One of the great things about exploring Western Washington and British Columbia is there’s a good chance you can travel by ferry. Within the Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, there’s an intricate series of islands assembled together requiring an efficient ferry system to provide adequate transportation. Stepping onto a ferry invokes a special sense of freedom every time we head towards a new place, leaving only a distant spec of land behind. Sometimes I like to imagine how the earliest explorers felt as they left the European continent and headed across the vast ocean, likely feeling a sense of excitement but uncertainty, not knowing what to expect beyond their reach or if the world would suddenly drop off.
Today, it’s significantly more difficult to construct a feeling of the unknown. However, when traveling by boat, it’s still possible to watch one place drift completely out of sight before discovering the next. Instead of making a grand leap through time and space, you can carefully pay attention to each moment of the journey as you traverse the water acting as a true boundary between one place to the next.
During one of our trips to the Pacific Northwest, we decided to visit Victoria, B.C. There are several ways to get to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, located on Vancouver Island. But since we were already exploring the Olympic Peninsula, we decided to catch the Black Ball Ferry Line from Port Angeles, WA. As we pulled into Victoria’s harbor, people passed by on the water, happily piled into whale watching dinghies and floating tour buses.
The rain drizzled down as the clouds hovered stubbornly. British Columbia’s parliament building sat prominently inside the harbor. After a short trip through customs and checking into the Hotel Grand Pacific, we walked through downtown, making sure to find the year-round Christmas shop.
We then picked up a car and headed to the Craigdarroch Castle, built between 1887-1890 for Robert Dunsmuir, who gained his wealth from the coal mining industry. The mansion was constructed with the finest materials including a beautiful collection of Victorian strained and leaded glass windows. Although Robert Dunsmuir died before the mansion was complete, the remaining members of his family lived in Craigdarroch until 1908. The mansion was then sold and used for a variety of purposes over the years including a military hospital and a college before finally being preserved and turned into a museum.
From the top of the mansion, there are views of Victoria and the Salish Sea.
After winding through Craigdarroch, we made our way 30 minutes or so north of Victoria to Butchart Gardens, a gorgeous display of flowers and plant life skillfully placed in various gardens such as the Sunken Garden, a Rose Garden and a Japanese Garden.
We spent the last few hours of the day grabbing dinner at 10 acres, a fantastic local and organic restaurant in Victoria and then touring the city lights. Although it rained most of the day, our trip to Vancouver Island was a true getaway. Our only way back to the peninsula was by ferry, so we would soon leave one world behind and return to the other, but not without first enjoying the ride.
- Port Angeles: If you’re staying in Port Angeles, WA the night before catching the ferry to Victoria, try the Olympic Lodge. The hotel sometimes provides free parking near the ferry terminal to guests who decide to also travel to Victoria overnight and don’t want to take a car. (http://www.olympiclodge.com/)
- Victoria, B.C.: Hotel Grand Pacific (located directly across from the ferry terminal) (http://hotelgrandpacific.com/)
- Great Local Places to Eat & For Treats:
- Links to things to do for a day on Vancouver Island:
- Ferry from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, B.C.
- Black Ball Ferry Line (https://cohoferry.com/)