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Do you want to visit the Pacific Coast and camp on Vancouver Island? But how do you get your RV across? Did you know that you can take your RV on the Washington State Ferry to visit the island? It’s true! RVs can board ferries. Let’s look at other popular destinations and how ferry travel can give you a much-needed break from highway miles. Let’s dive in!
What Is a Ferry?
A ferry is a boat that transports people and vehicles across water. Often the ferry is the only mode of transportation to the island. These rides travel slower, so they take longer.
Make sure to plan for the extra time if you travel by ferry. But it can add a bit of excitement to your trip, especially if you go to a remote location.
Can RV’s Go on Ferries?
Ferries are like mini-cruise ships; some serve food and have shops onboard. RVs can go on ferries. However, they have limited space, so make sure to call ahead and make reservations if you need to travel with your RV. Rates vary by size, so you might need to pay an additional fee. You also want to ask about the maximum height to ensure your RV will fit safely.
Once you know the ferry can accommodate your rig, make sure to visit a dump station before boarding and shut off your propane tanks. You’ll want to have everything you need with you because you can’t access your RV or vehicle during transit on the ferry.
Tips for Driving Your RV on a Ferry
It’s always a good idea to call ahead or research the website to make sure you know what to expect. Although ferries operate very similarly, their rules and size requirements will still vary from location to location. Here are a few tips for driving your RV onboard a ferry.
Know the Exact Height, Width, and Length of Your RV
You must know the exact measurements of your rig. You don’t want to be guessing or saying, “it’s around…”. Know the precise dimensions of your rig.
Depending on your size, the attendants may have you board before or after loading. They’ll place you in the best location for you and other guests onboard. You certainly don’t want to embarrass yourself by showing up and not fitting.
Pro Tip: Here are a few more reasons why it’s important to know your RV’s total height clearance!
Make a Reservation in Advance
One of the best tips is to call ahead. Ask questions and get the information you need to have a safe and easy boarding process. Ferry attendants need to know they’ll have a giant RV coming to board vehicles correctly.
When you make a reservation, they’ll tell you what time to arrive. You must get there on time. Don’t inconvenience everyone else by arriving late — they may not allow you to board.
Review the Ferry Rules
When you call, ask about that specific ferry’s rules. Are pets allowed? Are you allowed to have any propane in your tanks?
Depending on the tides, the attendants may give you additional information. It’s not uncommon for RVs to go on ferries, so the attendants should know what information you need to board safely.
Pro Tip: While we’re on the topic of rules, check out the camping rules that campground owners don’t want you to break!
Rely on the Professionals to Guide You on and Off
Don’t think you know best when boarding and leaving the ferry. Listen to the attendants’ instructions.
Again, they have probably boarded numerous RVs and have a reason why they tell you to do certain things. Keep your eyes on them, and don’t get distracted by other family members in the RV or tow vehicle.
5 Best Ferry Trips with Your RV
Are you interested in a fun ferry trip for your next camping adventure? Here are five options that you can take with your RV. They won’t be cheap, but you’ll get to visit places most RVers don’t ever go.
Anacortes to Vancouver Island
Want to explore the shorelines of British Columbia? Vancouver Island is a great travel destination for RV adventures. Go whale watching, backcountry hiking, caving, and more. The outdoor recreation opportunities are endless.
The Washington State Ferry will take you from Anacortes to Sidney on Vancouver Island. US citizens will need a passport or enhanced driver’s license to board.
The cost to travel with your RV is quite expensive for this trip, but it could be well worth it for the beautiful views of the San Juan Islands. Plan on spending at least $100 each way.
The ferry trip takes about three hours, and you’ll want to arrive 45-60 minutes prior to sailing. If you have a reservation (highly recommended), check-in at the tollbooth at least 30 minutes before departure. They may have a long line on busy days, so keep this in mind when making your plans.
The height clearances range depending on the size of the ferry. Make sure to ask about this when calling ahead to make a reservation. The shortest clearance is 13’ 6”, and the highest is 16’.
Maine to Nova Scotia
Another great Canadian destination is Nova Scotia. This ferry ride takes half the time it will take for you to drive, so it’s well worth it. The high-speed CAT ferry takes less than four hours to travel from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
Onboard amenities include a gift shop, children’s play area, movie area, cafe, cafeteria, and lounge. And in the water, you might catch a few whale sightings.
US citizens will need a passport and an enhanced driver’s license to board. All passengers need to arrive an hour before departure. An attendant will direct you to back on and off the ferry in Bar Harbor. In Yarmouth, you’ll drive on and drive off.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking for things to do in Bar Harbor, check out these fun activities we enjoyed while we were there!
Bellingham to Whittier
If you want a cruise ship type of experience, check out the ferry ride from Bellingham, Washington, to Whittier, Alaska. This four-and-a-half-day ride on the Alaska Marine Highway requires you to reserve a cabin.
Fares depend on the distance of your trip, the size of your RV, and if you book a cabin. This is another expensive trip, so treat it like a vacation. Enjoy the cabin stay, the views of snow-capped mountains, and whale sightings along the trip.
Once you arrive in Whittier, you’ll find so much to do like glacier viewing, wildlife viewing, whale watching, kayaking tours, dog sledding tours, and more.
Taking the ferry gets you to this popular location without driving through Canada. You can also trek up to Denali National Park or Tongass National Forest and camp there during your stay.
Manitowoc to Ludington on the SS Badger
This ferry ride across Lake Michigan lasts for four hours and crosses 60 miles. Named the S.S. Badger, this steamship ferry features outside decks, dining areas, private staterooms, a children’s playground, gift shop, lounge, and more.
For RVs, the fare is $8 per foot one way or $15 per foot round trip. It departs at 9 a.m. EST from Ludington and 2 p.m. CST from Manitowoc. Note the time zone change during the ferry ride. You don’t have to have a reservation, but we strongly recommend it.
With an 18’6” height maximum, even semi-trucks can come onboard the S.S. Badger. So you don’t have to worry about your RV not fitting. However, ferry attendants drive your vehicle onboard. You simply walk on and enjoy the open water views.
Cape May-Lewes Ferry
This short, 17-mile ferry from Cape May, New Jersey, to Lewes, Delaware, crosses the Delaware River. It saves nearly 200 miles of driving along the Atlantic Coast.
Sometimes, the Cape May-Lewes Ferry can become a party boat during holidays and special events. Keep that in mind when making your plans for RV travel. Currently, it requires reservations. Passengers should check-in 45-60 minutes before departure.
Before the ferry sets sail, you can enjoy a game of mini-golf or dine at the On the Rocks Dockside grill. Along the route, you’ll see lighthouses, harbors, seabirds, and perhaps a few dolphins. This 85-minute one-way trip makes it convenient to explore Cape May or Lewes.
It’s important to note the height maximum is 13’6” for all vehicles. The website also specifies that only two propane cylinders with closed valves can come on board.
This means you must turn off propane-powered refrigerators. Finally, you can bring pets on board in the outside deck areas. They must remain on a leash at all times.
Is Taking Your RV on a Ferry Worth It?
If taking a ferry saves you 200 miles of driving, then it is absolutely worth it. Traveling by ferry gives you a chance to enjoy beautiful scenery, stretch your legs, and even grab a bite to eat.
Although some ferry fares are quite expensive for RVs, the amazing surroundings of snow-capped mountains or open waters and the chance to see whales or dolphins make it worth it. Plus, it’s a fun experience for the whole family.
Have you ever traveled with your RV on a ferry? If not, would you consider it?