Thinking Of Coming To See Us?
Great idea! We’d love to see you
2017 is a big year for us, full of amazing changes so here’s a few things you need to know.
MARS has moved!
The new MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre is now located on 11 acres of boreal forest and wetlands 10 minutes north of Courtenay in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island.
The wildlife hospital is already receiving new patients but the visitor centre, the large bird flyway, the ambassador bird aviaries and various other buildings and site amenities are still being built so we won’t be ready to host visitors until later this year.
When the doors do open, visitors can expect a spectacular pacific west coast experience featuring wild nature in a coastal setting that is environmentally-friendly, responsible and beautiful.
So keep an eye on this space, we will be updating you on our progress.
Sounds awesome, how do I get there?
For visitors driving
A 72’ chevy truck pulling an Airstream is how we’d do it, but the easiest way to get here is by car.
Locals drive the old island highway 19A to Merville, continue 1km, turn right at Williams Beach Road, then an immediate right and drive onto the MARS property.
Visitors coming north from Nanaimo: MARS is a 1h 30 minute drive from Nanaimo, the main access point for travellers coming to the north island from Vancouver. Get here as follows:
Directions: Take the inland highway 19 from Nanaimo, get off at exit 17 direction Courtenay. Follow the Courtenay connector until it meets highway 19A (the old island highway). Turn left at the traffic lights and follow signs for Hwy 19A. As you head out of Courtenay look for signs to Merville. One kilometre past the Merville Store turn right onto Williams Beach Road. Take the first right and drive to the MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre. Total trip: 122km or 75 miles.
Pro-Tip: The truly on-the-ball will plug 1331 Williams Road, Merville, BC, V0R2M0 into Google Maps and let GPS do the rest.
For visitors coming to the island by ferry
BC’s famous ferries are another great way to discover super natural Vancouver Island. These hulking car carriers make daily round-trip sailings between Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and Departure Bay in Nanaimo. It’s not the quickest way to get here, but you can bring your car, enjoy onboard restaurants, take advantage of free wifi and explore the ferry gift shop while taking in stunning coastal views. So slow down, chill out and enjoy the 1h 40 minute trip across the Salish Sea. An adult and car costs about $73 but prices vary so you will need too check the BC Ferries website for exact rates. Reminder: when you arrive in Nanaimo, it’s a 1h 26 minute drive by car to the MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre.
Schedule in Effect: January 3, 2017 to March 9, 2017
Leave Horseshoe Bay (Vancouver) Leave Departure Bay (Nanaimo)
6:30 am Daily 6:30 am Daily
8:30 am Daily 8:30 am Daily
10:30 am Daily 10:30 am Daily
12:30 pm Daily 12:30 pm Daily
3:00 pm Daily 3:00 pm Daily
5:00 pm Daily 5:00 pm Daily
7:00 pm Daily 7:00 pm Fri-Sun & Feb 13 only
9:00 pm Daily 9:00 pm Daily
Ticket sales at Departure Bay end ten minutes before the scheduled sailing time for walk-on passengers and five minutes before the scheduled sailing time for vehicles. At Horseshoe Bay only, ticket sales for vehicles and walk-on passengers end ten minutes before the scheduled sailing time.
All schedules are subject to change without notice so check the link below or up-to-date information
Pro-Tip: Ferry + car is the most common way of travelling to and around Vancouver Island. There is public transit here, (the Island Link bus service is also an option some visitors might want to look into), but public transit is not the easiest or most convenient way of getting around by a long stretch.
For visitors flying to Comox
Flying to Comox (YQQ) has never been easier. WestJet is a great low-cost way of travelling to Comox from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and other major cities. Not only does WestJet operate lots of daily flights to the island, they’ve been a long-term supporter of MARS and so we are proud to recommend them as our “best bet.” If WestJet doesn’t work for you, budget-friendly options Pacific Coastal Airlines and Central Mountain Air also fly to Comox several times a day as does Air Canada. The round-trip ticket from YVR should cost around $300 and takes about 35 minutes
For more information about flight availability, prices or to book a WestJet flight check out the WestJet website: https://www.westjet.com/book/direct-flights-from-comox
Pro-Tip: Saturday is the busiest and most challenging day to travel, while Monday is the least painful. Why? Families tend to travel on Saturdays while more experienced fliers like business people tend to book at the start of the week.
For visitors taking the seaplane
The absolute best way to get to the Comox Valley is by seaplane. Nothing will prepare you for this once in a lifetime bucket-list travel experience. Seriously, it’s that impressive! Head to the Harbour Air terminal in downtown Vancouver, hop on the 35 minute flight to Comox, and enjoy breathtaking views of the Salish Sea, BC’s towering coastal mountains and Vancouver Island’s rugged coastline and sandy beaches. Harbour Air seaplanes fly Vancouver Harbour-Comox Harbour return 4 times daily. Check their schedule and pick a departure date and time that works for you! Prices vary but it’s usually around $80 one-way per adult passenger. Don’t forget: You’re going to need transportation on the other side to get to MARS. Its a 15-20 minute drive from Comox harbour to the MARS facility.
Pro-Tip: Be aware that seaplanes do not fly in high winds or when visibility is poor, and that schedules on some routes are seasonal.
Pro-Tip 2: Good savings can be made by booking Harbour Air seaplanes online
Reservations Contact Center Hours of Operation:
Monday to Friday: 6AM to 9PM (Pacific Standard Time)
Saturday and Sunday: 7AM to 7PM (Pacific Standard Time)