(This post about things to do in Victoria Canada was updated in 2019)
Victoria is the capital of the Canadian Province of British Colombia and is the main city on Vancouver Island. With a population of approximately 344,615 this Canadian city was named after Queen Victoria.
As well as having high tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel and visiting the world’s tallest free-standing totem pole in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park there are lots of must-do’s when you visit Victoria.
These are my top recommendations of things to do in Victoria on Vancouver Island based on my personal experience of living on Vancouver Island for 10 weeks.
Between the months of April and October the waters around Vancouver Island offer some of the best whale watching opportunities in the world. With orcas, Humpback whales, Minke Whales and Gray Whales in abundance the chances of seeing some of these beautiful marine creatures is excellent.
There are numerous companies offering whale watching tours from Victoria. I recommend Springtide which is a company I used twice when I was in Victoria. The office is near the harbour which is where you meet before you embark on the trip.
There are 2 types of boat available – the Zodiac and a covered boat. The Zodiac is available to book all year round. It is a big speedboat and although you will get wet this is the boat recommended for those who suffer from seasickness. It is not suggested for some people (expectant Mums, young children etc so do check before you book) Alternatively the covered boat is available for whale watching tours between April 15 – September 30th.
The trip costs $119 for adults on the Zodiac and covered boat. There is a $5 reduction if booked online.
Website – Springtide
Another highly recommended company is Prince of Whales.
VISIT FISHERMAN’S WHARF
An absolute must-visit in Victoria on Vancouver Island is Fisherman’s Wharf. A working harbour with shops, food kiosks and eco-tours this is a real gem in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Look out for the seals and otters that hang out there too.
Try Barb’s Fish and Chips for the best seafood!
I would suggest combining a trip to Fisherman’s Wharf with a visit to Chinatown. Take the water taxi (it costs about $5) over the harbour to Victoria’s Chinatown – the oldest in Canada. If you like Bubble Tea pop into Bubble Tea Palace (532 Fisgard St – the main street in Chinatown)
TAKE A STROLL AROUND THE HARBOUR (OR A CANOE) AND WATCH THE SEA PLANES LAND AND TAKE OFF
Watch out for the sea planes flying in and out of the harbour. If you want to take to the water you can take a canoe tour with Kelp Reef Adventures (based in the Fisherman’s Wharf area). Beginner’s are welcome and they provide all the gear.
TAKE A LOOK AT THE PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
The capital of British Colombia is Victoria and the Parliament Buildings in the city are home to the Legislative Assembly. The Parliament Buildings are open to visitors and free guided tours are provided throughout the year.
HIRE AND BICYCLE AND CYCLE ROUND VICTORIA
I would recommend hiring a bike for half a day or for a few hours to explore a little. It’s fun and a good way to see and explore around Victoria. Why not cycle to Craigdarroch Castle for a look around. Built by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir during the reign of Queen Victoria it is now a National Historic Site.
VISIT BEACON HILL PARK
You can find the world’s tallest totem pole at Beacon Hill Park. It was created in 1956 by Chief Mungo Martin and carvers David Martin and Henry Hunt. The totem pole is 160 feet tall.
The park itself is located along the south shore of Victoria and was created in 1882.
VISIT THE VIC THEATRE
For something a little different visit the Vic theatre on Douglas and Humboldt St. It is a little cinema that’s super cheap and shows a variety of films that aren’t always shown in normal cinemas. Tickets are available 30 minutes prior to show times.
VISIT BUTCHART GARDENS
A day trip from Victoria Butchart Gardens is a must-visit on Vancouver Island. If you are traveling by bus catch the no. 75 bus from Douglas and Pandora Street. Entrance costs $33.80 for adults $16.90 for youths aged 13-17 and $3.00 for children aged 5 -12. If you visit the gardens on a Saturday night during the summer months there is live music available as well as a firework show.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE – A GUIDE TO VISITING BUTCHART GARDENS
EATS LOTS OF GREAT FOOD INCLUDING HIGH TEA AT THE EMPRESS!
One of the main tourist destinations in Victoria is the the Empress for High Tea. Book well ahead of time to avoid disappointment. Tea at the Empress costs $78 per person (not including tax or gratuity) Dress code is sophisticated smart casual.
However there are lots of other great places to eat during your stay in Victoria. I recommend the following:
Asian – FOO Asian Street Food at 769 Yates Street
Italian – Pagliacci’s at 1011 Broad Street and Prima Strada Pizzeria 230 Cook Street 1250.590.8595
Burgers – Bard and Banker at 1022 Government Street
PLAY BOARD GAMES OR PERUSE A BOOKSTORE
TIPS AND THINGS TO KNOW WHEN VISITING VICTORIA BC
- The main streets in Victoria are Wharf St, Government St, Douglas St and Blanshard St.
- Most of the main sights are in walking distance (except Butchart Gardens) but local transport options are excellent if you prefer to hop on a bus.
- Expect a very British feel to Victoria with red double decker buses and afternoon tea the order of the day!
- Weather – warm, sunny and dry in the summer and cold, wet and cloudy winters in Victoria. Snow is common during the winter months.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE – AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO VANCOUVER ISLAND
HOW TO GET AROUND VICTORIA (AND FROM VANCOUVER TO VICTORIA
- FERRY FROM VANCOUVER TO VANCOUVER ISLAND: The ferry leaves Tsawwassen in Vancouver and heads to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. It costs $17.20 for foot passengers. You can’t make reservations for foot passengers, so you only need to reserve this in advance if you’ve got a car. They run every hour on some days, but definitely every 2 hours. The trip takes 1 hour and 35 minutes. Once you alight the ferry catch the no. 72 bus to Victoria. This is a very popular route and lots of the ferry passengers will be heading to Victoria..
- AROUND VICTORIA: Victoria regional transit system. See here for fares for the bus to get around Victoria. You can pay with exact change/money on the bus, get a day pass for $5 on the bus, or get a sheet of 10 tickets for $22.50 from any convenience store place.
- FROM VANCOUVER TO TSAWWASSEN: To get from downtown Vancouver to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal take the no. 980 bus to Laudner Exchange then catch the no. 620 bus to Tsawwassen.
WHERE TO STAY IN VICTORIA
There are some great accommodation choices in Victoria to suit a variety of budgets – search below to select your accommodation.
PIN FOR LATER – TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN VICTORIA CANADA
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Tracy has lived and worked in 7 countries on 4 continents and travelled to over 50 more. A qualified school teacher with an interest in history, reading, photography, nature and wildlife she is always planning her next trip (preferably by train)
With a lifetime of travel experience, and a network of friends all over the world, she is also able to share genuine insider guides, recommended best book lists and train journey inspiration to help you travel authentically to some of the most beautiful places on earth.
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