Here Are Some Of The Top Things To Do In Victoria, BC!
If you are exploring Canada’s beautiful west coast, there’s a good chance you’re heading for Victoria, BC! While Vancouver is packed with things to do and see, the capital city of British Columbia – Victoria – is a bit of a hidden gem that sometimes gets overlooked by travellers!
Unfortunately, we’ve never been to Vancouver Island – off the BC coast – where Victoria is located. However, our trusted travel source – Laura from She Who Wanders – has explored the city and then some! Luckily for you, Laura was kind enough to share her experience of discovering Victoria and the surrounding area.
So, from how to take the ferry to Vancouver Island, and which hotels to stay in in Victoria to where to eat and even which Victoria parks are great, here’s her Victoria travel guide and her two cents on a few classic and non-touristy things to do in Victoria, BC!
If you’re travelling to British Columbia (or visiting Canada for the first time, for that matter), check out these other handy posts:
Things to Consider When Planning to Visit Victoria, BC
As mentioned, Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia and is found on one of the most beautiful islands in all of Canada – Vancouver Island. Located on the southern end of Vancouver Island, Victoria is home to an incredible amount of lush parkland making it an outdoor enthusiasts dream vacation destination.
Aside from the lovely outdoor setting, as the Capital of the province, there is some incredible history to be explored in Victoria, too. This island city is overflowing with waterfalls, swimming holes, beautiful gardens, lovely independent shops, and even a few castles.
When you have to fly or sail just to travel to a city it really gives you a sense of jetting off to another world – and Victoria does just that! The city itself has a great laid back vibe about it and everyone you meet will be happy you’ve decided to visit their little slice of paradise.
Best Time to Visit Victoria, BC
Victoria seems to have a similar climate to Vancouver, although the island sees less snowfall in the winter than the mainland. Winter in Victoria brings quite a lot of rain, but if you are prepared – aka have all the waterproof layers – you’ll be good to go.
The rainforests on the island are at their most lush and green during the rainy winters and the waterfalls are best after a big rainfall, too. While the island may see a significant amount of rain, its summers are truly gorgeous.
Long warm days with the sun setting at 9 pm means a few extra hours for adventuring. The summer months (June – August) see the largest amount of visitors because of the nicer weather but if you are looking to visit and want to avoid the crowds, September into early October can be wonderful.
You’ll likely have quieter streets and trails but still beautiful weather. Having visited in winter, spring, and summer, I definitely prefer September to any other time of year in Victoria!
Getting To/Around Victoria, BC
To travel to Vancouver Island, you have 2 options: take the ferry or flying! From Vancouver, visitors can drive or walk onto the ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay in Victoria.
From downtown Vancouver, you can take public transit to the ferry terminal if you don’t have your own vehicle or want to save a little as it is cheaper to walk on versus drive on. Sailing time is 3 hours and 30 minutes end to end and while that seems like a long time, the views are well worth it.
Crossing the Georgia Strait and sailing close to several other islands, you’ll get the best opportunity to spot wildlife this way, too. Keep your eyes peeled for seals, eagles, and if you’re lucky enough whales! For more information on cost and timetables visit the BC Ferries Website.
If you’re coming over from Seattle, Washington you can also catch the ferry. The Clipper arrives in Victoria in less than 3 hours from Pier 69.
For the fastest way to get to Victoria, you’ll want to grab a flight with Harbour Air. These seaplanes which are “float planes” because they land and take off on the water will get you from Downtown Vancouver to the Inner Harbour in Victoria in around 35 minutes and you’ll be in for the ride of a lifetime.
These seaplanes fly significantly lower than commercial aircraft so you’ll get a chance to see the islands from above which is truly incredible. Information on schedules and tickets can be found here for Harbour Air.
Where to Stay in Victoria, BC
If you are heading to Victoria, it’s usually a good idea to spend a night or two (or more) on Vancouver Island so that you get a more well-rounded experience of what the island has to offer.
Of course, you can day trip to Victoria from Vancouver but staying a night means you don’t have to rush around “The Garden City” which actually has a lot to do and see.
Luckily for you, there are a number of great hotels, inns, and bed and breakfasts for you to choose from. You should have no problem finding a place right in the city centre or in a quieter area close to the water.
Specifically, for anyone looking for an upscale getaway, or the chance to stay in a place that looks like a castle, The Fairmont Empress has got you covered. This chateau-style building overlooks the inner harbour and has been an iconic accommodation option in Victoria for decades.
There are several dining outlets onsite and afternoon tea here is fit for the British Royal Family. Take advantage of the incredible Willow Stream Spa, the indoor swimming pool and sauna, or relax on the patio with a cocktail. No matter what you’re doing, the Empress will make it feel like you’re living your best life.
If you are looking for a hostel or budget stay while in Victoria, look no further than HI Victoria. Located on Yates Street and just a block up from the Inner Harbour, Hi Victoria Hostel is the perfect place for anyone.
In this lovely heritage building, you’ll find a perfect mix of dorm and private rooms, as well as massive but still cozy common areas. A big self-catering kitchen means you can get creative if you want to cook for yourself and the hostel hosts frequent jam sessions for everyone.
As part of the Hostelling International chain of accommodation, you’ll receive a discount on your stay and even certain activities if you have a membership card, too.
Things to Do in Victoria, BC
A trip to Victoria means you are in for not only some incredible hiking but also the chance to see some of Canada’s historic buildings all in a laid back atmosphere with spectacular views. So, here are some great things to do in Victoria – get ready for the adventure you’ve been dreaming of!
With over 1 million visitors each year, it should be no surprise that the Butchart Gardens are a must-see stop for your trip to Victoria. 55 acres of garden, 26 greenhouses, and 900 varieties of plants make up these gardens and all of it is absolutely stunning.
Be transported to Italy as you wander through the Italian Garden or enjoy the serenity of the Japanese gardens – there is something here for everyone. My tip is to definitely make time to visit the Ross Fountain because it’s pretty special.
You can learn more about visiting on the Butchart Gardens website. The Gardens are located a bit of a drive north from downtown Victoria so consider a Butchart Garden shuttle bus tour to take you there and back!
Address: 800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay, BC V8M 1J8, Canada
>> If you want to do whale watching while in Victoria, combine your Garden entrance ticket with a whale watching tour!
If you’re looking out over the Inner Harbour (we’ll get to that below), you just need to turn around to find the most beautiful building in all of Victoria. Seemingly looking as if the building is watching over all of the city, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia looks more like a castle than anything to do with a Government Office.
The grounds are absolutely immaculate with a stunning fountain in the centre and the building itself is exquisite. Tours are offered to the public Monday – Friday and the times of tours change daily. So it’s best to visit the office inside or the official website for more information. If you want to see Parliament at its best, wait until dark and be amazed to see it all lit up!
Address: 501 Belleville St, Victoria, BC V8V 2L8, Canada
Royal BC Museum
Founded in 1866, The Royal BC Museum is so much more than just one museum. Containing British Columbia’s natural & human history museum as well as the BC Archives, it is home to so much of the province’s history.
Housing nearly 10,000 years of human history and over 500 million years of natural history really does make this place is incredible. Dozens of exhibits are on offer through the permanent collections and the museum also welcomes touring exhibits and special events.
Learn not only about the history of British Columbia and Victoria but also the cultures and people who still call the land home today. They even have an IMAX cinema on-site, too. You can learn more about hours and tickets are the website.
Address: 675 Belleville St, Victoria, BC V8W 9W2, Canada
Inner Harbour Causeway
Time to check out one of the most beautiful harbours in the world and one of the main attractions in Victoria: The Inner Harbour. This central docking point for the Harbour Air Seaplanes and a marina for leisure crafts also makes a perfect place for a walk.
This is a great spot to wander with a coffee, sit and enjoy the sunshine, or check out local artists and craft-makers displaying their works. Plus, this is one prime location if you want to see/photograph a good sunset.
Address: 790 Government St, Victoria, BC V8W 1W5, Canada
To find the most colourful part of Victoria, look no further than Fisherman’s Wharf. A hop skip and a jump from the Inner Harbour is where you’ll find the wharf, and on any given day there is nowhere else you’d rather be.
Here you will find vibrantly coloured and decorated houseboats docked in the wharf and half of these houseboats are actually food stalls and boutiques.
Enjoy a delicious fish and chips lunch and keep your eyes peeled for some adorably curious harbour seals who have been known to pop in for a visit down here too.
Address: 12 Erie St, Victoria, BC V8V 4X5, Canada
Afternoon Tea at The Fairmont Empress
If a stay at the Fairmont Empress isn’t in your budget, you can still enjoy the grandeur of this hotel. Offering afternoon tea since the hotel opened in the early 1900s, you’ll be having an afternoon fit for a royal.
With finger sandwiches, fresh-baked scones with homemade jams, shortbread, and cakes, this afternoon tea is one not to be missed. You’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to another time, and possibly all the way to London, too.
You can enjoy afternoon tea in the elegant Lobby Lounge and should consider a reservation if you visit in the summer months! You can also just visit to have a drink and admire the stunning hotel setting while in Victoria – this would be perfectly acceptable, too!
Address: 721 Government St, Victoria, BC V8W 1W5, Canada
Beacon Hill Park
Along Dallas Road is where you’ll find the beautiful and lush Beacon Hill Park. Now, this is not just your average green space with a swing set and a slide. No – this park is so much more!
First off, Beacon Hill Park covers over 200 acres. Plus it has 2 full playgrounds, a water park, a putting green, a baseball diamond, multiple tennis courts, a petting zoo, a rose garden and several bandstands for events and performance. And that is just to name a few things!
Go for a jog or a walk – whatever way you choose to enjoy this place you won’t be disappointed. Oh, and to make it even better you’ll find peacocks roaming freely among the park, too. You can learn more about visiting the Park here.
Address: 100 Cook St, Victoria, BC, Canada
This is “Canada’s Castle”. While it’s true that the country as a whole lacks a serious amount of castles compared to other countries, Craigdarroch Castle more than makes up for that. Designated as a National Historic site of Canada, this Scottish Baronial Mansion is absolutely stunning.
Built in the late 1800s, this regal mansion was built for Robert Dunsmuir who at the time was the richest man in Canada. The Castle was Dunsmuir’s residence until he passed and his wife lived there until the early 1900s. Today, the castle is now a museum.
Visitors can explore the beautiful rooms, admire the intricate stained glass, and enjoy feeling like a king or queen throughout your visit. Christmas Craigdarroch is a really special event and definitely worth booking if your visit coincides with the holidays. You can learn more about visiting the Castle here.
Address: 1050 Joan Crescent, Victoria, BC V8S 3L5, Canada
Lower Johnson Street
With the highest concentration of independent shops in all of Canada, Lower Johnson Street is the perfect place for shopping lovers. And even if you aren’t a lover of shopping, this part of Victoria is way too pretty to pass up.
Here you can find everything from vintage shops to comic book stores, florists, and jewelers. No matter what it is you’re looking for you’ll find it all in vibrantly colour storefronts. These Victorian-era storefronts here are the best thing about this street and in the early morning hours, it’s a great place to take some photos.
Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest in Canada and one of the most beautiful. What began as a base for miners from California in 1858, this area is now home to a large population of Chinese Canadians.
The streets are lined with red and yellow lanterns and there is a giant red and gold entryway (called The Gate of Harmonious Interest) to let you know you’ve arrived. Of course, the delicious smells from the restaurants are something that isn’t to be ignored either!
Chinatown is also where you’ll find the narrowest street in Canada (Fan Tan Alley) which is also one of the prettiest in Victoria. Fan Tan Alley has tons of local shops and eateries. Plus at night when it’s all lit up it has a magical kind of vibe to it. The area also has a rich history which you can learn about when you visit.
Address: 500 Fisgard St, Victoria, BC V8W 1R4, Canada
Goldstream Provincial Park
Heading away from downtown Victoria for a moment, but not really accessible by public transit, Goldstream Provincial Park is incredible. This spot is definitely one that you’ll need a car for. Covering nearly 1000 acres, this provincial park is most well known for the annual salmon run.
Outside of the salmon run season, this is a spot you could spend days exploring. Dozens of trails exist within the park from leisurely walking trails to the more sweat-inducing Trestle Trail. The Trestle Trail is one of the more popular spots for photographers as it takes you up through the park to an inactive railway trestle (bridge) that sits nearly 160 feet above the valley below.
While the views from here are incredible it is quite a risky spot to walk across as the trestle is not maintained – in fact, you are advised to not cross. That said, you can hike up to it and still get the same views even if you don’t cross.
Besides, the highlight of this visit should be Niagara Falls (shown above). No, not that one. This one is quite a bit smaller but you can actually follow the riverbed and go right up to the falls which is incredible.
Address: 53 Finlayson Arm Rd, Victoria, BC V9B 6V3, Canada
When it comes to planning a trip to Vancouver Island, whale watching is likely on the top of your list. And what a better spot to do it! There are estimated to be three pods of Orcas equaling to nearly 80 whales in the waters surrounding Victoria. If that wasn’t enough, there are also seals, sea lions, and some pretty incredible looking eagles in the skies above.
There are dozens of different outfitters for whale watching so it’s completely up to you on what kind of experience you’re after. One worth checking out is Five Star Whale Watching.
Victoria’s longest family-owned and run whale watching outfit offering top-rated whale watching experiences. Here are some whale watching tours with Five Star Whale Watching:
Of course, it’s never a guarantee to see whales as these are wild animals. However, the experience of getting out on the water for a few hours is something not to be missed! You’ll just have to cross your fingers & toes when you head out on the water.
There are many other different options for well-reviewed whale watching tours from Victoria: Located on the complete other side of Victoria from Craigdarroch Castle is the city’s second castle, Hatley Castle. Another National Historic site of Canada, Hatley Castle has been used in movies like X-Men and was once a stop on the Amazing Race Canada. This Edwardian estate covers over 560 acres including the mansion, several other houses, and the lush gardens. There are guided walking tours daily where visitors will get a real insight into the building, the many individuals who have lived here, and what goes into maintaining the property. If you want to be your own guide that is also possible and you can wander through at your own pace. Just be sure to leave extra time for the gardens, especially in spring when everything is in bloom. You can learn more and plan a visit at the Hatley Castle website. Address: 2005 Sooke Rd, Victoria, BC V9B 5Y2, Canada
Located on the complete other side of Victoria from Craigdarroch Castle is the city’s second castle, Hatley Castle. Another National Historic site of Canada, Hatley Castle has been used in movies like X-Men and was once a stop on the Amazing Race Canada.
This Edwardian estate covers over 560 acres including the mansion, several other houses, and the lush gardens. There are guided walking tours daily where visitors will get a real insight into the building, the many individuals who have lived here, and what goes into maintaining the property.
If you want to be your own guide that is also possible and you can wander through at your own pace. Just be sure to leave extra time for the gardens, especially in spring when everything is in bloom. You can learn more and plan a visit at the Hatley Castle website.
Address: 2005 Sooke Rd, Victoria, BC V9B 5Y2, Canada
Sooke Potholes Provincial Park
If you’re after some of the best waterfalls on Vancouver Island, look no further than Sooke Potholes Provincial Park. Located on the banks of the Sooke River, you’ll find amazing geological formations that have created deep smooth pools in the rock that fill with freshwater.
In the summer months when the river is calm, this is a great swimming spot, especially for locals. In the more rainy winter months, it’s the perfect place for an adventure.
Explore the Provincial Park on foot – hiking all around the trails and enjoying the dozens of waterfalls along the way. The rainy weather seems to create new waterfalls every week which is always a bonus if you don’t mind getting a little wet. Just be sure to adhere to potential flood warnings in the rainy season because conditions can change quite quickly!
Address: Sooke River Rd, Sooke, BC V9Z 0Y1, Canada
One of the more unique things to do in Victoria is to visit Miniature World. Said to be the “greatest little show on Earth”, this place is strange and wonderful all at the same time.
Containing over 85 miniature tiny attractions, this mini world includes a crazy long model railway, a sawmill, a fantasy land, a circus, and even a dollhouse world just to name a few.
Miniature World has been in business for nearly 50 years and every year it is voted one of the best attractions in Victoria. Whether you think it’s weird or it’s wonderful, it definitely is something worth checking out if only for the sole fact to say that you’ve been to this tiny and terrific place. You can learn more about visiting here.
Address: 649 Humboldt St, Victoria, BC V8W 1A7, Canada
Where to Eat and Drink in Victoria, BC
Victoria may not be a major city, but it has all the great eateries, pubs, and cafes that you’d find in one! Being an island you’ll find fantastic seafood options, tons of locally sourced and fresh produce from around the island, and tons of fun delicious places to eat.
A local favourite and quite the establishment, John’s Place has been serving amazing food for over 30 years. Everything on the menu is made fresh daily from the waffles to the meatloaf.
With a homey atmosphere and a great staff, this is a great spot for breakfast or lunch. You can learn more about John’s Place here.
Address: 723 Pandora Ave, Victoria, BC V8W 1N8, Canada
Victoria’s “craft beer parlour” is not the place for you if you’re after a cocktail. If you’re a beer lover though, The Drake is the perfect spot for you!
With a tap list that changes daily and a perfectly crafted menu to pair with the beers, they offer this is a top spot for lunch or to kick off a night on the town. Check out The Drake here.
Address: 517 Pandora Ave, Victoria, BC V8W 1N6, Canada
Red Fish Blue Fish
In an up-cycled cargo container you’ll find Victoria’s top spot for fish and chips and then some: Red Fish Blue Fish. This outdoor eatery in the inner harbour is open daily offering up special and a classic menu, too.
Fish and chips are of course a must but they also have amazing tacos, oysters, and deep-fried pickles! Learn more about a visit to Red Fish Blue Fish here!
Address: 1006 Wharf St, Victoria, BC V8W 1N8, Canada
With a perfect view of the Inner Harbour, this casual Canadian grill is the place to be for great food, good cocktails, and an all-around fun atmosphere. The view alone from the patio at The Local will have you coming back for more. It’s a great place for drinks in the evening too! Check out The Local here.
Address: 1205 Wharf St, Victoria, BC V8W 1T8, Canada
Union Pacific Coffee Shop
If you, like many, need caffeine to function on a regular basis, you’ll want to save the Union Pacific Coffee Shop to your Victoria map. Not only is the coffee amazing but their all-day breakfast is something not to be missed either.
Pop in for a coffee, stay for breakfast, and enjoy their back patio all in historic Chinatown. Check out more about Union Pacific here.
Address: 537 Herald St, Victoria, BC V8W 1S5, Canada
And there you have it – some of the best things to do in Victoria, BC! This seaside Canadian city is full of other things to do but this is an excellent list to get visitors with different interests started. Once again, a huge thank you to Laura for sharing her experience and travel tips! We’re SO looking forward to visiting Victoria ourselves one day!
As always, Happy Victoria BC Waddlin’,
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