Enjoy British Columbia’s Capital City. The off season for Victoria is approximately between October and April, and the weather is mild given that Victoria is located on Vancouver Island’s southern coast.
Winter in Victoria is mild and rainy, much like Nanaimo, Vancouver, and Seattle, Washington in the U.S. In some rare cases some heavy snowfall can take place, but don’t let that be a deterrent from visiting Victoria during winter, the scenery post-snowfall can be quite magical.
Victoria scored 3rd place in Travel and Leisure Magazine’s 2017 World’s Best Cities in Canada.
On Vancouver Island we are all well-mannered and peaceful until it comes to hockey – in which case, be aware, we are competitive.
The city of Victoria is located on Vancouver Island’s southern tip, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) apart from Vancouver and Seattle, and 110 kilometres (68 miles) apart from Nanaimo. It is the Island’s largest city with a population of some 380,000 in the Greater Victoria metropolitan area.
Victoria, Canada’s oldest city in the northwest Pacific, is also known as “The Garden City” for its lush and beautiful floral grounds and a quality of life you can only find on Vancouver Island.
Getting to Victoria is Easy and Relaxing
- Take a leisurely ferry ride from Vancouver to Victoria via BC Ferries. Hop aboard the Spirit of Vancouver Island or perhaps the Coastal Celebration, from Tsawwassen (Vancouver) to Swartz Bay (Victoria). Stroll around the main passenger deck, peruse their gift shop, grab a bite to eat or a coffee, and relax in their comfortable seating. Be sure to keep an eye out for orca whales and whale pods, which are native to this area.
- Travel by helicopter and see the beauty of Victoria from a bird’s-eye view (providing you aren’t scared of heights). Companies such as Helijet and Sky Helicopters offer tours and other specials for leisurely travel. Don’t forget your camera!
- Fly into the airport by sea or sky. The Victoria International Airport is about 12 miles north-northwest from the city in North Saanich, very close to the town of Sidney BC located on the Saanich Peninsula.
- Drop into the Inner Harbour via yacht or boat. One of Victoria’s most popular destinations downtown is the Inner Harbour via Wharf Street, where boats and yachts of all makes and sizes come to weigh anchor. There are several boating events that take place here on an annual basis such as races and shows.
- Looking for something different? Take a Tally-Ho Carriage Tour, a leisurely horse-drawn carriage ride, and see Victoria from the same point of view the people had in 1903 when the city was only just beginning to grow. One can feel especially festive during the winter months and they make great ways to spend Valentine’s Day or date night together. Tours can last from 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Enjoy the “Garden City’s” Most Famous Gardens
- The best time of the year to visit Butchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay is…any time of the year! Stroll through the gardens and observe each season in full beauty. In the fall the gardens are host to many reds, browns, golds, and oranges evident in the Maples and it is the perfect time of year to stroll through the Japanese Garden. Around winter the gardens host the annual 12 Days of Christmas display, complete with Christmas carollers, photo booths, and seasonal items for sale in the gift shop. The restaurant, dining room, and coffee shop are open year-round. Come springtime all the gardens’ best flowers will be blossoming, making the sights a must-see!
- Explore the public gardens at the University of Victoria, a.k.a. the Finnerty Gardens. This space is well-known as a haven spot on campus for students and visitors alike and is open year-round. It is home to thousands of flowers, trees, and shrubs, with many benches where you can sit and take in the beautiful serenity the gardens offer. Many birds call the gardens their home, making it an ideal place for bird watchers, and there are many other animals to spot as well.
- See a garden created by royalty at the Abkhazi Gardens, planted together by Prince and Princess Abkhazi in 1946. Take a stroll at your leisure and see the spectacular West Coast design in the gardens from its glaciated rocky slopes to its gorgeous vistas and magnificent Garry Oaks native to Victoria. Seasonal sales in all four seasons of the year pop up for gardening enthusiasts, but even in the fall and winter months the gardens are resplendent in their beauty.
A Capital Rich with History
- There are all sorts of great activities and exhibits to see and experience at the Royal BC Museum. Feature exhibits have included dinosaurs, Vikings, the Titanic, Leonardo da Vinci, Egypt, and Terry Fox’s life and achievements—all just a few of the many incredible sights to see. There are many other sights to see including Victoria throughout history for the past century, a café, the IMAX Theatre, and prehistoric animals.
- Looking for fellow fans of aviation? Check out the BC Aviation Museum on Norseman Road in Sidney. View at your leisure the many restored and preserved artefacts and aircrafts collected through the ages. See with your own eyes the many builds that took flight circa 1913 and beyond.
- One of Victoria’s most colourful and prime walking villages is Chinatown, the oldest Chinatown in Canada and second oldest after San Francisco’s. It was established back when the influx of miners from California arriving in Victoria back in 1858. Today it remains one of Canada’s most popular destinations especially by Chinese-Canadian residents and visitors. Many shops and streets are open to the public, selling food and items you will only find on the opposite side of the world. Just taking a stroll through Chinatown alone promises all sorts of wonders in the sights to see.
Enjoy Heritage with These Sites
- Victoria BC is home to not just one but two castles. The first one worth strolling through is Hatley Castle, which is also the school grounds and campus for students attending the Royal Roads University. Hatley Castle is also well-renowned for being a prime film location for several popular films such as the X-Men. The castle has beautiful gardens that are open to the public. Take a meander through the inside as well.
- The second castle is known as Craigdarroch Castle. Stroll through the spectacular rooms in the home that once belonged to Robert and Joan Dunsmuir, one of the major founding families on Vancouver Island. The castle has also been in the past a hospital, a school, and now a heritage site.
- Art lovers should add the Emily Carr House & Gallery to their must-see list. Engage with fellow art fans and aficionados as you stroll at your leisure through the beautiful grounds and view some of Emily Carr’s most memorable and striking artwork.
More Culture, History and Beauty
- Point Ellice House is best known as “A Time Capsule of Household Victoriana”. Warning, it’s been rumoured to be haunted, so unless you’re not afraid…
- Helmcken House is a one-storey log house, with two two-storey wood frame additions. It was home to Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken, the first speaker of an elected assembly in BC, one of the three negotiators of BC’s entry into Confederation, an early Vancouver Island doctor, and the first president of the Canadian Medical Association.
- Craigflower Manor and Schoolhouse were both built by the Puget’s Sound Agricultural Company which was a subsidiary of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The manor housed the manager of Craigflower Farm, and the schoolhouse was built for the settlers of the community.
- Willows Beach is one of Victoria’s most popular swimming beaches, with views of Discovery Island and Mount Baker making it an extra special experience any time of the year.
- Art Gallery of Greater Victoria will “Add Art to your Life”. The gallery first opened in 1951, exhibiting art in the historic 1889 mansion across from the seven modern galleries it has now. It carries the largest public collection in British Columbia with almost 20,000 works of art.
Where to Catch a Live Show in Victoria
- Belfry Theatre. Not only a theatre, but also an associated theatre company located in the Fernwood neighbourhood of Victoria. They produce contemporary theatre focusing on Canadian work.
- Royal & McPherson Theatres Society. The Royal Theatre opened in 1913 and still retains its original Rococo/Renaissance Revival style décor seating 1416. It’s home to the Victoria Symphony and Pacific Opera Victoria. The McPherson Playhouse, located right across from the Royal, opened in 1914 and has a more intimate seating of 772 and opened as part of the Pantages chain of theatres and is one of the finest examples of that period which still stands in Canada.
- Intrepid Theatre operates two year-round theatre venues, the Metro Studio (seats 180) and the Intrepid Theatre Club (seats 50). It was founded in 1986 specifically to produce the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival. Their original mandate still stands strong: To enhance awareness and appreciation of contemporary theatre, by encouraging, developing, and producing new and or experimental work for public performance, and the promotion of new artists and their work through theatre festival production.
- Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre is Vancouver Island’s major arena venue, which also includes a restaurant. Take in a hockey game and cheer on the Victoria Royals, catch a concert or kid’s show or perhaps a comedy show, or maybe schedule in some ice skating time.
- Mayfair Shopping Centre is “Victoria’s leading fashion mall,” and here you’ll find all your favourite high-end brands. They have over 120 retailers and restaurants, so be careful not to get lost. They have partnered with Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Shopping Centre with a gift card that can be used at either shopping mall. If you can’t find what you’re looking for at one mall, you can visit the other.
- The Bay Centre is about a 16-minute walk from Harbour Air Seaplanes. It’s formerly known as the Victoria Eaton Centre, located in the centre of the downtown shopping district in Victoria. It has many shops as well as food court eats, gourmet restaurants, and a fitness gym.
- Hillside Centre offers more than 100 shops and services. This shopping experience is deep in the heart of Victoria. Located in their food court is the OceanWall, featuring stunning images of the Salish Sea including orcas, humpbacks, harbour seals, and much more. It’s near Royal Jubilee Hospital and Camosun College; perhaps you’re visiting someone in that area?
- Uptown Centre is forever growing. This shopping centre is just off the main drag into town coming from the Malahat when driving in from Nanaimo. It has many places to shop, eat, health and spa, and don’t forget to check out their Cupcakes store full of delicious small and big cupcakes made fresh in the store.
Unique Shopping and Delicacies
- Terroir Tea Salon is one of the newest shops to open in Victoria. They offer wonderful ways to relax with a cup of tea including classes on how to really infuse your tea so you get the full flavour. We can’t think of anything more relaxing than a cup of tea on a chilly day!
- The Victoria Public Market at the Hudson is open on Saturdays and they offer all sorts of wonderful and locally made goods such as farm-grown produce and food, jewelry, crafts, artwork, sculptures, and more. Find a beautiful treasure from one of the local artisans or a delicious snack from one of the farmers as you meander through this delightful public market.
- Stock up on your favourite teas at Murchie’s Tea and Coffee. Home to the delightful black tea “Murchie’s Afternoon” blend which was specially made for Royal Roads University and comes available in both regular and decaf. That’s not the only tea they serve though! Since their establishment in 1894 Murchie’s has been continuously developing their coffee and tea blends and offer hundreds of teas, coffees, beverage accessories and gifts, and many more.
- Stock up on your favourite sweets and snacks pile at Roger’s Chocolates. Roger’s is rich not only in its huge variety of custom styles of chocolate fudge, chocolate boxes, and candies, but also it’s rich with history as it was first initiated in 1885. The shop uses Fair Trade Certified Cocoa in all of their products, and you can customize your own boxes of chocolate using 10-20 varieties. They also offer no-sugar added selections for those who are diabetic but love and miss the sweetness of chocolate.
- Stroll around Victoria’s Inner Harbour and window shop. There are many sights to see such as the many yachts and boats arriving and departing, street artists, coffee stands, hot dog stands, and more. Bring your camera in case you see something photo-worthy.
- Spend some time at the Empress Hotel for their afternoon high tea. They serve freshly baked and prepared sweets and pastries, finger sandwiches, and scones, and pair them with tea set in authentic Victoria era china cups. Do nothing but lounge around for an afternoon filled with elegance and refinement.
Tours, Tours, Tours
- Get into the spirit of Halloween on a Haunted House Walking Tour. Victoria is home to many spooky homes and haunted alleyways that are richer in history than you may realize. Various walking tours are offered throughout October and can ease you into the spirit of All Hallow’s Eve.
- Go on a Victoria and Butchart Gardens Christmas Tour. Take in the views from the deck aboard a BC Ferry for a 90-minute cruise through the Juan de Fuca Straight and Gulf Islands. Then enjoy the Christmas lights shining bright upon the Fairmont Empress, Parliament Buildings and even some of the docked boats in the inner harbour. Enjoy your stroll through Butchart Gardens Christmas display as traditional carolers greet you.
Other tours you may wish to enjoy which include but are not limited to: food tour, tasting tour, brewery tour, winery tour, distillery tour, eco tour, bus tour, comic book/ gaming store tour, and coffee shop tour.
Relaxing Activities that Double as Gorgeous Sights
- Victoria BC is the official starting point of the Vancouver Island Golf Trail. Courses featured in Victoria that are part of the trail include Bear Mountain Resort, Olympic View Golf Club, and Highland Pacific Golf.
- Relax at Bear Mountain Resort. The green grounds offer spectacular sights while playing golf and the spa offers relaxation all day long.
- Go scuba diving or snorkeling at Ogden Point Dive Centre. The centre offers instructions to beginners and advanced divers.
- Navigate the corn maze or go for a tractor ride at Galey Farms. Their pumpkin patch offers all sorts of ripe pickings for jack ‘o lanterns around Halloween! Makes a great activity for kids too!
Unique Spots to Visit with the Family
- Victoria Butterfly Gardens “A vibrant jungle experience” Take a walk through lush gardens filled with tropical flowers, carnivorous plants and fruits of the world with up to 70 species of thousands of tropical butterflies you’ll find more than you bargained for. Including poison dart frogs, tortoises, large iguanas, flamingos, tropical ducks, free-flying tropical birds and much more.
- Since 1997 Victoria’s Bug Zoo offers an extremely amazing experience of live tropical bugs from around the world, roughly 50 species such as glow-in-the-dark scorpions, giant walking sticks, and Canada’s largest ant colony. All are alive and in tanks, but if you wish to handle some of the creatures here, your knowledgeable tour guide will help you have a safe bug-handling experience.
- Miniature World or rather “The Greatest Little Show on Earth” features over 85 miniature dioramas and displays, including the World’s Smallest Operational Sawmill. It may be called Miniature World, but they also have some of the World’s Largest as well, including two of the World’s Largest Doll Houses from 1880 with over 50 rooms, fully furnished and perfectly detailed.
Here’s a list of other things to look for or check out while in Victoria:
- Fisherman’s Wharf
- Bastion Square
- Fan Tan Alley
- Beacon Hill Park & Children’s Farm
- Royal Athletic Park
- Thunderbird Park
- Uplands Park
- Mount Douglas Park
- Goldstream Provincial Park
- Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park
- Cadboro-Gyro Park
- Gorge Park
- Centennial Square
- Ross Bay Cemetery
- Maritime Museum
- Fort Rodd Hill
- Robert Bateman Centre
- Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary
- Blue World Aquariums
- Zipline & Aerial Adventure Park
- Vancouver Island Brewery
- Cattle Point Urban Star Park
- Old Town
- Anne’s Academy National Historic Site
- Trounce Alley
- David Foster Foundation Theatre
- Olive the Senses – A Tasting Experience
- Mile Zero
- George Mason’s Heritage Home
We hope you enjoy Victoria and all you may discover. Perhaps you might find a few things that peak your interest that may prompt a return visit. There’s so much to do and so many things to see, you may want to move here.
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