Victoria is well-connected to mainland British Columbia and Washington State by vehicle and passenger ferries and high-speed catamarans. Each day, dozens of ferries cross the straits, granting breathtaking views of the rocky coastline, forested islands, inlets and often marine wildlife. Victoria's arrival points include the Inner Harbour, the Town of Sidney and the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal (30 minutes from downtown Victoria, near Sidney).
The most economical is the BC Ferry from Tsawassen (outside Vancouver) to Swartz Bay. It's under $10.00 for a walk on passenger during peak season and under $40.00 for car and driver.
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!!
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 ;-]
The M.V. Coho ferry, run by Black Ball Transport, has linked the communities of Victoria, BC and Port Angeles, WA for many years.
The ferry is not huge but accepts foot passengers, cars, motorhomes, buses, and even transport trucks. Crossing time is approx. 95 minutes.
The journey is an interesting one, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It's generally smooth unless the weather is not so great and then the boat will roll back & forth a bit.
Historical Note: This is the boat that carried the terrorist who was going to blow up LAX. Thankfully he was arrested by the Port Angeles immigration agents.
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.
This ferry goes back and forth from Port Angeles, WA, to Victoria, BC. Automobiles can be transported for $32.50 USD (if under 18ft/5.5m) including driver. Additional charges for longer vehicles, trailers, etc. See web site for fees and schedules.
For payment they only accept USD, CDN, or travelers cheques. No reservations accepted.
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..
I go to Seattle quite frequently and this is my transportation method of choice. Granted it isn't cheap but it's a very fast and enjoyable trip. They have special deals for Victoria residents though that won't help most travellers coming here of course.
If you're coming from the Western states you might want to investigate this as an option for coming to Victoria. I've also met lots of people on the Clipper who have bought package deals online and are coming from places like Kansas and Wisconsin (flying into Seattle, spending a few days in Seattle and adding on a trip to Victoria).
This can be a great way to 'get your feet wet' in Victoria and decide if you'd like to come back independently some other time.
Be warned however that the trip can get extremely rough and unless you are a seasoned sailor take the anti-seasickness medicine they offer (25 cents a dose). I have seen many people whose whole trip has been ruined by nausea - and once you get out there on the trip it's too late to take the medicine.
Also remember that Victoria is in Canada and you will need to go through Customs and Immigration. Please have proper identification - a passport is best.
The Clipper also offers a variety of tours to the San Juan Islands and other Pacific Northwest destinations that you should check out if you're interested.
Harbor Ferries run on a circuit around the Victoria inner harbor. There are twelve stops and the complete circuit takes about 45 minutes. Passage can be booked for the complete narrated tour or for individual hops. If you book the complete tour, you can get off at a stop and rejoin the journey later. Ferries arrive at stops every 15-20 minutes. The main stop is in front of the Empress Hotel.
The Victoria Clipper provides the fastest surface transport between the US and Canada. I travelled to Seattle on this catamaran. I purchased my ticket from the ever helpful Victoria Information Centre on the waterfront in downtown Victoria for C$93.50 (one way) a day before my trip.
The Victoria Clipper terminal is a short walk from the downtown waterfront area. You go through US immigration here, rather than at the other end in Seattle. I found that odd that I was still in Canada, but going through US protocols. You still have to go through US customs in Seattle.
The Clipper takes about 3hrs and is very smooth sailing. You can get a meal on board and it is possible to go out on the aft deck, but the boat moves so quickly that it was cold and not very pleasant.
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.
As there's no bridges that connect Vancouver Island with the mainland, there's really only three ways to get to Victoria from the Canadian and American mainland: ferry, plane, or swim. Most people prefer the first two. BC Ferries serves Tsawassen (mainland BC) across the Georgia Strait to Swartz Bay (Vancouver Island) at least several times a day and are roughly only $10 CAN. These large ferries can carry hundreds of cars and passengers, and usually take only 90 minutes either way when the sea is calm. From Swartz Bay, it's a twenty minute drive into central Victoria.
Ferries also operate from the Olympic Peninsula and San Juans down in Washington State. The Coho Ferry operates between Port Angeles to Victoria, also running daily. A more expensive ferry service serves Victoria and Seattle, but this isn't recommended, as it can cost over $120 per person! Victoria can also be reached by ferries from Anacortes, Washington.
When you are on a ferry crossing the American-Canadian border, you will be asked to fill out the necessary forms required by the State Department and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Although you won't notice it because you're going through water, you are crossing international borders.
Taking the ferry is a very scenic way to see the surrounding area. You'll pass through groups of small forest covered rocky islands, and spot isolated pockets of homes every now and then.
Flying to Victoria from the mainland is relatively expensive and impractical. It's largely best to take the ferries no matter wherever you are.
For those of you who wish to travel to/from Port Angeles in Washington State. You can get the ferry here in Victoria. Check their website for any changes in their schedule.
One way fares (U.S. Funds) Effective May 18, 2006. Passengers $11.00
Children (5-11 years of age) $5.50 Children Under 5 FREE Vehicle & Driver 18 Feet and Under (overall measurement) $42.50 Over 18 Feet, $3.25 For each Lineal Foot or Fraction Thereof
BICYCLES (Note Canadian Law requires use of helmets) $5.00
MOTORCYCLE & DRIVER $23.00
MOTORCYCLE SIDECAR OR TRAILER $12.00
Tour Buses and Commercial Trucks - Please Call for Rates & Reservations
CROSSING TIME - 90 MINUTES ADVANCE RESERVATIONS ACCEPTED
Schedule and Fares subject to Change without Notice
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.