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.
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.
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.
We took the ferry from Seattle, Washington. It was about a 4 hour trip and it let us off in Victoria very close to the city center. It was no problem.
It is very easy to get around just by walking. All we had were our legs and we got around easily and saw alot.
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.
We took the ferry from Port Angelas, Washington. It was a nice ride, and not all that expensive. I think it was about $25 for the 2 of us and the car, each way.
In Victoria, you can do a lot of your sightseeing by foot. Victoria isn't too big. We had a car, so we drove , too. To go to the gardens, you can take a bus tour.
On our first day on the Pacific coast of the Island, we turned south and spent a day in Ucluelet. Although the scenery is not as spectacular as Tofino, we enjoyed a slower boat ride along the coast where we saw Bald Eagles diving into the ocean to catch fish. There were also great views of Stellars Sea Lions as shown here.
Victoria Clipper - It's a passenger ferry that goes between Seattle and Victoria, BC. It's kind of like flying Southwest Airlines - you're seated in rows like on an airplane (different from other ferry's I've taken) but the seats aren't assigned. And they have bad food, just like an airline.
You can see a lot of Victoria by foot, but if you want to go outside the general waterfront area, you can take a bus or taxi.
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).
From the mainland take a ferry from Port angeles(U.S.).Anacortes(U.S.),Twassen(B.C.)
You could walk around Victoria but I suggest you bring or rent a car so as to drive outside the city and to one of the many beaches,lakes,and mountains on the island.
A train does go between Victoria and Naniamo(north of Victoria)
I took the ferry from Seattle and then walked around town. Walking is definitely the best way to see everything. It's a big enough place that you won't get bored, and it's small enough that you won't get lost.
The Victoria Clipper is a quick, passenger only ferry from Seattle. Approximate travel time 2 1/2 hours. Holds 300 passengers and not really a sight-seeing boat. On the way over it was somewhat rough, people were eating, drinking and at the same time others were running past looking very green.
There are many other ferries from Vancouver, Seattle, Bellingham, Port Towsend. Most are car ferries and are slower than the Victoria Clipper.
Location of Victoria Clipper: Pier 69
You have 2 options of getting here! You can take a ferry, or you can fly in a plane. There is no bridge! I work at a hotel here in Victoria, and I am so amazed at how many people keep arguing with me and tell me that there is so a bridge, and that I am lying to them! There's no bridge!! ;-) Sorry for the rant, it's just kind of amusing! I recommend to EVERYONE, coming from ANY direction to take B.C. Ferries! Unless you're going to be already on the Peninsula and close enough to Port Angeles, to take that ferry. I'll tell you why: Both The ferries from Port Angeles, and Anacortes to Sydney have a very very limited sailing schedule. B.C. Ferries runs a much LARGER ferry and it operates every hour in the summer time, and every 2 hours in the winter. Every year I get people that miss their ferries because they do something foolish like thinking they can just arrive on labour day weekend take the ferry from Port Angeles, spend the night in Victoria, then take the first ferry back, so they can catch their 1 oclock flight out of Seattle! Every year I get people that will miss their flights because they don't take account the busy ferry season in the summertime. Take B.C. Ferries from Tsawassen to Schwartz Bay, cheaper, it's in Canadian funds, it's a scenic voyage, and they accomodate way more people per day than the other ferries.
There's many ways to get around Victoria. The bus system is decent, and will take you anywhere you want to go. Except the Butchart Gardens is tough to get to, and of all things there's no bus service to the airport! You can also book sightseeing bus tours through Gray Line. This is a great way to see the city. But by far and the best way is to rent a car and go at your own place. Ask locals where the best sceninc stops are! You'll find pretty much everyone helpful and ready to accomodate. You can probably rent a cab for a few hours too, I heard this is a viable alternative.
Since Victoria is on Vancouver Island the only ways to get here is by plane or boat .
BC car Ferrys go to either Victoria (Sidney) or Nanaimo (about 1and a half hours away from Victoria. VIA RAIL goes from Victoria up to Courtenay and is a nice way to see the Island.
Walking and Biking , Horse & Carriage Tours, Bus
Cars butfinding a parking space is hard .
You will find walking is easy and the best wayto get around the down town area where all the action is.
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.