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If you’ve got some time in Vancouver, we highly recommend you make your way over to Victoria for a little taste of Vancouver Island. While living in Vancouver, we tried to get to Victoria as often as we could – this city is SO beautiful and super close by.
The epicenter of beautiful gardens, mild weather, and walkable city streets, there’s no shortage of things to do in Victoria. It’s well worth a visit for a day or two. And since it’s just a short hop over the Strait of Georgia to get there, you might as well see what it’s all about!
Whether you’re visiting for a limited time, looking to go on a whale watching tour, or just want to join in on a fun group activity, some of the best Victoria tours will get you transportation and amazing experiences all in one. It’s a win-win!
So let’s get into the 5 best tours from Vancouver to Victoria!
Our Overall FAVORITE Victoria from Vancouver Tour
For a truly unforgettable trip full of magical moments, there’s nothing quite like flying in a seaplane to Victoria and heading out on a whale watching cruise! This scenic full-day tour is sure to leave you with so many incredible memories – thinking back to that day still brings a huge smile to my face.
While it’s not the cheapest tour on this list at $604 CAD per person, it sure beats taking the ferry, and just this experience alone can make for the most amazing surprise for loved ones! You can check availability online and book here.
How far is Victoria from Vancouver?
Even though it might look far on the map, getting to Victoria from Vancouver is a relatively short trip and super accessible if you’re leaving from Vancouver.
Both the ferry and the seaplanes run frequently, and most tours will take you on one or the other, and sometimes even both!
The 35-minute seaplane ride from Vancouver takes you right into Victoria harbor, offering some fantastic views from above.
The ferry takes you on a 90-minute ride from Tsawwassen Terminal to Swartz Bay, which might include some whale spotting if you’re lucky! The ferry schedules and tickets are available on the BC Ferries website.
Swartz Bay is about a 30-minute drive from Victoria, but most tours include transportation, so you don’t have to figure out the logistics. Because transportation from Vancouver is factored in, most tours start early and usually last around the 10-hour mark. Even though they’re a bit longer, it’s definitely worth it, and you’ll have some downtime on the commute to relax and enjoy the views!
Why should I take a tour to Victoria from Vancouver?
Victoria is a thriving and beautiful city, it’s certainly worth spending time there if you have a day or two to spare while you’re in Vancouver! While it is possible to organize a seaplane or ferry ride from Vancouver to Victoria and back again, there are a few good reasons why you might consider taking a tour instead.
First off, tours offer a personalized way of getting to know Victoria in a very short period of time. You’ll often have a tour guide accompanying you along the way, and they’ll be happy to tell you interesting stories about the areas you’re visiting and answer any questions you may have.
If you’re looking to relax and not worry about the stresses of booking individual tickets, hiring transport, and so on, then taking a tour is a great option. All the logistics are worked out ahead of time, so you’re free to sit back and truly take in this beautiful city. Tours often include pickup from your hotel as well, so you really can let yourself feel relaxed every step of the way!
5 Best Tours to Victoria from Vancouver
1. Victoria and Butchart Gardens tour from Vancouver
If you were to ask us what one of our favorite places to visit is in Victoria, Butchart Gardens would be right up near the top of the list! The gardens are a key focus in this full-day Victoria and Butchart Gardens tour from Vancouver and your admission ticket is included (bonus!).
The tour begins as you hop on a 90-minute ferry ride from Vancouver and sail through the beautiful Gulf Islands. It’s common to spot wildlife on the ride over, so I always like spending time looking for whales and sea lions from the outer deck.
Once you arrive at Vancouver Island, it’s off to explore one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. Whenever our friends and family visit Vancouver Island, Butchart Gardens is a place we always, always recommend, so it’s nice that this tour includes your trip here.
This incredible place actually sprouted from the vision of one woman, Jennie Butchart, and first opened to the public more than 100 years ago. Now the fruits of the Butchart family’s labor really shine through and you’d never believe it started as a limestone quarry! There are 900 varieties of plants, five different garden styles, and 26 greenhouses to discover. It’s also beautiful throughout the year, so with this tour offered from April to October, there’s never a bad time to see Butchart Gardens.
After exploring the gardens, you’ll have time to see the historic city of Victoria and stroll along the Inner Harbour. There are two hours of free time in the afternoon, whether you want to pop into the boutiques or cafes on Government Street, visit Chinatown, or admire the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel.
The tour lasts approximately 12 hours in total, making this a unique way to spend a day traveling to Victoria and back again! Tickets cost $249 CAD and include all your transportation and admission fees, so it’s a hassle-free way to see Victoria. You can check availability and book your tickets here.
2. Seaplane flight to Victoria with ground transport
Nothing says West Coast like jumping on a seaplane, and if seeing Vancouver Island is on your to-do list, then a seaplane tour to Victoria is the way to go! Taking a seaplane in Vancouver was one of our all-time favorite activities we did while living in Vancouver. Taking off and landing on the water is such a cool experience.
This tour includes a visit to Butchart Gardens and some free time afterward – perfect for the day-trippers who like to do a little adventuring of their own.
Starting from the seaplane terminal, you’ll hop on Harbour Air at your chosen time – 7:30, 8, 8:30, or 9 for those who want to sleep in a little! From there, it’s a short 35-minute flight to Victoria, with amazing views of neighboring islands like Salt Spring and even as far as Washington’s Mount Baker on a clear day.
When you touch down in Victoria Harbor, a shuttle bus will be waiting to whisk you away to the beautiful Butchart Gardens. Admission is included and we enjoyed the commentary on the bus that was both informative and entertaining. At almost 120 years old, the 55-acre garden is incredibly curated and a designated National Historic Site! Plus, if it happens to be raining, the staff at the gardens actually hand out umbrellas. I think there’s something magical about a rainy day visit here.
Before returning to Vancouver on the afternoon flight, you’ll have spare time to explore boutiques, cafés, or historical sites in beautiful downtown Victoria. We popped into Fantan Alley which is actually the narrowest street in Canada and has a bunch of different little shops. It kind of has a Harry Potter feel to it!
Tickets start at around $528 CAD per person. So while it’s a bit pricier, this tour is a great option if you’re short on time but still want to see Vancouver Island.
This popular tour tends to sell out, so make sure you book online here ASAP!
Related Read: If you’re interested in the local craft beer scene, make sure to add on a Vancouver brewery tour while you’re in town!
3. 2-Day Victoria and Butchart Gardens tour
If a day trip to Victoria doesn’t quite cut it, a 2-day Victoria tour that includes your hotel and a trip to Butchart Gardens might sweeten the deal! This ranks high for me on the top tours of Victoria since it includes both a ferry ride and a seaplane trip on the way back, so you’ll see the BEST views from the water and the air.
Starting from your hotel in Vancouver, your shuttle will pick you up to take you to the ferry dock where you’ll head across the water to Victoria – keep your eyes peeled for whale sightings! Once you’re in Victoria, transportation and admission to Butchart Gardens are already organized, so you can enjoy a stroll around the gardens (they’re all amazing, but the Mediterranean Gardens are my fave!).
Afterward, you’ll get a little sightseeing tour of Victoria as you head to your accommodations in the stunning Fairmont Empress Hotel. Once you’re checked in, the rest of the day and all of Day 2 is up to you. I honestly love having some free time in Victoria and this tour gives you plenty of it. You can go boutique hopping, lounge at cafés, or take in museums and historical sites all around Victoria.
It’s a super pedestrian-friendly city, so you can easily explore on foot – in fact, we think it’s the best way! On the evening of your second day here, you’ll hop on Harbour Air for a seaplane ride back to Vancouver, including a complimentary shuttle to drop you right off at your hotel.
Overall, it’s a pretty awesome, hassle-free way to see Victoria! For around $1,076 CAD per person, we thought this tour gives fantastic bang for your buck, especially since it includes an overnight stay at the beautiful Fairmont Empress overlooking Victoria Harbor which can easily be upwards of $500 CAD per night in the summer.
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
4. Seaplane flight to Victoria and whale watching cruise
If you’re anything like us, you won’t pass up an opportunity to spot beautiful whales in the wild! If you’ve never been whale-watching and are planning a trip to Victoria, there’s no better way to double up than on a seaplane flight and whale-watching cruise combo tour. This tour is commonly rated as one of the best whale watching experiences on Vancouver Island.
This tour kicks off at the Vancouver Seaplane Terminal where you’ll take off to enjoy beautiful views of the island and coastline to Victoria. When you’re booking, you also have the choice of an open-topped Zodiac boat or a covered Ocean Cruiser for whale watching in Victoria. We chose to hop on the non-covered Zodiac boat when we booked.
The whale watching tours take place in the Haro Strait which is where you can find lots of salmon … that’s a BIG draw for orcas around here! We definitely saw a few of them chowing down on our tour. You’re also likely to spot seals, sea lions, and sea otters.
Although they can’t guarantee sightings, the tours run from March-October when the chances are higher that you’ll see whales. Our guide was super informative and entertaining, and we had a lot of fun sharing our excitement with our group!
Once your whale watching cruise is over, you can go directly back to the mainland via seaplane or choose to spend a bit of time exploring Victoria. The choice is yours! Just make sure to ask your guide for the last flight time of the day to return back to Vancouver.
The whole tour lasts about 10 hours, and you can grab tickets for $566 CAD per person. Since it’s an activity that relies on good weather, they have a great cancellation policy and will either refund you or rebook you if your tour can’t go as scheduled.
Related Read: Close to downtown Vancouver, Deep Cove also makes for an amazing day out – highly recommended!
5. Victoria excursion from Vancouver by helicopter and seaplane
This one is for aviation and adventure lovers! We love taking the ferry, but seeing some of the most beautiful places in BC from the air is truly unbeatable – so why not jump on a helicopter and seaplane tour to see Victoria in style?!
This tour makes a day trip pretty effortless, with transportation pre-arranged (including hotel shuttles) and free time in Victoria to create your own adventure for the day. This is one of those bucket list tours that’s great for families or couples looking for a romantic getaway in Vancouver.
To start your day, you’ll experience a helicopter ride (which we loved!) departing Vancouver, taking you over the Strait of Georgia to Victoria with breathtaking coastal views on the way.
When you arrive, you’ll get the whole day to explore however you like, whether it’s a chill day at museums or visiting boutiques and enjoying Victoria’s laid-back vibe. At around 6 pm, Harbour Air takes you back over to Vancouver by seaplane to see those ocean-meets-coastline vistas once more, and a shuttle then drops you right back to your hotel doorstep.
The price tag on this tour starts at around $759 CAD per person, which we think is still a pretty awesome deal considering you get to ride in a helicopter and a seaplane in one day! You can book your tickets in advance to secure your dates for this epic experience.
Other Things to do While You’re in Vancouver
Vancouver is a city filled with tons of things to do and see. So while you’re here, be sure not to miss some of the top attractions and activities:
- Hiking – There are a ton of amazing hikes in and around Vancouver. Challenge yourself with the famous Grouse Grind, wander the trails near the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, or even drive towards Squamish and do The Chief.
- Explore Kitsilano – One of our favorite areas in all of Vancouver is Kitsilano. This suburb is super trendy and has many cute stores, cafes, and restaurants that are well worth checking out. On top of that, Kitsilano Beach is one of the best beaches in Vancouver and the perfect place to relax. It’s also our favorite place to watch the sunset.
- Ride in a Seaplane – One of our favorite memories in Vancouver was riding in a seaplane. Taking off and landing on the ocean is super exciting, and then the views from the air are breathtaking. This seaplane ride lasts for 20 minutes and costs $160 CAD. It departs and returns to Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver. The best part is that seaplane tours in Vancouver operate all year round, so even if you’re visiting Vancouver in the winter you can take to the sky!
- Eat ALL the food! – Vancouver is a foodie destination. Showcasing cuisine from all around the world in top-rated restaurants, you really need to make an effort to eat out a few times while in Vancouver. For breakfast, Jam Cafe or Medina are our go-to’s. For Asian cuisine, you can’t pass up Minami for sushi or Danbo for Ramen. You can also join this highly-rated food tour that takes you to some of the city’s best restaurants in the area of Gastown.
Where to Stay in Vancouver
Vancouver is one of the most popular cities in Canada. The fact is that in the summer and winter, the city books up very fast. Booking your hotel or hostel well in advance is the only way to secure the best place to stay for you!
Some great hotels and hostels in Vancouver that we love are:
The Cambie Hostel Gastown – $
The Cambie Hostel Gastown is an overall good budget choice. The location is in the heart of Gastown and close to lots of bars and restaurants. Attached to the hostel is a very lively bar too. The rooms are clean, but we felt the bathrooms were a little cramped.
It’s perfect for backpackers on a budget and is relatively cheap for being so central. Yet, it still offers quality accommodations. To snag this deal, you’ll want to reserve a room on Hostelworld.com or Booking.com!
Times Square Suites – $$
For a beautiful hotel close to Stanley Park, you should opt for the Times Square Suites. It’s very hard to fault this hotel, and we think the location is amazing. Plus, the suites are spacious yet have a cozy feel with kitchenettes and gas fireplaces. This hotel feels luxurious yet still affordable, with prices starting at $196 CAD when you book ahead online.
Hyatt Regency Vancouver – $$$
The Hyatt Regency Vancouver has the perfect location halfway between Stanley Park and Gastown. As you can imagine, it’s a luxury stay in a large hotel chain that is very highly reviewed! It has an outdoor hot tub, a gym, a Starbucks on-site, and is within walking distance to top sights.
Rooms start at $233 CAD and are clean, spacious, and very well-kept. So if you can afford to spend a little more, we recommend treating yourself to this hotel! You can check availability, prices, and book your stay here.
For more info on the best areas and hotels, check out my complete guide on where to stay in Vancouver. It breaks down everything you need to know before choosing the right hotel!
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!
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Thanks for reading!
Taking a tour from Vancouver to Victoria is one of the best things you can do in BC! You’ll get the chance to see what this incredible city has to offer. Whether you’re going by ferry, seaplane, or even helicopter, these tours take all the guesswork out of planning your short trip to Vancouver Island and have some pretty unforgettable experiences along the way.
We hope this blog has been helpful in planning your trip! If you need any more ideas or tips about visiting the area, make sure to check out our other Vancouver Island blogs. Here are three other articles you might find helpful: