The ferry on Route 9 is crewed out of Saltspring Island and connects three additional Gulf Islands (Galiano, Mayne, and Pender) with the Tsawwassen ferry terminal south of Vancouver. The trip across the open waters of Georgia Strait between Tsawwassen and Galiano Island takes about 50 minutes. From Galiano, the ferry travels through scenic Active Pass and then between the various islands on the timetable. Sometimes the ferry sails directly between Saltspring Island and Tsawwassen; a trip taking just under 90 minutes.
The primary ferry on the route is the
Queen of Nanaimo
. When the Nanaimo is out of service, she is replaced by the
Queen of Tsawwassen
. In the summer, the
operates on certain days of the week providing extra capacity on this busy route. The route can be very busy, especially in the summer and on weekends. Reservations are required for taking a vehicle. The route is often behind schedule because of the difficulty in loading traffic for multiple destinations.
The Gulf Islands offer spectacular scenery, a dry climate, and a relaxing atmosphere making it the perfect place to spend a day or even a week. All of the islands have good roads, some shopping (Saltspring has the most), and beautiful parks.
Before BC Ferries, the Gulf Islands were served by several ferry companies including the Union Steamship Company and the Canadian Pacific Railway, both of which had ships connecting towns and islands along the coast. BC Ferries' Gulf Island service began in 1961 with the takeover of Gulf Islands Navigation Co. although ferries only travelled to Swartz Bay (Victoria). Route 9 began with the building of the
Queen of the Islands
in the summer of 1963.