There are three different ferries that operate between Vancouver Island and the United States.
We have experienced both vehicle ferries, but have not had the opportunity to see what the passenger-only Victoria Clipper is like for ourselves as of yet. Here is everything you need to know about the three USA ferries to Vancouver Island below:
If your travels take you up the Oregon Coast into the Olympic National Park, then the Black Ball Ferry (M.V. Coho) out of Port Angeles is an excellent choice to make your way to downtown Victoria Harbour. We love taking this route because it takes us up highway 101 which is a famous scenic drive up the Oregon and Washington coast. You’ll see beautiful ocean vistas, large old growth trees, natural cliff-side beauty, and you’ll encounter some friendly seaside towns.
If you’re in the mood for a vacation that avoids the hustle and bustle of the big cities, then this is the route to Vancouver Island for you.
• When you take the Black Ball Ferry (M.V. Coho), you’ll know exactly how long your wait at the border crossing will be since it’s only the amount of cars that were with you on the ferry.
• From experience, we highly recommend making a reservation and paying the extra $11 to guarantee your vehicles’ spot. The ferry runs so infrequently (especially during the non-summer months) that you don’t want to risk it missing a ferry for lack of space. See Black Ball Ferry Schedule. If you decide to risk it without a reservation, you could find yourself stuck on a peninsula or contemplating a long unexpected drive to your next option which is a Washington State Ferry or even BC Ferries. We just decided to get a hotel when it happened to us in order to avoid the long drive with kids.
• Be sure to go online to make your reservation and book your ticket to get the best rate possible. Go online to cohoferry.com to see all their rates including passenger and vehicles.
• Downside worth mentioning: The M.V. Coho ferry (Black Ball) is nothing like BC Ferries and other world class ferries in terms of service, look & feel, comfort, dining, scenery, etc… I once saw a notice sign that had to be from 1968. The scenery is the same the whole way over… just plain old ocean. But, it gets you where you want to go quickly – beautiful Victoria on Vancouver Island!
See the Black Ball Ferry line route map
Victoria Clipper offers passenger-only ferry service with year-round daily transport between downtown Victoria Harbour and Seattle. If you are traveling in the Seattle or Portland area it’s easy to include Vancouver Island to your travel plans. No car? No worries… you can easily rent a vehicle on the Victoria side to see other parts of the Island farther away. Although, Victoria has more than enough things to see and do for a fantastic day trip destination including the BC Museum, Butchart Gardens, Victoria Butterfly Gardens, Whale watching, Kayak trips or High Tea at the world famous Empress Hotel overlooking Victoria Harbour.
You’ll experience first class service on a very comfortable passenger ferry. You will be crossing an international border so don’t forget your passport.
Washington State operates a whole fleet of ferries that are designed both for passengers and vehicles. The one we are interested in is the Anacortes Ferry to Sidney, BC on Vancouver Island.
One of the advantages of choosing this ferry service is the route through the beautiful San Juan Islands. These Islands are just as beautiful as the Islands off of the coast of Vancouver Island called the Gulf Islands.
Choosing this ferry route will definitely be a scenic trip, but once again be prepared for a more simple ferry experience. Unlike BC Ferries and the Victoria Clipper, the Washington State ferry has transporting people and vehicles as the main objective and is not trying to be a sudo-cruise ship.
• The Washington State Ferry to Sidney, BC on Vancouver Island does not operate during the winter months. During the Spring and Fall they offer one sailing, while during the summer months they increase sailing times. You can view the current schedule online.
• The trip to Vancouver Island is about 3 hours depending on the route through the San Juan Islands. Take note: this is the longest ferry crossing of all ferry service options, but it may just be the most scenic.
• You will be crossing into another country so bring your passport. One advantage of crossing the border is that it will be no surprise as to how long your border crossing will be.
• If you miss your ferry at this location, it is an easy drive up to Canada to BC Ferries from this point. Unlike BC Ferries, the scheduled departures are few and far between.
• The ferry terminal on the Vancouver Island side is in Sidney, BC, which is about 30 minutes outside of Victoria. You will want to access the BC Transit System for your ride to Victoria. For $2.50 the bus will take you all the way to Victoria Harbour which is a great place to spend the day. Just ask the staff at the Sidney ferry terminal where the bus stop is. Be sure to cross the street to catch the bus to Victoria or you’ll end up headed to Swartz Bay ferry terminal… which is the ferry to Vancouver. There is always the option of a taxi, but that will set you back about $65.00