A BC Ferry passes through Active Pass

Vancouver to Victoria: A Definitive Transport Guide

Victoria’s colonial architecture, stunning scenery and bohemian ambiance currently attracts around 4 million visitors a year, making it one of Canada’s hottest tourist destinations.

Better yet, it’s close vicinity makes it a perfect side-trip for those already visiting the Vancity, but what’s the best way to get from Vancouver to Victoria?

As someone who’s lived, worked and gone to school in both cities, I’m here to share with you all of the transportation secrets that locals have been hoarding for years.

So if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask me in the comments below and I’ll send you a response ASAP.

But in the meantime, lets get started. This is your Definitive Vancouver-Victoria Transport Guide.

Index

  1. Overview
  2. Vancouver to Victoria Ferry
  3. Tsawwassen Terminal
  4. Vancouver to Victoria Bus
  5. Flights
  6. Floatplanes
  7. FAQs

Vancouver to Victoriavictoria inner harbour

BC’s capital city of Victoria is situated just 107 km South-West of Vancouver on beautiful Vancouver Island. But with the entire expanse of the Salish Sea standing in the way, island residents will tell you that this distance can often feel much greater.

There are now 5 different transportation options available to get you across the Gulf. But with ferries leaving from multiple destinations, buses, flights and even floatplanes, all of the options can get downright confusing.

Well luckily I’m here to tell you that if you follow our tips, you can be enjoying Victoria’s sights in as little as 4 hours from your checkout in Downtown Vancouver.

And all without breaking the bank!

Victoria, BC

The Empress Hotel, in Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Nicknamed the “Garden City” for it’s numerous gardens and abundant green space, Victoria has been dubbed “the most British city in North America” and is renown for it’s colonial architecture and old-world charm.

Blessed with the world’s most northernmost Mediterranean climate, this city of 360,000 is a perfect base from which to enjoy the wealth of eco-tourism opportunities offered in what has been dubbed “Canada’s Pacific Playground”.

However, BC’s vibrant capital city is clearly the island’s main draw, so lets take a quick look at what you can expect to find.

Attractions

The Inner Harbour

One of the most beautiful harbours in the world, Victoria’s Inner Harbour is filled with local artists and musicians and is known to host many festivals in the summertime.

The area also serves as a hub for whale watching, float planes and eco tourism businesses, making it very popular with visitors.

Butchart Gardens

A must see garden oasis filled with over 55 acres of green space and lush blooms year round. This world renown site is visited by over one million visitors a year.

Beacon Hill Park

The crown jewel of Victoria’s park system, this 62 acre park located along the beautiful Juan de Fuca Strait is beautifully landscaped with lakes, ponds and gardens.

It contains a variety of family friendly attractions, including a picnic area, water park, petting zoo, playground and sports fields, to name but a few.

The Royal BC Museum

One of only two museums in Canada to hold the “Royal” designation. The Royal BC Museum tells the tale of our province through three main galleries; Modern History: the story of European settlement, First Peoples: pre and post contact and Natural History: oceans, wildlife and climate.

Quite possibly the best museum in British Columbia, the Royal BC Museum is a must for any history buff.

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Victoria Transportation Links

Swartz Bay Terminal

Located in the Northern suburb of Sidney, Swartz Bay offers daily BC Ferries sailings to Vancouver and the Gulf Islands. For most travellers, this will be your port of entry to the Garden City.

If you’re a foot passenger you’ll be able to reach Downtown Victoria via the #70 Downtown Express bus.

Other

Victoria is also connected to Vancouver via the following hubs:

  • Capital City Station– Victoria’s main bus station with service to Vancouver and other destinations throughout the Island.
  • Victoria International Airport (YYJ)– Located 30 minutes North of the City Centre. YYJ offers service to Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Seattle, San Francisco and several destinations in Mexico.
  • The Inner Harbour– Houses terminals for Seaplane service to Vancouver and the Washington State Ferries.

Now that we have a basic understanding of where we’ll be going, lets evaluate the numerous alternatives on how to get there and decide which option works best for you!

And remember, if you need any additional advice on your Vancouver Island trip, don’t be afraid to hit me up in the comments below.

Vancouver to Victoria Ferry

The overwhelming majority of Vancouver Island residents elect to take the ferry when visiting the mainland. But lets take a closer look and see if it’s the best alternative for you.

BC Ferries

A BC Ferry ships comes into port

BC ferries is an independently managed publicly owned corporation that operates all of the major ferry service between Island and Coastal communities in British Columbia.

The vessels provide service to 47 different communities throughout the province, but by far the most popular routes are those between Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Ferry Terminals

BC Ferries has two different terminals in the Metro Vancouver area (Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen).

If you’re heading to Victoria (Swartz Bay), you’ll be required to travel via Tsawwassen Terminal, as Horseshoe Bay does not offer service to our provinces capital.

Tsawwassen Terminal

The Salish Raven at Tsawwassen Terminal

Located 37 km South of Downtown Vancouver in the suburb of Delta, Tsawwassen Terminal is located just 500 meters from the US Border and is the largest ferry terminal in North America.

The trip from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay take an hour and thirty five minutes. Upon arrival it will take an additional 40 minutes to get to Downtown Victoria.

Additional Routes
  • Nanaimo (Duke Point)
  • Gulf Islands (Galiano, Mayne, Saltspring, Saturna and Pender)

For a complete Tsawwassen ferry schedule visit the BC Ferries webpage.

Directions

There are three transportation options to choose from to get from Downtown Vancouver to Tsawwassen Terminal. Let’s take a look at each below:

Driving

Since BC Ferry terminals are designed primarily with vehicle traffic in mind, driving is by far the easiest way to reach Tsawwassen Terminal.

Renting a car is simply the most convenient, efficient and cost effective way to visit Vancouver Island, particularly for families and groups.

In addition, having a vehicle will maximize your ability to explore Vancouver Island outside of the Victoria area.

For custom directions from your place of lodging head on over to Google Maps.

Coach

There are a number of Private Coaches that offer service from either Pacific Central Station or Vancouver International Airport directly to Victoria via Tsawwassen Terminal.

Travellers do not need to disembark from the coach and will be dropped off right in Downtown Victoria.

For more information check out our section on Vancouver to Victoria bus service.

Public Transit

Our recommend method of transport for budget travellers.

With a little patience you can reach Victoria from Downtown Vancouver in about 4 hours for as little as $23.05, under ideal traffic conditions.

The trip is not that complicated, though it is a 4 step process that will require payment of 3 separate fares.

Directions

  1. Board the Canada Line in Downtown Vancouver and purchase a two zone fare ($4.25 or $3.45 with Compass Card)
  2. Head South towards Richmond-Brighouse or YVR and get off at Bridgeport Station. (This should take around 20 min).
  3. Walk down the stairs towards the bus loop and locate bay 12, which services the #620 Tsawassen bus. Board and continue on till Tsawwassen, your fare is still good!
  4. Disembark at the terminus stop and walk into the terminal building. The journey should take around 40 minutes.
  5. Purchase your ticket for Victoria from a cashier or machine ($17.20 for adults, $8.60 for seniors and children).
  6. Board the ferry when called. A sailing takes about an hour and forty minutes.
  7. Upon arrival at Swartz Bay collect your bags and follow the signs outside the terminal to the bus stop and board the #70 Downtown express bus. Pay your fare ($2.50) and continue on to Downtown Victoria. It’ll take about an hour.

For more information consult our Vancouver Public Transport guide.

To view bus schedules for the #620 Tsawassen and #70 Downtown click on the links provided.

BC Ferries Cost

All sailings between the Vancouver Area and Vancouver Island cost the same amount of money regardless of departure point or destination. So naturally this includes Victoria.

Individual Fares
  • Adult (12+)——$17.20
  • Children (5-11)——$8.60

*children under 5 are free

Vehicle Fares
  • Standard (up to 20ft)—-$57.50
  • Extra length (per foot)—$6.50
  • Motorcycles——-$28.75

Vehicle passengers must pay a fare for each individual in addition to the cost of the vehicle.

How to pay?

All passenger travel between Vancouver and the Island is on a first come, first serve basis. You cannot purchase your ticket before arrival.

Foot passengers can pay with cash, credit or debit, though debit cards are not accepted for vehicle passengers

Reservations

Reservations for particular sailings are available online for vehicles only. The cost is:

  • $10.00 (booked 7+ days in advance)
  • $17.00 (booked 1-6 days in advance)
  • $21.00 (booked on day of travel)

While not compulsory, they are recommended for travel during peak hours. To make your reservation click here

Just be aware that passengers will be required to pay all additional vehicle and passenger fees in full after arrival at the terminal. The amount of your reservation does not go towards your ticket price.

https://www.vancouverplanner.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/crystal-lounge.jpeg

Vessels

The ships travelling between Vancouver and Vancouver Island are usually modern Coastal and Spirit Class vessels built in 2007 and 1994 respectively.

As the largest double ended ships in the world, they have a capacity of 1600-2000 passengers and over 300 vehicles.

Once aboard you can take advantage of a wide-range of modern amenities, including:

Food
  • All Inclusive Buffets– (Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay only), a wide selection of hot and cold items, a salad bar and a dessert bar
  • The Coastal Cafe– A self serve restaurant featuring hot and cold entrees, burgers, sandwiches and sushi
  • Coast Cafe Express– Offers hot and cold drinks, baked goods and sandwiches
Shopping
  • Passages Gift Shop– Sells clothing, magazines, newspapers, toys, snacks and First Nations jewellery and giftware
Kids Zone
  • A full entertainment zone including toys, arcades and a play zone

Perhaps most importantly, Wifi is available in all customer areas and terminals.

This will give you the opportunity to catch up on some work, in either; the provided work space area, or the all inclusive customer lounge.

Here you can find Starbucks coffee, tea and juice along with a wide selection of newspapers and magazines available for a small fee.

Baggage Allowance

Foot passengers are allowed to check 2 bags with a total maximum weight of 50lbs. You won’t have access to checked luggage during the voyage, so bring what you need aboard.

You’re also able to bring an additional piece of hand luggage into the cabin with you during the crossing.

If you’ve got wheels, then you can pack until your heart’s content!

Now that we’ve thoroughly discussed BC Ferries, lets take a look at the available alternatives, to see which travel option truly makes the most sense for you.

Vancouver to Victoria Bus

Passengers board the BCF Connector
Instagram: @ wilsons_group

There a number of companies that provide coach service to Victoria from Vancouver via BC Ferries and Tsawwassen Terminal.

Each ticket includes the cost of the ferry to Victoria. So passengers don’t need to disembark upon arrival at the terminal to pay for a ticket.

Relative to public transit, this provides a much more comfortable, convenient and hassle-free option for travellers who shudder at the thought of making 4 separate transfers while lugging around a suitcase.

However, this convenience does come at a cost, with rates typically in the $75-90 range for one way travel. This is around triple the cost of public transportation.

Furthermore, it isn’t significantly quicker, with the entire journey to Capital Station usually taking around 3.5-4 hours.

BC Ferries Connector

Operated by Wilson’s Group, the coach leaves from Pacific Central Station, near Downtown Vancouver on its way to Tsawwassen Terminal.

There are 7 trips per day in high season, and 4 per day otherwise.

The BC Ferries Connector does make several stops in Victoria prior to arrival at Capital Station, principally along Douglas Street in Downtown Victoria.

If the coach isn’t full, tickets are offered to ferry passengers for the first 30 minutes of the journey.

There is also a separate service connecting YVR and Victoria.

For more information visit the BCF Connector webpage.

Vancouver to Victoria Flights

yvr airport

Many visitors are surprised to learn that there is such a wide breadth of flight options available between Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

Despite Vancouver’s relatively close proximity, flying is still a popular way of reaching the Island. This is particularly the case for business travellers and Island residents connecting through YVR on their way home from further afield.

But is flying a viable option for tourists? Let’s take a closer look.

Flights from YVR

The following carriers offer service from YVR to Vancouver Island:

Victoria (YYJ)

  • Air Canada
  • West Jet
  • Pacific Coastal Airlines

The flights typically last 30-40 minutes and cost $150-$250 with PCA generally being the cheapest.

For a complete list of flight options and prices to Victoria visit Skyscanner.

Pros and Cons

The first thing that should immediately jump out to you is the cost.

At more than double the price of the other transport options, a flight from YVR to Victoria can’t be considered anything other then a luxury option.

Even if cost isn’t a major deterrent and getting to Victoria quickly  is your primary concern the time savings will be negligible after you consider how long it takes to:

  • Get to YVR (30-40 minutes from dt)
  • Clear security and await boarding (90 minutes)
  • Get to your hotel in Victoria (30-40 minutes)
Conclusion

Stand alone flights from Vancouver to Vancouver Island are rarely taken by Island residents unless there is some extenuating circumstance, or they are extremely wealthy!

So if residents themselves rarely choose this option, then neither should you!

But before we completely discount flying as an option, there is one more alternative that we need to discuss.

It’s faster than a jet, more convenient then the ferry, and if booked at the right time, can be even cheaper then the bus.

Ladies and Gentlemen, enter the Floatplane.

Vancouver to Victoria Floatplanes

A Floatplane sits in Victoria Harbour

It seems impossible to envision a flight experience devoid of long lines at the check-in counter or overly invasive security procedures at the departure gate.

The days when you could expect anything more than a minuscule bag of pretzels and a bottle of water for your money seem to have been relegated to the dust-bin of history.

Air travel just doesn’t seem to be what it used to be.

But imagine if you could replace the customary panicked morning rush to the airport with a complimentary hotel shuttle or a leisurely stroll on Vancouver’s Seawall.

Imagine if the flight itself was an experience to remember. Maybe you could even sit in the co-pilots seat!

Well, we are here to tell you that this is all still possible!

Take off from Burrard Inlet’s sparkling waters and receive stunning panoramic views of the Vancouver skyline, the North Shore Mountains, Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge.

Then be welcomed by the musicians and artists lining Victoria’s beautiful Inner Harbour just steps from your hotel room.

There are currently two Floatplane companies offering service right from Vancouver Harbour to Victoria and Nanaimo Harbours.

Harbour Air

Harbour Air offers flights from Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre adjacent to the Convention Centre, and the Seaplane Terminal at YVR’s South Terminal.

So make sure you book the right terminal!

In Victoria the planes dock at the Victoria Harbour Airport Terminal in the Inner Harbour. Harbour Air also provides service to the the following locations:

  • Nanaimo Harbour
  • Seattle
  • Whistler (seasonally)
  • Tofino
  • The Gulf Islands/Sunshine Coast (Sechelt/Pender Harbour/Saltspring Island/Maple Bay)
Services
  • Free wifi/charging stations (in terminals
  • Complimentary hotel shuttle (Monday-Friday)
  • Free coffee/tea/baked goods (in terminal)
  • Newspapers/magazines
  • 50 lbs baggage allowance

What can you expect?

You’ll have to arrive 25-30 minutes prior to your flight for check-in.

Then you can grab a free coffee or pastry and proceed down the ramp to a floating dock where you’ll board the aircraft

Prepare for the exhilarating take off and enjoy the stunning views!

After deplaning you’ll be assisted with ground transportation, restaurant recommendations or possibly even a free hotel shuttle!

Flight Times
  • Victoria-30 minutes
  • Nanaimo-15-20 minutes
  • Whistler-20 minutes
  • Seattle-1 hour

The prices are significantly cheaper than a normal flight and competitive with coach service. All for what is the fastest and most efficient form of transport between Vancouver and Victoria.

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FAQs

How far is Vancouver Island from Vancouver?

Vancouver is located just 60 kilometres from the Vancouver Island port of Nanaimo and 107 kilometres from the provincial capital of Victoria.

How do you get from Vancouver to Victoria?

You can travel to Vancouver Island from Vancouver via ferry, coach, floatplane or flight.

Where is the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria?

The main ferry from Vancouver to Victoria departs from the Tsawassen Ferry Terminal, located 37 kilometres South of downtown in the suburb of Tsawassen.

How long is the ferry ride from Vancouver to Victoria?

The ferry ride from Tsawassen to Swartz Bay takes about an hour and forty minutes.

How much is the ferry ride from Vancouver to Vancouver Island?

The fare for a trip from Vancouver to Vancouver Island costs $17.20 for adults (12+) and $8.60 for children (5-11). Toddlers 5 and under are free.

Vehicles under 20 ft cost $57.50 with each extra foot costing $6.50. Motorcycles cost $28.75.

We’ve come to a ferry-tale ending!

Aside from swimming and the world famous bathtub race, i’ve covered all of the transportation options between Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

If you still have any questions ask them in the comments below and i’ll answer them directly!

Sea ya later!

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