Getting to Victoria BC, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands

The main way to get to Vancouver Island and Victoria from Canada is via BC Ferries, 1-888-223-3779, which operates a ferry from Tsawwassen (south of Vancouver) to Swartz Bay, a half hour drive north of Victoria. Cost is about $50 for a car and a little over $12 per person (more in peak season, and rising with fuel surcharges) each way. Payment can be made by cash or credit card, and debit cards can be used at an automatic ticket terminal for foot passengers, but not on the ferry or at the vehicle toll booths. Service runs on the odd hours between 7am and 9pm during the winter (with extra sailings at busier times) and every hour during the summer. The ferry ride is 1 hour 35 minutes. Reservations are never required, but recommended for vehicles during peak travel times, including weekends throughout the summer months. There is a $15 charge for reservations if made 7 days in advance; $17.50 if less than 7 days. Vehicles sometimes have to show up a few hours before they can actually board (there can be multiple sailing waits during peak travel times), so make sure that you check the website to see what the wait is, and make sure that you allow plenty of time to catch your sailing; as the ferry’s capacity is usually limited by the amount of space on the car decks, foot passengers can usually get on if they show up 15-20 minutes before their sailing. To get to the ferry take bus number 424 from Vancouver Airport to Airport Station and then change to bus number 620. Keep $3.25 CAD in change (per person) for this.

The second way to take a ferry to Victoria is via Washington State Ferries, +1-206 464-6400, which operates a passenger vehicle ferry between Anacortes and Sidney (about half an hour from Victoria) through the San Juan Islands. Passenger or pedestrian fare is US$16 each way, vehicle fare is $42.95 (increases to $53.70 May-October). This service does not operate during the winter season, generally from the second week of January until the end of March. The ferry system prefers that you make reservations via its website or by calling ahead.

Other ways to get here by boat:

PCL, 1-800-661-1725, offers an express coach service between Vancouver (downtown, Vancouver Int’l Airport, Cruiseship Terminal) and downtown Victoria. This service runs on BC Ferries, and tickets can be purchased onboard for the trip into town. Cost from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria is approx. $35 one way, or approx. $10 for the trip into town.
BC Transit, +1-250 382-6161, offers bus service from the ferry terminal to downtown Victoria, with many stops in between. This route takes quite some time and is often very full.

Victoria Clipper, 1-800-888-2535, operates a modern ultra-fast catamaran ferry from downtown Seattle. Fares $US66-80 less for seniors, half price for children. Service is once a day in the winter and up to 3 times a day in the summer. The sailing time is 2.5 hours. One disadvantage of traveling to Victoria this way, however, is that it takes forever to go through Canadian Customs and Immigration at the Clipper ferry terminal. While clearing customs at the airport takes just a moment, for some reason the process takes at least an hour when arriving via the Clipper.
Victoria Express, +1-250 361-9144, operates a passenger ferry service from Port Angeles, Washington, about 20 miles south of Victoria on the Olympic Peninsula. Fares are $US 13.00 per passenger. Service runs from spring to fall only. Travelling time is approximately one hour.
MV Coho, +1-250 386-2202, is a passenger and vehicle ferry running from Port Angeles, Washington across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Crossing time is 95 minutes, and fares are $50.00 for car and driver and $13 per passenger ($6.50 for children under 11). Service runs all year except for an annual refit, generally while the Victoria Express is in service. In the winter, this ferry runs 2 sailings a day and in the summer up to 4 sailings a day are scheduled.
Victoria-San Juan cruises, 355 Harris Ave #104, ? +1-(360) 738-8099 (tours@whales.com), [9]. daily May 10th – September 28th, Bellingham-Victoria 9:00AM – 12:00PM, Victoria-Bellingham 5:00PM – 8:00PM. Summer daily sailing between Bellingham, WA and Victoria, BC, timed to be a plausible day trip or mini-cruise through the San Juans. Dinner included in the Victoria-Bellingham leg in the evening. Bellingham Terminal is the Alaska Ferry Terminal / Bellingham Cruise Terminal at 355 Harris Avenue #104, Bellingham, WA 98225. The Victoria Terminal is Belleville Terminal at 254 Belleville Street (Inner Harbour). Toll-free phone +1-800-443-4552. USD $129 r/t.

BY AIR: Victoria’s International Airport
(IATA: YYJ) is small, modern, recently expanded and a delight, located about 30 minutes north of Victoria and just south of the marvelous seaside village of Sidney (off the Pat Bay Highway, on the way to the ferry terminal). There are multiple flights per hour to and from Vancouver via Air Canada and other carriers. Also from Seattle by Horizon Air and with lesser frequency direct from Calgary (Air Canada and WestJet), Edmonton(Air Canada and WestJet), and Toronto. One disadvantage to flying to Victoria from the U.S. side is that you are forced to take Horizon Air’s 18-passenger DeHavilland Sea Otter turboprop plane from Seattle. It’s a spectacular low-flying flight over the Olympic Peninsula but can be a bit bumpy and rough in the winter. Public transit from Victoria International to the city isn’t that great, but the AKAL Airport Shuttle Bus picks you up from the airport and takes you many downtown hotels (tel 1-877-386-2525, www.VictoriaAirportShuttle.com, 45 minutes one-way, adults $15).

You can also get into Victoria quickly and easily from Vancouver by either helicopter or floatplane. Helicopters into the city operate from Vancouver Harbour or Vancouver International Airport (YVR) by Helijet with prices from $119 each way, this will take you into the center of Victoria. Floatplanes land in Victoria Inner Harbour (YWH), just meters from the Fairmont Empress Hotel and the BC Parliament buildings. Canadian floatplane operators include West Coast Air and Harbour Air, both of which operate from Vancouver Harbour, with prices at $99-114 each way. There is a new floatplane terminal in operation just outside the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) with a shuttle service operated by Harbour Air. Harbour Air has also introduced seasonal amphibious service from Langley Municipal Airport to Victoria Inner Harbour Daily scheduled floatplane service to the Inner Harbour is also available year round from downtown Seattle’s Lake Union on Kenmore Air. Fares, which include complimentary shuttle transfers to/from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) range from $125 to $169 each way. Kenmore Air also provides year-round service to the Pat Bay Seaplane Base, just west of Victoria International Airport (YYJ).