Forget Victoria’s old moniker “home of the newly wed and nearly dead.” This harbour city is experiencing a shift, making it the ideal location for a weekend (or weeklong, in our opinion) getaway!
With its sunny climate, stunning vistas and idyllic lifestyle, Victoria has attracted and built a booming tech industry, drawing an influx of young creatives and entrepreneurial types that have upped the energy quotient for this once sleepy city.
But BC’s capital city still retains its character and approachableness with an ideal mix of outdoor activities, walkable downtown—where British colonial meets Asian traditions—and elegant bistros to fuel you after a day of exploration.
Getting here—choose your own adventure
Victoria, BC, is located on the southwest corner of Vancouver Island and getting here is half (or sometimes more) the fun. The city has an international airport located 30 minutes from downtown with direct flights to major Canadian cities and a few US destinations, including Seattle.
See where the city, water and mountains meet. If you’re looking to get a bird’s eye view of this historic city and surrounding islands, this is definitely the way to go. Victoria has regular service from Vancouver via Harbour Air (www.harbourair.com) and Seattle via Kenmore Air (www.kenmoreair.com. Both terminals can be accessed just steps away from the Inner Harbour in Victoria.
Take off over the Salish Sea with Helijet’s regularly scheduled 12-person helicopter service between Victoria and downtown Vancouver. With up to 30 flights per day, Helijet gives you an incredibly smooth, scenic 35-minute flight door to door. The fresh-baked cookies and complimentary wine HeliJet offers at their terminals are an irresistible added feature! Plus kids 12 and under fly for free, with an accompanying parent (some restrictions apply). www.helijet.com
Call it the least expensive cruise you’ve taken to date! This 1.5-hour ferry ride from Tsawwassen (just south of Vancouver) takes you through the scenic Gulf Islands, arriving in Swartz Bay which is just a short 40-minute drive from downtown Victoria. www.bcferries.com
This luxury boat service links downtown Vancouver with downtown Victoria. The 3.5-hour experience features complimentary wifi, ergonomic seats, a sundeck and authentic BC cuisine, beer, wine, and cider for purchase. www.v2vvacations.com
Where to stay
We have a long list of favourites when it comes to hotels in Victoria with plenty of fabulous places to lay your head. We’d love to highlight them all, but here are two that just might pique your interest.
Oak Bay Beach Hotel
Nestled on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in the seaside community of Oak Bay, this luxurious property overlooks Juan de Fuca Strait and offers a breathtaking view of snow-capped Mount Baker in the distance. It’s also a short stroll away from the quaint shops, cafes and galleries of Oak Bay Village. You’ll definitely want to make time to take in the full-service spa and heated seaside mineral pools, with an unparalleled view that will make any visitor (or local) swoon.www.oakbaybeachhotel.com
Merging the classic charm of a British country inn with contemporary comfort and amenities the Huntingdon Manor Hotel is one of the most unique and inviting hotels in Victoria, BC. Set in an ideal location to take advantage of all that downtown Victoria and the Inner Harbour have to offer, just steps from the Coho and Clipper ferries as well as a mere 10-minute walk from Eagle Wing Whale and Wildlife Tours. https://www.huntingdonmanor.com
Optional pet-friendly rooms and full kitchens make this charming property the perfect location for longer stays. It’s also the perfect location to join a bike tour with Pedalar bike tours, located in the hotel courtyard, or to enjoy Afternoon Tea at the Pendray Tea House. The hotel and bike shop are also the perfect photo backdrop for an iconic Victoria photo. Break out your selfie sticks. Or better yet, hire a Flytographer…see below.
Where to eat
Recently named the brunch capital of Canada by Food Network, Victoria’s culinary scene has a seemingly endless series of gems to explore—of the breakfast, lunch and dinner variety.
Owner and self-taught artisan baker Cliff Leir’s pastries and bread are legendary morsels that have every Victorian raving. Known for its wild-yeast bread, made from milled-on-site organic flours and baked in brick ovens, the bakery has two locations, one at dockside green and another on Fort Street.
Choose from an array of loaves, pastries and quiches, as well as packable sandwich lunches to fuel your afternoon excursions. Leir’s restaurant Agrius serves brunch and dinner and arguably the best selection of meats. You can guarantee the quality of the meat with the on-site full-time butcher—a rarity for a small seat restaurant such as this. Word is their lamb will leave you in awe. www.folepi.ca
Fine dining French-inspired cuisine located on Herald Street, steps away from Canada’s oldest Chinatown. Award-winning chef Robert Cassels delivers playful and elegant tasting menus that change regularly based on seasonal offerings from farmers, foragers and fisheries of Vancouver Island.
We’re big fans of the Haida Gwaii pan-roasted halibut, but Saveur is also known for its vegetarian fare and has been voted one of Canada’s top vegetarian restaurants by Open Table. The restaurant is intimate, so book in advance for dinner. Or take advantage of Chef Cassels’ brunch offerings featuring Egg McDuckin breakfast sandwich or the breakfast risotto. Our mouths are watering as we speak. www.saveurrestaurant.ca
Locals: we apologize in advance for outing this hotspot! Bodega is a long-standing favourite among the aforementioned startup and tech creatives. The wine bar is perfectly tucked away in Trounce Alley, nicely just off the touristy Government street.
We love the shared Spanish plates including the warm olives, ceviche and papas bravas as well as the fabulous sherry list. Plus you’ll get a window into the who’s who and the what’s what of the start-up world in Victoria. Netflix special anyone? www.bodegabar.ca
Do get a move on
After indulging in the brunch capital, you may want to get your steps up and Victoria has plenty of walkable destinations downtown.
Beacon Hill Park
This 200-acre park is just a stone’s throw from downtown. Situated along the shoreline of Juan de Fuca Strait and picturesque Dallas Road, there’s a variety of terrain to explore, including paved paths, trails, ponds, gardens, water fountains and wildlife such as peacocks and deer.
For the kids—and the kid in you —make sure to time your visit with the goat stampede at Beacon Hill Children’s Farm. At 10:10 am each morning and 4:10 pm each afternoon dozens of baby goats of varying sizes and colours are released outside to play. Their excited “game show” energy, “bleating” and general silliness will bring delight to your day. We’re pretty sure you’ll walk away with a grin and an extra skip in your step after this one.
Canada’s oldest Chinatown is a National Historic Site with a vibrant mix of narrow streets and alleyways, restaurants, boutiques and breweries. Drawn by the 1858 gold rush and the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Chinese immigrants settled in the area between what is now the 500-600 block of Fisgard near Johnson street.
Key points of interest include the Gates of Harmonious Interest; the Victoria Chinese Public School, built in 1909 and still used to teach Chinese classes; Fan Tan Alley; and the Yen Wo Society—the oldest active Chinese temple in Canada.
A short harbourside stroll (or harbour taxi) from the Inner Harbour will take you to the quaint floating pier of Fisherman’s Wharf and home of Eagle Wing Whale and Wildlife Tours. This picturesque marine destination is home to a small community of float home owners and fishing vessels, as well as a variety of culinary kiosks featuring everything from ice cream to pizza to fish and chips. Recent changes in regulations have allowed for local restaurants at the wharf to serve beer and wine on their decks. Perfect location to take in the colourful scenery and raise a glass!
Capture the moment with Flytographer
Captured by Stephanie for Flytographer in Victoria
Sometimes selfie sticks just don’t cut it. Let’s face it, getting the full family in the photo on vacation is an onerous task at times. Flytographer has local photographers to give you the inside scoop on what to eat, see and do while capturing the best candid vacation shots of you and the family (or that solo shot to capture your best vacation ever). Now you can just enjoy the moment and put the phone down. www.flytographer.com
Eagle Wing Whale and Wildlife Tours
Image captured by Brendon Bissonnette for Eagle Wing
For an immersive Salish Sea experience, a 3.5-hour Salish Sea adventure with Eagle Wing Tours takes you on a voyage of discovery into Juan de Fuca Strait, the San Juan Islands to experience some of the West Coast’s most spectacular wildlife (seals, sea lions, eagles and more), magnificent whales (killer whales, humpbacks, minke and grey) and stunning scenery.
Our high-performance, luxury boats provide you with a superior level of comfort with a choice of open and covered vessels. You’ll leave as a tourist, but return with a deeper understanding and passion for this incredible ecosystem.