Victoria contains a perfect combination of the old and new Canada. Amidst the bustle of this little city, one can venture through the classical Brit architecture to the preserved Chinatown, or all the way back in time to the original First Nations (Aboriginal) culture. The colorful gardens and paintings are worth admiring, while the natural beauty just a short distance away from the town is simply breathtaking.
For the purposes of this guide, Victoria includes the nearby municipalities of Oak Bay, Saanich, Esquimalt and Brentwood Bay.
First-time visitors stepping into Vancouver Island might be surprised by the very different atmosphere as opposed to the namesake city just across the Strait of Georgia. While the island itself is mainly quiet and laid back, Victoria is a step up as the largest city on the island, aided by the fact that all of British Columbia's governmental office are situated here. The quaint skylines in the city center meet with the genteel and natural design on the outskirts of the downtown, designating Victoria as a resort town for western British Columbia.
Victoria's prime location, right between the Canadian mainland and the Pacific Ocean, makes the area become perhaps one of the earliest modern developments of Canada. From its humble beginnings as a backup trade post for Fort Vancouver (at the Vancouver in the USA's Washington State) erected by James Douglas in 1843, the city's ports have been a witness of historic events that brought influxes of people from all over the world to Canada: from the Gold Rush to opium trade between Asia and North America. The real estate boom after World War I however, is what gives the city its well-known character, with Edwardian skylines popping up in the city center that transitions to genteel civility in the suburbs. A trip to Victoria would not be complete without admiring its classic buildings and a trip to the park or the houses outside the city.
Victoria is named in honor of the namesake ruling queen of England in 1843 and designated as the provincial capital of British Columbia in 1871.
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See the Victoria 7 day forecast at Environment Canada
Much like the whole coastal British Columbia, the winter is mild with temperatures averaging above freezing for all of the year and most of the year's worth of rain falling. The summer however is cool and comfortable enough to get outside as much as possible, and the sun doesn't set until 9PM! Compared with the Vancouver city however, the city is less wet and receives more sunshine as the mountains at the USA's Olympic Peninsula and the island mountains usually managed to block the heaviest precipitations. Snow, while infrequent, is not unheard of at least every year.
The whole island is a casualty to at least one mild windstorm every year, which would usually blow after a rain shower. The wind can range from nuisance at best to damaging at worse. It is a good idea to check the weather forecast during your visit to get you prepared.
Tourist information center
1 Victoria Visitor Center, 812 Wharf St, ☎ , toll-free: . Daily 9AM-5PM. The visitor center contains brochures and the official tourism guide. The staff can also help with booking tours.
The main way to get to Vancouver Island and Victoria is via BC Ferries (+1-888-223-3779) which operates a ferry from Tsawwassen (south of Vancouver) to Swartz Bay, a half hour drive north of Victoria. As of January 2017, one way fares are $56.45 per regular sized passenger vehicle (not including the driver), and $17.20 per driver or adult passenger (12 years and over). Children ages 5 to 11 ride half fare, while children under the age of 5 are free.
Payment can be made by cash or credit card, and debit cards can be used at an automatic ticket terminal for foot passengers, but not on the ferry or at the vehicle toll booths. Service runs on the odd hours between 7AM and 9PM during the winter (with extra sailings at busier times) and every hour during the summer. The ferry ride is 1 hour and 35 minutes. Reservations are not required but recommended during peak travel times, including weekends throughout the summer months. There is a $15 charge for reservations made 7 days in advance; $17.50 if less than 7 days. Vehicles without a reservation sometimes have to show up a few hours before they can actually board (there can be multiple sailing waits during peak travel times), so make sure that you check their website to see what the wait is, and make sure that you allow plenty of time to catch your sailing; as the ferry's capacity is usually limited by the amount of space on the car decks, foot passengers can usually get on if they show up 15-20 minutes before their sailing.
Foot passengers can easily take public transit from Vancouver to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal and from the Swartz Bay ferry terminal to Victoria:
- From Vancouver, take the SkyTrain to Bridgeport Station and then change to bus number 620 on bay 4. Bus fare is $3.50 from Vancouver International Airport and $5 from Vancouver proper when zone travel is in effect. On evenings after 6:30PM and on weekends and holidays bus fare is $2.50. Exact fare is required. Translink has detailed information about routes and fares.
- From the Swartz Bay ferry terminal, board bus numbers 70, 72 or 73 to travel to downtown Victoria. Bus number 70 is an express bus and still takes about an hour to travel from Swartz Bay to Victoria. Buses 72 and 73 stop in Sidney and Saanichton. Bus fare is $2.50; exact change is required. BC Transit provides detailed information about routes and fares.
As space on the buses is often oversubscribed, it is highly recommended to disembark from the ferry on the lower car deck instead of using the overhead walkways. Passengers who leave this way will reach the bus stops ahead of the crowd.
Other ways to get to Victoria by boat:
- BC Ferries Connector, +1-888-788-8840, offers an express coach service between Vancouver (downtown, Vancouver Int'l Airport, Cruiseship Terminal) and downtown Victoria. This bus service runs on BC Ferries, and tickets can be purchased on board for the trip into town. Cost from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria is approx. $43 one way, or approx. $10 for the trip into town.
- Victoria Clipper, +1-800-888-2535, operates a modern ultra-fast catamaran ferry from downtown Seattle. Fares $US66-80 less for seniors, half price for children. Service is once a day in the winter and up to 3 times a day in the summer. The sailing time is 2.5 hours.
- MV Coho/Black Ball Ferry Line, +1 250 386-2202 (CA) +1 360 457-4491 (US), is a passenger and vehicle ferry running from Port Angeles, Washington across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Crossing time is 90 minutes, and fares are USD61.50 for car and driver and USD17.00 per passenger (USD8.50 for children under 11). Service runs all year except for an annual refit for one week in Winter time. In the winter, this ferry runs 2 sailings a day and in the summer up to 4 sailings per day each way are scheduled.
- Washington State Ferries, +1 206 464-6400, operates a passenger vehicle ferry between Anacortes and Sidney (about half an hour from Victoria) through the San Juan Islands. Passenger or pedestrian fare is USD17.50 each way, vehicle fare including driver is USD46.50 (increases to USD59.85 May–October). This service does not operate during the winter season, generally from the second week of January until the end of March.
By recreational boat
Victoria is a popular destination for boaters from the U.S.A. as well as the Vancouver area. The trip is a long one; the leg across the Strait of San Juan de Fuca from Puget Sound is over 50km. Because of frequent gales and small craft warnings, the boating trips may be rough, and the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority has a "no one turned away policy".
- Oak Bay Marina While technically not part of Victoria, this incorporated municipality is on the sea to the east. It is a delightful location and an easy bus/taxi/bicycle ride to downtown Victoria.
Victoria is accessible from the rest of Vancouver island by roads, and from the mainland by taking one of the car ferries described in By boat. Victoria is connected to Nanaimo and other northern points by the Trans-Canada Hwy 1. BC-4 connects Victoria to Sooke and Port Renfrew. BC-17 connects Sidney (and Vancouver via BC ferries) to Victoria. You can also bring your car on the Black Ball ferries to Port Angeles, WA and the Washington state ferries from Sidney to the San Juan Islands and Anacortes, WA.
By cruise ship
Each year, from April through October, over 200 large cruise ships dock at the Ogden Point cruise ship terminal, with berths for three cruise ships and about 2.5km southwest of the downtown inner harbor, and disembark more than one-third million visitors to the greater Victoria area. Ogden Point is a transit port for cruise ships, typically coming from or going to San Francisco or Seattle, i.e., no cruise ship is home ported at Victoria.
To get to downtown Victoria from Ogden Point, cruise ship visitors have many options: take a pleasant 30-minutes walk through the James Bay residential area (Dallas St. along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then north on Menzies St.), hop on ($2.25) the public bus #30 or #31 that runs along Dallas St., use the Ogden Point Bus and Marine Cruise shuttles at the terminal, or hail a taxi/limo lined up at the pier.
Bus companies travel to Victoria from Vancouver (including Vancouver International Airport), Seattle and from other points on Vancouver Island. Buses travelling to Vancouver Island use BC Ferries, so you still get to enjoy the ferry ride. Some bus companies will make announcements on the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay ferry inviting foot passengers to purchase bus tickets for the ride into Victoria. This option is faster than the public transit option noted above, but also more expensive.
- Pacific Coach daily bus service from Vancouver or Vancouver International Airport; takes almost 4 hours to get to downtown Victoria, leaves every two hours from YVR, and costs ~$48 adult one way.
- Greyhound Greyhound travels from various points on Vancouver Island to Victoria.
- Tofino Bus daily express service between Victoria, Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino.
- West Coast Trail Express summer service running along the West Coast Trail connecting Victoria and Nanaimo to Sooke, Port Renfrew, Gordon River and Bamfield.
Victoria International Airport (IATA: YYJ) is located 30 minutes north of Victoria (off the Pat Bay Highway, on the way to the ferry terminal). A number of daily flights depart from a few airline hubs in mainland Canada and the US west coast (namely Seattle, Las Vegas, and San Francisco), as well as from smaller airports within Vancouver Island. There are multiple flights from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, served mainly by smaller airlines and the regional subsidiaries of mainline carriers.
Public transit from Victoria International to the city is not that great (routes 79 and 83 go there but infrequently), but the YYJ Airport Shuttle Bus picks you up from the airport and takes you to many downtown hotels (tel 1-778-351-4995 or toll-free 1-855-351-4995, 45 minutes one-way, adults $24).
Victoria Inner Harbor is a much more convenient port of entry right at the heart of town that serves helicopters and floatplanes. There are daily departures from Vancouver's harbor & airport and as far south as Seattle's Lake Union.
Walking is an easy, free, and fun way to explore the entire downtown area. Make your way from hotel to museum to shops; stop for coffee; stroll along the harborside; grab a pint and some fish-n-chips - take it in!
BC Transit runs a network of buses throughout the Saanich Peninsula and forms the mainstay of Victoria's public transit network. Regular fares are a flat $2.50. Children aged 5 and under are free. Bus tickets can be purchased in books of ten, and give a slight discount. Day passes are also available; they cost $5.00 on board the bus. No transfers are available. Victoria, along with Kelowna, Toronto and Ottawa, is one of only a few cities in North America which use double decker buses in their city transit systems.
Biking Victoria is one of the most bike-friendly cities in Canada, which may have something to do with the very mild winters. There are many places to rent bikes. One place is CycleBCRentals, located at 685 Humboldt St. (phone +1-250-380-2453 or toll-free +1-866-380-2453). Bike rentals start at $6 and they also rent scooters and motorbikes here.
Pedicabs Take a guided tour of Victoria with an expert pedicab tour guide. The Victoria Pedicab Company offers city tours, garden tours, and customized tours. (Phone +1-250-884-0121)
Many of Victoria's attractions (and tourist activity) are in or around the Inner Harbour and downtown, including the Parliament Buildings, the Empress Hotel, the Royal BC Museum and Beacon Hill Park. If you're pressed for time, it would be hard to go wrong spending your time there. Beyond the harbour are a handful of attractions, including the renowned Butchart Gardens, and many parks and beaches with trails, views and fewer tourists.
The Inner Harbour and Downtown
The Inner Harbour and area is the focal point of many trips to Victoria. It has the bulk of the "must see" tourist attractions, and the artists, buskers and other entertainers add to the atmosphere. Many find it fascinating to watch the float planes taking off and landing. In the springtime, the Inner Harbour is filled with many beautiful flowers.
1 Beacon Hill Park, Douglas St & Dallas Rd (head south on Douglas St from downtown; or take Bus #3). Large park close to downtown with trails, lakes, gardens, splash pads/playgrounds for the kids and sports fields. The south end is on the waterfront, with a walking path and a view of the Olympic Mountains across the strait. There are plenty of ducks, some wild peacocks running around and herons. Attractions within the park include the Beacon Hill Children's Farm, which features a goat petting area, Mile 0 (the western end of the Trans-Canada highway) and the Beacon Hill Park Story Pole, which, at nearly 39 m, was the tallest free-standing totem pole in the world when it was first raised in 1956. Free.
2 British Columbia Parliament Buildings, 501 Belleville St (at the Inner Harbour), ☎ . Late May-early Sept M-F 8:30AM-5PM, Sa-Su 9AM-5PM; M-F 9AM-5PM at other times of the year. The legislative assembly for the province of British Columbia since 1898, the domed neo-Baroque and Romanesque Revival architecture is a distinctive feature of Victoria's waterfront. The free public tours (usually offered throughout the day) are considered excellent. Self-guided tours are available on weekdays, booklets can be picked up at the Parliamentary Tour desk or downloaded from the website. The buildings are equally nice to view at night night, when they are lit up with 13,000 lights. Free.
3 Chinatown, 500-600 block of Fisgard St (Fisgard St, between Store & Government). The oldest Chinatown in Canada and second oldest in North America. At its peak in the early 1900s, there were over 3,000 people living amongst its narrow lanes, businesses, theatres, schools, temples and opium dens. Some of the distinctive architecture remains, and a new generation of restaurants, Chinese fruit and vegetable stores, bubble tea and coffee shops have taken over. Other landmarks include The Gates of Harmonious Interest (at the corner of Fisgard & Government) and Fan Tan Alley, Canada's narrowest "road".
4 Emily Carr House, 207 Government St (a 5-10 minute walk south of the Inner Harbour on Government St), ☎ . May - Sept Tu-Sa. Emily Carr is one of Canada's greatest and most loved artists. This is her childhood home, which has become a heritage site and museum on her art, writing and life. $6.75 (adult), $5.75 (student/senior), $4.50 (child 6-18), $17 (family).
5 Maritime Museum of BC, 634 Humboldt St (inside the Nootka Court building at the corner of Humboldt & Douglas), ☎ . Late May-early Sept: daily 10AM-5PM; other times: Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM. Small museum with exhibits relating to Canada's or British Columbia's maritime history. There's also a gift shop with model ships, books, caps, prints and all things related to boats. $10 (adult), $8 (senior/student), $5 (youth 12-17).
6 Miniature World, 649 Humboldt St (at the back of the Empress Hotel), ☎ . Mid May - late Sept 9AM-9PM, 9AM-5PM at other times of the year. An extensive display of miniature landscapes, cities etc., some rather bizarre or at comically mismatched scales. Includes the world's smallest working saw mill at a scale of 1:12. $15 (adult), $11 (senior), $10 (youth), $8 (child).
7 Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville St (between the Legislature and the Empress hotel, near the Inner Harbour), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 9AM–5PM (10AM-5PM in winter). This tell's BC story, especially from 1850 to 1920. It has amazing exhibits, and is easily worth half a day. There are three permanent galleries: Modern History, story of the European settlement; First Peoples, pre-contact and post-contact; and Natural History, mainly oceans, large animals, and climate. All are explained with phenomenal immersive exhibits. This is one of two museums in Canada holding the 'Royal' designation. $22 (adult), $16 (senior, student, youth 6-18). Prices vary for special exhibitions.
IMAX Theatre, 675 Bellville St (part of the Royal BC Museum), ☎ . The largest IMAX screen in British Columbia with a mix of Hollywood feature films and traditional IMAX films. $9-12, Hollywood feature films are an extra $3.25. Tickets are not included with regular museum admission but discounted combo tickets are available.
8 Victoria Bug Zoo, 631 Courtney St, ☎ . M-F 11AM-4PM, Sa-Su 11AM-5PM; 10AM-6PM extended summer hours. Looking at bugs while on holidays doesn't sound like it'd be appealing, but this is a fantastic little place filled with very knowledgeable and friendly guides, and where else would you get the chance to hold so many crazy creatures? $12 (adult), $8 (senior, student, youth 5-17).
9 Abkhazi Gardens, 1964 Fairfield Rd (one block east of Foul Bay Rd, or take Bus #7 from downtown and walk from the Foul Bay stop), ☎ . Apr-Sept: daily 11AM-5PM; Oct-Mar: W-Su 11AM-5PM. Love affairs make great stories, and this one resulted in a great garden. Prince and Princess Abkhazi along with designer John Wade came together and created a garden that took over 40 years to come together on a beautiful property overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains. There's also a teahouse that does afternoon tea and light lunches. By donation, $10 suggested.
10 Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 1040 Moss St, ☎ . M-W, F-Sa 10AM-5PM, Th 10AM-9PM, Su noon-5PM (closed on Mondays mid-Sept to mid-May). Art gallery with some notable works from BC artist, Emily Carr, and one of the largest collections of Asian art in Canada. There are also rotating exhibitions. The outside grounds include an Asian garden and the only authentic Japanese Shinto Shrine in North America. $13 (adult), $11 (senior, student), $2.50 (youth 6-17).
11 Butchart Gardens, 800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay (from Hwy 17, exit at the Keating X Rd and head west until it ends; or bus route #75 from Victoria/Saanich), ☎ , toll-free: , e-mail: email@example.com. Varies by season: generally 9AM-5PM but open until 10PM in summer (mid June - Labour Day in Sept). A large garden planted in what was formerly a limestone quarry. Quite remarkable. During the summer they have fireworks set to music and during winter evenings, the gardens are lit up and include displays illustrating the twelve days of Christmas. You can reach Butchart Gardens from Vancouver and Victoria on several bus tours and also by public transit from Victoria or the Swartz Bay ferry terminal. $30-33 late March thru Sept, $18-27 Oct-mid March.
12 Cadboro Bay Beach (Cadboro-Gyro Park), end of Sinclair Rd, Saanich (follow McKenzie Ave east past the University of Victoria, and keep following as it turns into Sinclair Rd and then a tiny dead-end street). Popular park with a stretch of sandy beach, many picnic tables, tennis courts, playground, play sculptures and a small zip-line. The view of the bay is pretty, and on clear days, you can see across to the Olympic Mountains in Washington state.
13 Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum, 1050 Joan Crescent (in the Rockland area, about a 25 min walk from the downtown core, or take Bus #11 or #14 up Fort St), ☎ . Mid June - early Sept: 9AM-7PM; other times of the year: 10AM-4:30PM. This castle was built in 1890 by a wealthy and powerful Scottish family who at that time owned a quarter of Vancouver Island. Great architecture. Its 39 rooms are still furnished with Victorian-era furniture and the building is noted for its stain-glassed windows and intricate woodwork. $14.25 (adult), $9.25 (student), $5 (child 6-12).
14 Oak Bay Village, Oak Bay Ave, between Yale and Monterey (the #2 bus travels frequently between downtown Victoria and Oak Bay, the #8 is more infrequent and connects Oak Bay with suburban Victoria and Saanich). Oak Bay is an older suburb east of downtown Victoria. Its splash of Tudor-style buildings, boutiques, restaurants and the Penny Farthing Pub, lend the town center some "Olde England" charm and make it a pleasant place to stroll around or browse through shops.
15 Willows Beach Park, end of Dalhousie St, at Beach Dr. The most popular hangout place in Oak Bay. The water is fairly shallow and the beach provides nice views of Discovery Island and Mt Baker (on clear days). There's also a small playground, picnic tables, lots of grass and a concession stand/tea room.
Whale watching is a popular activity in Victoria. Three pods of orcas (killer whales) have feeding grounds between Victoria and the mainland, plus grey whales, humpback whales and minke whales migrate through the Georgia Strait at different times of the year. Some companies offer whale watching tours year-round, but the best time to see whales is considered April to October. Tours outside of those times focus less on whales and more on the other marine wildlife. Many of the companies offer whale guarantees, but they are seasonable and tend to have conditions, so careful consideration is advised if you are making a decision based on the whale guarantee.
Tours are usually around three hours and the style of boat can vary, from open-air Zodiacs to yachts with heated cabins. Zodiacs are fast and low to the water, but can be very wet (protective suits are usually supplied) are not recommended for young children (restrictions vary by company), and people with mobility issues or injuries.
1 BC Whale Tours, 1234 Wharf St, ☎ . Two daily departures from March-Oct. Winter tours (Nov-Feb) are run on demand. 3-4 hour whale watching trips with a choice between open Zodiac-style boats or boats that have outdoor and indoor seating. Maximum number of passengers on a trip is 12. $121 (adult), $81-101 (children), a trip on the Luna costs an additional $10.
3 Five Star Whale Watching, 645 Humboldt St, ☎ , toll-free: . Two daily departures from early May to late Sept. Departures in April and Oct dependent on demand. Long operating family business (since 1985). Three hours whale watching trips in their catamaran that includes several outdoor decks and a heated indoor cabin. Maximum number of passengers is 45. $110 (adult), $69-79 (child).
4 Orca Spirit Adventures, 146 Kingston St (Marina level), ☎ . Daily departures year-round. Offers covered vessels with indoor seating, liquor license, and onboard washrooms, as well as open Zodiac tours. Maximum number of passengers ranges from 12-170. $115 (adult), $75-85 (child). Winter tours (Nov-Mar) are $10 cheaper.
5 Prince of Whales, 812 Wharf St, ☎ . Three sailings daily in July & Aug, one sailing daily at other times. Zodiac tours are on demand. Three hour whale watching tours with a choice of semi-covered boat (with an elevated viewing deck) or open Zodiac in summer. Winter tours (Nov-Mar) are in Zodiac boats only. $120 (adult), $85-95 (child). Adult tickets $15 cheaper in winter.
6 SpringTide Whale Watching and Eco Tours, 1119 Wharf St, ☎ . Multiple daily departures Apr-Oct, winter tours are offered once daily weather and demand permitting. Three hour whale watching tours in a semi-covered yacht or open Zodiac in summer. Winter tours (Nov-Mar) are in Zodiac boats only. Maximum number of passengers is 12 in the Zodiacs and 84 in the yacht. $85-115, winter tours are $10 cheaper.
Parks and trails
The Victoria area is an amazing place to explore if you're inclined towards natural spots. A couple of converted railbeds provide longer-range multi-use trails (the Galloping Goose and Lochside) that stretch from Victoria to Sooke (and beyond) and the Saanich Peninsula. North of Victoria is Saanich, which has many fine parks that are popular spots for hiking.
- From the Inner Harbour you can walk along the water in either direction to the very popular local Dallas Road, or you can cross "The Blue Bridge" (the Johnson St bridge) and end up on the Westsong Walkway into Esquimalt. Both have beautiful views of the Inner Harbour and even Port Angeles across the water.
7 Galloping Goose Regional Trail (The Goose), Mile 0: Wharf & Pandora (east end of Johnson St bridge). A 55 km trail on a decommissioned rail bed from downtown Victoria through Langford and the West Shore and onto Sooke and the hills beyond. The varied scenery includes urban, rural and wilderness, and it connects with many other trails in the Greater Victoria area, including the Lochside Regional Trail and the E&N Rail Trail - Humpback Connector. In Victoria, the trail starts at the corner of Wharf & Pandora St and then crosses the Johnson St bridge to Harbour Rd. There are also a number of access points along the way to Sooke, several of which have parking. The Capital Regional District (CRD) website has directions to access points with parking lots. A few places rent bikes and this is a great afternoon or day trip.
8 Lochside Regional Trail, Switch Bridge info kiosk between Hwy 1 bridge and Carey Ave bridge. A 29 km multi-use trail that runs from the Swartz Bay ferry terminal near Sidney to the Galloping Goose trail in Saanich. It is mostly paved (there are a few gravel sections though) and rolls through suburban Victoria to the farmland of the Saanich Peninsula, passing close to several parks, beaches and wetlands. Designated parking lots to access the trail are at Lochside Dr & Mackenzie, Lochside Park, Cy Hampson Park and Tulista Park.
9 Elk/Beaver Lake Regional Park, Hwy 17, most parking accessed from Elk Lake Dr (By car – from Hwy 17, exit at Royal Oak (exit 11) and head west, turn right onto Elk Lake Rd and then left onto Beaver Lake Rd to enter the park; By bus – #70 or #72, there is a stop at the park entrance at Beaver Lake Rd). Park open daily year-round, Nature Center open June-Sept Sa-Su noon-4PM. Popular park with two lakes (technically one lake with different names, connected by a channel), a number of beaches that are popular swimming locations and a 10 km trail that circumnavigates the entire lake. Picnicing, rowing, wind surfing and fishing are also popular. A nature center near the main entrance on Beaver Lake Rd has displays on the park's natural and cultural history and staff on hand to answer any questions you may have. Free.
- 10 Mount Douglas Park is located on the edge of Gordon Head neighbourhood. It features extensive walking trails and a beautiful view across farmland and Greater Victoria.
- 11 Mount Tolmie Park is actually just a small hill but the most popular place in Greater Victoria to see a view of the skyline and surrounding scenery. Drive up Mayfair Drive, and park your car at the summit where you can watch the most stunning sunsets in Victoria. Mount Tolmie is also somewhat accessible by bus, take the #14 UVIC, but get off at Cedar Avenue (along Richmond Road) and you can scramble up the hill from there.
12 Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary (Swan Lake Park), 3873 Swan Lake Rd (By car – from McKenzie Ave, head south on Rainbow St, turn left onto Ralph St, then turn right on Swan Lake Rd to the parking lot; By bus – #70 stops at McKenzie & Hwy 17, the #26 stops across from the park on Saanich Rd), ☎ . Park open daily dawn to dusk, the Nature House open M-F 8:30AM-4PM, Sa-Su noon-4PM (closed statutory holidays). There is a nature trail that goes around Swan Lake on a boardwalk through beautiful marshlands. The Nature House, located at the main entrance, contains information about the natural wildlife in the area, some interpretive exhibits, a reading room with materials for both children and adults, and a small gift shop. If you wish to trek further, across McKenzie Avenue from Swan Lake is the hike up Christmas Hill, which has a viewpoint overlooking Swan Lake and Saanich. There is also a bike route connecting to the Lochside Regional Trail. Entrance to the park is free, admission to the Nature House by donation.
- Harbour tours Small harbour ferries (about six passengers) provide transport around and a view of the Selkirk Waterway and Inner Harbour.
- Wine tasting There are five wineries within a 45-minute drive of Victoria, on the Saanich Peninsula, including some estate wineries. These wineries have a wide range of wines including those made from their own grapes, grapes grown elsewhere and fruit wines.
13 Famous Players SilverCity, 3130 Tillicum Rd (Located behind the Tillicum Mall), ☎ . The largest cinema in Greater Victoria.
14 Victoria Royals Hockey, Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, 1925 Blanshard St, ☎ . The local junior hockey team and an entertaining option if you want to catch a hockey game while in town. Games are usually 2-3 teams a week from Oct through early April. Tickets can be purchased online through the Royals website or at the arena. $18-28 (adult), $18 (senior/student), $14 (child).
There are many different schools in Victoria including ESL & Language schools, films school, art school, private colleges and so on.
The biggest school is the publicly funded University of Victoria. Located on a hill within a short walk from the ocean, UVic prides itself on its beautiful campus with tree-lined paths, large gardens, lush green grass and a large fountain.
The school is on the smaller side, with the whole campus located inside a circular road known as Ring Road. You can walk from one end of campus to the other in 15 minutes – and that is if you walk slowly. UVic is home to many international students and just completed several new residence buildings for those who wish to live on campus. Many different programs are offered, but the school is known for its Earth Science, environmental law and fine arts departments, among others. The campus community is very earth friendly – as is the city of Victoria itself – and is a good place to catch cheap theatre, free lectures and small music, art or film festivals.
Camosun College, 3100 Foul Bay Rd, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A major community college in Victoria with two campuses. Interurban campus offering degrees, diplomas, and certificates focussing on business, technologies, trades. Pacific Institute of Sports Excellence is based on this campus. Camosun offers degrees in athletic therapy and coaching. It concentrates on skills based education. Lansdowne Campus has nursing, medical radio technician, criminology, dental and academic studies programs. Camosun classes have a maximum of 35 students and provide close contact with instructors. Camosun also enjoys having many international students and new residents to Canada taking ESL courses. Toll free phone: +1–877–554–7555. www.camosun.ca
Victoria is full of little shops tucked away in every nook and cranny in the centre. Souvenir shops are all around the Inner Harbour. Although people generally think Victoria is a tourist destination only, there are more than just tourist shops.
- Americans so inclined may want to take the opportunity to pick up a Cuban Cigar or two. Thanks to new trade agreements with Cuba, you can import up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars into America.
- Government Street, from the Inner Harbour up to Chinatown, is the biggest (and rather touristy) shopping drag. The best way to go is just to wander the streets but make sure you check out some little gems like Market Square, at the bottom of Johnson St. In the summertime there's live music here.
- Fort Street is otherwise known as Antique Row. From Blanshard to Cook Streets, Fort Street is lined with small antique shops and auction houses.
- The Inner Harbour has artisans selling their crafts during the summer (and part of spring and fall as well sometimes), and Bastion Square (off of Government Street) often has a summer craft market as well.
- LoJo or Lower Johnson Street has several higher-end fashion boutiques. It's a good place to find local and international designer clothes.
- 2 Tilicum Shopping Centre is the biggest mall in Saanich, located at the intersection of Burnside Road and Tillicum Road.
Victoria has the second-highest number of restaurants per capita of all North American cities! The waterfront tourist area is home to a wide variety of restaurants and eateries, including several English-style pubs. Try the fish and chips or shepherds pie for a taste of England in Canada. For a more eclectic Victoria experience, check out the classy restaurants that surround Chinatown, offering interesting west-coast fusion and Asian dishes.
1 1550's Pub Style Restaurant, 1550 Cedar Hill X Rd, Saanich (between Cedar Hill Rd and Shelbourne), ☎ . M-Th 11AM-11PM, F 11AM-midnight, Sa 9AM-midnight, Su 9AM-11PM. Typical pub fare, but very good. Large selection of burgers. Great location for hangover brunch; sitting on the patio is quite pleasant. Starters $8-15, mains $14-18.
2 Bent Mast Pub and Restaurant, 512 Simcoe St (at Five Corners, in James Bay), ☎ . M-Th noon-midnight, F noon-2AM, Sa 10AM-2AM, Su 10AM-midnight. Burgers, sandwiches and pub fare in an old Victorian house. A great place to drink, eat, make friends, and have fun. Talk to the staff for a bit of the history of the house. Starters $6-14, mains $10-20.
3 Garrick’s Head Pub, 66 Bastion Square, ☎ . M-Sa 11AM-1AM, Su 11AM-midnight. A simple pub — and “One of the oldest English pubs in Canada” according to their website (est. 1867) — but with excellent food and amazing friendly service. As is typical in such pubs, not a great selection for veggheads, but their veggie burger (nuts and chick peas) is really fantastic. The fries are beer-battered to a lovely crispy dark golden colour and the fish is cooked really well, flaky, not squeaky. Mushy peas that come with the steak pie are very tasty. Lots of traditional British food... but with taste. There are also over 50 beers on tap. Not enough for you, how about that fireplace? Starters $7-15, mains $13-19.
6 Spinnakers Brewpub, 308 Catherine St, Esquimalt, ☎ . Restaurant open 8AM-11PM, taproom open 11AM-11PM. Within walking distance of downtown. A great place to go for a drink or a meal. There is a restaurant on the main floor, and a brewpub upstairs. Great atmosphere and a nice view of the Inner Harbour, especially in the evening. A variety of in-house brews, as well as whatever else you want to drink. $6-24.
8 The Penny Farthing, 2228 Oak Bay Ave, Oak Bay, ☎ . Tu-Sa 11AM-midnight, Su-M 11AM-11PM. Feels like your typical British village pub, and the type of people you meet here are as charming as the pub itself. Large menu with flatbread pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, cheese and meat boards, and a number of entrees including some traditional British favourites like bangers & mash, fish & chips and shepherd's pie. Starters $6-13, mains $14-30.
North American Cuisine
10 Fairfield Fish and Chips, 1275 Fairfield Rd, ☎ . Tu-Sa 11:30AM-7:30PM. Get your chips to go and take them 4 blocks down to the waterfront and enjoy the view of Juan De Fuca Strait. They do an especially light and fluffy batter.
11 Ferris' Oyster Bar & Grill, 536 Yates St, ☎ . M 11:30AM-10PM, Tu-Sa 11:30AM-11PM, Su 10AM-11PM (Upstairs oyster bar opens at 5PM nightly). Two restaurants — the grill and patio (with a focus on sandwiches, burgers and oysters) downstairs, and the upstairs oyster and seafood bar. A large menu and classy atmosphere, perfect for first dates or nights out with friends. Even the burgers are good. Starters $5-16, mains $11-32.
12 John's Place, 723 Pandora Ave, ☎ . M-F 7AM-9PM, Sa-Su 8AM-9PM. A local favourite with some of the best staff in town and excellent food at decent prices. Does breakfast, lunch and dinner, with brunch on weekends. The Eggs Benedict with hollandaise sauce is to die for (10 varieties)! Breakfast $7-15, dinner mains $9-17.
13 Shine Cafe, 1458 Fort St (near Oak Bay Corners (Fort and Pandora), outside of downtown), ☎ . 8AM-3PM daily. A very popular brunch spot with a variety of breakfast dishes, soups, sandwiches and burgers. A particularly interesting dish they make is Scottish breakfast with black pudding and potato scones. Expect a long wait after 11AM on weekends. There is now a second location downtown at 1320 Blanshard St (corner of Blanshard & Johnson). $7-15.
14 Big Wheel Burger, 341 Cook St, ☎ . 11AM-10PM daily. A classic American cheeseburger joint with a focus on sustainability (it was Vancouver Island's first carbon-neutral restaurant). Delicious cheeseburgers and shakes gluten-free, vegetarian options and kid-friendly. Serves beer and wine as well. $10-20.
18 Oh Gelato!, 1013 Government St, ☎ . 9AM-10:30PM. 66 flavours of beautifully-presented gelatos, garnished with bits of fruit or chocolate to illustrate their flavour, at $6.95 for a two-scoop cup. Also snacks and Canadian food souvenirs. Worth a stop to photograph the gelato.
West Coast Fusion
22 The Mint, 1414 Douglas St (between Pandora and Johnson), ☎ . M-F 11AM-4PM (The Mint Lunch); 5PM-2AM daily (The Mint). Nepalese and Tibetan cuisine in a swanky atmosphere, DJs included. The main restaurant (The Mint) is downstairs, with lunch fare (The Mint Lunch) served at street level. A popular spot for students. Starters $5-18, mains $10-23.
23 The Noodle Box, 818 Douglas St, ☎ . 11AM-9PM daily. Another very popular spot for locals. Serves southeast Asian food fresh and in a takeaway box. Wait times vary depending on the time of day (for example, 20-25 minutes during lunch hour rush), but the meal is worth it. Minimize the wait by phoning in your order in advance. The boxes look deceptively small, but they make a very filling meal. There are also locations at 3500 Uptown Blvd and Saanich (205-3749 Shelbourne St). $9-18.
24 Venus Sophia Tea Room & Vegetarian Eatery, 540 Fisgard St, ☎ . W-Su 11AM-6PM. Vegetarian gourmet meals, creative cooking style with inspiration from all over the world. Great coffee and desserts. Lots of vegan and gluten free options. There's also three varieties of afternoon tea (formal, express and dessert) to suit your budget and time. Meals $11-19, afternoon tea $22-34.
- Afternoon Tea at Venus Sophia Tea Room & Vegetarian Eatery, in the heart of Chinatown on 540 Fisgard Street. Charming tea room with unique décor and ambience. Offers a fresh twist on traditional afternoon tea - locals love it. Generous portions of finger sandwiches, dainty tarts, shortbread, fruit, scones and more to be enjoyed with a fresh pot of organic loose leaf tea from an extensive selection. Tea is served in antique English teacups and teapots. Served daily from Tuesday to Sunday 09:00-17:00 Price: $25.50 per person (tax and 15% gratuity not included). Children's tea available for $15.50. Dress code: Casual/Smart-casual. Telephone: +1 250 590-3953. Reservations recommended, walk ins welcome.
- Afternoon Tea, at the Empress Hotel (see under "Lodging"). This is quintessentially Victoria or unbearably kitsch, depending on your taste. Afternoon Tea, served from 12:00, includes fine teas, fruit with cream, and elegant petite sandwiches. Altogether it is a full meal. Price changes with the season, from $48 per person in summer to $38 in the winter. West Coast Tea, served Th-Sa from 19:00 onwards during the summer only, builds on the concept but is designed for cruise ship visitors. $42 per person. Reservations required, and should be made 1-2 weeks in advance at +1 250 389-2727. Dress-code is "smart casual": dresses and ties not required, but avoid tank tops and flip-flops. [dead link].
Because Victoria’s downtown is fairly small, most of the nightlife is located within walking distance. Cabs aren’t too expensive and there isn’t too far to go to get from point A to B. Victoria's police force has an aggressive crackdown on drinking and driving, so take a cab, all you have to do is stumble to Douglas and eventually you will grab one before someone else. But if it’s a “special” night like Halloween or New Year’s Eve, expect a bit of a wait. Compared to clubs in larger cities, cover in Victoria is cheap, ranging from $3 to $10. Fridays and Saturdays: expect to pay $7 to get in the door and another $2 to check your coat. Compared to larger cities, Victoria's liquor is pretty pricey. There is a law in Victoria that requires all drinks to cost $3 at minimum for a serving of alcohol. Expect to pay at least $3 but most likely more for each drink. Beers and shots are about $5. Most bars have cash machines inside, and accept only cash as payment.
- Lucky Bar 517 Yates. A bit small, but not nearly as costly as others. Wednesday night is Mod Night so dress in your hipster finest. Thursday night's "Hang The DJ" is probably the most tasteful music in the city, and the music-snob crowd reflects that. The crowd is a mix of straight and queer. Monday night is 90210 so dress to impress and get down there early.
- Touch View St. (at Blanshard). Formerly known as 'The Red Jacket' This opulent nightclub is frequented by a posh crowd looking to see and be seen. The crowd tends to be a bit more ethnically diverse. The bar itself is large (when both sides are open) and features a bright fish tank that is very cool when you’re drunk. When this club is popular, usually Thursdays, expect to wait in line unless you come early or know the right people. Mondays are the hipster night - complete with DSLR photographers and enough electro and mash ups to choke a portland donkey.
- For a slightly older crowd, head to Upstairs Cabaret (in Bastion square). Above the popular pub Darcy’s, the place gets busy on Saturday after the pub crowd are kicked out at 01:00 when the (awesome) rock cover band finishes. Upstairs is a good size and plays a wide variety of music. The staff often ignores all patrons but their friends but with a bit of persistence you’ll get a drink.
- Distrikt is probably the largest club in Victoria, with a sunken dance floor and multiple bars. Used to be called Legends and was very popular. in the basement of the Strathcona hotel which also features the Clubhouse, Rooftop and Big Bad John's
- For rock and 80s fans, go to Rehab (formerly Evolution) at 502 Discovery. They play classic and modern rock, retro, electro etc. depending on the night. Retro night on Wednesday’s is especially popular and the drinks tend to be a bit cheaper. The crowd is really mixed, all ages and walks of life.
- Victoria's gay crowd, although usually more comfortable at Lucky or Hush, will occasionally show their support and hang out at Paparazzi (formerly known as Prism) the “official” gay bar on Johnson St. The music is pumping and special drag shows or karaoke contests are often. Straight people are welcome...sort of...if they are willing to have a little fun anyway. This place is also home to the only good Karaoke night in town.
- Another “sort-of” gay bar is Hush. The music is almost purely pounding trance and other dance music genres and anyone is welcome. The bar is fairly small but you can find it on Government St. This is basically where everybody went after the City of Victoria completely destroyed the awesome rave scene that used to happen here.
[dead link]Redd's Roadhouse Pub (Redd's Pub), 3020 Blanshard St (In front of Topaz Park), ☎ . 11:00-23:00. Sports bar featuring all sports events in huge TV screens, daily specials, game nights and live bands. $30.
Moon Under Water Pub & Brewery, 350B Bay St, ☎ . Mon-Thurs 11:30AM-11PM, Fri 11:30AM - Midnight, Sat 11:30AM - 11PM, Sun 11:30AM-8PM. A "Beer" bar. Food is matched to the beer. In-house German-inspired beers are served along side craft beers from around British Columbia. Free overnight parking.
There are a number of areas to stay in Victoria with the most popular location being downtown. Other options include Sidney, the West Shore and the Upper Harbour district [dead link].
Blue Ridge Inns, 3110 Douglas St, ☎ , toll-free: , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Pretty wide range of pricing, from $70 a night for a single bed to $500+ a week for deluxe cabins. Quaint rooms, but they have coffee makers, and you can request rooms with microwaves and fridges.
[dead link]Comfort Hotel & Conference Centre, 3020 Blanshard St (In front of Topaz Park), ☎ . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 12 noon. Free parking, hot breakfast and Internet. Fitness room, sauna and jacuzzi. $85.
HI-Victoria Hostel, 516 Yates St, ☎ , toll-free: , fax: . Check-in: Noon, check-out: 11AM. A bit institutional, but a good location otherwise. 24 or 44 people in a dorm. Private rooms also available. Internet access, free wifi, laundry, luggage storage, and lockers offered. Dorms from $20/member, $24/non-members. Private rooms from $57.75/members, $65.75/non-members.
Ocean Island Inn, 791 Pandora Ave (in downtown core, corner of Pandora & Blanshard), ☎ , toll-free: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Open 24/7. Weekly and biweekly rates available. There are also discounted monthly rates from October to May. Accommodations are comfortable and this place definitely has character (and an all-ages licensed café). Lots of rooms info and online booking on their website. Cheapest budget hotel downtown, free wireless internet in every room, and an internet café with computers that even have Skype. Shared dormitory-style rooms (4-6 people in a room) $19-$27/night; Private hotel-style rooms $28-$78/night.
Travellers' Inn, 1850 Douglas St, toll-free: . One of a chain of nine budget hotels in the area, closest to the inner harbour. $50-100.
The Turtle Refuge, 1608 Quadra St, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Free coffee every morning, linens are provided, free wireless internet, laundry facilities, etc. it is located in a neighborhood noted for crime and drug use and attracts a crowd that many will not like. Private rooms are safe but unsuitable for all but the most desperate. $14 for a dorm bed a night to $35 singles.
UVic Housing (University of Victoria), ☎ . Accommodation is available at Craigdarroch House for $60 (including cafeteria breakfast). Most suitable for those visiting the University. In the summer the University dorm rooms are available for $44-55 , or a 4 bedroom unit in the cluster housing for $160.
Victoria Travelodge, 229 Gorge Road East, ☎ , toll-free: , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. In the heart of Victoria along the Gorge Waterway, rates starting at $69 per night with free internet and free parking. Pets are welcome and kids under 18 stay free. Rooms with kitchens are available.
Abbeylee Guesthouse, 255 Government St, toll-free: , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. A quiet elegant 1892 Victorian gingerbread masterpiece in historical James Bay, 3 doors away from the Emily Carr house. Antiques and modern comforts, gourmet breakfasts. Alternate tel +1-250-370-1469. skype: abbeyleeryan. $79-$199/night.
Best Western Plus Inner Harbour Hotel, 412 Quebec St (650 m from coach station; 300 m from U.S. ferry terminal), ☎ , toll-free: , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Complimentary continental breakfast buffet and covered parking. Outdoor seasonal heated pool, indoor whirlpool, sauna, steam room, and fitness room. Rooms are spacious, and each has a balcony or patio, some with a partial view of the harbour. Free wired and wireless internet access and tea/coffee maker are included. $99-$699.
Dalton Hotel and Suites, 759 Yates St, ☎ . $120-199.
Dashwood Manor Bed and Breakfast, 1 Cook St, toll-free: , e-mail: email@example.com. Beside historic Beacon Hill Park. Eleven ocean view rooms, some with fireplaces and double Jacuzzis. Full breakfast. Free off-street parking. The style and elegance of an old-world and gracious home. Monthly and weekly rates available.
The Embassy Inn, 520 Menzies St (Next to the Parliament Buildings), ☎ , toll-free: . An inner harbour hotel, offering a wide variety of rooms and suites available at your request. Free parking and wireless internet included in your booking. Starts at $89 plus taxes.
Howard Johnson Hotel & Suites, 4670 Elk Lake Dr, ☎ . Clean, comfortable rooms. $109-248.
Huntingdon Hotel & Suites, 330 Quebec St, toll-free: . Good location on the south side of the Inner Harbour. Slightly faded rooms with British character. $100-250.
Marketa's Bed and Breakfast, 239 Superior St, ☎ . Edwardian heritage home serves continental breakfast. $90-$140.
Ocean Island Suites, 143 Government St, ☎ , toll-free: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Individually designed and decorated bright character suites. In quiet and historic James Bay, one block from Beacon Hill Park. Fully-equipped kitchens, queen sized beds, spacious garden/deck, private entrance, TV/DVD, laundry facilities, free parking, free wireless internet. Starts at $95/night.
Queen Victoria Hotel, 655 Douglas. $100-200.
Victoria Harborwalk Bed & Breakfast Suite, 427 Heather St, ☎ . A popular private character suite in James Bay just behind the Legislative Buildings and the Royal BC Museum. $108-148.
9 The Empress Hotel, 721 Government St (on the inner harbour, near the Legislature & Royal BC Museum), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Victoria's grand old hotel and most famous luxury hotel, designed in the same Edwardian style as many former Canadian Pacific Hotels such as Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. $350-500.
10 Fisher House Victoria Bed and Breakfast, 333 Simcoe St (In the heart of historic James Bay Village, from the Victoria Clipper & Port Angeles Coho Ferry head five short blocks on Oswego St to Simcoe Street, turn left on Simcoe Street), ☎ , toll-free: , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Comfortable, quiet accommodations in a boutique setting. Winter $75–100, high season $110-150.
There is a drug presence among people living on the streets and in the bars. This means that panhandling can be a problem. Panhandlers are aggressive despite laws against this behaviour. You may wish to avoid Pandora Ave between Cook and Quadra as this is where a huge majority hang out. Do not walk around parks and grassy areas in sandals or bare feet as there are many needles discarded in these areas, city workers are quick to clean them up but it is always a good idea to be careful in these areas. However there is a strong police presence on downtown streets during the summer, especially on weekends at night. This problem is generally confined to the tourist area bounded by Blanshard Street.
Because all the bars and clubs are very close together, many drunken people spill into the streets at 2AM on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night and are in fact more dangerous than the street people. If you are out and about at this time (or have your downtown hotel room window open) be prepared to deal with all that drunken idiots have to offer such as public urination, shouting and rude comments.
In the unlikely event of a major earthquake, duck and cover and stay where you are during the shaking, then go outside once the shaking stops. Buildings and other structures are unlikely to collapse. Your largest threats come from breaking windows and falling objects such as ceiling tiles and bookshelves. Try to get under a table, desk, or door jamb to reduce your exposure to these threats. You are more likely to be injured if you try to run during the shaking.
The area codes for Victoria, and British Columbia as a whole, are 250 and 778. Because their areas overlap, all numbers must be dialed with the area code, including local calls.
Victoria is only a starting place to explore Vancouver Island by bus, car or bike.
Five hours by car to the west, Tofino is famous for its surfing and nature. The small town of Comox and its neighbour Courtenay are cozy and full of beautiful beaches. Head to Shawnigan Lake for a really small town and hit the lake in a canoe or the trails by foot. Nearby Hornby, Denman and Salt Spring Island each have a distinct vibe and are worth the visit just to check out something a little different. There is a lot of hiking, biking and camping. And of course, for the more city-loving folk, ferries from Victoria take you to bustling Vancouver or Seattle.
Hitchhiking is relatively common on Vancouver Island and may be useful for getting around.
|Routes through Victoria|
|Nanaimo ← Langford ←||N S||→ END|
|Vancouver (via ) ← Sidney ←||N S||→ END|