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Many visitors to Canada’s West Coast arrive at the international airport in Vancouver, as it is the most significant international hub. Vancouver is amazing, full of fantastic food, hikes, culture, and views for days! But we think that a trip to the coast wouldn’t be complete without visiting the more relaxed and easy-going little sibling of Vancouver – Victoria!
There are lots of different ways to get to Victoria from Vancouver. The two biggest deciding factors in which option would be best for your trip come down to the amount of time you have and the money you want to spend.
From the quickest trip over in a seaplane to the most affordable option of driving yourself onto the ferry, we have all of the info you need in order to add a bit of island-vibes to your British Columbia trip!
5 Ways to Get from Vancouver to Victoria
While there are tons of different ways to get to Vancouver Island, we have curated the five best ways to get from Vancouver to Victoria!
They range from the most budget-friendly option to rent a car and drive yourself onto the ferry. This requires the most planning, but also comes with the most freedom.
If renting a car doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, you can also take a coach bus on the ferry, connecting you from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria.
The quickest and easiest way to get to Victoria is to catch a seaplane from Vancouver. This option gets you to Victoria quickly (and with stellar views), but it does come with a bit higher price tag.
There are also two tour options we’ll go through. One is a full-day tour from downtown Vancouver to Victoria and back. The other is a more luxurious overnight tour that includes a one-night stay in a beautiful hotel on the water, as well as a seaplane flight back to downtown Vancouver on the way back.
So let’s get into it!
1. Seaplane from Vancouver to Victoria
Taking this seaplane flight to Victoria is hands down our favorite for many reasons. First of all, the views from the seaplane are absolutely remarkable. I would take this short flight again just to be able to see those views!
You will fly in a seaplane over the Salish Sea, which is stunning in itself, but what really makes this trip so amazing is seeing the Gulf Islands from above. There are over 200 Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia (the body of water separating Vancouver from Vancouver Island), and there’s no better vantage point than from the air!
These dreamy islands have the perfect Pacific Northwest vibe, and soaring over them on a Harbour Air flight should be on everyone’s bucket list. Taking a seaplane flight from Vancouver may even end up being one of the highlights of your trip.
The seaplane leaves from Vancouver’s downtown inner harbor, and flies right into the inner harbor in Victoria, making this the quickest and easiest travel option. The flight itself is approximately 35 minutes, and because it flies from downtown harbor to downtown harbor, you don’t have to worry about the travel time getting to and from a traditional airport. This is especially nice because Victoria doesn’t have Uber or Lyft, and taxis from the airport are really pricey.
Since this is such a quick and convenient option (not to mention the most beautiful!), it is more expensive than taking the ferry. But this way, you can walk right off the flight and begin exploring downtown Victoria!
There are multiple departure times hourly from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm and tickets are $268 CAD per adult, $147 CAD for kids 2-11, and free for infants.
There is even a great restaurant beside the harbor airport called Flying Otter Grill, so you can walk a few steps from the plane and already be at a great lunch spot! If you have limited time or just don’t want to deal with the hassle of taking the ferry yourself, this is an incredible option.
2. Drive yourself and take the ferry
The cheapest and most popular way to get from Vancouver to Victoria is aboard the ferry! This cruise across the water is really scenic and a great way to start your trip to Vancouver Island.
You have a few different ways you can board the ferry – you can go with your own car, a rental car, or no vehicle at all.
Renting a car
If you don’t have your own car, we suggest renting one as then you have the freedom to explore Vancouver Island at your own pace. We recommend Discover Cars for car rentals as the price points are fair and they have tons of options. Then you can rent a car in Vancouver and drive right onto the ferry.
If you’re flying into the Vancouver airport, you can follow the signs to the rental car area and rent a car once you arrive. However, if you’re planning this trip in the peak season of May to September, we suggest booking in advance to ensure there’s a car ready for you.
If you don’t need a car while you’re in Vancouver and you’re looking to save a bit of money, it might be more cost-effective to just rent a car when you arrive in Victoria. The cost to bring a car onto the ferry is around $65 CAD not including the cost of each person’s ticket (around $19 CAD), so the savings might be worth the small hassle of a cab ride to the rental car company!
Taking the ferry
The ferry ride to Victoria is spectacularly scenic, so relax and enjoy the view for the 1 hour and 35-minute sailing. Be sure to keep your eyes out for whales and porpoises!
All the ferry schedules can be found on the BC Ferry website so you can easily figure out which one you want to catch. The direct ferry to get from Vancouver to Victoria leaves from the Tsawwassen ferry terminal in Vancouver and arrives at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal in Victoria.
We recommend booking your ferry ride in advance to ensure that you don’t have to wait at the terminal for multiple sailings if the ferries are fully booked. The fares will run from around $19 CAD for a person traveling with no vehicle to $100-$150 CAD for a vehicle and two passengers, depending on what type of vehicle you’re bringing – a small car is cheaper than an SUV pulling a trailer for example.
If you are traveling on your own without a vehicle, make sure you arrive at least 30-60 minutes before the ferry leaves to check in and get a boarding pass.
You do pay a little bit extra to reserve in advance, but it is worth it if you don’t want to risk missing your chosen sailing time. There are multiple sailings from 5:15 am to 10:45 pm.
If you’re interested in a road trip on Vancouver Island, you can also drive from Nanaimo to Victoria. This 1.5-hour drive has some amazing stops (including the best nanimo bars!), so we enjoy the trip if we’re not in a rush to get to Victoria. The ferry to Nanaimo leaves from either the Tsawwassen ferry terminal or Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal in Vancouver to arrive at the Nanaimo Duke Point ferry terminal and is a similar price as the ferry straight to Victoria.
3. Take a coach bus transfer from Vancouver to Victoria
This option is for those who have a little more time in their itinerary to get to Victoria, but who don’t want to have to deal with renting a car and driving themselves. Buying this combo ticket gets you to Victoria via coach bus and ferry.
You’ll start with a bus pick-up in downtown Vancouver to take you to the ferry terminal. The bus then drives onto the ferry for the trip to Victoria.
You can get off the bus while on the ferry and take in the views on the inner or outer decks. If the weather is nice, we definitely recommend going to the outer deck and getting some fresh air. This ferry ride is exceptionally beautiful, so it’s nice to be able to see it without looking through a window.
The ferry ride itself is around an hour and 35 minutes, which is a perfect amount of time to walk around the outer deck, take lots of photos, and even grab a bite to eat. BC Ferries just started serving alcohol on their voyages, so you can even grab a cocktail if you’d like!
Once the ferry has arrived at Victoria’s Swartz Bay ferry terminal, you’ll then board the bus again and be brought to the drop-off point in downtown Victoria.
We really like this coach bus option because of the convenient downtown pick up and drop off points. It takes a lot of the hassle out of arranging your transport between the two cities. These coach bus transfer tickets from Vancouver to Victoria are $79 CAD for the one-way trip. If you want a ticket for the return trip, make sure you also buy this coach bus transfer from Victoria to Vancouver for the way back at the same price.
The total travel time for this option is around 4 hours. This is definitely more of an option if you’re planning to spend a night or two in Victoria as 8 hours of travel time to get there and back is probably a bit much for just an afternoon of seeing the city.
Guided Tours from Vancouver to Victoria
Guided tours in Victoria are a great way to be able to get the Victoria experience without any of the stress or hassle of driving there yourself!
There are two options that we recommend: a day-trip option and an overnight option. Both of these are tours that take you from Vancouver to Victoria and include a trip to Butchart Gardens, the famous botanical garden outside of Victoria. We think that Butchart Gardens is a must-see, no matter what season you are visiting!
4. One-day tour from Vancouver to Victoria
The tour starts at 7:30 am with pickup at a hotel in downtown Vancouver. Once you’re aboard the coach, you will head to the ferry to make the crossing to Victoria. Be sure to get out and stretch your legs on the ferry, as the ferry ride is actually one of the highlights of the trip to Victoria!
The scenery is absolutely gorgeous on the ferry ride and it isn’t unusual to see whales, porpoises, and other sea life along the way. The captain of the ship may announce when pods of whales or porpoises are nearby, but keep an eye out anyways as sometimes they don’t see them!
Once you arrive in Victoria, you have three hours to explore the beautiful city. Since you don’t have all day to sightsee, we recommend staying downtown. Walking along the inner harbor is a great way to start your trip.
The oldest Chinatown in Canada, along with Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest commercial street in North America, is also downtown, so there really is enough to keep you busy for the few hours you have. The downtown core is also full of great local shops. Especially Lower Johnston St (the section of Johnston St. between Wharf St. and Government St.). If you do want to venture out a little bit, you can take a taxi into James Bay to see Fisherman’s Wharf.
Once you’ve explored all that you can, your coach bus will take you to Butchart Gardens! This incredible botanical garden was one of the highlights of our trip to Victoria. We think that any trip there wouldn’t be complete without seeing the gardens! You will have 1.5 hours to wander through the most amazing display of flowers that you’ve likely ever seen! If you’re curious about what awaits you there, check out our Butchart Gardens blog!
After the tour through Butchart Gardens, you will head back to the coach bus to make the ferry crossing back to Vancouver. If you’re feeling hungry, there are dining options on the ferry. Depending on which ship you’re on, there may be an all-you-can-eat buffet on board called the Pacific Buffet. The Pacific Buffet closed during Covid restrictions and has yet to reopen, but when it does, it’s a great option! The dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows, so it’s the perfect place to catch the sunset on your journey back across the Georgia Strait.
After arriving back at the ferry terminal in Vancouver, you will be dropped off downtown to enjoy the nightlife of the city! This tour is a total of approximately 13.5 hours from pick up to drop off. A jam-packed day, but definitely full of amazing things to do!
This tour costs $264 CAD per person – but that also includes your ferry tickets and admission to Butchart Gardens.
5. Overnight tour from Vancouver to Victoria
This overnight tour is a great option for those with a little more time to spend in Victoria. One of the highlights of this trip, besides getting to spend the night in Victoria, is that you get to experience both the ferry ride across the Georgia Strait, as well as a seaplane flight on your way back to Vancouver!
You will be picked up either from the pick-up point at Canada Place in Vancouver, or you can arrange to be picked up from your hotel ahead of time. Once aboard the coach bus, you will head to the ferry to make the epic crossing to Vancouver Island across the Georgia Strait.
This is one of the most beautiful ferry rides we have ever taken, so be sure to have your camera ready and stretch your legs on the outer deck. As we mentioned above, you may even see pods of whales (orca whales are most common to see in the strait, but humpback whales have been seen there as well!), porpoises, and other marine animals, like seals! Even if you don’t see any of those creatures, the journey will still be amazing. The ferry ride has views of many of the Gulf Islands in the strait, which are truly a feast for the eyes!
Once you’ve arrived at the ferry terminal, the coach bus will bring you to Butchart Gardens, the famous botanical garden. You will have an hour and a half to wander through the gardens. This tour is only offered from late April to early October, which is the peak blooming season for these gardens. It’s sure to be spectacular everywhere you look.
After seeing the 900 different plant species (you read that right – 900!), the coach bus will take you downtown to get the chance to see the beautiful inner harbor for the first time. You will have about an hour and a half before then being taken to the hotel you will be staying at.
You’ll be staying at the 4-star Inn at Laurel Point which is located in James Bay, and right on the water with views of the harbor. Fisherman’s Wharf is really close by, so you can take a walk over to see the floating village and even grab a bite to eat. The seafood at the different floating restaurants there is amazing and really fresh.
We recommend going to the restaurant called The Floating Fish Store if you want to try some fresh delicious seafood. We also recommend taking a walk down to Dallas Road. You can walk along the breakwater at Ogden Point, and the beach along Dallas Road is a great place to catch the sunset.
The next day you have the entire day to sightsee at your leisure. There are so many great things to do whether you’re into shopping, museums, beaches, or food, Victoria is not in short supply. The 10 or so hours that you have to see the city will likely go by in a flash because there is just so much to see!
After you’ve had your fill of sightseeing, you will head to the inner harbor to catch the floatplane back to Vancouver from the small airport in the inner harbor. This flight is truly breathtaking, so make sure your camera is fully charged! This flight is one of the highlights of this tour, in our opinion. The view of the Georgia Strait and the Gulf Islands from above is something you will remember forever. We still talk about how beautiful it was!
The seaplane will take you right to the airport in Vancouver’s downtown harbor, where Harbour Air provides a complimentary shuttle back to your downtown hotel.
The prices of this tour vary a bit depending on what month you’re traveling in and the number of people you’re booking for, but expect to pay around $650 CAD per person if you’re traveling as a couple. I think this would make such a romantic addition to a honeymoon in Vancouver!
Related Read: If you’re staying in Victoria for a bit, you don’t have to miss out on seeing the most famous gardens here. Check out our picks for the very best Butchart Gardens tours from Victoria!
Where to Stay in Victoria
Now that you’ve arrived in Victoria, it’s sure to quickly win you over with its charm, history, and stunning greenspaces (it’s not called the “Garden City” for nothing!). To really appreciate all this part of Vancouver Island has to offer, you’ll want to book a stay in Victoria.
Luckily there are plenty of rooms available ranging from budget-friendly to luxurious. No matter what type of accommodations you’re after, make sure you book well in advance if you’re planning a summer visit since May to August tends to be the busiest time of year.
Some great hotels and hostels in Victoria that we love are:
Ocean Island Backpackers – $
Ocean Island Backpackers Inn is a budget hostel located in downtown Victoria, close to lots of bars and restaurants and within walking distance of the harbor. The best part is that breakfast, dinner, and one free drink every night at the pub downstairs are included in your stay!
It’s perfect if you’re backpacking across BC on a budget – a bunk here is around $44 CAD. Private rooms are also available (more around $130 CAD) if sharing isn’t your thing. Book a stay on HostelWorld.com or Booking.com.
Helm’s Inn – $
For a budget-friendly hotel with space to spare, Helm’s Inn has you covered. This all-suite hotel means you have plenty of space with kitchenettes so you can cook up a quick meal before heading out to explore. Some of the best sights are SO close with Beacon Hill Park across the street and the Legislature and Royal BC Museum only a stone’s throw away. Rooms here start at $140 CAD and can be booked online here.
The Embassy Inn – $$
Stay in the heart of Victoria’s harbor at The Embassy Inn. If you’re taking the ferry here, this hotel is so convenient with its location right near the docks. You can easily walk around to see the sights nearby and grab the included breakfast before you head out every morning. Rooms here are around $170 CAD and you can check availability and book on Booking.com.
Fairmont Empress Hotel – $$$
The Fairmont Empress Hotel is definitely a luxury option, but it is the most iconic Victoria hotel. It’s the hotel you see front and center whenever you see a photo of Victoria’s downtown inner harbor skyline.
The rooms here are elegant and luxurious – you’ll see why this is where royalty stays when visiting Victoria. Grab afternoon tea, book a spa treatment, or just wander around the gardens. Staying here is an experience! Rooms here start around $350-400 CAD per night and you can check availability online here.
Delta Hotels by Marriott Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort – $$$
As soon as you see “resort” in the name, you know you’re in for a treat with this one! Enjoy a bit of luxury at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort located near the harbor. The view is spectacular here looking out onto the water during the day or seeing the lights of the parliament buildings at night.
Once you’re done exploring the city, come back to the hotel for a dip in the indoor pool or head out on the tennis courts. Rooms here are more around the $300 CAD range. Check out all the different rooms available and book your stay here.
For even more options, click here to browse all hotels in Victoria!
Other Things to do While You’re in Victoria
Victoria is a city filled with amazing things to see and do! So while you’re here, be sure not to miss some of the top attractions and activities.
- Explore gardens – Victoria’s nickname as the Garden City is well-earned! Don’t miss the stunning Butterfly Gardens or the formal gardens at Hatley Castle to stroll through. The most popular is Butchart Gardens which you have to see to believe! You can visit on your own or join this bucket-list garden tour that also includes a seaplane flight and afternoon tea.
- Sightseeing – Victoria is full of history and beautiful buildings (like the Empress Hotel!), so you’ll want to do some exploring. A hop-on, hop-off bus lets you take things at your own pace or you can join one of these highly-rated Victoria walking tours. For something fancier travel via horse-drawn carriage with Tally Ho Tours. Prices start at only $75 CAD for a quick ride around the Legislative Buildings and the historic James Bay neighborhood.
- See the water ballet – This is a quirky little activity you won’t want to miss! At 10:45 am every Sunday morning, the Steamship Water Ballet takes place! It’s a 10-minute performance by yellow steamship boats and we found it really fun to watch.
- Go whale watching – Whale watching in Victoria and on Vancouver Island is a very popular activity. Spot these majestic creatures hanging out in the waters around Victoria! This half-day whale watching adventure takes you looking for orcas and humpback whales near and includes complimentary photos and a whale sighting guarantee. If you don’t see whales on that tour, you can go again for free until you do!
- Explore Fisherman’s Wharf – This is a bustling hub of activity we love to explore with food kiosks, a playground, and of course, plenty of working fish boats around. There are lots of restaurants for fresh seafood and shops in the commercial plaza, floating houses (you can even stay at a float home B&B!), and tons of adorable seals around.
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Thanks for reading!
There you have it, the best ways to get from Vancouver to Victoria. No matter how you get to Victoria, once you’re here, you may never want to leave! This city is seriously beautiful – especially in the spring and summer. I hope you have the best time!
If this blog was helpful in planning your trip, make sure to have a look at our other Canada blogs. We have plenty of road trip ideas, hiking guides, and activities to do right across this beautiful country.