How to get to Victoria, BC from Seattle by boat or plane

Although just sitting Located 120 km northwest of Seattle, the island city of British Columbia seems distinctly foreign. A Canadian capital with a European flair, Victoria’s signatures include fine tea, a walkable downtown, horse-drawn carriages and a giant body of water to cross from the mainland. We’ve broken down the best ways to get to Vancouver Island’s scenic metropolis; don’t forget your passport (or other appropriate material for border crossing).

Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles

Three times a day the MV Coho departs from downtown Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula for a 90-minute trip to Victoria Harbor. The Black Ball Company traces its roots to the 19th century and eventually sold most of its fleet to the state to form the Washington State Ferries. Today, this route can carry just over 100 vehicles ($70 plus fees for most cars), making reservations ($11-16) recommended on weekends and hard to find on holidays.

Reaching the US terminus from Seattle involves either a Washington State ferry ride (eg Seattle to Bainbridge) or a trip over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Given the endpoint of downtown Victoria, the MV Coho practically moors on the lawn of the famous Parliament Buildings – tourists can leave their car in Port Angeles and walk on the ferry ($21 plus fee).

BC Ferries from Tsawwassen

British Columbia’s busiest port is south of Vancouver, the name Tsawwassen coming from a First Nation whose traditional territory stretched from the Gulf Islands to the Fraser River. Giant ferries make the 95-minute crossing across the Salish Sea a dozen times a day, often departing on time, and each boat can take up to 350 cars ($62 CAD plus) and almost endless ($18 CAD) plus fees), although reservations ($17 CAD) can be difficult to score at peak times.

Notably, this ferry highway does not go all the way to Victoria proper. BC Ferries docks at Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island, about 20 miles north of the city. BC Transit buses serve the heart of town (and Tsawwassen has several parking lots for leaving a car overnight), but this route is less convenient for traveling without a car. Don’t forget to factor in the Canada-US border crossing time en route to the Tsawwassen Terminal.

Victoria Clipper Ferry from Seattle

The fastest waterway to Victoria departs from Belltown, at Pier 69. Since the 1980s, Clipper catamarans have made the trip, just under three hours, in comfort that links a sightseeing trip with direct transport. passenger only V-mower has two decks, and therefore multiple class options; the lower deck has airplane-style seating, while the upper deck features leather seating, tables, and complimentary snacks. One-way fares start at $99 in winter and go up to $119 in peak summer season, and advance reservations are essential during peak periods, but round-trip purchases come with a discount ranging up to $39.

Clipper passengers disembark the ship at a dock in Victoria Harbor, within walking distance of many hotels and a short taxi ride from others. The city’s only major outdoor attraction, Buchart Gardens, is 13 miles north of Vancouver Island, but Clipper packages and other operators offer bus rides to the famous flower show.

Kenmore Air seaplane from Seattle

Sea trip ? In this century? Flights to Victoria significantly reduce travel time, especially considering the seaplanes that Kenmore Air sends directly from Lake Union to the Port of Victoria. Two or three scheduled flights (from $212 one way in the summer) depart a day, the journey is only 45 minutes and a thrill in itself. Like Clipper ferries, the downtown-to-downtown experience makes for an easy, car-free vacation; seaplanes land directly in front of the Fairmont Empress.

Note that while the Enhanced Driver’s License, Passport Card, or Washington NEXUS Card may be good for crossing land and sea borders, a full passport is required for all flyers. Oh, and Alaska Air also flies from Sea-Tac to Victoria Land Airport, near the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, in normal wheeled planes, but where’s the fun in that?

Washington State Ferry from Anacortes

Finally, one last way to get to Vancouver Island – the Washington State Ferries system, with its once-rare stop in Sidney, BC. The Anacortes-San Juans ferry route once included a seasonal side detour to this port near Swartz Bay, but service has been discontinued due to the pandemic and will not resume until summer 2023 at the earliest due to shortages of personnel and boats.

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