Getting Voted off the Island (Victoria-Seattle Edition)
April 16, 2014 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Rent a car on the island? Ferry, then rent a car stateside? Looking for low cost, shortest transit time from Nanaimo/Victoria to Seattle. Don't want to fly.

We'll be on Vancouver Island (Nanaimo/Victoria) but want to do a 4-5 day road trip to Seattle & Portland. There seem to be a million ferry companies operating out of Victoria, but they're all expensive so it seems.

We could do Nanaimo/Vancouver then rent a car & drive south. However not a lot of car companies near the ferry terminals.

Preferred trip is Victoria/USA but don't know which ferry to take.

Worst case scenario we rent a car on the island & ferry it across.

Thanks guys n gals & thanks for being the highlight of my workday :P
posted by St. Peepsburg to Travel & Transportation around Vancouver Island, BC (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The fastest way from Victoria to Seattle is the Victoria Clipper. It's a passenger ferry, so no cars. I believe there's a Budget car rental at or near the ferry terminal in Port Angeles, WA. You could pick up a car there for your road trip.

As for transportation on the Island, if you're flying into YYJ, you can rent a car at the airport and drop it off in downtown Victoria. Not to dis Nanaimo, but is there a reason why you're going there? I ask because if you were just visiting Victoria, you could do it without a car.
posted by atropos at 12:02 PM on April 16, 2014

I took the car ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria (and was grilled like crazy by the border agent: did I have health insurance, when did my grandfather die, what was his middle name? He finally told me " that it didn't look right for a woman to be travelling by herself").
posted by brujita at 12:08 PM on April 16, 2014

Response by poster: I have family in the 'mo so it is a must-see destination. We're flying into YCD, and won't need a car on the island, just in the US.

If the Victoria Clipper is our only option out of Victoria then we may just cheap it and take the Nanaimo-Vancouver ferry. The clipper is pricy!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:18 PM on April 16, 2014

If you take the Clipper, bring dramamine if you suffer from motion sickness. It's a very bumpy 3hr ride and people get sick.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:19 PM on April 16, 2014

If price is a big concern, you could head to Vancouver and take Bolt Bus from downtown Vancouver to downtown Seattle. Tickets are usually $20-$35 per person each way.

That being said, price out the ferry trip from Nanaimo to Vancouver. I can't imagine you'll save a ton of money versus taking the Clipper -- and if you include a slooooooooow city bus between Horseshoe Bay and the bus station you'll save literally almost a day of your vacation time.
posted by jess at 12:21 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you think the Clipper is pricy, well ... this is all going to be a bit of challenge.

But Jess is on the right track. Get to Vancouver from Nanaimo via walk BC Ferry. Take transit in.

Then Bolt Bus to Seattle and / or Portland. Then you don't need to rent a car at all.

But yes, the time factor is also a concern. (The Clipper would help with that.)
posted by miles1972 at 12:25 PM on April 16, 2014

Yeah, Clipper or Vancouver Bolt Bus are what I'd suggest.

The only other option I know of is taking the ferry to Anacortes, WA and then renting a car or finding a way in to Seattle from there. Never done it before though so I can't recommend it personally.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 12:31 PM on April 16, 2014

Best answer: I think this is one of those things thats either going to be fast or cheap but not both. The trip from Victoria to Vancouver on public transit can be really slow.

Although if you leave from Nanaimo you can get the 257 express bus to downtown Vancouver and then either get the Bolt bus or take a train or bus from the train station to Seattle.

Pacific Coach lines offers buses that go onto the very from the Victoria bus station to the Vancouver bus station but its slow and costs 40 dollars per person one way.

You may want to look into the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles (1.5 hours) and then renting a car in Port Angeles and driving to Seattle.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 12:34 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Typical walk-on BC ferry prices are $8-$16 so I was hoping it would be in that ballpark for the a ferry to the US. But I hear you guys, its sounding like this unicorn does not exist. It may be one of those problems that I just need to throw money at and suck it up.

Also there are so many ferries out of Victoria that I was having a hard time wrapping my head around which one to take, and which location in Washington to travel to as a launching off point.

We've ruled out public transit (Vancouver/Victoria) or coach bus to Seattle since it is epically slow and we like to save money like anyone, but not when it becomes ridiculous.

On preview: HOLY SHIT spacewarp13 you've done it!! Port Angeles for $17 and scenic views of The Olympic Peninsula. With a budget rental right by the harbour.
Thank you!!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:03 PM on April 16, 2014

Response by poster: Btw unless I'm mistaken the Clipper is $100 per person one way = $400 round trip (more than the price of the car rental).
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:50 PM on April 16, 2014

Do note that to get from Port Angeles to Seattle you'll either have to take another ferry across Puget Sound (with additional cost), or drive all the way down to Tacoma and back up to Seattle (an extra 50 miles.) But since you're planning to go to Portland anyhow, I assume this isn't a huge issue.
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:23 PM on April 16, 2014

It looks to me like the Clipper is closer to $66 per person one way. Not exactly cheap, but cheaper than you thought...
posted by postel's law at 2:24 PM on April 16, 2014

Best answer: Victoria Clipper goes to downtown Seattle, passenger-only

IIRC the ferry to Port Angeles is the last of the Black Ball Ferry Line (Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters). Port Angeles to Seattle by car is about 30 minutes to Kingston, WA, 30 minute ferry to Edmonds, WA, and then 30 minutes south to Seattle.

Washington State Ferries operates a car ferry from Sydney (BC, on Vanc. Island) to Anacortes (mainland Washington, about 45 minute drive, maybe an hour north of Seattle).

Fastest but probably the most expensive: Kenmore Air seaplanes run 3 flights a day to and from Seattle/Lake Union and Victoria Inner Harbor, which is a 20 minute walk to downtown Seattle (or a faster trolley/bus/cab/Uber), but it'll run you around $260 for round-trip. I believe there are some options for car rentals in town. Car2Go is a possibility also, but I'm not sure if there's full user reciprocity across a national border.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:31 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I see it - Clipper $120-$130 round trip during tourist season. All I saw was the 1-way prices at first. So $240 total.

Once we are in the US, its a road trip... its not the destination but the journey yada ya so the extra time isn't too big a deal. Chances are we'll drive down the coast side & hit up Portland first, Seattle on our way back up. Also I did want to hike in Mount Olympus area so it might be our best bet. Or if we go Port Angeles directly to Seattle, driving the extra 50 miles through Tacoma shouldn't be too big a deal.

Wait that's miles not kilometres... 80km. Ok its a medium deal.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:45 PM on April 16, 2014

The Pt Angeles way is great. I've done that many times too.

As Brujita mentions the border guards on that route can be particularly diligent so make sure you've got all your passports in order, etc.

And a tip when you're in the States - the coast is beautiful, but takes longer. I-5 is a much faster route (between Seattle and Portland) but not scenic at all.
posted by miles1972 at 2:52 PM on April 16, 2014

If you decide to take the Black Ball ferry by car, make a reservation as it gets packed — especially during the summer months.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:02 PM on April 16, 2014

I live in Portland and do Port Angeles - Victoria somewhat regularly (and am a single woman and have never been hassled by border guys, I've found them nothing but polite on both Canadian and American sides).

If you want to hit both Portland AND Seattle, I'd take the Black Ball ferry to Port Angeles, rent a car there and drive down to Portland. Then turn in your rental in Portland, take the Amtrak train up to Seattle, and splurge on the Clipper to get back to Victoria. The train isn't expensive, and you'll be saving a day or 2 of car rental and milage (to make up for the cost of the Seattle ferry).
posted by lilnublet at 4:20 PM on April 16, 2014

Canadian BP has been polite to me; it just took FOREVER when I came into Victoria and Prescott ON...though I was rather annoyed when told it was because I was by myself; Canada and the US aren't Saudi Arabia.
posted by brujita at 4:51 PM on April 16, 2014

You've probably made your decision, but something else to think about is the train: Vancouver/Seattle is cheap, beautiful, comfortable, and while not particularly fast, not prohibitively slow, either.

Also, the seaplane service from Nanaimo to Richmond is pretty cheap, absurdly quick and a really awesome ride. Something everyone should do at least once in their lives.
posted by jrochest at 9:28 PM on April 16, 2014

Best answer: The journey may be its own reward, but the journey anywhere between Portland and Vancouver along I5 ranges from annoying to obnoxious. There are worse stretches of freeway in North America, but the road is on the crowded side, and the scenery is, at best, in the distance.

I'd decide if you want to do cities or to do the country, and unless you want to do a lot of time out of the city, skip the car entirely. Care and feeding of a car in the parts of any city that you are going to want to be in as a visitor is going to be annoying.
posted by wotsac at 10:58 AM on April 17, 2014

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