How to Spend One Day in Victoria, BC: Itinerary For First-Time Visitors

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Have One Day in Victoria, BC? Here’s What to See, Do, and Eat!

You’ve made a trip to Victoria, BC – great call! Whether you’re staying overnight or you’re on a Victoria day trip from the mainland, there’s plenty to do, eat, see, and drink to keep you busy!

A day trip to Victoria, BC is definitely not enough time to see everything the city has to offer. That said, you can cover quite a bit of ground if you plan it right. That’s where we come in!

We spent a few days in Victoria while on our Vancouver Island road trip and really loved the seaside city. We even had a local friend (a connection through Eric) tell us about top attractions and more local tips while we were exploring.

So, this guide covers exactly that: places to visit for a whole day in Victoria. From breakfast options to evening activities, this one-day itinerary covers the things that you must do in Victoria, BC if you’re short on time!

Oh, and if you are staying one night, we really liked our stay at the Oswego Hotel. It’s a very popular accommodation in a quiet area close to the harbour and downtown.

Victoria, BC Tours

Being the capital of BC, Victoria is a popular destination to explore. Luckily, there are several tour options to help you discover Victoria in different ways!

Breakfast at Blue Fox Cafe

Navigation Address: 919 Fort St, Victoria, BC V8V 3K3

blue sign for cafe hanging beside red brick wall over city sidewalk in victoria bc.
Just look for the cute blue fox!

To start your Victoria day itinerary off right, head for Blue Fox Cafe. It’s the one with the sign hanging over the sidewalk!

Located just a short walk from the centre of downtown, this place was founded back in 1991 and – let us tell you – it did not disappoint!

We arrived shortly after 8:00 am opening and there was a lineup (which we anticipated because it’s that popular). Our local friend told us to try it out. 

The staff was super nice and once inside, we scanned the barcode on the table to see the menu. They also have the menu posted outside so you can check while you’re waiting. 

Eric had a dark roast drip coffee and Lisa had a dirty chai for hot drinks. Both were great – and the coffee was free refills! 

For breakfast, Lisa had the regular Eggs Benedict which came with ham and potatoes on the side which you can swap for fruit. 

large plate of breakfast foods with water glasses on wooden table.
One of the best travel breakfasts we’ve had in a long time… no joke.

Eric had the Fox’s Grill – sort of like their “classic” breakfast. It came with potatoes, three eggs, two kinds of meat (sausage and bacon) toast, fried mushrooms, and fried tomatoes. It was honestly one of the best breakfasts he’s ever had on the road. 

Overall, the vibe of Blue Fox is really cool. It’s not overly trendy – but a very social, welcoming, and friendly kind of place. That said, it’s also not a greasy spoon… it’s high-quality, has huge portions, and is definitely worth the wait.

When we left, the lineup (on a weekday) was even longer so plan ahead. If it’s busy, you can also try Jam Cafe, Shine Cafe, or even Floyd’s Diner James Bay (a classic greasy spoon) or John’s Place Restaurant. These are all top options for brunch or breakfast in Victoria!

Getting Around Victoria, BC
If you’re in Victoria, BC for the day, you’ll find that the city centre isn’t huge and it is very walkable with a slight hill around Downtown heading north from the Harbour. The shoreline has sidewalks and walking paths which snake you along cove after cove to see boats, floating houses, and even wildlife.

Public transport on land is with buses through BCTransit. On the water, there are numerous water taxis (run by Victoria Harbour Ferry) you can hop on to get to other parts of the city centre. Water taxis are a huge thing since the city is shaped by a number of smaller harbours, coves, and bays.

Morning Activities

Now that you’ve got breakfast in you, it’s time to figure out what you’re going to do for your morning activities. Morning in Victoria is when lots of things like tours and attractions happen so you kind of need to plan ahead to figure out which one you’re going to do.

Victoria also has a number of larger attractions which can easily fill a few hours so here are a few ideas of things you can do during your morning in Victoria: Whale Watching or The Butchart Gardens or Exploring Downtown.

Remember to choose one since you won’t have enough time in a day to do all three!

Whale Watching from Victoria, BC

Navigation Address for Orca Spirit Adventures Office: 146 Kingston St. (behind/under the Coast Victoria Hotel & Marina)

orca whales in blue ocean with small boat behind and cloudy sky above.
It was neat seeing orcas on our whale-watching tour!

Without a doubt, one of the most popular things to do in Victoria, BC is to go whale watching. Moreso than on the mainland, the Salish Sea off the coast of Victoria proves to be a very popular spot for whales.

As such, there are quite a few tour companies that will take you out for a few hours to see whales, other wildlife, and the beautiful shoreline that goes with being on the West Coast.

We actually did this whale-watching tour with Orca Spirit Adventures and really liked it. We saw a few orcas and a bunch of other wildlife which made for a great half-day out on the water. Not to mention the guys were great and the weather was lovely.

We actually wrote a whole post on our whale watching experience from Victoria if you’re thinking about whale watching when you visit.

Many of the tour operators leave right from the waters off downtown Victoria so a whale watching tour can make for a perfect way to spend a few hours.

The Butchart Gardens

Navigation Address: 800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay, BC V8M 1J8, Canada

With over 50+ acres of beautifully manicured gardens, The Butchart Gardens are among the very popular places to visit when you come to Victoria.

The Gardens have a number of themed sections which take you to different places around the world – from Japan to Italy. The Ross Fountain is always a highlight – but just walking the stunning grounds is worth the trip.

It should be noted that the Gardens are not close to Downtown Victoria. They are a short 25-minute drive (or 50-minute bus) north of the city centre. 

So, you should plan to be there the whole morning if that’s the place you decide to explore! Learn more about The Butchart Gardens on their website.

Explore Downtown Victoria

victoria harbour water with boats and red brick hotel with downtown buildings above.
A shot of Victoria Harbour along the Causeway Marina – with downtown behind!

If you don’t want to go whale watching or explore the Butchart Gardens – or you’re visiting last minute and didn’t plan ahead – there’s still plenty to do and see in downtown Victoria. 

You can easily fill a few hours in the morning by making a few visits to some attractions and just exploring the area. There’s definitely no shortage when it comes to what to see in Victoria.

You can walk through the heart of downtown on Government Street which has lots of shopping and places to eat and drink. 

As for attractions, you can check out the Royal BC Museum, the beautiful BC Legislative Assembly building, Fan Tan Alley in Chinatown, or even hop on a scenic seaplane tour that leaves right across from the Fairmont Empress Hotel

You can even just find a quiet bench along the harbour and enjoy a sit while you breathe in the sea air. Nothing wrong with that!

Lunch (and Explore) at Fisherman’s Wharf

Navigation Address: 12 Erie St, Victoria, BC V8V 4X5

colourful houseboats in a line with blue water in front at fishermans wharf in victoria bc.
The iconic shot of the colourful houseboats at Fisherman’s Wharf!

Whatever you get up to in the morning, you should definitely head to Fisherman’s Wharf for a little lunchtime exploration. You might have seen photos of colourful houseboats in Victoria? Well, Fisherman’s Wharf is where you see them!

The Wharf is a small part of the waterfront located a short walk east of downtown. You can walk along the waterfront path from downtown to get there.

The docks are home to a number of houseboats where residents live. It’s also a touristy spot (but still worth checking out) because there are a number of restaurants, shops, and tours that leave from there. 

The Wharf is also an active commercial hub which has vessels coming and going. However, for a visitor to Victoria, the food and the colourful houseboats are the main draw.

You access the main gangway to the docks from a small parking lot. For those with a car, you can pay for parking at the Wharf.

Once onto the docks, there are a few restaurants, craft shops, places for a drink, and kiosks for tours like kayaking and whale watching.

two pieces of crispy fish and chips in basket on table with boats and water behind.
Lunch at Barb’s – a very good choice!

Since this is a lunch stop, you might want to find a bite to eat. We had fish and chips at Barb’s Fish and Chips which – we were told – had some of the best fish and chips in all of Victoria. 

We shared the two-piece cod fish and chips (they also have Halibut) with fries and coleslaw and a seafood chowder which came in a bowl with buttered toast. Both were excellent.

Once you pick up your order, you get to sit at a picnic table somewhere on the docks and enjoy the sunshine and sights and sounds of the water.

large seal floating in blue harbour water.
Our seal friend showed up just a few feet away!

We even had a visitor to our table – a harbour seal – which everyone went wild over. It was very cute just floating there a few feet away as if to say “hi!”. If you see a seal, please remember not to feed it!

That said, there are lots of other food options like Mexican, fish tacos, pizza, etc. There’s even an ice cream shop!

Afternoon Activities

After lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf, our itinerary takes you away from the heart of the city centre to explore a little more nature and some of the beautiful coastlines that Victoria has to offer.

For the afternoon, you should get your walking shoes ready because you’re heading for Ogden Point and then to Beacon Hill Park! 

Ogden Point

Navigation Address: 211 Dallas Rd, Victoria, BC V8V 1A1

long concrete walkway with metal railing and ocean on both sides and sky above.
The Breakwater Pier walk to the Lighthouse was lovely!

From Fisherman’s Wharf, you can actually continue along Dallas Road towards Ogden Point. Here, you can check out the sundial and then walk out along The Breakwater Pier where you’ll find the Breakwater lighthouse.

This is a great place to stop for photos and to get a sense of the shoreline before heading back into the city. You might even spot some cruise ships docked right beside.

Close to the Ogden Point Sundial, there is a small place called Breakwater Cafe, Bar & Bistro. We didn’t go but our local friend suggested that it’s a good place to stop if you need a break. 

Continue east along the Dallas Road Waterfront Trail enjoying the views of the sea as you go. You’ll eventually reach Holland Point Park – continue on until you get to the bottom of Beacon Hill Park.

Before you enter Beacon Hill Park be sure to snap a photo or take note of the Mile 0 Monument which is where the Trans-Canada highway officially begins. 

Beacon Hill Park

Navigation Address: 100 Cook St, Victoria, BC

pond in garden with colourful plants and green trees around and sky above.
There’s something for everyone in Beacon Hill Park!

Now it’s time to take in a little bit of nature in Beacon Hill Park. This beautiful varied park space located between the neighbourhoods of James Bay and Fairfield was really worth the visit. 

We went for a walk and there are lots of different walking paths that snake through the area.

There’s no shortage of different birds and animals as well as different ponds, bridges, fountains, and other features like statues and sculptures. We made friends with some curious ducks (we didn’t feed them) when we visited.

On the grounds, you’ll also find the world’s tallest free-standing totem pole which was a sight to see. We wandered through a big chunk of the park before ending up back at the shoreline along Dallas Road. 

There’s also a famous ice cream stop – Beacon Drive-in Restaurant – located on Douglas Street at the west edge of the park.

Once back at Dallas Road, we crossed the waterfront trail and found some steps that led down to the actual rocky beach (between Finlayson Point and Spiral Beach, for reference).

long rocky beach with driftwood and tall cliff behind with sky above.
Our beach sit along the shoreline was so peaceful.

Here, we sat for a while and just listened to the waves crashing. There’s plenty of driftwood to sit on and photograph – and since the roadway is above, it’s quite secluded and serene!

Afternoon Break (Optional): The Hot and Cold Cafe in Cook Street Village

Navigation Address: 313 Cook Street, Victoria, BC V8V 3X5

After Beacon Hill Park and a walk along Dallas Road to take in the sea air, you should head up Cook Street to Cook Street Village.

This small cluster of neighbourhood shops, eateries, bars, and grocery stores was quite welcoming and a little bit unexpected for a residential area!

outside of small cafe under tree cover with sidewalk in front.
The Cafe was in the heart of Cook Street Village!

If you need a break (and perhaps a coffee and a nibble), check out The Hot and Cold Cafe.

It’s a smaller cafe with a few wooden tables and is worth the stop. There’s a pretty good drink board as well as baked goods in a glass case.

They also offer quite a bit of food from cold salads and rice bowls to soups and sandwiches/wraps. 

scone and brownie on wooden table with two hot drinks.
The drinks and baked goods were really good!

We just had a drink – a flat white and a cappuccino – and then a brownie and a chocolate almond toasted scone. Both sweet items were really good!

The staff was super friendly and the place overall was a nice mix of locals and travellers.

After this optional break, you can walk back towards downtown which takes about 20 minutes walking. You actually snake along the top end of Beacon Hill Park again and pop out beside the Legislative Assembly.

Dinner at Red Fish Blue Fish

Navigation Address: 1006 Wharf St, Victoria, BC V8W 1N8

small shipping container on wooden boardwalk with red building behind on hillside.
Small, but very popular – that’s Red Fish Blue Fish!

It’s now dinner time in Victoria, and that means more seafood! But seriously, there’s a place to go for food in Victoria that you can’t miss: Red Fish Blue Fish.

Located right at Victoria Harbour across from the seaplane terminal, this restaurant in a recycled sea container will not disappoint.

You order at the window, find a place to sit along the wooden boardwalk and they call your name to grab it at the side window!

two hand rolled fish tacos and a bowl of chowder on table with harbour water and boats behind.
Dinner was really good – loved the tuna and the chowder!

We had the fish tacos (one salmon and one tuna) which were pan-seared and cooked to medium with like a creamy slaw. We also ordered their seafood chowder which was a bit spicy and delicious.

Be sure to grab napkins since things can get messy. As you eat, you get to watch the boats come and go and the planes take off. 

It was pretty busy when we went with lots of locals and visitors. There were even seaplane pilots exiting their plane after a flight and heading right to Red Fish Blue Fish for their dinner!

Overall, it was definitely worth the hype – try the fish and chips which are also quite good apparently.

Keep in mind that they close at 8:00 pm – and in the off-season sometimes even earlier. So, this might end up being somewhat of an early dinner.

If seafood isn’t for you or you prefer to eat later, there are other top choices for dinner in Victoria. We were recommended II Terrazzo or Pagliacci’s for top-notch Italian, The Local for pub grub, or Tacofino for Mexican (and if you aren’t going to Tofino to visit the original Tacofino food truck).

Evening Ideas

With the day behind you and your belly fully, there are a few things you can get up to in Victoria at night if you’ve still got the steam.

Not going to lie, many of them involve drinking – but going for drinks (beer, mostly) is a popular thing to do in Victoria! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Head for Drinks at Market Square

Navigation Address: 560 Johnson St, Victoria, BC V8W 3C6

red brick warehouse buildings with metal stairs and colourful trees around.
Good drinks, beautiful atmosphere at Market Square!

This is a really cool red brick warehouse district that’s been converted into boutique shops, restaurants, and places for drinks. 

The Drake Eatery is popular, as is the patio at Whistle Buoy Brewing Company. It’s a cool atmosphere to live out the evening in the heart of the city.

You might also just choose a place right in the heart of downtown like Bard & Banker or Lido Waterfront Bar & Bistro for harbour views.

Enjoy Victoria, BC Craft Beer

Speaking of craft beer, Victoria is known for its beer and local beer is the best!

Our friend told us about a number of really great breweries dotted all over the general downtown area. Some are closer to walk to, others might require a little bit of a ride.

Many breweries are located in the north end of downtown or just across the bridge in Victoria West. Check out Phillips Brewing & Malting Beer Shop, Herald St. Brew Works, or Hoyne Brewing Company – just to name a few!

Our Tip: Looking for a little more structure? Hop on a Beer Tour with West Coast Brewery Tours or even the Pickle Pub Crawl (which uses water taxis to get around).

Related Articles

If you are travelling to Canada and heading for the Canadian West Coast, here are more helpful guides for Victoria and beyond:

And there you have it – our guide on how to spend one day in Victoria, BC! We had an amazing time exploring the seaside city – and we look forward to returning to discover more of the city and Vancouver Island, in general!

As always, Happy Victoria Waddlin’,
– L&E

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