Quirky Attractions in the Kootenays
Unique, historic, and cultural gems to visit.
In 2015, Victoria was named the #1 Most Romantic City in Canada by Amazon.ca for the third year in a row. The website used romance-based sales data to calculate its rankings. What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than a full day spent exploring Victoria or one of the beautiful areas nearby? Here are a few suggested itineraries.
The beauty of downtown Victoria lies not only in its picturesque heritage buildings, harbourside views and endless options for shopping and dining, but in its walkability as well. If you spend an entire day downtown without a car, you’ll be able to indulge in that extra glass of wine.
Begin the day at an eclectic brunch spot: Mo:Le has brick walls, rotating art and healthy options, Jam Café’s rustic atmosphere and decadent plates such as brioche French toast got it featured on Food Network’s “You’ve Got to Eat Here”, and the loveably kitschy diner in the back of the Old Dutch Bakery is perfect for a coffee and slice of pie.
If you forgot to grab flowers and still want to surprise your sweetheart, there’s a few options: send them into the hip boutiques on Lower Johnson for some shopping, and pop into Rook and Rose for a darling bouquet. Claim a craving for caffeine and steer them to Habit Atrium for an expertly made latte—Poppies Floral Art is right across the way. Or slip away while they’re perusing the extensive used shelves at Russell Books and cross the street to grab blossoms at Brown’s Florist.
Of course, the ultimate in storybook romance is a horse-drawn carriage ride through Victoria’s historic neighbourhoods and into Beacon Hill Park. But a hand-in-hand walk through the Inner Harbour rarely loses its charm.
There’s a dizzying array of options for romantic dining: Zambri’s is a chic modern spot with Italian-inspired fare, while intimate Stage Wine Bar in nearby Fernwood Square was Vancouver Magazine’s 2015 Victoria Restaurant of the Year, and one of En Route Magazine’s Best New Restaurants in Canada. Ferris’ Upstairs is a cozy, brick-walled spot hidden up a narrow flight of stairs, while Il Terrazzo oozes old world sensuality with flickering candles and private niches. Bodega Bar in picturesque Trounce Alley is the Spanish experience, serving tapas paired with sherry.
Finally, finish up with a drink at one of downtown Victoria’s beautiful cocktail lounges. Veneto Tapa Lounge was voted Eat Magazine’s best cocktail bar in its 2015 Exceptional Eats awards. Clive’s Classic Lounge brings bartending to an art form and Little Jumbo’s beautiful space is hidden down a long hallway, speakeasy-style. All three bars are open until midnight on Sunday, giving you and your special someone the perfect nightcap on a Victorian Valentine’s Day.
Oak Bay’s main street is a mere 10-minute drive from downtown Victoria, but the stately avenues lined with heritage homes, picture perfect gardens and gnarled fairy tale oak trees, to the sandy beaches and winding drives along rocky ocean cliffs invoke another world of old charm.
Start Valentine’s Day with brunch at the Oak Bay Marina’s west coast buffet. Sip mimosas, dig into a custom made omelette and, through the expansive windows, admire the view of boats bobbing in the marina and, on a clear day, the formidable form of Mount Baker.
If table service for two is more your preference, The Village in quaint Estevan Village has an extensive Jewish-inspired, locally-sourced breakfast menu— think bennies on latkes. The café was recently featured on The Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here”.
If the weather cooperates, take a stroll to Willow’s Beach. A paved trail follows the beach and continues along the water, perfect for meandering hand-in-hand and walking off that hearty breakfast.
It’s possible to play golf all year-round in Victoria, and with multiple championship courses, there are plenty of spots for the enthusiast to tee off. But if you’re looking for a surprisingly affordable (and less competitive) option, head to the Henderson Park Golf Course. 9 holes and gear rental will set you back $15 per player. The course is lush with mature trees and flowers blooming (even in February!), and if your date needs a little help with their swing, there’s nothing to stop you from snuggling in close to demonstrate the perfect technique.
The hub of Oak Bay is charming Oak Bay Avenue. There are eclectic boutiques and galleries to peruse, and when it’s time for dinner, share a charcuterie board at the intimate Vis a Vis, or settle in for a pint of local craft beer and old English pub experience at the Penny Farthing.
End the day with an ocean-view room at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, voted one of Trip Advisor’s Most Romantic Hotels in Canada in 2015. The hotel’s outdoor heated mineral pools are the perfect place to unwind with your lover—what better way to finish Valentine’s Day than listening to waves crash from the bubbling waters of an ocean-side hot tub.
Often overlooked when driving from the BC Ferries terminal in Swartz Bay to downtown Victoria, the Saanich Peninsula, home to sweeping pastoral views, meadows of twisted Gary oaks, and ocean vistas, is a surprisingly romantic destination to explore. Discovering the peninsula requires a little more time in the car, but might also be the perfect opportunity to cue up that mix tape that made you fall in love in the first place.
For an off-the-beaten-path brunch with a spectacular view, Charlotte and the Quail offers a cozy daily rotating menu, set amongst 4 hectares (10 acres) of botanical gardens at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific.
If it’s not raining, head over to Gowlland Tod Provincial Park. The McKenzie Bight trail takes you past towering moss-draped trees and cascading waterfalls, and opens onto the breathtaking Saanich Inlet. Or you can say it with flowers at the nearby Butchart Gardens, open year round, and displaying winter blooms such as dainty snowdrops and helleboros.
If the weather is dreary, the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre (also known as the Aquarium of the Salish Sea) in Sidney showcases the diversity of the wildlife that inhabits the waters around Vancouver Island. Consider the fluttering beauty of a jellyfish and you just might be surprised at the romance it inspires within you.
Stop at Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse to try a flight of award-winning organic cider and grab a few bottles to go—the perfect beverage to sip in your ocean-side room at the luxurious Brentwood Bay Resort and Spa. Treat yourselves to a couples massage at the spa and end the day relaxing together in front of your in-suite fireplace.
Did we miss one of your favourite romantic Victoria spots? Share in the comments below!
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