Trip Ideas

Victoria Vacation

Victoria is British Columbia’s easy-going, pedestrian-friendly island city and you’ll find a mix of art and wilderness, urban style and small-town charm here. Spend a few days exploring the Inner Harbour and historic Chinatown, take to the ocean for whale watching and kayaking, or choose from a huge array of restaurants and afternoon tea spots.


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MAP LEGEND
  1. Inner Harbour
  2. Chinatown
  3. Butchart Gardens

Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Be charmed by Victoria’s Inner Harbour: stroll along the harbour causeway, browse for crafts and watch street entertainers   as floatplanes, yachts and whale watching boats come and go against a backdrop of grand, 19th-century architecture. Or clip-clop your way through historic Victoria from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage. There’s lots to explore at the Royal BC Museum including a real Big House which is a traditional northwest coast First Nations building used for community gatherings and ceremonies.  After the museum head to nearby Old Town, where eclectic independent shops fill century-old storefronts.

Chinatown

Chinatown & Fan Tan Alley

Squeeze down one of Canada’s narrowest streets — the tiny, shop-lined Fan Tan Alley, to Chinatown. Stop for dim sum (Don Mee’s has been a local favourite for generations) or pull up a seat at Silk Road Tea company where a real tea master will guide you through the intricacies of a good cup of tea.

Insiders’ Tips

  1. Pick up a free family guide at the Royal BC Museum; it will help you and your kids explore the museum in fun and creative ways.
  2. Don’t miss the striking wildlife works at the Robert Bateman Foundation, an interactive gallery for art and education set to open in 2013 in the former CPR Steamship Terminal on the Inner Harbour.
  3. Shop for organic produce, artisanal bread and cheese, crafts and more at one of Victoria’s community markets. Check out the Moss Street Market (it runs Saturdays from May to October), browse the stalls in Bastion Square or join the fun at the Chinatown Night Market.
  4. Paddle on up to Grilligan’s for some fish and chips, chili or poutine. This floating take out at Fisherman’s Wharf has a water level order window just for kayakers. 
  5. Enjoy an evening of retro glamour at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel’s dinner theatre. Savour a three course meal in a manor house setting and catch a play by talented local thespians.

Whale Watching

Fancy seeing a whale breaching in the wild? From the Inner Harbour, head out to sea to meet some of the Orca pods residing just offshore. Choose from a fast-moving inflatable Zodiac or comfortable covered boat; either way, you’ll probably see sea lions, seals and sea birds as well whales in nearby waters.

Fireworks at The Butchart Gardens

The Butchart Gardens

Let your imagination bloom at The Butchart Gardens, a justifiably famous 22-ha (55-ac) garden north of town. On Saturday nights in summer, bring a picnic blanket and watch fireworks blast off over the illuminated flower beds and fountains.

Victoria Restaurants

Victoria is said to have more restaurants per capita than just about anywhere else on the continent. Try the Italian-inspired fare and produce straight from local farms at lively, art-filled Cafe Brio, or the classic, hearty French-country style food at Chinatown’s Brasserie L’Ecole. For cheap eats, line up with the locals for a salmon tacone at Red Fish Blue Fish, an eco-conscious take-out on the waterfront, or hop a Victoria Harbour Ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf for outdoor halibut and chips at Barb’s Place. Don't forget to sample some delectable Rogers' Chocolates at their beautiful heritage store on Government Street.

The must-do Victoria meal is, of course, afternoon tea at the iconic Fairmont Empress hotel, complete with bone china and delicate pastries. Or try tea in the garden of the historic waterfront Point Ellice House or the cozy White Heather Tea Room. Night life? Perhaps a martini at trendy Veneto Tapa Lounge, local bands and funky art at The Superior, or microbrews at Swans or Canoe brewpubs.

Festivals and Events

Victoria's Inner Harbour. Photo Credit: Canadian Tourism Commission

Festivals abound in Victoria. If you’re here on Labour Day weekend, celebrate Victoria with a splash, when the Victoria Symphony plays from a barge in the Inner Harbour; some music fans even take in the show from kayaks.

Music lovers can also groove to the beats of the Vancouver Island Blues Bash, while the 10-day Victoria International JazzFest will be sure to get your toes tapping.

Shopping in Victoria

Local fashionistas love the silk-screened tops at closet-sized Smoking Lily and the indie designer frocks at Still Life (his and her boutiques are located across the street from one another), all on LoJo (that’s short for lower Johnson Street). A block north, shops in the Design District have gorgeous goodies for the home; the lush fabrics and lavish furniture at Chintz & Company will keep design-types happily distracted.

Fort Street boasts a mix of antique shops and boutiques. Check out Not Just Pretty, where clothes are sustainable and stylish, and The Good Planet Company for eco-conscious gifts and housewares.

Accommodation

Stay at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort & Spa, with its fantastic views of the Inner Harbour. For old world charm, try a romantic getaway at the Abbeymoore Manor, or relax in a luxury condo-style suite with waterfront views at the Victoria Regent Waterfront Hotel & Suites.

Transportation

A 90-minute BC Ferries sailing across the island-dotted Strait of Georgia is a scenic way to get to Victoria from the mainland, but for sheer drama nothing beats arriving by floatplane or helicopter. Harbour Air and Helijet offer a bird’s eye view from Vancouver to Victoria, flying directly to Victoria’s Inner Harbour in about 35 minutes. From Seattle, fly with Kenmore Air or sail on the Victoria Clipper passenger ferry; for those looking to drive, Black Ball Ferry Line offers service between Port Angeles and Victoria.