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How difficult is it to get to Pender Island from Seattle?

How difficult is it to get to Pender Island from Seattle?

Jan 1st, 2015, 09:35 AM
  #1  
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How difficult is it to get to Pender Island from Seattle?

I found a house I am obsessed with on Pender Island. An architect's house, all glass views, overhanging the water with wrap-around balcony. I want to see whales from the house and the house is situated well for that (according to the website.) I know absolutely nothing from the area. I did read here that it can be pretty boring to spend a week on the island, but the posts are really old. We would be flying into Seattle and renting a car. I have checked ferry schedules, but it doesn't give me enough information to make a decision. Do I have to take a ferry from Seattle to Vancouver and from Vancouver to Pender Island? That could potentially be very expensive, I think. Any suggestions?
Maggi is offline  
Jan 1st, 2015, 07:01 PM
  #2  
ltt
 
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take the clipper ferry from seattle to victoria and then a ferry to pender. or, drive from seattle to vancouver (tsawwassen) and take a bc ferry to pender. figure out the costs. taking a vehicle on bc ferries is expensive but there is no alternative.
ltt is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2015, 07:14 PM
  #3  
 
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You'll need a car to explore Pender Island, or any of the Gulf Islands really.

I only visited Pender once, but I remember it being a surprisingly residential island without as many beaches or wilderness as you'd expect. People go to there to retire, live in their little cottages on a little acreage, to get away, etc. It's slow paced life. There are little shopping plazas, but no real town centre to the island that I could recll. I spent 3-4 nights there back in 2005 and we stayed in a little cabin near the waterfront and spent our days drinking wine by the waterfront, reading books, trying to find beaches, and having BBQs back at the cabin with the food we bought at the little Co-op grocery store. I remember finding a little bookstore with art supplies that I liked, and some random artists studios, but it wasn't the infrastructure that would lure me back to Pender. I'd have to go back with friends, we'd have to rent a great cabin (like what you found), and just look at it as a retreat to get away from civilization, and plan to entertain yourselves over that week the old fashioned way.

If you've heard of the San Juan Islands in Washington state, Pender's a part of the Gulf Islands, which are an extension of the San Juan Islands - it's just on the Canadian side of the border. (The US-Canada border zig zags through that chain of islands - anything on the Canadian side is a Gulf Island, anything on the US side is a San Juan Island). Geographically, they're the same chain of islands.

Now, even though I've only been to Pender once, I've spent a lot of time on the other Gulf Islands, and even on San Juan Island. I much prefer Galiano Island if I had to spend a week on a Gulf Island, because it feels less developed, there's more access to waterfront, there are more wilderness parks - there are caves, white sand beaches (look up Montague Harbour Provincial Park), all sorts of nooks and crannies, sandstone caves, ancient archaeological sites (Dionisio Point), etc. There's also a real self-sustaining eco-friendly community of artists and permanent residents which gives it a quirky flavour. You'll find random little hippy cafes and pottery studios and such strewn about in the rainforest. There's also a surprisingly great French country bistro (La Berengerie) there - a French woman runs the place and serves up country style French cuisine. Another bonus about Galiano Island is that it's the easiest Gulf Island to get to, as it's the first island you arrive at from Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal - it's only a 40 minute ferry ride away. By contrast, with Pender, I think the ferry goes to Galiano, then it goes to Mayne Island, and then you have to drive off at Mayne and board another ferry that then drops you off at Pender Island. So it's a little bit more tedious to get to, but part of the hassle is the charm, I suppose.

Is there a reason you'd be flying into Seattle? Flying into Vancouver will save you a border crossing hassle and a 4 hour drive. The Vancouver Airport's a 20 minute drive away from the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, where there are regular ferries to Pender Island every day. Alternatively, you could fly to Pender Island via Harbour Air, but then you'd be stuck without transit on Pender. Having a car is crucial.

If you're flying into Seattle, you'll have to drive the 3 hours north, wait at the border, cross the border, and then once through the border, drive 20 minutes down the highway to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. Look up the prices of the BC Ferries, and what their schedule is for Tsawwassen to the Gulf Islands, specifically from Tsawwassen to Pender Island, as the ferry to the Gulf Islands aren't as frequent as the ferries to Vancouver Island, so you'll want to time it right.
BC_Robyn is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2015, 07:29 PM
  #4  
 
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Oh, I forgot to mention - there's no ferry between Seattle and Vancouver. They're both on the mainland - there's no water to cross, so no ferry. You can get between the two places by bus, car, or train... but the Tsawwassen ferry terminal's closer to the US border than it is to Vancouver, if you must arrive in Seattle, rent your car in Seattle and just drive up.

BTW, you might have seen this already, but this website might give you more ideas of what you can expect on Pender: http://www.penderislandchamber.com/

Also, here's the schedule for the Tsawwassen ferry to the Gulf Islands (third down is Pender Island) http://www.bcferries.com/schedules/s...de-current.php

Here's the schedule from Pender Island back to Tsawwassen (fifth down is Pender to Tsawwassen): http://www.bcferries.com/schedules/s...de-current.php

Here are the current rates (in Canadian $) - you'll want to click on the Southern Gulf Islands routes: http://www.bcferries.com/files/fares.../BCF_Fares.pdf
BC_Robyn is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2015, 07:36 PM
  #5  
 
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One last response.

Sometimes it helps to visualize things. This is the route you'd take to get from the Sea-Tac Airport to Pender Island, including the ferry: https://goo.gl/maps/tSpR5

If you flew into Vancouver, this would be the route you'd take:
https://goo.gl/maps/ExwVa

So all in all, one's not more complicated than the other - the drive from Seattle will just take longer, and the US-Canada lineup is the wild card, as you may wait 5 minutes to get through the border, you might wait 2+ hours.
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Jan 2nd, 2015, 10:37 PM
  #6  
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Hi Robyn, I can't tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to give me all the information - it's greatly appreciated! I will check out Galiano Island. My main reason for going to the area is whales. I know the west side of San Juan Island is supposed to be the ideal place for that. It's just that, the architect's vacation rental is so beautiful, I wanted to stay there. Supposedly we can see whales there too. But honestly, it sounds like too MUCH work to get there. We are flying into Seattle because we are visiting friends in Oregon too as part of our trip, and we want to get to know Seattle. So, we will be in the area. Here is a link to the house I am in love with, just so you can understand my obsession: http://www.vrbo.com/379699?utm_sourc...replyavailable
Maggi is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2015, 08:07 AM
  #7  
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I have checked out Galiano Island and found a nice rental there. As you said, it looks more accessible than Pender. I will seriously consider it! Thank you again! I still have to check, in terms of seeing whales from the house, if San Juan Island would be better.
Maggi is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2015, 10:03 AM
  #8  
 
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Glad I could help!

About whale watching from a house... the San Juan Islands and the Gulf Islands are pretty equal that way - the orcas are known to swim through the channels between the islands, but... these are always just games of chance and luck. Like, you could stay on the water all day, all week, and not see anything except boats going by. You're not guaranteed to see them, as orcas swim vast distances over the span of the day (they could be at the southern tip of Vancouver Island near Victoria in the morning, and then up by the mouth of the Fraser River by Vancouver by noon), and they don't always swim the same places each day. They also swim together in pods, so you don't just see one swimming randomly, but groups of them swimming together. You don't just see one orca, you say many at once, or you see none. July, August, and September is when there are 3 pods in the region, so your chances of seeing them are better.

If you want to guarantee sightings, you'd want to go on a whale watching tour.
BC_Robyn is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2015, 10:16 AM
  #9  
 
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I wish there was an edit function on this forum! When I said, "you could stay on the water all day, all week, and not see anything" - I meant, you could stay in one spot on the island overlooking the water and not see anything.

If you're on a whale watching tour where you're in a boat on the water, the tour guides of all the whale watching companies all stay in contact with one another and keep track of where the orcas are travelling, so they make a B-line to their last known location. It could involve an hour of travelling in some cases, so if guaranteed orca sightings is crucial for you, going on a tour is the best way to go. Most of them do guaranteed sightings, so if you don't see orcas during your trip, you get to go again for free until you do. I used to work for a Vancouver-based whale watching company back when I was a student, and the only time you didn't see orcas was when they travelled out into the open Pacific Ocean for a few days at a time - too far to travel to. This happened 10% of the time. 90% of the time, you did see orcas.

I suppose you could always coordinate a whale watching tour on your last day if you don't see anything, but I wouldn't go to the Gulf or San Juan Islands with the expectation of seeing whales from any house. If you do, it's a bonus! Obviously, the longer you stay put, the better your chances.

BTW - saw the Pender house, and it does look phenomenal. If you do get to Galiano Island, the Galiano Bluffs is one of my favourite panoramic views - you drive through old growth temperate rainforest to get there, and feels like you're back in the Jurassic period! Bellhouse Provincial Park is another spot you'll want to go to. It's a tiny little rocky lookout along the water's edge overlooking Active Pass. Active pass is the channel between Galiano and Mayne Island. It's very narrow, and it's where the BC Ferries pass through. It's also known to be a place where orcas swim through, although I've never seen orcas personally. I did, however, see a whole pod of orcas from the ferry back to Tsawwassen! You just never know.
BC_Robyn is offline  
Jan 4th, 2015, 09:49 PM
  #10  
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Hi Robyn,
I'm actually in the process of booking the Galiano house. It overlooks Active Pass. You're right, I'm not going to assume I will see whales, and will definitely book an actual whale watching tour. I did see an amazing YouTube video of Orca whales going through Active Pass http://youtu.be/NfyVMWuUQnw Wouldn't it be wonderful to see that! Thanks for the info on Galiano. I wouldn't have known about it if you hadn't suggested it. Any other information you want to share would certainly be appreciated.
Maggi is offline  

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