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The ferry from Vancouver to Victoria: A complete guide

Please only travel when it’s safe to do so.

How to get to Victoria from Vancouver, British Columbia?

(And you must visit the beautiful city where we live! We know of at least 23 awesome things to do in Victoria.)

Many visitors take the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria.

The ferry from Vancouver to Victoria is often cheaper, faster and easier than flying.

It’s generally cheaper, easier and quicker than flying to Victoria, especially if you count the time checking in for the plane, extra bag fees, etc.

(The exception is if you’re already on a plane, flying to or within Canada, and are just connecting through Vancouver.)

Ferry from Vancouver to Victoria

Below is a complete guide on the ferry to Victoria from Vancouver.

How to get to Victoria from Vancouver by ferry:

BC Ferries from Vancouver to Victoria

  • Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay terminal?
  • BC Ferries schedule
  • Services on BC Ferries
  • Do you need reservations?
  • Cost of ferry tickets – Is a car cheaper than the bus?

Bus from Vancouver to Victoria – with ferry service

Public transit from Vancouver to Victoria

V2V Passenger ferry from Vancouver to Victoria

1) BC Ferries from Vancouver to Victoria

Victoria is on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. (It’s a bit confusing because Vancouver isn’t on Vancouver Island; it’s located on the “mainland” of BC.)

The trip by vehicle and ferry on BC Ferries from downtown Vancouver to Victoria takes from 4 to 5 hours, depending on your departure terminal.

There are 2 Vancouver ferry terminals that you can depart from:

  • Tsawwassen
  • Horseshoe Bay

BC Ferries from Tsawwassen:

The Tsawwassen ferry terminal is the main terminal (south of Vancouver), and the one you want to depart from if you’re leaving from downtown Vancouver (or if you’re driving into Greater Vancouver on the TransCanada #1 Highway).

The scenic sail on BC Ferries is 1 hour and 35 minutes to Victoria’s Swartz Bay terminal.

Ferries go at least every 2 hours (more in the peak summer season), generally starting at 7:00 am.

The total trip time from Vancouver is about 4 hours.

Ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, BC

BC Ferries from Horseshoe Bay:

If you’re coming from North or West Vancouver or Whistler, we suggest you take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver to the Departure Bay terminal in Nanaimo.

From Nanaimo, you then drive down the TransCanada Highway (#1 Highway) to Victoria.

The ferry crossing time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.

The total trip time on this route is about 5 hours.

We used to live in West Vancouver, and whenever we visited Victoria, this is the route we took.

Now, you could alternatively drive through downtown Vancouver and on to Tsawwassen and take the ferry from there. Your total trip time from North or West Vancouver would be about the same (5 hours).

But you’d be fighting traffic congestion in downtown Vancouver – something to avoid, especially at rush hour – and occasionally a clogged tunnel delay (at the George Massey Tunnel) .

If you’re coming from Vancouver’s North Shore or Whistler

We think it’s simply more pleasant – and can be quicker – to sail to Nanaimo instead and drive down the scenic highway on Vancouver Island to get to Victoria.

BC Ferries schedule:

Victoria ferry schedule from Tsawwassen: See here

Ferry schedule from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo: See here

What to do on BC Ferries:

It's very comfortable taking the ferry from Victoria to Vancouver (and the return).

On BC Ferries between Vancouver and Victoria, you’ll find many amenities.

It’s really like a mini-cruise.

You’ll find an excellent gift shop (stocked with many books by BC authors), a kids’ playroom and many comfortable seating areas.

There’s also a cafeteria which features a White Spot menu (burgers, Caesar salad, etc., for lunch and dinner) and a café for cappuccino and baked goodies.

Of course, you can walk around on the outside decks.

When the weather is good, we like plopping ourselves down for a while on a bench in the sunshine and soaking in the views, especially when the ferry squeezes through the very scenic Active Pass.

The ferry between Vancouver and Victoria is very scenic!

Pacific Buffet:

In addition to the regular cafeteria, a separate dining room – the Pacific Buffet – offers a complete buffet meal.

On one ferry crossing for lunch, for example, we helped ourselves to barbecued Korean riblets, Chinese chicken dumplings (Dim Sum style), fish in a cream sauce and other hot items, along with lettuce and spinach salad, followed by a selection of desserts ranging from cheese cake to chocolate brownies.

The cost for an adult is $21 CAD (about $16 USD) for breakfast, $22.25 ($17 USD) for a hot lunch and $26 for dinner (about $20 USD).

You can buy beer and wine in the Pacific Buffet for an additional cost.

Complete Pacific Buffet menus: See here

Coastal naturalist:

In summer, a coastal naturalist travels onboard and gives a 20-minute talk outside on deck.

What’s the difference between a Stellar sea lion and a California sea lion? That’s one tidbit of information you might learn.

Answer?

The Stellar sea lions you commonly see here in our British Columbia coastal waters are twice as big as Californian sea lions. The males can weigh up to 2,200 lbs (females up to 800 lbs).

The Stellar sea lions you commonly see in British Columbia coastal waters are twice as big as Californian sea lions.

Another distinction – California sea lions bark like dogs, while Stellar sea lions make a low throaty sound, like a long deep burp.

BC Ferries reservations:

We recommend you make ferry reservations in advance (otherwise, it’s first come, first served).

The BC Ferries reservation fee is only $10 ($7.50 USD) if made 7 or more days in advance ($17 or $13 USD if made within 7 days). And a reservation guarantees you’ll get on the ferry at the reserved time.

If you don’t make a reservation in peak season, you could wait for hours in a ferry line-up. And you don’t want to waste precious vacation time waiting for the ferry to get to Victoria!

We personally always make reservations now, even middle of the day, mid-week, in winter – peace of mind…

BC Ferries reservation cut-off times

You must be at the ferry booth to redeem your reservation between 1 hour and 30 minutes before the ferry sailing.

If you’re booked on a 5:00 pm ferry, this means you have to be at the ferry booth sometime between 4:00 and 4:30 pm.

If you arrive later, say 4:35 pm, you’ll lose your reservation and go to the end of the line (where you may or may not get on the 5:00 pm sailing, depending on how busy the ferries are).

To reserve with BC Ferries: See here

How much is a BC Ferry ticket from Vancouver to Victoria?

The cost to take the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, BC, for an adult is $17.20 (about $13 USD).

Then you have to add the cost of your car. A standard vehicle (up to 20 feet long) costs $57.50 (about $44 USD).

Bottom line? Vancouver to Victoria ferry cost

You’re looking at a rough cost of about $95 ($73 USD) for a car and 2 people to travel one way from Vancouver to Victoria on the ferry.

For 2 people, it’s less expensive to take your car on the ferry than ditching the car and using the BC Ferries Connector bus and ferry (see below).

For current BC Ferries prices: See here

2) Vancouver to Victoria bus and ferry

Is there a bus from Vancouver to Victoria?

Yes.

The BC Ferries Connector bus operates year-round and takes you from the downtown Vancouver bus terminal (Pacific Central Station) to the downtown Victoria terminal (Capital City Station).

The BC Ferries Connector bus operates year-round and takes you from the downtown Vancouver bus terminal (Pacific Central Station) to the downtown Victoria terminal (Capital City Station). Hotel pick-up and drop-off is available.

It also offers bus/ferry connections from the Vancouver cruise ship terminal and Vancouver’s international airport to and from Victoria.

The BC Ferries Connector Bus offers bus-and-ferry connections between Vancouver and Victoria.

BC Ferries Connector Schedule: See here

Cost of the bus from Vancouver to Victoria

The cost of the BC Ferries Connector for an adult from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria is roughly $70 ($53 USD).

See complete pricing here.

BC Ferries Connector bus and ferry tickets: Book tickets here

3) Public transit from Vancouver to Victoria

To save money, you can use public transit to and from the ferry terminals in Vancouver and Victoria. Here’s how.

4) V2V Vancouver to Victoria Ferry

The V2V Empress is painted with a huge black-and-red orca (killer whale), designed by Chief William Cook of the ‘Nagmis First Nation.

The V2V Ferry is a passenger ferry to Victoria. (There’s also a return ferry from Victoria to Vancouver.)

Called the V2V Empress, the eye-catching catamaran is painted with a huge black-and-red orca (killer whale), designed by Chief William Cook of the ‘Nagmis First Nation.

The ferry operates in the busier tourist season from mid-March to the end of October, and it gets great reviews on TripAdvisor.

It’s actually slower than BC Ferries – about a 3-½ hour cruise – so it’s geared more to visitors who want to experience a scenic cruise in more style.

It’s also more convenient for visitors who don’t have a car, as it sails from downtown Vancouver right to Victoria’s downtown Inner Harbor.

The V2V Ferry is a passenger ferry to Victoria (and ferry from Victoria to Vancouver).

V2V Empress classes of service:

The V2V Empress takes 242 passengers and has a crew of 8.

There are 2 classes of service: Royal Class (80 seats) and Premium Class (162 seats).

Royal Class gives you priority boarding, upper deck seating and a light 3-course breakfast or lunch.

Premium Class is the main class with standard ergonomic leather seats.

Food and drinks are served at your seat (like on an airplane).

You can buy beer and BC wine in both classes.

Both classes also offer complimentary WiFi and access to the outdoor sundeck.

V2V Ferry cost:

The one-way cost for an adult is $110 (about $85 USD). A return adult fare is $220 (about $170 USD)

For schedules, fares and more information about the V2V Ferry: See here

Experience more of Vancouver Island!

Read our posts on:

Parksville area | From swimming at warm shallow beaches to caving to spying the goats on the roof, you’ll love these crazy fun things to do in Parksville and Qualicum Beach.

Victoria | Lace up your sneakers and check out these easy scenic walks in Victoria.

Tofino | When the weather is wild and bad, head to Tofino for storm watching!


Photo credits: 3, 10 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 1, 4 to 8 BC Ferries | 13 to 18 V2V Ferry | 11, 12 BC Ferries Connector


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the owners and founders of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, luxury hotel reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Vanessa

Wednesday 8th of July 2020

Super helpful guide! Thanks for posting.

Janice and George

Friday 10th of July 2020

So glad you found it helpful :-).