With knock-your-socks-off seaside scenery, gorgeous gardens and oodles of charming hotels and B&Bs, Victoria – the capital of British Columbia – is well worth adding to any trip to Canada’s west coast.
We’re Victoria locals.
And we could wax lyrical for hours about why it’s one of the prettiest places in Canada and how much we love living here!
After all, Victoria is located on an island, the southern tip of Vancouver Island to be precise. (Note that the city of Vancouver is not on Vancouver Island but on the lower mainland of B.C.)
As you’ll discover, getting here is part of the fun!
How to get to Victoria, BC
There are at least seven different ways to get to Victoria – depending on your budget and whether you’re interested in just a day trip or you’re coming for a longer visit.
Most visitors come to Victoria via Vancouver or Seattle. We’re fairly close to both cities.
Both Vancouver and Seattle have large international airports, so you can fly into either airport and then transfer to a plane or ferry to Victoria.
1) Ferry from Vancouver to Victoria
Let’s start with the first option: How do you get from Vancouver to Victoria?
The most popular way is to take a ferry with BC ferries from Vancouver (Tsawwassen ferry terminal) to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal. Swartz Bay is located 20 miles (32 km) north of Victoria.
We’ve written a whole guide on taking the ferry to Victoria from Vancouver.
Have a look at this for detailed information on vehicle reservations, how much time you should allow, bus-and-ferry options for foot passengers, Vancouver airport to Victoria bus options and much more.
In the meantime, here’s a summary of some key points.
The Vancouver ferry to Victoria
BC Ferries offers frequent daily service throughout the year. (In fact, the ferries are considered part of BC’s highway system.)
The total trip (including driving to and from the ferry, waiting for the ferry and the ferry crossing) takes from four to five hours.
The actual ferry crossing itself is about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
But you need to budget additional time for driving to/from the ferry terminal at both ends and waiting time at the ferry terminal. And when you include the ferry crossing, that all adds up to about four to five hours from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria.
Still, taking the ferry often ends up being quicker than flying commercially when you factor in checking in for your flight and travel time to and from the airport.
What’s the ferry like?
The ferry has plenty of space to stretch your legs and relax.
It has lots of comfy seats, a restaurant, café, gift shop, play area for children and outdoor spaces where you can watch the passing island scenery.
In the summer, there’s usually even a coastal naturalist who gives 20-minute talks about local marine life.
Driving your car on the ferry
Taking the ferry has the added bonus of being able to bring your car – ideal if you’re visiting Victoria as part of a longer road trip up Vancouver Island (or a western Canada road trip).
To get around Victoria, it’s helpful to have a rental car for exploring, though you don’t necessarily need one.
(You can rent a car in downtown Victoria or in Sidney-by-the-Sea, very close to Victoria’s Swartz Bay terminal; the Sidney car rental offices can pick you up from the ferry terminal if you arrive during daylight hours.)
Prices vary, depending on the time, day and season you travel.
In general, however, expect to pay about $85 USD (about $115 CAD) for one-way travel on the ferry in summer for two adults and a car.
There’s a supplementary cost for additional passengers (including children).
We always reserve our ferry tickets in advance online; there’s a modest reservation fee for this.
See BC Ferries’ “fare calculator” for pricing for your proposed dates and times.
Going as a foot passenger (no car)
What about how to get to Victoria from Vancouver on the ferry, without a car?
Yes, you can go as a walk-on foot passenger. Rates are much cheaper, of course.
For seamless transfers from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria, you canvtake the BC Ferries Connector service.
You travel by coach from Vancouver to the ferry terminal, then on the ferry to Victoria. Upon arriving at the Victoria ferry terminal, you get back on the bus again for the ride to downtown Victoria.
Getting from Vancouver Airport to ferry by bus
The BC Ferries Connector also offers coach-and-ferry transfers from the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to downtown Victoria.
Two ferry routes from Vancouver
Most people who use the ferries to Victoria from Vancouver opt for the Tsawwassen ferry terminal to Swartz Bay terminal route.
But if you’re coming from North Vancouver or West Vancouver, you can take a ferry from the BC Ferries terminal at Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo (on Vancouver Island), and then drive south from there to Victoria.
2) Seattle to Victoria ferry (no car)
There’s also a Seattle to Canada ferry.
So if you’re wondering how to get to Victoria from Seattle in Washington, U.S., check out the Victoria Clipper service.
This high-speed catamaran (Victoria Clipper V) takes around 3 hours. It connects the downtown areas of both cities, making it an effortless way of traveling between Seattle and Victoria.
The Victoria Clipper V fast ferry offers just passenger service (it doesn’t take cars).
It leaves Seattle at 8:00 am, arriving in Victoria at 11:00 am.
For the return trip, it leaves Victoria at 5:30 pm in the spring, summer and early fall months, arriving in Seattle at 8:15 pm. (In winter, the ferry leaves Victoria at 5:00 pm.)
Seats are comfortable, and there’s an onboard café (selling handmade sandwiches and the like) plus a gift shop. Alcoholic and other beverages are also sold onboard.
You can choose from three different classes of seats:
- Economy Class (lower deck)
- Vista Class (upper deck)
- Comfort Class (upper deck and complimentary snacks)
Basic return economy class (non-refundable) fares start at about $124 USD p.p. in winter and go up to $169 p.p. in summer (if you book in advance).
As you’ll be crossing an international border, don’t forget to carry a valid passport or other acceptable documentation for the U.S./ Canada border.
You’ll go through customs and passport control, but generally the lines are much quicker than at the airport or land border.
If you aren’t from the U.S. or Canada, double-check whether you need a visa for either country.
Travelers from most countries need either a visa or pre-authorization (an eTA for Canada and an ESTA for the United States.) The same applies if you’re flying or driving from the U.S. to Canada.
For a weekend getaway, this passenger ferry is the least expensive and best way to get from Seattle to Victoria.
3) Car ferry from Seattle to Victoria, BC
There isn’t a direct Seattle to Victoria car ferry. But the Black Ball Ferry Line operates the MV Coho car ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria year-round.
This is a good option if you have a vehicle.
Port Angeles (famous for being in the Twilight series!) is located on the scenic Olympic Peninsula.
It’s about a two-hour and 20-minute drive from Seattle.
Or you could take a ferry from Seattle across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island or Bremerton (or from Edmonds to Kingston) and drive from there to Port Angeles.
Once you get to Port Angeles, the 90-minute ferry to Victoria from Port Angeles is the shortest sea connection from Washington state to British Columbia.
You sail through the beautiful Strait of Juan de Fuca, taking in craggy Pacific coastline views on both the U.S. and Canadian sides.
This is the best way to get to Victoria, BC, from Seattle or the U.S. if you’re exploring Olympic National Park.
The park, by the way, is one of the most magical places to visit in the Pacific Northwest. It’s known for its dramatic beaches, Crescent Lake and Sol Duc River.
So using this option, drive up through the park to Port Angeles for your next stop – beautiful Vancouver Island!
4) Flying to Victoria from Vancouver
Harbour Air sea plane
Want to skip the ferry and shorten your travel time from Vancouver to Victoria?
Take the float plane!
You can fly to Victoria from Vancouver by seaplane. The incredibly scenic flight to Victoria takes just 35 minutes.
The beauty of this seaplane transfer is that you fly direct from downtown Vancouver (Coal Harbour) and glide right into the Victoria Inner Harbour (downtown Victoria).
Harbour Air, which operates the planes, has the largest all-seaplane fleet in North America.
It’s a much quicker transfer from Vancouver to Victoria than a regular flight or the ferry.
Taking the float plane is a great option if you’re visiting the Vancouver area first, then want to visit Victoria for two or three nights afterward without renting a car.
Our Victoria airport is a small airport, and it’s around a 30- to 40-minute drive to downtown Victoria.
There’s a public bus. Or you can take a taxi from the ferry terminal, which costs about $45 to $55 USD ($60 to $75 CAD), depending on traffic.
This is probably the easiest option if you’re flying into Vancouver (with a connecting flight to Victoria), as you’ll already be at the airport. And if you’ve booked your flight to Victoria on the same ticket, you’ll already be checked in.
Just confirm if you need to re-check your bags and ensure that you’re at the right terminal for your flight.
5) Flying to Victoria from Seattle
Now, if you’re wondering how to get from Seattle to Victoria without taking the ferry, there are a few daily direct flights from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to Victoria.
Mind you, we have to warn you that the flights between Seattle and Victoria are often delayed. (Every time we’ve flown from Victoria to Seattle, our flight has been delayed, so we’ve given up flying internationally from Victoria via Seattle.)
Still, this is probably the best way of getting to Victoria if you’re already flying into the Seattle Airport.
The planes to Victoria are small, and the flight time is about 50 to 55 minutes.
When booking, ensure that your flight is direct and doesn’t stop in Vancouver enroute, as this can add a considerable amount of travel time.
If you want to fly from downtown Seattle, consider taking a Kenmore Air floatplane.
This 45-minute flight leaves from Seattle city center, offering panoramic vistas on the way, before splashing down in Victoria, right in the harbor.
To mix it up, you could choose a floatplane ride one way and the Victoria Clipper ferry the other.
6) Day trips to Victoria from Vancouver
If you only have one day to dedicate to Victoria, why not opt for a guided day trip!
The advantages of this option are that the tour company will organize all of your transport and activities for you.
Plus, you’ll have a professional guide who’ll detail the rich history of the city and be on hand for any questions.
Seaplane tour to Victoria from Vancouver (with whale watching)
This sea plane and Victoria whale watching tour is offered from March to October.
What can you expect on the 10-hour tour?
- A breathtaking seaplane ride from Vancouver to Victoria (with lovely aerial views of the Gulf Islands below)
- A three-hour whale watching cruise in Victoria to look for orcas (killer whales)
- Free time to explore Victoria’s city center (maybe have afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel?)
- A seaplane ride back to Vancouver
Butchart gardens tour from Vancouver (by ferry)
If you’re a garden lover, you’ll love visiting the world-famous Butchart Gardens.
We’re written a complete guide on the best day tours of Butchart Gardens from Vancouver (and Seattle). So check that out for details.
For example, you might like this full-day tour to Victoria and Butchart Gardens by mini-coach and ferry.
- Round-trip transportation from Vancouver to Victoria by BC Ferry
- Mini-bus transfers from downtown Vancouver to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal (and return)
- Mini-bus transportation on Vancouver Island
- A guided tour of Victoria
- Three hours of free time to explore Victoria on your own
- Entrance tickets and time to stroll the 55-acres of flowering gardens at Butchart Gardens
While this is a long day trip to Victoria (13 hours), it’s absolutely worth it if you won’t get another chance to see Victoria.
Seaplane to Victoria with Butchart Gardens tour
You can also visit Butchart Gardens on a seaplane flight tour from Vancouver. This exciting day tour includes:
- Roundtrip seaplane flights between Vancouver and Victoria
- Free time in Victoria
- Transportation to and from Butchart Gardens
- Admission tickets to Butchart Gardens
For leaving Vancouver, you can pick from several different morning departure times.
Seaplane to Victoria and ferry back to Vancouver
Our fourth pick for a guided day trip from Vancouver to Victoria is this tour by both seaplane and ferry.
The 12-hour tour includes:
- A scenic 35-minute seaplane flight from Vancouver to Victoria
- Free time to explore Victoria on your own (shop Government Street, walk the Inner Harbour, ride the hop-on/hop-off sightseeing bus, browse Chinatown and more!)
- A coach ride from downtown Victoria to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal
- A ferry ride back to Vancouver
- A coach transfer to downtown Vancouver
7) Day trip to Victoria from Seattle
It’s possible to take a day trip from Seattle to Victoria too – perfect if you’re visiting or living in this U.S. city.
This 12-hour day tour from Seattle includes return transport on the Victoria Clipper V ferry and five hours of free time in Victoria.
Ideas for your free time?
- Explore Butchart Gardens
- Visit the Royal BC Museum
- Photograph the grand exterior of the BC Parliament Buildings (tour inside too)
- Enjoy afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel
- Stroll through Beacon Hill Park (spot the peacocks!)
- Take a narrated water taxi boat up the Gorge Waterway
- Wander along Government Street
The Victoria Clipper is an easy and pleasant form of transportation from Seattle to Victoria – even if you’re only visiting for a day.
Now you know how to get to Victoria, Canada!
Although our city is located on an island, it’s not too difficult to travel to Victoria, BC, once you know the best ways.
Maybe you fancy a ferry to Victoria from Seattle or Vancouver? (You might spot whales and other wildlife on the way!) Or perhaps you’d prefer to take to the skies on a seaplane?
However you decide to come here, Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbor, old world architecture, museums, parks, fun pubs and great restaurants make it well worth visiting, even if only for a day.
Save this guide on getting to Victoria, BC, and take the stress out of planning your trip!
Photo credits: 4 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase