Headquartered on Seattle's waterfront, what for many years was known as the Victoria Clipper has now changed its name to Clipper Vacations, and offers various vacation trips to several locations from Seattle. As the name implies, their signature route is Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia. However, their Whale Watch Trip also serves as a Seattle to Friday Harbor transportation trip to that community. See my Seattle Victoria Clipper Whale Watch Trip as well as my Friday Harbor Transportation Tip for a bit about those offerings from this company.
Their original namesake route and only route relevant to Victoria is the Victoria to Seattle route. In winter, there is only one round trip per day offered on the Victoria to Seattle route. This is a "passenger only" ferry type service with no road vehicle capacity, though checked luggage service is also available. Passengers with checked luggage must wait until the luggage is unloaded before leaving the ship, due to customs rules.
Passengers going from Seattle to Victoria are offered an assortment of vacation packages or tickets to attractions in Victoria, and those headed from Victoria to Seattle are offered an assortment of vacation packages or tickets to attractions in Seattle. Passengers on the Victoria Clipper have the opportunity to get just transportation, or have transportation and a hotel package, or a complete package including transportation and various activities.
The Clipper, as well as several other boat services from various other points in the USA, arrive right in the middle of downtown Victoria, where there are a number of hotels at a variety of price ranges, plus the core of museum and other tourist activities. Thus, unless you plan to explore remote areas of Vancouver Island, it is really not that necessary to have an automobile with you when you visit Victoria on the Clipper: it is pretty much all within walking distance of your arrival point.
The Clipper is fairly expensive in the peak tourist season, but in the winter months the price drops fantastically. My total price for the transportation package was $35 each way, plus I added a two night hotel stay to the package. The total price came to $244, so the hotel purchased with the Clipper was only $87 a night.
(Of course, in the winter season everything is heavily discounted. Expect these prices to be double - at least - in the summer months.)
Many of the packages also include a fuel surcharge for the trip, which varies depending on the price of fuel. As an example, for trips scheduled in mid-January 2010, this was $10. The fact that these guys advertise a price, and then tack on a fuel surcharge is the biggest complaint I have with their practices, but it seems that many places (such as airlines) are doing the same. Black Ball Lines (Victoria to Port Angeles) does not do this, but then you have to get out to Port Angeles from Seattle.
The Clipper also offers on-board service such as some meal services (a bit high priced for what you get, but much better than it could be) and a duty free shop. There is an outdoor deck for viewing in warm weather.
The Victoria to Seattle run can provide some very scenic views, including of the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges. However, obviously your results in that department will change with the clarity of the weather.
Various seating styles and types are offered. This includes seats at the windows, seats at the very front and below, seats in the middle of the ship that have no view of anything, and seats with benches on either side of a table. If you want a particular type of seating, it is available on a first come first served basis. Get in line early!
I liked having a window seat, but the windows are very highly tinted and it isn't that easy to see through them. There are also a lot of spots on them (though this may just be a difficulty of trying to keep the windows clean in Puget Sound in winter!) which adds to the difficulty of seeing through the window.
Customs is largely handled in Victoria, including some USA passport control operations for those leaving Canada. Certain immigration inspections and luggage inspections are also handled at the Seattle end of the trip. Canada does not have passport control or immigration at the Seattle end of the trip coming to Victoria, though the Clipper staff will check your passport. The Canadian end of things is handled all at Victoria. Victoria Clipper staff gave me a suggested time to show up at the terminal building of 1 hour before their scheduled departure, and when I got there at 4 for my 5 departure everyone was still waiting for customs and immigration to start their process. The waiting room was quite crowded by that time. For busy trips in the peak tourist season, you will probably want to arrive at the terminal much earlier due to the larger number of people. This is especially true if you want a particular seating spot.
If you happen to be curious about where the ship is located while it is moving, there are several screens scattered about the ship that show the current location via GPS. You may have to get out of your seat in order to view the detail.
The Straight of Juan de Fuca can be particularly rough, and motion sickness medication is available on the Clipper for $0.75 a pill. However, it is a preventative medication, and should be taken as early as possible. If you are prone to motion sickness, it is probably best to prepare yourself beforehand.
When customs paperwork is required, Victoria Clipper provides it for filling out while traveling.
The Victoria Harbour Tour ferry offers two tours:
-The Gorge Cruise at CAD 26 (adult)
-The Inner Harbour Tour at CAD 22 (adult)
The tour season starts in March and the starting point is from the Causeway Floats (across from the Empress Hotel). Departures are every 30 minutes from 10AM to 9PM.
Available pick-up points are also:
-Swift Street Landing
-Delta Ocean Pointe
-Westbay Marina (April 1st to October 15th)
In the Summer at 10:45 on Sundays the ferries perform a ballet on the water of the Inner Harbour.
1234-N Wharf St.
Victoria BC V8W 3H9
The Black Ball Ferry name has been active in the Puget Sound area for many years, and today their only route is from Port Angeles, Washington to Victoria, BC. As with the Victoria Clipper, certain customs operations happen on either end of the route in order to make sure that your documents are in order before you get on the boat.
The boat is able to take passengers and vehicles, though passenger only service is quite a bit less expensive. You may wish to consider parking your vehicle in Port Angeles and taking the ferry over as a passenger if you have no need for the vehicle in Victoria (the need depends on what you plan to do once you arrive there - downtown Victoria is best explored on foot anyway). The Coho ferry terminal is right down town in Victoria, so you don't have to go too far to find hotels on foot, etc.
The crossings are not very frequent, and the frequency depends on the time of year. Be sure to check the timetable for your particular planned visit. In January of 2011 the Coho ceased operation for maintenance for a few weeks, and a passenger-only vessel was put in its place during this period. However, peak season service will likely not see things like that happen unless it is very unusual circumstances.
Reservations for your vehicle are highly recommended, and usually necessary to get on the boat during the peak tourist season. Even passenger only service is at the very least a good idea during the peak tourist season.
The crossing is approximately 90 minutes, and the water can be very rough on the Straight of Juan de Fuca, so you may want to bring some motion sickness medication if you are prone to require some.
For the most part, the Victoria Harbour Ferries are featured in the "Things to Do" section of the VirtualTourist guide. However, I wish to point out that these little boats are more than just a tour in the harbour. They are offer transportation to a number of stops around Victoria's inner harbour, and therefore can serve as a useful form of transportation as well as a tourist cruise.
Harbour Ferry stops along the inner harbour are marked much like you would expect a bus stop to be marked, but are of course located along the water.
There are 18 stops on the transit route. Peak tourist season sees the little boats pass at a stop every 15 minutes or so, and the fall and spring season sees them stop there once every 20 minutes or so. There are two routes: one wanders north into the "Gorge Waters" from the inner harbour, and the other route connects the inner harbour with the outer harbour.
Fares range from $5 to $22 one way, or there is a hop-on hop-off option. There is also a discount card for regular trevelers.
Stops are located near the tourism office and the Empress Hotel, and at scattered dockside locations west to the Princess Mary restaurant in the Outer Harbor and north all the way to the Tillicum Road bridge over Gorge Waters. The Belleville Terminal is close to parliament.
Service may be cancelled in rough weather.
The Victoria Clipper - actually two boats, the Clipper I and IV - continues the ferry tradition between downtown Seattle and the Inner Harbour of Seattle. The Seattle-Victoria-Vancouver runs used to be called the “Triangle Route”. From 1949 until 1989, this run was dominated by the Princess Marguerite II which was run by CP Rail, then BC Steamship and finally BC Stena Line. My first trip to Victoria was on this venerable old boat. Compared to the normal Puget Sound ferry crossing, this was an epic journey, the horn blasting as you pulled out of Seattle or into the Inner Harbour right across the street from the Parliament Buildings! Alas, the gracious old ship ended her days ingloriously on the shores of Alang in India where she was broken up for scrap.
The Clippers started a passenger-only service - the Princess carried about 60 cars as well as 1,800 (1,400 in latter years) passengers - between Victoria and Seattle. These are Norwegian-built catamarans which cruise at 30 knots making the journey in 2:45 hours - as opposed to the 20 knots that the Princess could manage. The Clipper experience is pleasant enough though not quite as romantic as the earlier vessel. Still, with the Princess gone, the Clipper is the perfect way you can experience the Puget Sound and along with the Black Ball’s Coho out of Port Angeles, the Clippers give you the perfect way to enter into Victoria. If you have a car and need it on the island then you need to go to Port Angeles (Black Ball), Anacortes (Washington State Ferry) or Tswasassen (BC Ferries). The last two options dump you out to the north of Victoria in Sidney from where you have another 30 minute drive to the south. For a day tripper - Victoria is nice enough to take more than a day though - the Clipper is perfect. Even if you are staying in Victoria, there are a lot of hotels within walking distance of the Inner Harbour terminal, plus there are taxis.
Coming into Victoria’s Inner Harbour is probably the grandest way to approach. Your ship slows to a stately 5 knots as you reach inside the breakwater of the Outer Harbour at Ogden Point and you snake your way on a long dogleg to the right. The Victoria-Seattle (and Vancouver) ship line was one of the most important coastal lines during the early to mid 20th century. Up until the late 1980’s the Inner Harbour was shared by two historic ferry lines. The larger line was the Canadian Pacific Railway line whose ships and routes were absorbed into today’s BC Ferries - the largest ferry system in North America. The Black Ball Line was the other. Black Ball vessels ruled the roost along the routes of the Puget Sound to the south in Washington State - they have been absorbed into the Washington State Ferry System - North America’s second largest ferry system. The were Black Ball routes also in Canada - Nanaimo/Vancouver for example - and these routes were subsumed into the BC Ferries world. Another trucking line known as Black Ball Transport survived along with carrying the name forward. Black Ball Transport had one ferry route - Port Angeles/Victoria - and has operated the MV Coho on this route since Dec 29,1959 in a fashion that can be simply considered as dependable.
The MV Coho is 341.5 feeet/104.1 m long and runs across the Strait of Juan de Fuca at a solid 15 knots/28 km/h. The ferry has been a true workhorse making four runs a day - it also used to be used for night freight runs - carrying up to 1,000 passengers and 100 vehicles. She was built in Seattle making her the only locally produce ship operating out of Victoria today. The waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca can be a bit rough but the ship won’t have any problems, though you might. Crossing in either direction is magnificent if the weather isn’t too rainy - not always a given.
CP Rail’s ferry terminal was the colonnaded building just to the west of the Black Ball Terminal. Operations for the CPR ferry, the Princess Marguerite II which ran between Victoria and Seattle, ended in 1989 - actually CPR had sold to BC Ferries who had sold to BC Stena - a subsidiary of the Swedish ferry giant - and that terminal now houses the Victoria Wax Museum and provides access to the Undersea Gardens floating in the Inner Harbour. Black Ball used to dock on the north side of the Inner Harbour but they took over some of the facilities used by the Princess Marguerite II - you can see the old dock on the north side of the Harbour just east of the seaplane terminals. There has been some recent talk in Victoria of telling Black Ball to find other docking facilities so locals can make more parks along the Inner Harbour. They have run out of room on the north side of the Inner Harbour selling out to condominiums and hotels. For Victoria to shut down the Black Ball would be a tragedy for both her and Port Angeles. Locals must feel a little better because of the influx of tourists off the cruise ships which has developed in recent years. But still, the Coho brings some 405,000 visitors to Victoria each year or 60% of the total number of ferry visitors - the other 40% coming from the next entry - the Victoria Clipper.
I think the Coho is awesome and that is not just because the ferry operation and $21 million were bequeathed to the Oregon State University in 2004 to establish the College of Veterinary Medicine under the Black Ball Trust - Maybe the ship flag will evolve from the black ball in a field of red to a field of orange ;-]
Victoria is on Vancouver Island so you are not bringing your car here without the use of a ferry. If you are coming from Washington State and Seattle in particular, you will be using Washington State Ferries and leaving from Anacortes. This is a small port town 80 miles or 1.5 hours north of Seattle. The 2 hour sailing is the most scenic route to Vancouver Island as it passes right through the San Juan Islands. It's a gorgeous crossing and cost $70 for two persons and a normal size sedan car. Obviously, the larger the vehicle the more you pay. Fares are driver/vehicle so more money for more people as well. Check their website for details. You will arrive in Sydney, BC. It is 25 kilometers or a half hour drive north of Victoria.
If you are coming from the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, you can take a ferry directly to Victoria. The one hour sailings can be on a passenger only ferry or one that takes vehicles. It is a one hour sailing so much shorter and is a good option if only going to Victoria and not exploring Vancouver Island. It is probably best to park your car at the ferry terminal and go across as a passenger as you will not need your car in Victoria. In fact, it will most likely cost you more to park it in Victoria. We did not do this so I cannot give a personal recommendation. My guess also would be that the trip through the San Juan Islands is more scenic. Ferries that run this route include Black Ball and Coho.
The COHO is a vehicle and passenger ferry that operates between Port Angeles in Washington State to Victoria...its pretty much a straight line across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to get to Victoria form Port Angeles...on a clear night its easy to see the lights of the town across the strait..generally the crossing takes about an hour and a half...variables generally being the winds that might be encountered..it looks really much closer than it is to get across..
The Coho is based in Port Angeles and provides a link between the Olympic Peninsula and Victoria and Vancouver Island...the Victoria point of arrival is right smack on the Eastern end of the Inner Harbor...so its really quite easy to reach your accommodation if you've booked accommodation in downtown Victoria..or even if you're just using the Coho as a day trip back and forth you're right in the middle of things when you arrive to Victoria.
The COHO departure times to and from Victoria, again similar to the Clipper, will vary depending on the time of the year....so its best to consult they're web site or phone them...High Season the number of sailings increases but conversely..Low Season you'll find the number of sailings drops to one and two sailings a day...each way..
Fares will also vary...but generally Adult passengers will cost $ 13.50...children form 5-11 years will cost $ 6.75 and under 5 years old are FREE...Vehicle rates are $ 50.00 including the driver if you're vehicle measures 18 feet and shorter...additional charges per foot are $ 4.25...again consult they're web site or phone them...
Fares are charged in U.S.A. dollars....RESERVATION fees are $11.00 if booked over the Internet...and $ 16.00 if booked by telephone...
Ive used the COHO once and I found that the boat rolls a little once it gets under way...so be WARNED...if you're prone to motion sickness this might not be a good option for you....or be prepared to use medications...its an older ship that was retrofitted in 2004 with new engines and is complete with a cafeteria and solarium for some added comfort..
As per the web site of the Coho...the M.V. Coho is 341.6 feet long, has a breadth of 72 feet, a draft of 12.6 feet, twin 8-foot stainless propellers and twin rudders and has a carrying capacity of 110 vehicles and 1000 passengers...
ANOTHER WARNING...because of recently implemented Immigration and Customs measures taken by the U.S.A. and Canada....you must provide a valid PASSPORT now and you MUST be at the Terminals 90 minutes previous to boarding in Victoria and 60 minutes prior to boarding in Port Angeles...Walk-on passengers must be at the Terminal at least 20 minutes before loading...
US Border security requirements require early arrival to the Terminals... All passengers are required to be in the vehicle during security checks. Failure to comply and your party may be declined sailing.
This is a reliable service that has been operating for about 50 some odd years...and kind of a fun but short trip!!
The Clipper is a PASSENGER ferry operating between SEATTLE and VICTORIA....The Clipper is a fast, sleek, and low to the water boat that transits between Seattle and Victoria on a regularly scheduled service...
Ive never used it personally but I see the boat whenever I'm in town...
If you are using the Clipper to come to Victoria from Seattle...you must be prepared to pass through Canadian and American Immigration and Customs procedures...Passports and Declarations are the "order of the day" and must be available for presentation when you are asked.
Its Victoria terminal is located on the Inner Harbor....within easy walking distance to most hotels in the area..so its a convenient and dependable service that's been around for number of years....
Transit time is variable depending on winds of course but generally its about a three hour journey to get from downtown Victoria to downtown Seattle...
FARES and SCHEDULE will also vary depending on the time of year that you travel...from about the 21st of September until May 7th there is only ONE daily sailing available...From the 31st of August until the 20th of September there are TWO sailings..as well as during the periods between May 8th and June 18th....The number of sailings peaks at THREE daily between the 19th of June and the 29th of August...
Fares also vary but for a one way trip you can expect to pay from $ 87.00 to $ 93.00 U.S.A dollars...and from $ 134.00 to $ 145.00 U.S.A. dollars for a return voyage..
This high speed ferry made getting here an easy trip from Seattle. They claim to be the LARGEST wholesaler of hotel rooms in Victoria, which would explain some of the great package deals they offer.
The passage over was quite comfortable, and included table service and a movie for the kids. The trip took about 2 1/2 hours.
I had a great experience on the Clipper and would definitely do it again.
I didn't take this ferry because at that time I didn't have the American Visa to go to Seattle but my friends did and they said it is a convenient option both to go and come from the States. It has a gift shop and duty free shop too. As well as in the BC Ferries, during the travel you will enjoy the great scinery Northamerica offers.
I did a day trip one Sunday from Seattle to Victoria and back - it was a long day. We left from Seattle about 6:30 am by bus and went to Anacortes where it embarked on a ferry. I think we had brunch on the ferry or in the bus. The ferry stopped off at Friday Island but we didn't get off. Then the ferry put us (in the bus) off north of Victoria and we went to Butchart Gardens. I toured the gardens, did some shopping there and I also ate lunch. Then the bus tour took us through Victoria and let us off at the harbor. I walked to the Natural History Museum and did some more shopping. I was a little tired by this time so I went to the Empress Hotel and had tea Then I rode the Victoria Clipper back to Seattle, getting in late in the evening (about 9:30 pm).
Lists of what I paid in 1994 is in the Intro
If you would like to go to Victoria from Seattle without a car, the Victoria Clipper is the easiest method. This is a non-stop ferry that goes between downtown Seattle and downtown Victoria. While there is only one sailing per day in the winter months, there are more sailings (up to 3 per day) by the summer.
The Victoria Clipper is a passenger ferry linking downtown Victoria to Seattle, Washington. Significantly more expensive than the Coho (which only takes you to Port Angeles, not right into Seattle), a round-trip on the boat reaches $140 in the high season. However, that convenience may be worth it! On board, passengers can purchase a variety of sightseeing packages and tickets to local tourist attractions. Keep in mind that this boat crossses an international border, so normal documentation restrictions will apply.
The Coho Ferry is an easy vehicle and passenger connection between downtown Victoria and Port Angeles, Washington. Between two and four ferries leave each port daily, depending on the season. At only $11.50 for passengers it's a steal, while the price goes up to $44 for a vehicle (including driver). Because this ferry crosses an international border, it is recommended that all passengers carry a passport. At the time this tip was written, US and Canadian citizens could make the trip with only a valid driver's license.