Life is good on Vancouver island. Located in the heart of the West Coast of North America, Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is just a short hop away from Vancouver and Seattle. Your days in Victoria can be as busy as you want – from iconic locations, and untamed wilderness to the compact cosmopolitan downtown, Victoria and its surroundings are a true playground for people who like to relax, explore or go on outdoor adventures. Victoria also offers a unique blend of old world charm and new world experiences. And as an island destination, Victoria offers visitors an escape from their busy and hectic everyday lives.
How to get there?
You can either take a flight to Victoria International Airport or choose one of the many boat connections from Vancouver, Seattle or Port Angeles. Once on the island your travel choices include taxi, public transit and various rental offers (RV, car, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle).
Besides experiencing the amazing hospitality of the Canadians, our highlight in Victoria was the famous Fisherman’s Wharf close to Victoria’s Inner Harbour. It was a lot of fun to wander down the docks and look at the beautiful float homes. You can also combine your visit with a nice walk from the city centre towards the ferry harbour, along the seawall all the way to the Breakwater Lighthouse. On top we really enjoyed hiking outisde the city. Our host took us to Mystic Beach, China Beach and Jocelyn Hill. And these are just three hikes out of many.
How long to stay?
Victoria is a good starting point to start your Vancouver Island adventure. With its 85.000 inhabitants, the city itself has a pretty reasonable size and is not as crowded or busy as its nearby cousin Vancouver, which means you probably will not have to wait in line to take in its many attractions, which you can visit within 2-3 days. In fact we spent 1 1/2 days exploring the city and then headed off to explore some of Vancouver Islands’ tracks, beaches and nature.
Where to stay?
We were lucky enough to stay with a local during our trip to Victoria, so we cannot really give a good Airbnb or hotel recommendation. But do not worry – there are lots of hotels, motels, resorts, campgrounds and budget options to choose from. In case you are looking for super central accommodation, go for downtown Victoria. If you are fine with taking a bus to the city centre, you can also choose James Bay, Victoria West, Fernwood, North Park or Burnside. We are pretty sure that you will exactly find what you are looking for!
Royal BC Museum This world-class museum, which turned 130 years old in 2016, will give you an insight in all of British Columbia’s natural and human history. There are several permanent galleries to choose from, but you can also experience different traveling exhibitions troughout the year. Inner Harbour You probably cannot miss the beautiful Inner Harbour during your stroll around Victoria. It is a nice place to relax and to watch vessels come in and out. And also a good starting point for a whale watching adventure, a flight with a floating plane or to catch a ferry or water taxi. During the summer months, the harbour hosts festivals, shows and music – so there definitely is something to explore for everyone. Chinatown Did you know that Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest in Canada? And even the second oldest in North America, right after San Francisco’s. Until today Victoria’s Chinatown remains an active place and is equally popular amongst visitors and locals. The focus is the 500-600 block of Fisgard Street, including famously narrow Fan Tan Alley, the old Chinese School and a small selection of historic buildings and Chinese businesses. Fan Tan Alley Once mired in gambling, prostitution and opium (which was legal until 1908), the famous Fan Tan Alley is not only one of the narrowest streets in all of North America, it today also turned into a more clean-cut boutique-lined alley. Do not forget to check out the chocolate shop! Sooke & Port Renfrew Just in case you feel like spending your day at the beach, visiting Sooke and Port Renfrew could be a good option. This area is wild by nature. The Sooke Potholes are perfect for swimming on a hot day and in Port Renfrew you can see “Canada’s Gnarliest Tree” at Avatar Grove afterwards. If you love trees you should also pay Big Lonely Doug a visit – the country’s second-largest Douglas fir tree. On top the East Sooke Park is a great location for hiking with several trails available. Choose the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail for a chance to spot wildlife along the beach or Whiffen Spit to see the views from this natural breakwater. Parliament Buildings One name you will probably hear a lot in Victoria is Francis Rattenbury. The young British immigrant was just 25 years old when he won a contest to design British Columbia’s new parliament buildings in 1892. He later went on to design other famous city landmarks. The Parliament Buildings are a dominant feature of the Inner Harbour and also open to visitors. Free guided tours are provided throughout the year. Click here for more information on public tours. A tour will give you the opportunity to discover the history of the province, the architectural splendor of BC’s cherished Parliament Buildings and to learn about British Columbia’s parliamentary process. But tours also reveal fascinating tidbits: Did you know that there is something special about the placement of the government and opposition benches? They are two-and-a-half sword lengths apart, just in case a duel breaks out. Craft beer Victoria = heaven for craft beer lovers! The city has one of the larges Craft Breweries per capita in whole Canada. Here you will also find Canada’s first brewpub and some of British Columbia’s most popular breweries. And this is probably why some people call Victoria “the cradle of craft beer revolution”. We had an amazing night out at Canoe Brewpub and we really enjoyed the selection of Phillips beers (some say this is the most popular brewery on the island. To learn more about Victoria’s craft beer scene, make sure to check out The BC Ale Trail. They even provide you with an amazing agenda for a three-day walk-eat-drink tour across Victoria, including some amazing sights, restaurants, breweries and pubs. Victoria Public Market The Victoria Public Market at the Hudson highlights local artisans, farmers, butchers, bakers, cheese-makers, preservers, brewers, vintners, florists and restaurateurs. It is located in the historic Hudson building in downtown Victoria and probably is the freshest and tastiest place to be on whole Vancouver island. We really enjoyed this bustling gathering place and the amazing food. Whale Tours Did you know that there are 80 resident whales living in Victoria’s waters? The waters surrounding Victoria make for excellent whale watching and wildlife viewing. No surprise there are plenty of companies offering a wide range of different whale watching adventures. Orcas are most frequently sighted, but humpback, minke and grey whales can also be seen. And on top you might even be able to spot some harbour seals, Steller and California sea lions, or bald eagles. Many tours leave right from downtown, so it is super easy to combine an afternoon of whale watching with a tour across the city centre. Nearby Sidney and Sooke are also popular whale-watching spots, and some tours even travel to the Victoria area from Vancouver. We cannot really recommend a tour operator, but we know that there are some that pay a lot of attention to sustainable and ecological aspects, so you might want to do your research before you choose one of the many options. Butchart Gardens The Butchart Gardens provide 22 ha of breathtaking gardens year round. Located just about 35 minutes north of downtown Victoria. In summer the gardens provide highlights like the famous Rose Gardens with over 250 varieties of roses, exo-friendly boat tours, night illuminations, evening entertainment, and dazzling firework shows. And make sure to not miss the Victoria Butterfly Gardens, a unique opportunity to experience the beauty and curiosity of a tropical jungle up close. Beacon Hill Park Located in downtown Victoria and within easy walking distance from most downtown hotels, motels and the inner harbour, this park can easily be put on your sightseeing agenda. Keep in mind that the park is huge and that there is much to see and do, so you probably still want to allow plenty of time to view the entire park. Beacon Hill Park gives you views of Victoria’s waterfront and the Dallas Road Walkway as well as views of the Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic Mountains in Washington State. Craigdarroch Castle This stunning example of Victorian architecture is sure worth a visit. It is located a short drive or leisurely walk from downtown harbour. The castle will give you a glimpse of priviliged life in the 1890s and it also weaves a fascinating tale of an intriguing family – including their achievements, their relationships and even their quirks. Find out more on thecastle.ca. Explore Vancouver Island Vancouver Island is the largest island on the west coast of North America, and has been a global destination for hundreds of years. Today the island appeals to many different types of travelers – no matter if you are looking to explore the region one plate at a time, if you are hungry for cultural experiences, if you are looking for a mild climate to escape the chilly Canadian winter, if you are up for a fantastic getaway and to relax for a luxurious, decadent weekend or if you are seeking adventures in the outdoors: There are seven regions to explore, each of them with a variety of activities, experiences and adventures available.