In the era of non-stop smartphone notifications and on-demand everything, a quick getaway from the daily grind can be just the thing to recalibrate your outlook. Enter: Victoria, BC. Boasting a stellar food and drink scene and magnificent architecture, the charming city offers the perfect opportunity to step away from the hustle and bustle of Seattle.

And what better way to find your inner calm than to kick off your trip with some time on the water? The less than 2-hour and 45-minute ride aboard the Victoria Clipper V is a veritable greatest hits tour of the best scenery the PNW has to offer. Follow along with our guide to the scenic spots you’ll see along the way and fast-track finding your moment of Zen!

Victoria Clipper Ferry Route:

Start: Seattle Skyline, Space Needle and Snow-capped Peaks

The first view you’re treated to as you pull away from Pier 69 is the waterfront expanse of the Seattle skyline. From the historic peak of Smith Tower – the city’s first skyscraper – to the intricate spokes of the Seattle Great Wheel, your departure from the Emerald City offers a prime opportunity to take in the unique details of downtown Seattle.

Traveling through Elliott Bay, the unmistakable spire of the Space Needle looms large from its hilltop perch in the Queen Anne neighborhood. Across the Sound, epic Olympic Mountain views fill the landscape, carrying on through most of the ride. Keep an eye out for the distinctive double-peak feature known as The Brothers!

Gaze up at the Emerald City’s best-known landmark, the Space Needle, as you cruise out of downtown Seattle. Credit: Jenny Jackson

A. Bainbridge Island

Out the port side of the vessel (the left side the boat for the uninitiated), you’ll see Seattle’s closest neighboring island, Bainbridge. Discovered by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, the land was named after Commodore William Bainbridge, Captain of the USS Constitution during the War of 1812. These days its home to a smattering of chic restaurants, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, a plethora of biking trails and the impeccably manicured Bloedel Reserve.

Evergreen trees and charming beach bungalows populate the coastline of Bainbridge Island. Credit: Flickr user Mr.TinDC

B. Discovery Park, Kingston and Edmonds

Heading north, take a peek out the starboard side (the right side of the boat) to catch a glimpse of Discovery Park, Seattle’s largest green space, clocking in at 534 acres. At its westernmost point, you’ll be able to spot the West Point Lighthouse, distinguishable by its unmistakable brick-red roof.

Glide by a forest of masts at Shilshole Marina and the sandy beaches of Golden Gardens before passing the quiet port town of Edmonds. Watch ferries depart from the town’s historic Brackett’s Landing and crisscross the waters to Kingston. Meanwhile, scuba divers search for wildlife in the neighboring submarine wonderland of the Edmonds Underwater Park.

West Point Lighthouse marks the westernmost peninsula of sprawling Discovery Park. Credit: Flickr user btwashburn

C. Whidbey Island

Next, cruise past the largest island off the West Coast of the U.S., Whidbey Island. This 55-mile-long, serpentine stretch of land boasts the country’s first designated national historic reserve, Ebey’s Landing. Whidbey is also home to Deception Pass State Park – the most-visited state park in all of Washington – and its iconic cantilever bridge. (Insider tip: Join us on a gray whale watching day trip this spring to the island’s charming town of Langley!)

Built-in 1935, Deception Pass Bridge has become one of the most-visited sites in the entire state. Credit: Flickr user Jasperdo

D. Admiralty Inlet

Enter Admiralty Inlet, which connects the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Puget Sound. To the west, you can see Foulweather Bluff, the entrance to Hood Canal and the northeastern stretch of the rugged Olympic Peninsula.

Soak in epic views of the Olympic Mountain peaks as you cruise through Admiralty Inlet. Credit: Casey Boothman

E. Marrowstone Island

West of Whidbey is a small, U-shaped island known as Marrowstone. Named by British explorer George Vancouver for the area’s hard, clay-like soil, the island is home to the sprawling Fort Flagler State Park. The shores of the 1,450-acre grounds are a common hunting and fishing area for bald eagles, so watch out for their stark white heads among the treetops!

Jaw-dropping views of Mount Baker greet you from the shores of Fort Flagler State Park. Credit: Susannah Anderson

F. Port Townsend

Along the easternmost tip of the Quimper Peninsula, the city of Port Townsend juts out into Admiralty Inlet. Once slated to become the state’s principal seaport and railhead before being surpassed by Tacoma and Seattle, the town retains its stately brick architecture.

At the city’s northern tip, you’ll see Fort Worden State Park (also designated a National Historic Landmark), which still houses some of the pre-World War I structures from the area’s military days.

Port Townsend’s distinctive waterfront still reflects the town’s 19th-century roots. Credit: Andrew Albertson

G. Strait of Juan de Fuca

Serving as the Salish Sea’s outlet to the Pacific Ocean, the nearly 100-mile stretch of open water also contains the international border between Canada and the United States. With ocean views as far as the eye can see in every direction, crossing the Strait offers the perfect opportunity to sit back, relax and hang out with your travel buddies.

Enjoy 360-degree ocean views as you glide through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Credit: Montane Productions

H. San Juan Islands

The zig-zagging nature of the international maritime border means you can look east and still see parts of Washington state! Look out the starboard side of the boat and you should be able to spot two of the largest islands, Lopez and San Juan Island. Though there are 172 named islands and reefs that comprise San Juan County, only four are accessible by ferry.

Whether you’re in search of vacation locale offering action or relaxation, you can find it in the San Juans. As popular a destination for mountain biking and kayaking as they are for artisan markets and scenic walks along the coast, the islands’ populations swell with visitors from around the globe in the summertime. (Psst! Did you know you can book a trip to San Juan Island right out of downtown Seattle on the San Juan Clipper?)

San Juan Island’s Lime Kiln State Park is one of the best places in the country to spot orcas from the shore. Credit: Brenna Ciummo

End: Victoria

Welcome to Vancouver Island! As you cruise toward our Inner Harbour terminal, you’ll see the Ogden Point Breakwater Lighthouse (a fantastic choice for a sunset stroll during your visit), vibrant Fisherman’s Wharf and your first glimpse of the iconic British Columbia Parliament Buildings. With the entire downtown core spread out before you, your adventure in Victoria begins the moment you step off the boat!

As soon as you cruise into Victoria’s Inner Harbour, prepare to be met with historic architecture and stunning landscaping.

A trip to BC’s capital city aboard the Victoria Clipper ferry proves that a vacation can be about both the journey and the destination! Cruising through the picturesque scenery of the Pacific Northwest sets the tone for a relaxing and rejuvenating trip to Seattle’s neighboring city to the north. Bon voyage!

Feature image: Ryan Ditch