Am I allowed to cross the Canada-US border by sea or land if I am not a citizen of either country?

I have a valid Australian passport and have entered both countries by air. I have a USA-ESTA and Canadian eTA but no visa.

From Citizen and Immigration Canada:

Your application for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) has been approved. You are now authorized to travel to Canada by air.

This seems to imply there is another way to authorize travel by land or water.

The website for the Clipper ferry says that to pass US customs (from Victoria to Seattle), one requires a "US passport" or other enhanced ID which seems to be only available to Canadian citizens.

Edit: At the risk of broadening the question, I am planning to ferry to the US and back, then drive to the US again. I am not committed to the Clipper ferry specifically, though I expect I will take it. The core of the question is to confirm which land and sea options are available to me. Word of mouth suggests that it's okay for me, but I'm not sure.

I'm planning a trip where I ferry (or train) from Canada to the US and back, then drive to the US.

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    The ID Requirements web page doesn't quite make sense, because a Canadian passport (which is not listed) is definitely acceptable identification. So is an Australian passport, or one of any other country (as long as you either don't need a visa, or do need one and have one). – Greg Hewgill Aug 15 '17 at 23:16
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    Part of what you are seeing is that Clipper's website assumes 99% of customers are either American or Canadian citizens / residents, hence it covers the most likely scenarios faced by passengers. If you delve deeper into their website they mention non-US or Non-Canadian citizens need their passports. – user13044 Aug 16 '17 at 1:11

The answer to your question may be found at https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/1258/~/esta---traveling-to-u.s.-by-land:

Do I need ESTA to enter the United States by land?

No. If you are coming by land you do not need to apply for ESTA.

Note: VWP citizens do not need an ESTA to travel on the ferries between Vancouver and Victoria, BC and Washington state. They are treated as a land border port.

You do not need ESTA or any other document aside from your passport.

As I understand it, if you don't have ESTA authorization or a visa, you'll need to pay $6 for an I-94 form.

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From Visa Waiver Program (emphasis mine):

In order to travel without a visa on the VWP, you must have authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a U.S. bound air or sea carrier.

If you have an Australian passport and an ESTA, you can enter the US via the Clipper ferry. You will be required to clear US CBP either on arrival in Seattle, or on departure in Victoria.

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  • I read that you need to clear to entry to the US before you can board the ferry. – Jay Aug 15 '17 at 23:27
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    @Jay: Oh right, US CBP often does preclearance in Victoria before you board. But, that doesn't change the requirements, and you'll still need to clear CBP in Seattle. – Greg Hewgill Aug 15 '17 at 23:28
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    The ferry between Victoria and Seattle counts as a land crossing. I've seen this mentioned explicitly on a CBP website. Also, your last comment is incorrect. Passengers who are precleared in Victoria (or anywhere else for that matter) do not have to clear customs or immigration on arrival in the US. Otherwise there would be no point to having preclearance. – phoog Aug 16 '17 at 7:00
  • @phoog: It's been a while since I've done that crossing, but I know I've had my passport checked before boarding, as well as on arrival (on the same trip). Maybe it was immigration on departure, and customs on arrival. Maybe it was the ferry operator checking documentation so they don't have to bring you back. Different ferries operate from different terminals, and maybe they don't all have CBP preclearance facilities. But regardless, you are required to have all your documentation in order before boarding the ferry, no matter which side you are cleared on. I've updated my answer. – Greg Hewgill Aug 16 '17 at 7:54
  • "regardless, you are required to have all your documentation in order before boarding the ferry, no matter which side you are cleared on": that is of course true, but for a VWP traveler, "all your documentation" is just a passport (plus whatever forms need to be filled out at the border). – phoog Aug 16 '17 at 15:14

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