A Guide To Victoria, Canada: Things To Do In The BC Capital
If you are headed to Victoria, Canada, I created a destination guide for this beautiful Canadian coastal city. Like all of my destination guides, I have personally experienced all of these things and recommend only my favorites. If you are also looking for food recommendations or love beer, I have posts for that too which I will link at the bottom of this post !! I’ve included a handful of options so regardless of what your interests are or budget, I’ve got you covered!
Click here for a Google Map of everything on this list.
Now! For my Victoria, Canada destination guide
Victoria’s Inner Harbour is very picturesque with boats arriving to dock and float planes landing just a few hundred feet in front of you. I love walking along the harbor path and taking in a sunset from here.
The historic Fairmont Empress
A sunset in the Inner Harbour
BC Legislature Building
While I didn’t take a tour of the Legislative building on my recent visits, I have toured the building during my primary school years. This is where British Columbian governmental action goes down. Outside the building is a statue of Queen Victoria, the namesake of this fair city, as well as a beautiful totem pole. Photo opportunities galore here and free!
The top of the Legislative Building
Royal BC Museum
Not everyone is a museum fan but I am one. I love art and history so I try to always visit a local museum or gallery whenever I’m traveling. There is an excellent First Nations exhibit and natural history exhibit at the Royal BC Museum. There is usually a visiting exhibit and when I was in Victoria, there was a Viking exhibit.
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
I was pleasantly surprised by this gallery. It’s very small but some really impressive pieces of work here. When I visited there was an exhibit by Canadian artist Emily Carr. There are also small works of art by Picasso, Miro, Magritte, Calder, and more.
Robert Bateman Centre
The Robert Bateman Centre is a gallery exhibiting the work of world renown wildlife artist Robert Bateman. The center exhibits over 100 pieces with works ranging from sketches to large-scale paintings. While walking through the gallery, you will get a sense of the artist’s love of nature and animals. A few favorite pieces of mine were his paintings of the elusive kermode bear and egrets in Bali seen below.
Beacon Hill Park
I’m a fan of green spaces and parks so I took a stroll through Beacon Hill Park. It’s located by the Juan de Fuca Strait and you can even view the Olympic Mountain range of Washington from part of the park. It’s popular with both tourists and locals. The park offers trails, playgrounds, a water park, a petting zoo, tennis courts, ponds, and more. It’s also free to visit!
While I was in Beacon Hill Park, I had to visit Checkpoint Zero on the Trans-Canada Highway. I have driven across the country when I was in college but didn’t officially start at point zero. So I had to come here and touch it so I can say I have been to both coasts of Canada. :p
I also had to pay respects to a statue of Terry Fox that is right by Checkpoint Zero. Terry Fox is a Canadian hero. I vaguely remember him doing his Marathon of Hope for cancer research when I was a child. Sadly he succumbed to his cancer and died before he finished but in honor of him, every year people run the Terry Fox Run and are still raising money for cancer research. As someone who has lost many loved ones to cancer, my love, and admiration for Terry Fox is every greater now.
Right across the street from Beacon Hill Park towards the water is Fonyo Beach. I took a minute to just chill out on the rocks and listen to the Pacific Ocean.
The Breakwater at Ogden Point
I have driven along Dallas Road but I have never explored Ogden Point before. A friend mentioned it to me so I visited on my last trip to Victoria. I’m so glad I did. I always ignored it because it is usually busy with cruise ship passengers but the views here are beautiful and it’s a great half mile walk to the end where the lighthouse is. If you’re a runner, Dallas Road to the end is a great scenic run.
Canada’s Oldest Chinatown
Most may not know this but Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in the country. The downtown area of Victoria is really small so it’s worth the visit even though it’s small. There’s a secret alleyway there called Fan Tan Alley which is great for photos. I haven’t tried out any of the Chinese food while I was in town so I can’t recommend any for now. If you are also traveling to Vancouver, I recommend waiting to eat in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, which has amazing Chinese restaurants.
If you want to shop while in Victoria, there are some really great independent shops along Pandora, Johnson, and Yates Streets. If you’re more of a mall shopper, there is Mayfair Mall. A bit further out of the downtown area, there is a shopping area called Uptown with stores like Plenty, H&M and the like. I also wrote about Victoria Public Market in my food post but you can most definitely shop there as well. I picked up flavored sea salt from the area when I was there.
I spend a pretty penny in here every time I Silk Road Tea and I’m a notorious coffee head. It’s that great! They sell organic tea, skin and body products. They have a location, the original, in Chinatown and then one in the Victoria Public Market. You get to sample teas and scoop them out yourself. I love this place. I even took a tea workshop when I was in Victoria last. I learned to make summer iced teas and when you take a workshop you get a discount on any teas you buy that day. There is also a spa downstairs which I tried just recently. I had a facial and for $55, I was pretty pleased. They didn’t do any extractions but they used their tea infused line which was awesome. I fell asleep because I was so relaxed. I would like to try a massage next time.
Down on Yates Street, there are some really great indie boutiques of all kinds. I love the Regional Assembly of Text because I’m a stationary nerd and Oh Sugar because I’m addicted to candy. There’s a handful of other great stores selling apparel and housewares within those blocks.
I love cycling tours. I’ve done all over including Vietnam and Toronto. So I had to check out The Pedaler in Victoria. They have a handful you can choose from or if you want to go solo, you can rent from them as well. I love tours because it gives you a quick version of exploring and if you want to go back and explore further, you know where you can dedicate your time to.
A local’s tip:
If you want a great viewpoint for some photos, head to a spot called Moss Rock. I would have never known about it but my guide from The Pedaler took me there for some photos. You can see me standing on Moss Rock above and here are some photos of the view:
I haven’t experienced much of Oak Bay but the drive along Beach Road is scenic. I have stayed at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel and that was amazing but I’m definitely keen to explore more. Their little town center is super quaint and it looks like there aren’t any big box businesses there. Love that!
As I was driving along Beach Drive to get to the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, I spotted these chairs. When I was leaving Victoria, I couldn’t help but stop and take photos and chill out for a minute.
I may have gone back the following year to shoot a chair selfie
Hike Mount Douglas
I am a novice when it comes to hiking but I do love a good long walk and a really pretty view. After seeing some photos online, I was keen on checking out a local hike. Mount Douglas is a park in Saanich which provides stunning views and lots of trails. The road leading up to the parking lot at the top is closed daily till noon to allow walkers, hikers, and cyclists full use of the road. There are different levels of trails to choose from that are easier or harder!
Whale watching is a popular activity on the West Coast but in the Pacific Northwest, it is a huge deal. Orcas, as well as lots of other marine animals, live in and around the waters of British Columbia so if you love whales, I recommend going on a whale watching tour. I took a 3-hour tour with Orca Spirit Adventures, which is located in the Inner Harbour. You have two options to choose from, either a bigger viewing boat or a zodiac. I chose the zodiac to get a close-up view of the whales.
On our tour, we went through some of the Gulf Islands and out towards the San Juans. We spotted eagles, sea lions, seals, and….two orcas! It was an unbelievable experience. This particular year (2015) has been a great year for orca spotting in southern British Columbia.
Here are some photos from my whale watching excursion:
And there you have it! Some things I have done in Victoria that I think are worth checking out. I’m sure there are a ton more and hopefully, I’ll get to go back and keep adding to my guides. If you’ve been to Victoria, what are some of your favorite spots?
Be sure to check out my other posts:
Here’s a map you can access when you’re in Victoria:
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**Disclaimer: Many thanks to Tourism Victoria for helping me put together this guide along with the BC Royal Museum, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, The Robert Bateman Centre, the Pedaler, and Orca Spirit Adventures. As always, all opinions, of course, are my own.
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