenient.

Whales seen jumping out of the water from the Inside Passage Ferry.

A ride on any of the BC Ferries offers visitors a chance to marvel at the beautiful scenery while conveniently reaching their final destination. I may be a bit biased, but I believe the Inside Passage route leads to some of the best adventures!

The Route

The Inside Passage Ferry starts at Bear Cove in Port Hardy on Vancouver Island and travels to Prince Rupert. The entire journey takes roughly 16 hours and 20 minutes with one stop in Bella Bella.

Village along the Inside Passage ferry route in British Columbia, Canada.

There is a short stretch of open ocean between Vancouver Island and Rivers Inlet, where the Central Coast archipelago begins. From there, the route north to Prince Rupert navigates through a narrow maze of channels, passes, and reaches.

A woman on the Inside Passage ferry to Prince Rupert at sunset.

History of BC Ferries & Inside Passage Ferry 

The history of the Inside Passage itself is rather interesting and dates back thousands of years. The passage was formed by ancient glaciers and now stretches over 1,600 kilometers from Seattle, Washington to Skagway, Alaska.

Two women sitting inside the BC Ferry in lounge chairs.

Many First Nations communities developed along the shores and created a thriving maritime culture. Then, towards the end of the 18th century, European colonization began. The inside passage was still a crucial part to the economy and the logging, mining, and fishing industries continued to grow.

Looking at the mountains and ocean from the Inside Passage BC Ferry.

Today, on the Inside Passage Ferry or cruise, you will see many small islands and remnants of this historical past.

Sailboat in the water.

BC Ferries have been providing locals and tourists with transportation options since 1960. They started with just 2 ferries. In the past years, they have expanded tremendously with the goal of connecting all the BC coastal communities.

Boast and lighthouse along the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert, BC.

Operational Details 


During the summer months, the Inside Passage Ferry departs daily at 7:30 a.m. with an arrival time of 11:50 p.m. Although the ferry does run this route year-round, the frequency decreases to just 2 days a week during the winter months.

Mountain view from the ferry deck.

Boarding the Ferry

It is strongly recommended that you book your ticket ahead of time in order to secure your spot on the ferry (especially if bringing your car). On this route especially, ferry reservations are recommended. If you want to bring a vehicle and get a cabin, booking far in advance is going to be necessary.

After arriving, you’ll be able to show your ticket to an agent or use a self-check-in kiosk for further directions.

Mountains and ocean on the ferry ride to Prince Rupert.

All passengers (foot and car) should arrive to the ferry terminal early to ensure you do not miss your designated check-in time. The car line can sometimes be long and if you miss the cut-off time, you will have to take the next available ferry. This could lead to a 24+ hour delay in your schedule.

A woman standing on the deck of the ferry at sunset.

Foot passengers traveling with luggage are able to check it upon boarding (free of cost) on select sailings or you are welcome to keep it with you on the voyage.

Village seen from the ferry ride to Northern BC.

Since the ferry leaves early, you will want to travel to Port Hardy on North Vancouver Island the day prior. There are several accommodations in Port Hardy, which is at the northern end of Hwy 19 on Vancouver Island. The Kwa’lilas Hotel and Ecoscape Cabins are local favourites, and some Airbnbs. Since we all live in Port Hardy, we didn’t need to reserve a hotel.

Ferry Stops – Bella Bella or Klemtu

Depending on the season and route selected, your Inside Passage Ferry will typically include one other stop at either Bella Bella or Klemtu. From Port Hardy, Bella Bella is approximately 5.5 hours away, while Klemtu is just under 8 hours.

Landscape nature view from the BC Ferry.

These stops are brief and you are not able to get off the ferry unless it’s your final stop. This means travelers from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert will just enjoy the views of these quaint coastal towns from onboard.

Island Hopping

If you arrange to stop at Bella Bella or Klemtu, as part of your journey you could do some island hopping. BC Ferries provides service to Haida Gwaii (the former colonial name was Queen Charlotte Islands) and Bella Coola which are possible mid-passage stops you could make.

The mountains and ocean from the Inside Passage BC Ferry.


Although the Inside Passage Ferry definitely isn’t “cheap”, it’s much more affordable than what one would pay for an Inside Passage cruise.

Pricing does vary depending on the date and season but expect to pay between $110 to $190 for one-way foot passengers. If traveling with a car, be prepared for another $250 to $425 each way.

The BC Ferry Northern Expedition.

This may seem a bit spendy, but you have to remember that by bringing your own car you are saving money on car rental fees for the duration of your road trip!

Woman taking photos on the ferry deck.

Plus, you are getting the same exact views that large cruise ship passengers pay thousands of dollars for! It is also a unique experience compared to a massive cruise ship.

Travel Like A Local

The Inside Passage ferries are not just for tourists. They are used by local residents travelling from one community to another. For many who live in communities that are accessible only by sea or air, the BC Ferry system is an essential service.

Woman standing on the ferry deck at sunset.

As well, you will find commercial fishermen, tree planters, and other industry employees on the ferry as walk-on passengers.

The Northern Expedition

BC Ferries has a fleet of 39 different ships, each specializing in a different route with unique features and amenities onboard. You’ll be traveling aboard The Northern Expedition or The Northern Adventure during your inside passage journey.

First Nations village seen from Inside Passage ferry trip.

We took the Northern Expedition which can carry 115 cars, 638 crews and passengers, and can withstand the unpredictability of sailing along the inside passage. The ferry is equipped with cabins, restaurants, elevators, seating areas, and even a pet area!

Northern Expedition Car Decks

It was so convenient to be able to drive our car right onto the Norther Expedition car deck! It allowed us to drive all over northwestern British Columbia and get to some hidden gems that we wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise.

Fishing boat in water at sunset.

As stated previously, the Northern Expedition can hold 115 cars, so it is recommended that you reserve a car spot as soon as possible. It’s also important to note that while sailing, you are not able go to your cars so be sure to grab everything you need for the ride!

Northern Expedition Passenger Decks

Decks 4, 5, and 6 are open for passengers to explore during the trip. Throughout these decks, you’ll find a variety of seating options both inside and outside, a kid’s play area, restaurants, a gift shop, and even a movie theater.

Two women on the ferry deck.

It was fun to be able to explore the decks and check out the views from different sides of the ship.

Passenger Cabins

Because the journey from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert was almost 17 hours, we decided to splurge on a cabin. Our cabin was small but cozy, with two beds, a TV, and a private bathroom.

The room itself was no-frills, but if you need essentials (shampoo, conditioner, etc.), they have it at the front desk.

Inside a cabin room on the Northern Expedition BC Ferry.

There are inside and outside cabins (with a window) available from $110 to $150. It was so nice to have somewhere to shower and rest for a bit while onboard.

Vista Buffet Restaurant

The Vista Buffet Restaurant opened on several BC Ferries in 2019, but unfortunately, this dinner buffet dining room closed on most fleets in 2020. However, the restaurant is still open on the Northern Expedition and features breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets and tables with a view!

Dinner from the Vista Buffet Restaurant on the Northern Expedition BC Ferry.

You’ll find a variety of soups, a large salad bar, and different entrees to choose from. For dinner, I had a delicious prime rib special. It was so good and they even had gluten-free side options to choose from.

It can get pretty busy, so I would definitely recommend reserving a table in advance.

Aurora Lounge

The Aurora Lounge has premium seating available for a fee for the duration of the trip. The lounge chairs are slightly comfier than other seating areas around the ship, but the views are the same.

Sitting in lounge chairs in the Aurora lounge.

This may be a good idea to upgrade if you decide against a cabin. However, the regular seating worked just fine for us.

Sitting in window on the ferry.

Canoe Café

Although not as elegant as the Vista Buffet Restaurant, the Canoe Café is a great spot to go for a laid-back dining experience. It’s a cafeteria-style restaurant where they serve a variety of burgers, chicken, and sides.

The Canoe Cafe on the Northern Expedition.

Truthfully, the food here was just okay during lunch but what you would expect if you have ate on other ferries. If you want to save money or if you have food allergies, I do recommend packing your own food for the voyage!

A burger and fries from the Canoe Cafe.

Raven Lounge

The Raven Lounge is a fun spot to spend a few hours. It’s a small movie theater available on both the Northern Expedition and the Northern Adventure. Movies and showtimes are posted outside the Purser’s Office on Deck 4. During our ferry ride, they played Top Gun, Transformers and more.

The Raven Lounge on the Northern Expedition.

Passages Gift Shop

The Passages Gift Shop not only carries essentials that you may have forgotten, but also has a large selection of west-coast inspired clothing, jewelry, and kids’ items! It’s the perfect place to grab a souvenir to commemorate your ferry ride!

Kids Zone

Over sixteen hours on a ferry can feel extra long if traveling with kids! Thankfully, BC Ferries is prepared and has a designated kids zone for the kiddos to get out some of that extra energy. Although small, the children did not seem to mind!

The Kids Zone play area on the Northern Expedition.

Amenities – Bathrooms and Showers

There are public bathrooms available on each passenger deck. I was surprised to see that some even had showers available!

The lines were often quite long for these and I greatly appreciated having my own private bathroom and shower in my cabin.

Travel Tips for The Inside Passage Ferry

As with any vacation, it’s important to be prepared to ensure a stress-free journey. Here are my best travel tips for anyone planning a trip on the Inside Passage Ferry!

Lighthouse along inside passage ferry route.

When is the Best Season to Take the Ferry 

Summer is by far the best time of year to take the Inside Passage Ferry. Not only will you have the highest chance of spotting wildlife, you’ll also be able to take full advantage of the hikes and outdoor adventures once you arrive in Prince Rupert. ,

Two women at sunset on ferry deck.

It’s also important to note that the ocean gets really rough in the winter. If you are prone to seasickness, I would avoid this at all costs. No one wants to be sick for 17 straight hours! 

What to Bring on The Ferry 

  • Snacks
  • Food if you have diet restrictions (they don’t have a lot of options)
  • Camera
  • Book 
  • iPad or laptop with downloaded movies or shows
  • Headphones 
Man drinking from coffee cup.

What to Do on the Ferry 

Although it’s a long ferry ride, you surely won’t be bored! Throughout the ride, I recommended spending as much time outside (or by the windows) as possible to catch all the wildlife sightings and spectacular scenery. But, you can also watch movies in the Raven Lounge, relax on the chairs, read books, sleep, or watch TV if you have a private cabin.

Woman standing on ferry deck in fog.

Wifi and Cell Service 

Much to my surprise, there is no WIFI or no cell service for most of the ride. If traveling with kids or hoping to watch a show or listen to a podcast be sure to download these ahead of time.

Two women sitting in lounge seats on the Northern Expedition BC Ferry.

However, I took this as a great opportunity to truly relax and disconnect from reality.

If you have an urgent phone call or message you need to send along the journey, you can get some service at the Bella Bella stop.

Traveling with Pets

BC Ferries are pet-friendly! However, there are some rules that you must follow if you want to bring your furry best friend along for the ride. Pets are only allowed in the designated pet areas or must be kept in your car or the onboard kennels.

Scenery along ferry route.

Small pets must be brought on board in a carrier, while larger dogs must be kept on a 1m leash at all times. Food passengers traveling with pets should arrive early and board before the vehicles.

Sights on the Inside Passage Ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert

I’ve said it before (and I’ll likely say it again), the Inside Passage Ferry ride is so much more than a typical ferry ride. The inside passage is beautiful and full of some of the most spectacular sights.

Taking photos on the ferry ride.

Here are some of the things and places you can expect to see along your journey!

Wildlife and Whales 

Perhaps the best thing to do aboard the Inside Passage Ferry is to search for wildlife. We saw so many humpback whales throughout the journey. The crew members will even come on the intercom if they see them on the bridge.

Whale jumping from water in Inside Passage.

You may also see dolphins, killer whales, porpoises, sea lions, eagles, and other seabirds. Even if you do not see wildlife, the views are just incredible.


Checking out the abandoned canneries from the water, was my second favorite view of the trip (it’s just hard to beat the whales). Namu is the first cannery you will pass (about 130 kilometres North of Port Hardy). This abandoned cannery was in operation until the 1980’s. Visitors can check it out on the east side of the ferry.

Old building along ferry ride.

Bella Bella

The Northern Expedition Ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert typically has one stop at Bella Bella. Although you can not get off here (unless it’s your final destination), it’s fun to look at this coastal town from the boat.

Ferry stop along the route.

However, if you do plan to visit via the ferry ride, you will be met with world-class kayaking, hot springs, and amazing diving opportunities.


After dropping off supplies and/or passengers at the Bella Bella port, you will soon see the Dyrad Point Lighthouse. This picturesque white and red lighthouse stands at over 7 meters tall.

Lighthouse along the Inside Passage route.

Ivory Island Lighthouse is just 11 kilometres further located on Robb Point. This historic lighthouse is owned and operated by the Canadian Coast Guard and is still staffed today.

At about the halfway point of your trip, you’ll see the unique Boat Bluff Lighthouse. This Skeleton lighthouse marks the entrance to the narrow Tolmie Channel.

Mountain view from ferry.


Occasionally the Inside Passage Ferry will have a stop at Klemtu instead of Bella Bella. Although we didn’t stop here, it was fun to see this remote coastal village from the boat. Klemtu is home to just 450 permanent residents who live along the waterfront.

Ghost Towns

As you continue down the Inside Passage, you’ll also have the opportunity to check out a couple of ghost towns.

Waterfall and trees along the shore.

The first one you’ll pass is Swanson Bay which was where the first Pulp Mill on the coast originated in 1909. Today, visitors of the Inside Passage Ferry can see the rusted chimney and some piles of rubble.

After another half hour or so, you’ll pass the second ghost town of Butedale. Butedale was founded in the early 1900’s as a fishing and logging camp. You’ll see the remnants of the salmon cannery.

View out of port window on the ferry.

Grenville Channel

The Greenville Channel was another one of my favorite parts of the ferry ride due to the breathtaking views of the towering mountains. The start of the channel is about 4 hours from Prince Rupert and stretches over 70 kilometres. The narrowest part is only 425 meters wide!

Two women on the ferry deck.

BC Ferries Tour Packages

If you would like a more guided experience, BC Ferries offers a variety of vacation packages to choose from. Your ferry ride (or rides) will be combined with a complete itinerary which includes your hotel stays and different tours at each destination.

Mountains and clouds at sunset.

The tour packages range from 5 to 17 nights and start at $1,169. It would be a great way to see more wildlife and British Columbia!

Although I haven’t tried out a vacation package yet, it’s definitely on my list.

Ferry To Alaska

We sailed from Port Hardy on to Prince Rupert. From there we did a northern BC road trip through Terrace, Kitimat, and Stewart. We returned to Prince Rupert for the ferry ride back to Port Hardy.

Two women in sunset light.

If you want to make your way to Alaska, you can take the BC Ferry to Prince Rupert and spend a day or two there before boarding the Alaska State Ferry System to Haines, Alaska.

Man standing on ferry deck.

Inside Passage Ferry FAQs

How long does the ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert take?

It takes 16 hours and 20 minutes (but make sure to factor in extra time with check-in, boarding, and de-boarding).

Do you need to make reservations for the Inside Passage Ferry?

Yes, and if you want a room or have a car, I recommend booking way in advance .

Can you get off the ferry at the stop? 

No, you have to stay on the ferry unless you booked that stop. 

Will I get seasick on the Inside Passage Ferry?

I was seasick from Port Hardy through the open water, then I was okay. I would definitely recommend bringing motion sickness medication as a precaution. Better safe than sorry!

Is there food on the Port Hardy to Prince Rupert ferry?

Yes! You can grab food at the Vista Restaurant or the Canoe Cafe. However, you can also pack your own food to bring on board. If you have some special diet needs, I would pack your own food just to be safe as there are limited options. I am gluten-free and dairy-free and had no problem getting a meal, but snacks were limited.

Is the Inside Passage Ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert Worth it?

Yes! The Inside Passage Ferry was an excellent experience and the perfect start to our Northern BC road trip.

Before the journey, I wasn’t sure what to expect with ferry travel, but it turned out to be a seamless process full of exciting things to do and incredible views. It was great meeting fellow passengers, lounging on the reclining seats, and checking out the small islands along the route.

Life ring life preserver on the Northern Expedition BC Ferry.

The BC Ferries ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert through the Inside Passage is a journey that captivates and inspires. From the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the region to the sense of adventure and excitement that comes with exploring this rugged and remote corner of British Columbia, there’s something truly special about this journey. Whether you’re a nature lover, an adventure seeker, or simply looking for a unique and unforgettable travel experience, this is a journey to add to your bucket list.

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Bella Bucchiotti

Bella Bucchiotti is a Canadian-based syndicated food, travel, and lifestyle writer, photographer, and creator at xoxoBella. She founded xoxoBella in 2015, where she shares her love for food, dogs, sustainability, fitness, crafts, outdoor adventures, travel, and philanthropy to encourage others to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places, and stand for a cause. Bella creates stress-free and family-friendly recipes for weeknight dinners and festive feasts.


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