A couple of weekends ago, I decided to head to the island.
There are a few different ways to get there but all require a ferry. You can go via private coach from Pacific Central Station in the city – it will take you from Vancouver to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, board the ferry with you and then take you from Swartz Bay (on the island) straight to downton Victoria. This route woukd be quicker but costs $40 each way + cost of ferry. You can also just pay for the coach from Swartz Bay to Victoria ($20).
I, however went by public transport. I took the skytrain from East Vancouver to downtown (millennium line) to either ‘Waterfront’ or ‘Granville’. You then change to ‘Canada Line’ at either Waterfront or walk from Granville to ‘Vancouver City Centre’. You then travel south to ‘bridgeport’ station (about 8 stops from there). The cost for skytrain and bus depends on what time of day: Mon-Fri before 6.30pm would be around $5.50 but after that time and on weekends and holidays it would be $2.75. As I had already purchased a one zone monthly travel card and went over the weekend, I didn’t pay any extra.
Outside Bridgeport, there is a small bus terminal, you need the 620 to Tsawwassen ferry terminal. (The bus gets very full so try to get to the front of the line).
At Tsawwassen, you can board one of the BC ferries to Swartz Bay. BC ferries also go to Nanaimo and some of the smaller islands. It costs $16.25 for a one way ticket (if taking a car, it’s an extra $53.25 so would probably pay to rent a car on the island). The ferries generally depart every hour but occassionally they may go over 2 hours – best to plan ahead and avoid gettong bored at the terminal. The ferry was comfortable with plenty of seating, charger points and a few cafes and restaurants. Also as you enter the surrounding islands, the scenery becomes gorgeous.
At arrival at Swartz Bay, you need to take a bus to downtown Victoria. The options are #70 or #70X. Having ridden both routes, I would recommend the #70X as this us an express service along the freeway. The cost one way is $2.75.
These are the approx times for the route by public transport:
Skytrain and 620 to Tsawwassen: 1hr 30 mins
Ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay: 1hr 35 mins
#70X from Swartz Bay to Victoria: 1hr
To get back to Vancouver from Victoria, you just do everything in reverse.
Victoria itself is easily assessible by walking. The main attraction is the provincial parliament building by the waterfront (Victoria is the capital of British Columbia).
The best time, in my opinion to see the building is at night when it is lit up.
There is also the Empress Hotel – I’m guessing similar to Raffles in Singapore. Very old and famous hotel where you can take ‘High Tea’.
There are a few areas for shopping including The Mayfair and plenty of places to eat.
I went for Sushi at Shima Sushi on Wharf Street. For $19.99 you can eat as much sushi as you like. This is how it works:
You get 1hr and 30 mins to finish your food. You are given a menu, where you mark off what you want. The trick is not to be too greedy as you get a second chance to order again. If you leave too much wastage, you are charged full price and you cannot take any of it home.
The menu was varied with sashimi (raw slabs of fish), soups and salads, maki (seaweed on outside) and the rolls and cones. I am a massive fan of tuna and salmon sashimi.
I believe the bill came to $24 (including a soft drink) and I felt very full. As I said in a previous post, sushi is very reasonable out here.
Unfortunately, due to the fact I was on my own and the weather was terrible. I didn’t do much else in Victoria. I didn’t feel like there was much to do within the city especially for the amount of time it takes to get there from Vancouver. I feel a better idea would be to spend more time travelling around the island and make use of the time there. Public transport is apparently not great outside Victoria so car hire would be more assessible.
I’ll end this on a funny note though: Around the Empress Hotel, there are a few bronze statues. One in particular faces the parliament building and is a man with a small dog. As I walked round the statue, I looked on the ground and instantly became disgusted and upset as I looked down at the ground. Around the statue was covered in dog poo (everywhere). I instantly had to get out and wash my boots in a small puddle. I then noticed along the sidewalk there was more ‘dog poo’. Still freaked out and shaking, I started to come to my senses and realize this could not be right so I stood on one of these ‘turds’. It turns out as it was autumn it was the dead fur cones off the trees around the hotel – Needless to say I felt like a prat but at the same time it was dark and wet. I absolutely hate those trees now with a passion!