Best United States-Canada Border Route

You may choose different ways to cross the United States-Canada border. However, the best United States-Canada border route is not by land. It is by sea. So, take the Washington State ferry. Take it between Sydney, BC and Anacortes, Washington. You may need more time. But, relax. Put your smart phone down. Enjoy the scenery. And, enrich your soul.

Best United States-Canada Border Route is by Sea

First, plan ahead. The route is summer-only. Consequently, check the ferry schedule.

Best United States-Canada Border Route Ferries
Popular ferry route

Route Tips

Here are basic tips to ensure a great experience.

  • If you are driving, make a ferry reservation. This is a popular route. So, don’t take chances with standby.
  • Bring food or stalk the chowder line. Hungry ferry passengers snap up galley food! Because hunger pangs struck us, I had to stalk the chowder line until they served a new batch.
  • Bring your camera. You pass gorgeous scenery. You may even see a whale. Furthermore, if you have a DSLR, bring your zoom lens.
  • Be on deck for the Friday Harbor passenger drop. Because, you get great photo opportunities.
  • Enjoy the fresh air. Sea air is the best. However, it can be brisk. Perhaps bracing. Bring a jacket.
Best United States-Canada Border Route Friday Harbor Drop-ooff
Friday Harbor passenger drop-off
Best United States-Canada Border Route Friday Harbor
Sailboat at Friday Harbor

Alternative Trips

Sailing from Anacortes to Friday Harbor, and back, has advantages. Park your car at Anacortes. Then, walk on the ferry. Additionally, you do not need reservations. Numerous restaurants are walkable from the Friday Harbor dock. And, you avoid the car lines loading and unloading the ferry. Probably, three hours is sufficient to get a flavor for the town.

Prepared for Beauty Addiction

This trip can cause a happy problem. Because, you will see amazing beauty. Consequently, you may struggle to return home. Or, return to your daily grind.

Related Trips

Finally, if you are still hungry for this type of experience see Nanaimo Natural Gateway.

About Me

Falling Toward Port Hardy

After spending the night in Nanaimo, we continued our Vancouver Island journey. We love visiting waterfalls. Consequently, falling toward Port Hardy seemed like a great idea. As a result, I targeted Englishman River Falls and Elk Falls. Both are BC provincial parks.

Road Trip – Falling Toward Port Hardy

Friday morning, I drank my espresso (a must!) in downtown Nanaimo. I like trying local coffee shops. So, this time, I chose Perkins Coffe Company. We then began our road trip toward the north end of Vancouver Island. I was not sure what to expect. However,we liked driving the divided, easy southern portion of highway. Drives like a freeway.

Englishman River Falls

We took our first detour off BC-19Englishman River Falls is a peaceful, wooded park with easy hiking. So, Dinah and I hiked several of the short trails.

Falling Toward Port Hardy - Englishman River Falls
Englishman River Falls

I love old growth trees. However, much of Vancouver Island is logged. This park has numerous old growth trees. I am amazed at their size.

Falling Toward Port Hardy - Old Growth Trees
Old Growth Trees

Waterfalls mean mountain streams.  Englishman River Falls is no different. I found one spot with numerous cairns.

Falling Toward Port Hardy - Cairns at Englishmen River Falls
Cairns at Englishmen River Falls

Elk Falls

Because of hiking, our breakfast quickly disappeared. We were ready for lunch. Dinah and I stopped for lunch at the Spice Hut in Campbell River. We can’t turn down Indian food. After calorie intake, we were ready for another hike.

Elk Falls is unique because of a relatively new suspension bridge. The Campbell River Rotary Club sponsored the bridge. The bridge is stable. But, if you fear heights, you may not want to cross it.

Falling Toward Port Hardy - Elk Falls Suspension Bridge
Elk Falls Suspension Bridge

Elk River produces hydroelectric power. As such, the water flumes made for an interesting shot.

Falling Toward Port Hardy - Elk River Water Flumes
Elk River Water Flumes

Falling Toward Port Hardy – Two Lanes and No Cell Coverage

Leaving Campbell River meant a two-lane road and no cell coverage. So, I resorted to old school navigation.

Arriving at Port Hardy

Port Hardy is a small town. We stayed at a First Nations hotel, Kwa’lilas.  We like to vacation until we drop. In contrast to our sentiment, tiredness took over. So, we ate dinner at the hotel and got some sleep!

Falling Toward Port Hardy - Totem Pole
Port Hardy Totem Pole

Remoteness Defined – Port Alice

Port Alice intrigued me. It is 52 km from Port Hardy. The main highway turn-off sign promised a lot of activities. So, we decided to try it. Asphalt pavement, instead of gravel, tilted the decision to a go. However, it is a very quiet town with little to do. I took some nice photos. And then, we headed back to the main road.

Falling Toward Port Hardy - Port Alice
Port Alice

I did manage to find an old boat to contrast with the inlet.

Falling Toward Port Hardy - Port Alice

I snapped this photo on the road back from Port Alice.

Falling Toward Port Hardy

Heading South Toward Civilization

We made our way south. Falling Toward Port Hardy become falling south. Again, breakfast seem to disappear quickly. Consequently, I could not wait to get into cell coverage and begin the restaurant search. We settled on the Ideal Cafe in Campbell River. Nothing exotic for me, this time. I had scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast.

We ended our day in Courtenay, staying at the Old House Hotel and Spa. We walked about 10 blocks on an 80 degree afternoon to downtown Courtenay. As a result, I treated myself to an Hoyne ESB beer. Dinner followed at Billy D’s Pub.

Tomorrow, we need to be at the Sydney ferry dock to catch the 5:55 pm ferry back to Anacortes, Washington.

Nanaimo Natural Gateway

Last Minute Nanaimo Natural Gateway

Visiting Vancouver Island is all about natural scenery. We did not plan for a Nanaimo natural gateway to the island. Fortunately, our plans changed.

We planned to take the Anacortes WA-Sydney BC ferry on Friday morning. I made reservations. However, I received an email from WDOT indicating mechanical failure on one of the ferries. Consequently, they cancelled the morning run to Sydney. The afternoon run was available. But, getting to Sydney on Friday night, only to return Sunday evening seemed, well, not worth the trip.

As a result, I Plan B into action. I made a reservation on the Tsawwassen-Nainamo BC Ferry. We had hotel reservations on Friday night in Port Hardy. Rather than Sydney, Nanaimo is actually a more convenient gateway. The drive to Port Hardy is shorter. We could spend more time sight seeing on Friday. Hence, the title of this post, Nanaimo Natural Gateway. Visiting Vancouver is all about scenery; natural scenery.


BC Ferry on the way to Nanaimo natural gateway

No Waiting to Cross into Canada

We used our new NEXUS cards to cross into Canada. Amazing! Rather than a long wait, we bypassed a 30 minute border wait on I-5. The NEXUS lane was empty. We showed the Canadian customs officer our cards. He asked if we had anything to declare. “Nope.” We were on our way in 45 seconds. I highly recommend this for U.S. citizens. You pay a fee with your application. And, you must interview with both U.S. and Canada customs officials. For more: NEXUS Program.

Harbour City

Dinah and I checked into the Coast Bastion Hotel in downtown Nanaimo. Subsequently, we strolled along the harbour. A couple of this post’s photos are harbour shots. After all, Nanaimo is the Harbour City.

Nanaimo natural gateway - harbour
Nanaimo Harbour

Greek Dinner

After a long day, we were hungry. As a result, I started searching online. Subsequently, I found Asteras, a Greek restaurant. Furthermore, it received top reviews. And most of all, Dinah and I love Greek food. Consequently, we made a spirited walk toward the Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter. Asteras is in an old house. After a warm-day walk, we needed to cool down. Fortunately, they seated us next to the only window air conditioner. I let Dinah have the seat next to the air conditioner! We both ordered the lamb stuffed peppers. I am not one to take photos of my dinner. In contrast, I should have for this meal. Amazing!

Next Stop – Port Hardy

Our next stop is Port Hardy. We have no specific plan other than to explore the route as we go.

Cape Perpetua’s Forest-Sea Convergence

My wife and I make an annual Oregon coast pilgrimage. We relax, renew, and take in the amazing scenery. Most noteworthy, Cape Perpetua’s forest-sea convergence is a must-see.

Cape Perpetua’s Forest-Sea Convergence Example

The U.S. Forest Service sites states:

“Towering trees looming through a coastal fog. Frothy surf crashing upon jagged shores. Majestic headlands offering clear views for miles. It all awaits you at the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. Located three miles south of Yachats, this coastal wonderland – where the forest meets the sea – captivates locals and visitors alike.”

Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

The next photo shows Devil’s Churn. When incoming tide conditions favor, water sprays high toward the end of the slot-like canyon. I scrambled over rocks to the upper end. I don’t think friends were happy about that. Sighs of relief when I returned.

Cape Perpetua's Forest-Sea Covergence

The next photo shows a view from the 101 parking area. It is just above the Devil’s Churn. It whets your appetite for more.

Cape Perpetua's Forest-Sea Covergence

Cape Perpetua’s Beach

This is the beach area with reasonable accessible given the rocky setting. I scramble a bit on the rocks. A mom fretted over her fearless 9 year old hopping from rock to rock. However, beach access is reasonable for someone with good mobility.

Cape Perpetua's Forest-Sea Covergence

Cape Perpetua’s Lookout

Alternatively, this is the view from the lookout high above. It is on the east side of the 101. We drove. However, I suppose the energetic might hike up the hill. We walked the easy loop in about 30 minutes.

Cape Perpetua's Forest-Sea Covergence

Finally, this is my artistic shot from the lookout shelter.

Cape Perpetua's Forest-Sea Covergence

I close with a quote by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke.

“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.”