9 round trips per day
Route 12 offers an alternative to driving the mountainous and sometimes dangerous Malahat Highway (Highway 1). Mill Bay is located about 20km south of Duncan just before the highway heads "up the hill". Brentwood Bay is located on the Saanich Penninsula, about 20km north of downtown Victoria. Although this route is not quicker than the highway (unless it is snowing or closed), it is easier on the car and nerves.
The ferry on Route 12 crosses Saanich Inlet in about 25 minutes. It has been sometimes described by BC Ferries as "Vancouver Island's Most Beautiful Shortcut." With the calm waters on the inlet and sheer mountains to the west, it is hard to disagree with that claim.
, the only ferry on the route, is small and can get full quickly. When it goes in for refit, there are no other ferries capable of docking at either of the terminals so the route has to close down. The route is a perpetual money-loser and BC Ferries has threatened to close it down a number of times. The Malahat highway is a beautiful drive but the ferry "shortcut" is just as nice.
Mill Bay is a very small rural community and the terminal there has no ameneties. Crew members collect the fares at both ends. Brentwood Bay is a larger community and the ferry terminal is located on a quiet but developed waterfront. The famous Butchart Gardens are located only a few minutes drive from Brentwood Bay.
This route was begun in the early 1920's by Cascade Freight and Trading Company to bypass the rugged Malahat road to Victoria. This was taken over by Coast Ferries in 1945 which was taken over by BC Ferries in 1969.