There are several ways to travel to Vancouver Island by water.
A ferry is certainly a slower way to travel, but the scenery is worth it – plus … if you’re traveling with your vehicle it’s the only way to get here!
To & From the BC Mainland
The trip from Victoria-Vancouver takes approximately 1 1/2 hours and winds through the beautiful Canadian Gulf Islands. Because it’s so protected, the trip itself is usually quite calm and relaxing. (Although very windy conditions can cause delays – if you’re in doubt either call or check the website for up-dates).
The BC Ferries Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, located 29 kilometres (18 mi) north of Victoria, has hourly (to semi-hourly in the winter) sailings to Tsawwassen on the mainland (a ferry terminal south of Vancouver). From Swartz Bay you can also catch sailings to many of the Gulf Islands.
There are also ferries running from the Tsawassen mainland terminal to Duke Point just south of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and from the Horseshoe Bay terminal in Vancouver, crossing to Nanaimo about a 90 min drive from Victoria.
The ferries that run between Vancouver Island and the mainland are large, modern, multi-level ships. There are several ships making the run and are able to carry over 400 vehicles and 2,100 passengers and crew each.
It’s advisable to show up at least 1/2 hour before the scheduled departure time … and in the busy season or holidays I’d advise at least an hour before. If you know what time you want to travel, it’s sometimes advisable to make a reservation ahead of time. (there is a reservation fee) With a reservation you still need to show up 1/2 hour in advance of sailing but at least you know you’ll have a spot.
Reservations can be made either on-line or by phone – check their website for details.
Amenities on board include: an all-inclusive buffet, several cafes & a cafeteria-style restaurant; retail shops selling clothing, magazines, souvenirs and snacks; and an all-inclusive ‘quiet lounge’.
Other routes served by BC Ferries include the Cariboo-Chilcotin coast, Haida Gwaii and Northern British Columbia, leaving from Port Hardy at the north end of Vancouver Island. Check their website for schedules and prices.
V2V HAS SHUT DOWN ALL OPERATIONS AS OF JANUARY 7, 2020.
V2V is the newest marine transporatation service running a daily 254-seat passenger only high speed catamaran between Victoria Harbour and Vancouver Harbour.
To & From Washington State, U.S.A.
Washington State Ferries
The Washington State Ferry terminal in Sidney provides seasonal car and passenger ferry service to Friday Harbor, Orcas Island, and ultimately Anacortes, Washington. Check their website for details.
Ana/SJs/Sid – Service to Sidney, B.C. Delayed Until further notice.
Sidney Service Suspended Until Further Notice
International service to and from Sidney, B.C. remains suspended until further notice due to continued significant crewing and vessel availability challenges.[Last Updated: 3/2/2022 12:46:02 AM]
We look forward to taking customers to the Canadian Islands again as soon as we are able.
The Black Ball Line – MV Coho
In Victoria’s Inner Harbour, an international ferry terminal provides car and foot passenger ferry service on the Black Ball Ferry Line (M/V Coho) to Port Angeles, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula. Check their website for details including fares, departures and arrival times.
The Victoria Clipper
For service to Seattle, there is a walk-on passenger service only with high-speed catamarans (VictoriaClipper) to Downtown Seattle. Check the websites for dates, times and fares.
We are now accepting bookings for our fast ferry service between Seattle and Victoria, BC with trips starting April 15, 2022 as well as our fast ferry service between Seattle and Friday Harbor, WA and whale watching tours beginning April 29, 2022!
Effective April 1, 2022, fully vaccinated travelers NO LONGER NEED a pre-entry COVID-19 test to enter Canada.
Please visit our Safe Travel Guide, FAQs or reach out via our Contact Us form for questions. Thank you!
As well, many cruise ship companies pull into port in downtown Victoria as a stopover for a day or night – check your favorite cruise line for more information.
*Insiders’ Tip: If you’re traveling in an RV that is towing a vehicle … it’s quite a bit less expensive to un-hook and drive on separately. This seems to be the case for any of the car ferries. Check the websites of the individual ferry lines and do the math … you’ll be surprised!
For information on air travel to Victoria and Vancouver Island, click this link: Air Travel to Victoria
Its time to Replace Unreliable BC Ferries with a Bridge
A good thought. But the depth and speed of the current it is not really a possibility. The ferries are pretty reliable … it’s the weather that creates havoc.
Thanks for the timely updated information.