Routes to BMSC: By land or by sea

by Amanda Kahn

Hello again! After a long hiatus while studying for my candidacy exam, I am back to writing in the blog.  And…I am back in Bamfield!  I’m a student at the University of Alberta, so getting out here requires some logistics–but there are definitely several ways to get out here.  I don’t know anyone who’s done the trip in less than 2 days from Alberta, though it’s theoretically possible if you fly in to Victoria, Nanaimo, or Comox and rent a car.

If you’re coming to BMSC with a lot of gear, you’ll want to drive.  Those I talk to drive from Edmonton to Vancouver on the first day, about a 12-hour drive, spend the night, then hop on the ferry to Nanaimo the next day and drive from there.  You can take a neat detour through Coombs to stock up on gourmet foods, fresh produce, and silly photos of goats on a roof.

If you’re coming to BMSC and you do not have a car, or do not want to drive, then you can fly.  Up until this trip, I’ve always flown to Victoria, stayed the night at a hostel, and then set out on the West Coast Trail Express, a bus that runs daily from Victoria to Bamfield and back (summer only).

This time, I opted for a different route, one (partly) by sea.  I flew into Nanaimo (though Victoria OR Vancouver-then-ferry-to-Nanaimo could work too), took buses to Port Alberni, and stayed at a hostel in Port Alberni, then continued the following day on a ferry out to Bamfield.

Fat Salmon Backpackers

Fat Salmon Backpackers hostel in Port Alberni. Credit: A Kahn 2013

Overall breakdown, with costs, timing, etc.

  • Flight from Edmonton to Nanaimo ($280 or so), depending on stops, 5 hours or so..I arrived 10:15 AM
  • Nanaimo Airporter shuttle from Nanaimo Airport to Departure Bay ferry terminal ($33), 30 minutes.
  • Tofino Bus from Nanaimo to Port Alberni ($25, $22 students), depart 2:45 PM, arrive in Port Alberni 4:30 PM
  • Port Alberni transit (city bus system) ($1.75): Take the #3 bus to the Safeway shopping center, then the #1 bus, which will go right past the hostel.
  • Spend the night at the Fat Salmon Backpackers hostel ($25).
  • Depart on the MV Frances Barkley (Lady Rose Marine Services) ($35).  Depart 8:00 AM (be onboard no later than 7:45) and arrive in Bamfield between 12:30 and 1:00 PM.  Make sure this step happens on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday–the ferry doesn’t go to Bamfield other days.
  • Two options: Get off on the west side and call a friend to pick you up from across the inlet, or take the water taxi for $5.  Better if you are toting lots of gear.  Second option, wait until the Frances Barkley stops at the east side.  This doesn’t require water crossing so you can walk to the station, but it’s a good 1.5 km or so to get to the station and there’s a nice hill in there.

Total cost breakdown: flight (variable) + $33 shuttle + $25 Tofino bus + $1.75 city bus + $25 hostel + $35 ferry + $5 water taxi = ~$125 + flight.

I’ll write about my experiences in a later post, but for now, I wanted to present this as one option to consider when trying to figure out how to get to BMSC.  For now, I’m off to go diving for my research!

Bow of Frances Barkley

The view from the bow of the Frances Barkley. Credit: A Kahn 2013

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