The largest Island on the western coast of North America, Vancouver Island has one of the warmest climates in Canada and is host to some of the most beautiful landscapes you'll ever see. Thanks to the Washington State Ferry system, getting from Seattle to Vancouver Island by car is more accessible than ever.
To get from Seattle to Vancouver Island by car, you will need to reserve tickets for the Anacortes to Sidney Ferry on the Washington State Department of Transportation website. Tickets will cost about $60.00 for a round trip ticket, depending on how many people you are traveling with. Typically, the Ferry from Anacortes to Sidney only has one or two time slots open, so make sure you reserve the booking that works best for your schedule and plan to arrive at the terminal early to load your vehicle to the Ferry.
Seattle to Anacortes
Getting from Seattle to Anacortes is an easy Hour and 20-minute drive up Interstate 5. You'll follow I-5 until you hit Burlington, where you will take exit 230 to WA-20. From here, you'll be just 20 minutes from the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. If you have an early ticket reservation, it is crucial to make this drive with plenty of time to spare before your departure time, as you never know if there will be traffic.
Once you've made it to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal, you will see signs directing you where to go. You'll end up going through a toll booth. Here, you will show your reservation and pay any remaining fees owed on the ticket. Then you will be directed on which lane to drive into for loading the Ferry. You'll likely wait in your lane for upwards of 15-30 minutes until the Ferry is ready to board. Once this happens, follow the cars in front of you and park where directed. Simple as that you're on your way from Seattle to Vancouver Island by car. Don't forget to turn off your vehicle when you make your way to the upper deck!
Riding the Ferry
The Ferry ride from Anacortes to Sidney is an unforgettable experience. You'll pass through and navigate around the San Juan Islands. If you aren't familiar, the San Juans are islands known for their lush landscapes and wildlife. We had never seen them before our Ferry ride, and we were amazed at the sheer volume of islands that you pass through. If you're lucky, you may see mountain goats grazing on the islands, and pods of Orcas swimming next to the Ferry.
While on the Ferry, you can take a seat or venture around the cabin. If it's a beautiful day, you can go out on one of the observation decks - this is where we spent most of our time. There is a small kitchen area you can purchase food, coffee, and alcohol from, and if this blog post doesn't give you enough ideas, you can grab a free pamphlet and read about the best things to do in Vancouver Island.
Eventually, you'll reach Friday Harbor, the only stop on the way to Sidney. Sit tight for 20 minutes or so until the Ferry departs and continues the last leg to Vancouver Island. After a 2-hour 45-minute ferry ride, you'll reach the port of Sidney on Vancouver Island. You'll hear the captain over the loudspeaker alerting you to return to your vehicle as the trip concludes. After docking, cars will begin to drive off of the Ferry and on to Vancouver Island. The final step before roaming free on the Island is customs. Like any border crossing, you'll wait your turn before being called up to the window. Declare anything you have that the border agent should know about and continue to Vancouver Island; you've made it from Seattle to Vancouver Island by car.
Three Things to do on Vancouver Island
Our time on the Island was very short-lived, as we only spent a weekend adventuring around. With that said, we still found some pretty amazing attractions to fill our time. Here are three of the top things we did throughout our weekend on Vancouver Island.
1. Hike The Tallest Peak in Victoria
Spoiler alert, the tallest peak in Victoria, isn't very tall. Mount Douglas is a short 1.5-mile round trip hike with an elevation gain of about 700 feet. If you're not the hiking type, you can drive up to the top of it. Regardless of being a small 'mountain,' Mount Douglas provides some fantastic views of Victoria, Sidney, and the surrounding Islands. You can see the Olympic Peninsula from the top of the Mountain on a clear day. Hiking Mount Douglas for sunrise or sunset will provide some marvelous golden hour views.
2. Explore Downtown Victoria
The capital of British Columbia, Victoria, is known internationally as the City of Gardens, and Butchart Gardens is one place that makes this saying very apparent. The gardens span across 55 acres of land and are home to countless tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths of different shapes, colors, and smells. The gardens have existed since 1904 and receive over a million visits each year from tourists alike. Technically, the gardens are about a 20-minute drive outside of Victoria, but are well worth a stop, especially in the Spring and Summe months.
After getting your fill of the gardens, venture into the heart of downtown Victoria to see the Inner Harbor and Fisherman's Wharf. At the Inner Harbor, you will see ferries and cruise boats coming in and out amongst a beautiful backdrop of the Empress Hotel and Parliament buildings. At Fisherman's Wharf, you'll find an assortment of colorful houseboats - yes, people live on them - along with seals waiting for their next meal, and vendors serving fish and chips.
Finally, for you, tea and coffee lovers, make a stop at Murchie's Tea And Coffee on the main shopping strip and indulge in some of the finest teas and coffees available on the Island. Murchie's was established in 1894 and is very well known for its coffee, tea, and delicious pastries. You'll likely have to wait in line when going here, but it is well worth the wait.
3. Hike the Juan de Fuca Trail to Mystic Beach
For those of you that are looking to get a little adventurous, there are tons of hiking trails throughout the Island. One hike that amazed us was the Juan de Fuca Trail to Mystic Beach. The trailhead for the trek to Mystic Beach is about an hour and 20 minutes outside of Victoria. You'll drive along BC-14 West amongst the coast-line for a good portion of the drive.
Unlike your typical hike of climbing a mountain, this trail declines for the majority of the way until you reach Mystic Beach. In total, the walk is 5 miles roundtrip, with an elevation gain of 515 feet. As mentioned, the elevation gain will come when you are hiking back up to the trailhead on your way back to your car.
Throughout the hike, you'll be amongst the dense forest, and roots cover the path, so make sure you watch your step. The trail can also be a little muddy due to lack of sunlight from the tree canopy, so make sure you wear appropriate footwear. While hiking, you'll see bright orange markers alongside the trail, be sure to follow these as the path can be tricky to find. Throughout the hike, you'll cross over a small river with the help of a suspension bridge that makes for a very cool photo op.
After hiking for two and a half miles, you'll start to hear waves crashing into Mystic Beach, and not soon after; a boardwalk will appear. Walk down the boardwalk and experience the beauty of Mystic beach. To the right, you'll see people who have set up camp for the night, while to the left, you'll find a small waterful and a rope swing that once again makes for a great photo opportunity. Take in the scenery and enjoy the beauty of Vancouver Island, this hike to Mystic Beach was by far the highlight of our trip.
Vancouver Island is a magical place. Full of unique landscapes, wildlife, scenery, and so much more. We only scratched the surface on things to do throughout the Island in this post, but we will be returning, so stay tuned for more adventure ideas!
I hope this post helped show how easy it is to get from Seattle to Vancouver Island by car. Let us know in the comments below if there is anything we missed. Happy travels!