Getting from Victoria, B.C. to Seattle area via ferry
September 19, 2010 11:43 PM   Subscribe

Helping a friend out by driving his car up to Victoria from the San Francisco and leaving it there for him. Looking forward to the trip, but stymied by finding an affordable 1 way trip back to the Bay Area in mid-October. Flights from Victoria are about $300, which isn't horrible, but we would rather take a ferry back to the States and fly back from there.

We want to leave from Victoria on Sunday October 17th and get back to San Francisco the same day. Flights from Victoria seem pretty easy, but seem more expensive than a ferry ride + flight from the Seattle area. We also like the idea of taking the ferry and seeing some sights. The Victoria Clipper from Victoria to Seattle seems like a no-brainer... and it is. Apparently it arrives in Seattle after the last flight to San Francisco has left. Sigh. It'll be the off-season, so there's apparently no direct ferry from Victoria to Bellingham, WA.

Can anyone suggest a good way to ferry back to Washington state and then fly from there back to San Francisco? Options seem to include the ferry to Anacortes and then flying from either Bellingham or SeaTac, or ferry to Port Angeles and then a long, undesirable bus ride to SeaTac. Any experience with public transit or airport shuttle from Anacortes ferry terminal to an airport? Sounds like a longshot now that I've written this out, but hoping someone has figured out a good way to make this trip at this time of year before. Open to better ideas, too.
posted by pkingdesign to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
are you hell bent on arriving san fran the same day? i live in seattle, if you end up having to spend the night in this wondrous city i could at the very least play tour guide. let me sniff around tomorrow for ferry, bus and seatac schedules and see if i can get a good one day itinerary going for you.
posted by thistle at 12:06 AM on September 20, 2010

You've already mentioned all the ways I know of to get from Victoria to Washington. My only suggestion would be to look into taking the ferry from Victoria to Vancouver, and then flying from Vancouver to SF. In my experience flights out of Van are ~20% cheaper than flights out of Vic.
posted by auto-correct at 12:18 AM on September 20, 2010

Best answer: Anacortes is certainly a better choice than Port Angeles for making your way to Seattle. There's a stop at the ferry terminal for local transit as well as longer haul buses (and I think an airporter as well).

That said, I used to take the Anacortes boat frequently, and I would suggest including a lot of buffer time in your plans (a full day if it were me, but several hours at the least). The terminal is well outside the city, and the buses (at least the ones I took) were not synched well with ferry arrival times. If you don't have much time between boat and bus, position yourself by the exit doors and get to the front of the customs line, as the customs agents are ever so painfully thorough and sloooooow. I'd never be more than fifth in line, and I missed my bus (the only one for more than an hour) about half the time.

Also keep in mind that if the seas are rough, the boat won't sail (or even worse, will turn around mid-trip), and they'll do nothing more for you than refund your fare. This happened to me once on the way home to Victoria, and four-bus, two-boat trip I patched together instead took a total of eighteen hours, and almost left me stranded overnight in Bellingham.

Have you looked into flights out of Vancouver, or taking a seaplane from Victoria to Seattle? You could also take the ferry to Vancouver and bus down to Seattle (the BC Ferries boats can handle rougher weather than the one to Anacortes).
posted by bethnull at 12:44 AM on September 20, 2010

This will not go well. Have you considered taking a BC provincial ferry to metro Vancouver and flying to SF from there? That will still stink, probably. Public transit from Anacortes will involve 3+ different agencies, if you can do it at all.
posted by zvs at 12:44 AM on September 20, 2010

(Seaplanes are fun, but almost guaranteed to be more expensive than a direct commercial flight).

Combining my answer and bethnull's -- ferry to Vancouver, greyhound to Seattle, light rail to Seatac -- that's as good as it gets. Customs sucks on the bus, though.
posted by zvs at 12:45 AM on September 20, 2010

Response by poster: @thistle: not hell bent, but spending a night in seattle would cost something, and (much more importantly) I don't have many vacation days to use. We do like Seattle quite a bit, though, and hope to spend more time there on future visits to our friends in the north.

@auto-correct: know anyone who's done the trip from Victoria to Washington in october for a flight? You're right about Vancouver, though, thank you. Just would rather do ferry + bus in Washington to see some new sights.
posted by pkingdesign at 12:49 AM on September 20, 2010

Ferry from Victoria to Anacortes. Airporter shuttle to Bellingham Airport. Allegiant Air from Bellingham to Oakland. The times will almost undoubtedly be less than ideal, but this is by far the cheapest and the easiest way to go. The ferry's beautiful and fun. The shuttle's reliable. The Bellingham Airport is small and friendly and easy to use, and Allegiant is bare bones and cheap and flies direct to smaller airports.
posted by kestralwing at 4:59 AM on September 20, 2010

This is going to be really difficult to make work, if it's possible at all. Ferry schedules and plane schedules rarely work out conveniently. Every time I've flown into/out of Seattle I've ended up having to spend the night there.

The ferry to Vancouver and the Greyhound to Seattle (as already suggested) is the most likely to work.

I looked at kestralwing's idea (because I'd never thought of flying out of Bellingham and am intrigued) but it doesn't look like that'll work for a couple of reasons. The Sidney->Anacortas ferry only goes once a day in the fall, and it arrives at the Anacortas terminal at 3pm. Allegiant's flights to Oakland depart well before then, and in addition they only appear to do that route on Mon, Wed, and Fri.
posted by Emanuel at 7:34 AM on September 20, 2010

Best answer: I have taken the airporter shuttle from Anacortes to SeaTac after taking the ferry, and it was totally fine. It got me where I needed to go. It was a van (with just me in it) for about half the ride (Maybe to Bellingham?), and then then a bigger bus from there to SeaTac.

I have also taken the seaplanes, and they are really fun and cool too, especially if you luck out and get to fly on a clear day. Once you get to Seattle, they have a quick shuttle to SeaTac from the dock.

Airporter Details

Kenmore Air Seaplanes

posted by rockindata at 7:37 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Apparently it arrives in Seattle after the last flight to San Francisco has left.

What about Oakland or San Jose?

Southwest has a flight that departs SeaTac for Oakland at 9:10, arriving in Oakland during Bartable hours.
posted by phoebus at 7:52 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

know anyone who's done the trip from Victoria to Washington in october for a flight?

Yeah, it's pretty common for people to fly out of Seattle since the flights are usually cheaper. But to my knowledge everyone just takes the Clipper, since it's really easy and direct.

I've bused from Vancouver to Seattle before, but I wouldn't recommend that for you. It'll take you ~4 hours to get from Vic to the Van bus station, then another 4 hours or so (I think?) on the bus to Seattle.

If I were in your position, the options I'd be looking at would be either flying out of Vancouver, taking the Anacortes ferry and flying from Seattle, or switching your schedule to take the Clipper the day before (which I understand might not be an option).
posted by auto-correct at 9:46 AM on September 20, 2010

I flew from Bellingham to Oakland for $80 on Allegiant Air a few weeks ago, and could've feasibly gotten an even cheaper ticket. QuickShuttle is a good resource for getting from Vancouver to the Bellingham airport, fyi, just in case.
posted by soviet sleepover at 2:09 PM on September 20, 2010

Response by poster: I don't think it'd be right to mark all of these as best answer, but holy smokes MetaFilter kicks the proverbial ass once again.

To my amazement it looks like Kenmore Air Seaplanes to Seattle/Tacoma Airport ($149) and then Virgin Air to SFO ($99). That's actually about the same price as flying out of Victoria direct to SFO on United ($250). And I'd get to fly on a seaplane! Thanks Rockindata for that suggestion, going to see about that tomorrow.

@Emanuel is right that ferry into Anacortes + shuttle + flight from Bellingham seems challenging/impossible in the off season. I called the folks at today and they basically said the shuttle times aren't synced up. Ferry times apparently change ever 3 months due to tides, so it's too difficult for them to stay coordinated. Probably easier during the summer, something I'll try on a future trip.

Sounds like the Clipper from Victoria to Seattle is the way to go if you're traveling in the high season or if the schedule works for you - fast and cheap. Will try this on a future trip, too.
posted by pkingdesign at 11:17 PM on September 20, 2010

Response by poster: We wound up flying from Victoria harbour to Seattle on a sea plane via Kenmore Air, which was absolutely awesome in every way. Pretty affordable ($140pp full high season fare) and far more convenient than a ferry. Our flight was smooth and full of gorgeous scenery over the islands between Vancouver Island and Puget Sound, and only took about 45 minutes. Customs was easy at their Lake Union terminal in Seattle, and they do a free shuttle to SEA-TAC. I want to try the Clipper Ferry some time just because I want to see the islands up close, but the flight was great.

Thanks for all the help!
posted by pkingdesign at 10:53 PM on October 20, 2010

The Clipper actually isn't very scenic because it's mostly going through open water (Juan De Fuca Straight and Puget Sound) without nearby islands. I'd recommend taking the Anacortas-Sidney ferry instead if you're looking for scenery, which goes right through the San Juan Islands. Also the Anacortas-Sidney ferry lets you go out on the deck, whereas on the Clipper you have to stay inside.
posted by Emanuel at 10:36 AM on October 22, 2010

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