British Columbia Inner Passage

The Inner Passage on BC Ferries

BC Ferries Vancouver to Victoria – A Stunning Voyage

Visitors to Vancouver frequently hear about the beauty to be seen when traveling on BC Ferries from Vancouver to Victoria, and it’s true! Traveling on the Vancouver to Victoria ferry is an amazing adventure!  There is great scenic beauty to be seen not only when you get to Victoria but also on the beautiful natural vistas on the way there!

Disclosure:  Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Whatever you’re looking to experience you’ll definitely find it on Vancouver Island!  If you’re traveling to the Cowichan Valley, check out this great list of the 10 best things to do.

Traveling BC Ferries Vancouver to Victoria can be a challenging exercise! The BC Ferries system is complex and there are many choices to navigate.  Some of the many questions you will ask yourself are:

  • Which ferry route is the best for your trip on BC Ferries Vancouver to Victoria?
  • Is there a best time of day to travel?
  • What can I see along the Vancouver to Victoria ferry route?
  • What can I do aboard the ferry?

Fear not! We’re going to answer all of these questions and more!

Ferry Routes

There are three routes to Vancouver Island from the Vancouver area:

  1. Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, which is approximately 2 hours north of Victoria. 
  2. Tsawwassen terminal to Swartz Bay, which is approximately 30 minutes from Victoria. 
  3. Tsawwassen terminal to Duke Point, approximately 20 minutes south of Nanaimo.

Horseshoe Bay is approximately 30 minutes west of downtown Vancouver, on the Sea to Sky Highway.  The Horseshoe Bay ferry takes passengers to Nanaimo, a mid-size city 90 minutes north of Victoria.  This ferry takes 1 hour and 35 minutes to make the crossing.

Tsawassen terminal is approximately 40 minutes south of downtown Vancouver.

The routes to Nanaimo from Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen terminal are best if your plans take you further up the Island from Victoria, such as to Tofino or Ucluelet (where there is some of the best surfing on the west coast!).

The ferry from Tsawwassen terminal to Swartz Bay is best if you’re planning to travel to Victoria. It’s the most widely serviced route with the biggest ferries.  There are many other ferry routes navigating the coastal British Columbia waters, including ferries up the Sunshine Coast and to many of the Gulf Islands. Check out the BC Ferries website to find out more if you’re traveling to Victoria and beyond.

If you want to travel to Victoria from Seattle, check out Rob’s great post about taking the Victoria Clipper. 

BC Ferries Vancouver to Victoria - the Coastal Celebration -
A Beautiful BC Ferries vessel

Best time to travel on BC Ferries Vancouver to Victoria

Hands down, the best time to travel on the Vancouver to Victoria ferry is when it’s most convenient to you!

You may have heard stories about hours-long waits for BC Ferries when you’re traveling on the Vancouver to Victoria ferry and you’re not wrong. There can be very long waits for ferries, especially on long weekends and in the busier summer months. However, one of the best kept secrets about traveling on BC Ferries Vancouver to Victoria is that you can make a car reservation on most sailings!

All you have to do is go to the BC Ferries website and click on “reserve now”. What follows is a very easy to navigate menu taking you through the reservations process. Note that you have to get to the terminal between 30 and 60 minutes before the sailing to use the reservation!

Insider tip: the longer in advance you make your reservation, the cheaper it is! Reservation fees are $10 if made more than 7 days in advance; $17 if made less than 7 days in advance; and $21 if made for same day travel.

You can also walk on the ferry and 99% of the time you’ll have no problems getting on. A note of caution though: there can be very long lines for walk-on’s during long-weekend heavy traffic times so I urge you to get to the terminal early during these peak periods.

Bonus tip: if you’re a motorcyclist, you pay half the fare of car drivers and never need a reservation! Simply arrive in time to board the vessel and you’re guaranteed to get on.  If you arrive before boarding begins, motorcyclists will usually be directed to the front of the line and will board first.

Vancouver to Victoria Ferry Prices

As of August 2019, the prices for traveling on BC Ferries Vancouver to Victoria were as follows:

12 years or older
5-11 years


under 5 years old

Standard Vehicle
(excluding passengers)

The Route for BC Ferries Vancouver to Victoria

Crossing time from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay is 1 hour and 35 minutes and 24 nautical miles when you’re traveling to on the Vancouver to Victoria ferry. I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful this route is! Make sure you get a seat near the windows so don’t miss a single minute! The gorgeous west coast scenery will take your breath away. From narrow fjords to majestic open ocean, from inhabited islands to tiny abandoned gulf islands, you’ll see it all on this voyage.

I’ve taken this route 100’s of times over the years, and each time I marvel at how lucky I am to be in this beautiful part of the world. On my last crossing, I was very lucky to be seated at the bow of the boat when a pod of killer whales appeared, not 30 metres off the bow of the ship!

Breaching killer whale - seen on the Vancouver to Victoria ferry
Look at that beautiful Orca jump!

The consensus was that these killer whales were part of the southern resident killer whale group.

We were treated with many sights of dorsal fins breaching as the beautiful whales swam through the water. The great thing about the BC Ferries Vancouver to Victoria crew is that a public announcement is made whenever a pod of whales is seen so that passengers can all get a glimpse of these marvelous creatures.

Going outside is highly recommended, especially when the weather is sunny and warm.  The outer decks are the best place to both take in the scenery and view the wildlife.   Make sure you take some photos!  If you’re looking for the best camera gear to use, check out Jess’ great post about the best camera gear for travel photos.  

Onboard when Traveling on the Vancouver to Victoria Ferry

Most BC Ferries vessels offer extensive on-board amenities. As a seasoned BC Ferries traveler, I have my own routine when traveling BC Ferries Vancouver to Victoria. I like to frequent the Seawest Lounge, where you can enjoy scenic coastal views in a relaxing and quiet environment. The fee to enter is around $12 and includes hot and cold beverages, fresh pastries, crudités, and a wide selection of magazines and newspapers.

I’ve also been known to enjoy the Pacific Buffet while traveling on the Vancouver to Victoria ferry, which offers ocean-view dining with a buffet featuring a wide selection of hot and cold items as well as a delicious dessert bar.

Other BC Ferries Vancouver to Victoria amenities

Many Vancouver to Victoria ferry passengers enjoy dining at the Coastal Cafe, which offers hot food and drinks including the famous White Spot hamburgers and other hot and cold entrees.  Expect there to be a line for service if you don’t get to the Cafe quickly!  Don’t worry though if you find a line, as it moves quickly and there are plenty of seats available.

Other amenities on board most BC Ferries include a coffee and snack bar and a gift shop. I must say the gift shops on BC Ferries are excellent. The buyer for these stores has excellent taste! I have found many gifts and other fine items in these stores over the years.

BC Ferries Vancouver to Victoria passenger seating area
BC Ferries passenger seating area

If you want to just rest and relax during the voyage, there are vast seating areas on board BC Ferries Vancouver to Victoria offering comfortable chairs, many with access to charging ports for your electronic devices. Last but not least there is usually at least one children’s play area!

Traveling on BC Ferries Vancouver to Victoria can be a fun and relaxing experience!  Follow my tips, plan ahead, and most of all, enjoy the trip!

Where to Stay in Victoria

When you get to Victoria, there’s no more iconic place to stay that the Fairmont Empress Hotel!  The jewel of Victoria’s Inner Harbour, the Empress is a beautiful old railroad hotel that has dominated Victoria’s skyline for more than 100 years.  This 4-star hotel includes a full-service spa, several great restaurants and is close to everything you might want to see in Victoria including the Royal BC Museum, the Maritime Museum and so much more!

Check out the current rates at the Empress Hotel.

Check out Ayngelina’s post if you’re looking for the best restaurants in Victoria 🙂

Victoria's beautiful inner harbour, featuring the Fairmont Empress hotel
The beautiful Fairmont Empress Hotel on Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Have you been to Victoria?

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Pinterest image of Voyage from Vancouver to Victoria through the Gulf Islands of British Columbia


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