And on arrival back at the Tsawwassen terminal, returning to the town of Tsawwassen couldn't be easier. Just exit the ferry, turn right, and ride the reverse of your original route. Just be careful of exiting motor vehicle traffic - they are all in a hurry!
The bike lane then continues along the left side of the car lanes, to the toll booth.
The Canadian Gulf Islands are easily accessible via the BC Ferry System. We began our journey in Tsawwassen, staying overnight at the Coast Tsawwassen Inn prior to ferrying into the islands.
First of all, the Coast Tsawwassen Inn is excellent. It is clean, quiet, has a good breakfast, allows 10 days of free parking while bicycling in the Gulf Islands, and is about 4.5 miles from the ferry terminal. Bicycle access to the terminal from Tsawwassen is a breeze...as you approach the terminal there is a dedicated bicycle lane to the toll booth. The dedicated lane continues after the toll booth, past the washrooms, to the various ferry berths; the berth for your ferry will be well signed, and at the berth there is a bicycle waiting area. Bicycles and pedestrians load first and also off load first, prior to cars and motorcycles. Our only minor beef was that there isn't any specific accommodation for bicycles on the new ferries - you just lean your bike wherever you can find space. On the older, smaller, Queen of Cumberland there was at least an area marked for bikes.
Seen here is the dedicated bicycle parking area on the small ferry, Queen of Cumberland. This is the only one we rode with such a bike area.
Getting to and from, as well as around the Gulf Islands in British Columbia is not only easy, but is one of the highlights of a bicycle tour in the islands. The ferries are clean, comfortable, staffed by great folks, and mostly pretty much on time.
And, as noted, peds and cyclists board before vehicles. Seen here are 2 tandems boarding the Salish Eagle at Long Harbour, Salt Spring Island, bound for Tsawwassen.
Once you've been given the go-ahead to board, you show your ticket and walk your bike on board, choosing a spot to lean it up against something. For tandems (especially with trailers), good leaning spots might be limited. The ferry employees are very helpful and good humored about this process.
At the toll booth there is a dedicated bicycle lane. It happened to be closed the day we went through, but no problem - we just paid on the other side of the booth in the car lane. It was a low traffic day.
In the islands each terminal is a bit different (most have a steep hill right off the ferry), but the procedures are basically the same: peds and cyclists get off first but if appropriate stand aside to let the vehicles get off and on the road before carrying on.
After the restrooms you just continue to follow the bike lane (well marked) around to the left, following the signs to your ferry's berth (on our day the ferry to the Gulf Islands was leaving from berth 2).
There a very nice BC Ferries employee will direct you to the proper waiting area. You do have to cross exiting traffic, so if a ferry has just arrived, use caution.
Approaching the ferry terminal from Tsawwassen, there is a bike lane but it's not very wide. Be alert, as the cars are going very fast along here.
After the toll booth there is a chance to stop at the (clean) restrooms before getting into the waiting area for your ferry.
On entering the terminal area, bikes cross to the left side on a protected cross walk. Cars are slowing here, but the turns into and out of the crossing are tight - use caution.