8 Reasons to Rediscover Victoria

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Harbour ferry crossing the Inner Harbour; Parliament Buildings

It’s easy to fall in love with Victoria (or rediscover why you fell so hard in the first place). Though our province’s capital has a sophisticated vibe—with its historic buildings and elegant gardens—the city has an easygoing feel, as breezy as the ocean air that whispers through the Inner Harbour. And after a rather tense first half of 2020, doesn’t a laid-back escape to an old favourite sound enticing? 

Set against the backdrop of dramatic West Coast landscapes, Victoria is an old soul with a youthful heartbeat (just enough buzz to keep you energized, but not run you off your feet). Here, you can choose your own adventure: wander the historic neighbourhoods; explore patios, galleries, and gardens (with COVID-19 safety measures in place); or venture to the city’s wide-open spaces, where physical distancing is kind of the point. And, with fewer international visitors this year, there’s more room to enjoy the restaurants, attractions, and activities that contribute to the city’s winning trifecta of culture, cuisine, and historic character.

Here are just a few ideas for your next visit to this beloved oceanside city. Bonus: there are plenty of deals to be found, too. For more information on planning your stay in Victoria, visit tourismvictoria.com/reconnect.

Whale watching with Eagle Wing Tours | @kylejbaines

Go Whale Watching

We BC residents often recommend whale watching to visitors, but have you ever been yourself? Victoria’s coastal waters are home to an abundance of marine life, including three resident orca pods. Book a whale-watching tour for a chance to see orcas, humpbacks, minkes, and grey whales. You may also spot sea lions, seals, porpoises, and marine birds along the way. 

Victoria-based operators have safety measures in place and many are offering great summer promotions, so be sure to check their websites for details.

Learn more
People kayaking near Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site | Reuben Krabbe

Explore the Waterways

A visit to Vancouver Island isn’t complete until you’ve dipped your toes in the cool Pacific Ocean. Go beyond the beach to explore the Greater Victoria shoreline with a kayak or stand-up paddleboard adventure. The many waterways are waiting to be discovered. Take a guided tour to learn more about the coastal ecosystem and discover the best paddling spots. Head out on the Inner Harbour with Kelp Reef Adventures or explore the islands and inlets farther afield with Blue Dog Kayaking, departing from Sidney and the Mill Bay Marina. 

For a less vigorous aquatic adventure, book a tour on the Victoria Harbour Ferry and enjoy a relaxing boat ride through Victoria’s harbours, with views of historic architecture and sea life. Discover more ways to explore the ocean in Victoria. 

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Inn at Laurel Point | Destination Greater Victoria

Stay in the Heart of the City

This is the perfect time to find great deals on hotels in prime locations. Stay in Downtown Victoria, a central location to walk to the city’s intriguing neighbourhoods, and visit nearby eateries and green spaces. Hotels have additional safety measures in place, including enhanced cleaning, physical distancing, and take-out menus. 

A staple in the Inner Harbour, the Fairmont Empress Hotel, makes for a scenic and luxurious waterfront stay. Try their Tea to Go—a new, picnic-inspired take on the famous high tea experience. The spectacular Inn at Laurel Point, with its picturesque views of the harbour, is offering special bed and breakfast staycation packages for BC residents (check their website for details). Meanwhile, you can pamper yourself at the Parkside Hotel and Spa and enjoy a catered summer BBQ delivered to your room. 

Find more hotels in Victoria to start planning your trip and take advantage of summer specials.

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Strolling and shopping in the hidden alleys of Victoria | Jordan Dyck

Tour the Town

Walk, cycle, or eat your way through Victoria to take in the city through a new lens. Take your bubble on a themed foodie tour with Off the Eaten Track to sample fare from chocolatiers, breweries, and eateries. They also offer the Brown Bagged Food Tour, a curated selection of culinary delights delivered to your door. 

Explore Victoria’s vibrant neighbourhoods by hopping on a bike tour (with fun foodie stops along the way). Take a late-night Ghostly Walk through Trounce Alley or Old Towne to hear spine-tingling tales of murder and mystery (while maintaining a safe distance, of course). 

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Sampling a Whistle Buoy Beer Flight | Destination Greater Victoria

Enjoy a Sunny Patio

Victoria is known for its West Coast-inspired food and drink culture, and a summer patio session is the best way to soak it all in. A section of Government Street in Downtown Victoria has become a pedestrian-only zone with many restaurants extending their patio space, including the historic Irish Times Pub. Meanwhile, Whistle Buoy Brewing Company in downtown’s Market Square is a must-visit if you love craft beer (hot tip: Victoria has its own BC Ale Trail). Cap off your visit to Chinatown with a cocktail, farm-fresh cuisine, and views of the Inner Harbour from the spectacular patio at Canoe Brewpub, Restaurant and Marina

There are plenty more great Victoria patios to enjoy—take your pick! 

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Bear Mountain Golf Course | Destination Tourism Victoria

Seek Wide-Open Spaces

There are many wide open spaces (and fewer faces) in Greater Victoria’s parks and forests—and just as many ways to experience them. 

Rent bikes and cycle the Galloping Goose Trail, a 60-kilometre trail that connects Victoria to the Sooke Potholes. Enjoy the open green with a round of golf at one of seven golf courses sprinkled throughout Greater Victoria. If you’re seeking an introspective experience, sign up for guided forest bathing in the temperate rainforest outside the city.

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Public gardens at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific | Boomer Jerritt

Discover Gardens Galore

Steal a quiet moment of reflection in one of the city’s serene and colourful gardens—the mild coastal climate makes for a gardening paradise. Coined “the garden that love built,” the Abkhazi Garden is tucked away in a heritage home and also offers an intimate and tranquil tea service with patio views overlooking Greater Victoria. Government House (the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor) is also home to formal gardens and a rare Garry Oak ecosystem. Royal Roads University, located on the Hatley Park National Historic Site, boasts 15 kilometres of walking trails fringed by old-growth forest and fragrant Rose, Japanese, and Italian formal gardens. Plan a day trip to Saanich, where you can visit The Butchart Gardens and enjoy the nine acres of gardens at the Gardens at HCP (Horticulture Centre of the Pacific).

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Two people at the Royal BC Museum | Jordan Dyck

Experience the Culture

From its deeply-rooted Indigenous influences to its historic architecture and diverse neighbourhoods, Victoria is thriving with cultural diversity. Explore extensive collections documenting the province’s human and natural history at the Royal BC Museum, including the spectacular First People’s Gallery, the ever-popular Natural History Gallery, and the Cultural Precinct. What’s more, they are offering 50% off admission this summer. Book a timed ticket to secure your entry. 

Continue your cultural journey at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, which holds one of Canada’s most important Asian art collections, including some exquisite ivory and amber carvings. Visit their website to plan your visit.

Learn More
Seaplane landing in the Victoria Inner Harbour | Harbour Air Seaplanes

Getting There

No matter how you choose to travel to Victoria, getting here is part of the adventure. From Vancouver, pair your getaway with spectacular aerial views and fly into Victoria’s Inner Harbour with Harbour Air (they have a variety of safety measures in place). If you’re driving from the mainland, reserve a spot on the BC Ferries route from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay. Don’t forget to bring your face mask as they are mandatory on board.

Plan Your Visit

Featured image: Harbour ferry crossing the Inner Harbour and Parliament Buildings | Reuben Krabbe

MENTIONED IN THIS STORY

Boating, Sightseeing, Whale Watching, Wildlife Tours, Accessibility

Eagle Wing Whale & Wildlife Watching Tours

Rated #1 in Victoria since 2007. - EXPLORE. INSPIRE. CONSERVE! Eagle Wing is Victoria BC's premier whale and wildlife watching organization. We...

Phone: (250) 384-8008

View Listing

Paddling

Kelp Reef Adventures

Kayaking is the best way to see Victoria. We specialize in safe, fun and educational kayak tours of Victoria's Harbour and waterfront. Our...

Phone: (250) 386-7333

View Listing

Hotels, Accessibility

Inn at Laurel Point

Find genuine hospitality and a breathtaking setting in downtown Victoria at Inn at Laurel Point. With stunning views of the citys famous Inner...

Phone: (250) 386-8721

View Listing

Dining & Culinary Tours

Off The Eaten Track

Off The Eaten Track is a culinary walking tour company that provides unique, local, and fun tours. Our goal is to take guests off the tourist path...

Phone: (778) 918-4584

View Listing

Biking

Cycle BC Rentals and Tours

We have Canada's largest selection of rental motorcycle, scooters and bicycles. We are open all year round. We provide a fun and exciting service...

Phone: (250) 380-2453

View Listing

8 Reasons to Rediscover Victoria

Victoria, an old soul with youthful energy, is filled with culture, cuisine, and character. Find out why now is a great time to visit the...

View Listing

Museums & Heritage Sites, Attractions, Indigenous Culture, Accessibility

Royal BC Museum

See all of British Columbia at the Royal BC Museum, a world-class museum of natural and human history. Explore our core galleries and immerse...

Phone: (250) 356-7226

View Listing

Sightseeing, Airlines, Accessibility

Harbour Air Seaplanes

Founded in 1982 with two small seaplanes, Harbour Air is North Americas largest and first fully carbon neutral airline. The companys international...

Phone: (800) 665-0212

View Listing

Boating, Sightseeing, Whale Watching, Wildlife Tours, Accessibility

Eagle Wing Whale & Wildlife Watching Tours

Rated #1 in Victoria since 2007. - EXPLORE. INSPIRE. CONSERVE! Eagle Wing is Victoria BC's premier whale and wildlife watching organization. We...

Phone: (250) 384-8008

View Listing

Paddling

Kelp Reef Adventures

Kayaking is the best way to see Victoria. We specialize in safe, fun and educational kayak tours of Victoria's Harbour and waterfront. Our...

Phone: (250) 386-7333

View Listing

Hotels, Accessibility

Inn at Laurel Point

Find genuine hospitality and a breathtaking setting in downtown Victoria at Inn at Laurel Point. With stunning views of the citys famous Inner...

Phone: (250) 386-8721

View Listing

Dining & Culinary Tours

Off The Eaten Track

Off The Eaten Track is a culinary walking tour company that provides unique, local, and fun tours. Our goal is to take guests off the tourist path...

Phone: (778) 918-4584

View Listing

Biking

Cycle BC Rentals and Tours

We have Canada's largest selection of rental motorcycle, scooters and bicycles. We are open all year round. We provide a fun and exciting service...

Phone: (250) 380-2453

View Listing

8 Reasons to Rediscover Victoria

Victoria, an old soul with youthful energy, is filled with culture, cuisine, and character. Find out why now is a great time to visit the...

View Listing

Museums & Heritage Sites, Attractions, Indigenous Culture, Accessibility

Royal BC Museum

See all of British Columbia at the Royal BC Museum, a world-class museum of natural and human history. Explore our core galleries and immerse...

Phone: (250) 356-7226

View Listing

Sightseeing, Airlines, Accessibility

Harbour Air Seaplanes

Founded in 1982 with two small seaplanes, Harbour Air is North Americas largest and first fully carbon neutral airline. The companys international...

Phone: (800) 665-0212

View Listing

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Amber Turnau in Squamish
WRITTEN BY: Amber Turnau

From: Squamish
Amber is a freelance storyteller and outdoor adventurer who has spent nine years living in the beautiful Sea-to-Sky Corridor. When she's not writing, she spends her spare time snowboarding, hiking, biking, and SUPing her way through the wilds of BC. Fun Fact: Amber spent the first seven years of her life living on a sailboat and travelling the world with her family. Now, she has the best of both worlds, splitting her time between ocean and mountains—and loving every minute of it.