Tips for travel to and around Victoria and Vancouver, B.C., from Seattle.
For a close-to-home urban vacation, it’s hard to beat the Northwest’s golden triangle of Seattle, Vancouver, B.C., and Victoria. All three cities have excellent museums and other sightseeing, and a wide choice of hotels, restaurants and nightlife.
Yet getting between the cities can be a bit confusing, even for native Seattleites. Out-of-town visitors can get especially bewildered, judging from the frequent questions submitted online at Seattletimes.com/travel about how to go between Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver.
Here’s a rundown, for a day trip or a circle trip, on how to travel between the three cities.
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Seattle (and beyond) to Victoria
Victoria Clipper: This passenger-only high-speed ferry travels between downtown Seattle and downtown Victoria, with three round-trips daily in summer (less in the off-season). It takes about three hours each way. Victoria is compact and walkable, and a car isn’t necessary for a quick trip. www.clippervacations.com or 800-888-2535.
Washington state ferry:
If you’re going beyond Victoria and need a car, Washington State Ferries has a twice-daily vehicle/passenger ferry from Anacortes (about a two-hour drive north of Seattle), to Sidney, B.C., about 20 minutes from downtown Victoria. Vehicle reservations can be made for the 2 ½- to three-hour sailing. www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries or phone 888-808-7977 or 206-464-6400.
Black Ball /Coho ferry: This car/passenger ferry sails between Port Angeles, on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Reservations can be made for the 1 ½-hour sailing; there are two to four sailings daily. Port Angeles is about three hours from Seattle (either by driving all the way via the Tacoma Narrows Bridge or taking the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry). www.cohoferry.com or 360-457-4491.
More options: The Victoria Express offers passenger-only, daily sailings in summer between Port Angeles and Victoria and Friday Harbor (on San Juan Island) and Victoria, www.victoriaexpress.com or 360-452-8088.
From Bellingham, Victoria/San Juan Cruises offers daily passenger-only summertime sailings to Victoria’s Inner Harbour, a mini-cruise that includes a buffet dinner. www.whales.com or 800-443-4552.
The quickest and most scenic — and probably the priciest — way to get between Seattle and Victoria is by floatplane; Kenmore Air offers frequent flights each day from Lake Union in downtown Seattle and from Kenmore at the north end of Lake Washington to Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Check its Web site for Internet Specials for the hourlong flight: www.kenmoreair.com or 866-435-9524. There’s also conventional air service between Sea-Tac Airport and Victoria, including nonstops on Horizon Air, but given airport check-in time and high fares it’s not a good way to go for most vacationers.
From Seattle to Vancouver, B.C.
You’ll need some kind of wheels to get between the two cities — car, train or bus. You could fly from Sea-Tac Airport, but that can end up taking longer, and cost much more than driving or taking the train.
It’s a straight shot north on Interstate 5 to the U.S.-Canada border at the Peace Arch at Blaine and then onward to Vancouver on Highway 99. Driving time is about three hours, more if the border is congested (as it often is on weekends).
Signs on the highways near the border give wait times. If the main crossing at the Peace Arch is busy, head to the nearby Pacific Highway border crossing (also called the Truck Crossing but open to all vehicles) just a few minutes drive east. The turnoffs are clearly marked on both sides of the border (State Route 543 on the Washington side; Highway 15 in B.C.)
Another option is the border crossing to the east at Lynden on State Route 539, also called Guide Meridian Road (Aldergrove and Highway 13 on the B.C. side). Get more border-crossing information, including wait times and Webcams, at www.wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/border/
Amtrak has two round-trip trains a day between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. It’s a scenic ride, with long stretches along waterfront, that takes about four hours. Get information and make reservations at www.amtrakcascades.com or phone 800-872-7245.
QuickShuttle goes from Sea-Tac Airport and downtown Seattle to various Vancouver stops, including the airport, downtown hotels and cruise-ship dock: www.quickshuttle.com or 800-665-2122. Greyhound offers about four round trips daily between the two cities, www.greyhound.com or 800-231-2222.
Bus travel time is about 3 ½ to four hours each way, depending on the number of stops and border congestion. (Buses between Seattle and Vancouver can be booked through Amtrak at www.amtrak.com.)
Vancouver to Victoria
The Georgia Strait separates the two major cities of British Columbia. The capital city of Victoria is on Vancouver Island while the city of Vancouver is on the mainland. The only way to get between them is by ferry or air.
B.C. Ferries: Ferries shuttle between the Tsawwassen ferry terminal (south of Vancouver and about a half-hour drive north of the U.S.-Canada border) and the Swartz Bay terminal on Vancouver Island, about a half-hour from Victoria. There are more than a dozen round-trip sailings daily; crossing time is 1 ½ hours. Reservations can be made for vehicles; for those who don’t want to take a car, most sailings have a bus aboard that carries passengers to downtown terminals. www.bcferries.com or 888-223-3779. (B.C. Ferries also sails from Horseshoe Bay, north of Vancouver, to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island about 70 miles north of Victoria.)
Prince of Whales: For a very different shipboard experience, combine a whale-watching tour and Vancouver-Victoria transport. The 74-passenger Ocean Magic vessel makes a summertime daily trip (four hours one way) between downtown Vancouver and downtown Victoria, slowing down to see orcas around B.C.’s Gulf Islands and Washington’s San Juans: www.princeofwhales.com or 888-383-4884.
Flights: Two companies offer frequent floatplane flights between downtown Vancouver and Victoria, a scenic, quick — about a half-hour flying time — but expensive way to go. Harbour Air offers more than 20 round trips daily, www.harbourair.com or 800-665-0212. West Coast Air has similar service, www.westcoastair.com or 800-347-2222.
For an exotic trip between the two cities, Helijet International flies helicopters from the downtown Vancouver waterfront to Victoria. Look for their daily standby specials for the half-hour flight at www.helijet.com or phone 800-665-4354.
Kristin Jackson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-2271