Right outside of Vancouver, this is a special island that you can’t miss. Vancouver Island is massive with all sorts of things to do, especially if you are into outdoors! Victoria is a place that you can’t miss. Often times you will feel like you’ve stumbled upon Europe within Canada! The harbor, legislative building and riding around the city on bikes are all just a small amount of things to do in Victoria.
Top 5 Things To Do
- BC Museum: The museum is set right in between many of the top attractions within the city. You can do 3 of the top 5 in a day. The museum has three floors and a lot of information. Interactive exhibits and attention to detail on the history of British Columbia is great throughout the museum. Take half a day and you’ll love the experience.
- Beacon Hill park: There is plenty to do in this gem of a park. Ride bikes around the area, sit and watch the wildlife (or people for that matter) or visit the largest totem pole. This a great place to plan a picnic and enjoy a beautiful sunny day.
- Whale watching: There are various tours that you can take to go whale watching around Vancouver Island. Take some time and read reviews to find the best. We did Eagle Wing and they did a great job of bringing us to the top locations around the area that we could spot Orcas. Remember that most tours will notify each other of when they see whales so if one group sees whales, more than likely you will find the same spot.
- Bouchard Gardens: A little drive outside Victoria so you will need to rent a car if you want to get out to the gardens. It was worth it! Beautiful gardens and it spans across a lot of acres. Enjoy and take your time going through the gardens and you can easily spend more than half of your day strolling and enjoying the beauty.
- Legislative building: One of our favorite things on the island was the Legislative building. This is where it all happens and you will get some wonderful history between England and British Columbia here. Learn some great gems of knowledge and check out the beauty of this architecture along the way!
- Trip to the island
- Ride the Glide Electric Bikes
- Craigdarroch Castle
- Beacon Hill Park
- Legislative Building
- Sult Perrogie Bar
Trip to the Island: We woke up at 4am to start our public transportation journey to Vancouver Island. It very much felt like a planes, trains and automobiles movie! We started by walking down to the Canadian line and taking it to Bridgeport. It’s surprising how little amount of people we saw on the streets at 5am on a Thursday! Businesses in Vancouver must not open early! I will definitely say that their transportation here is fantastic! Between the bus, train and boat we went on this day. All were extremely easy to navigate through. At Bridgeport we then got onto the 620 line towards Tsawwassen ferry terminal. I still have problems translating that word! It was quick and easy to get aboard the ferry and it was actually a beautiful trip over to the island! Not a bad breakfast on the boat either! We got to the island and the only downfall was the bus from the ferry terminal to Victoria. The bus driver wasn’t the greatest and it took a decent amount of time to get from one place to the next.
We got to the island around 10am and really couldn’t find a place to have a beer so we settled for a coffee right outside our Airbnb. We dropped our bags off and decided to take electric bikes for a trial!
Ride the Glide Electric Bikes: There will probably be some mixed reviews on the bikes. My fiancé loved them, I could probably do without. They were great on these extreme hills because you barely had to pedal up some very steep hills. I just felt like they were weird and heavy, I would have preferred normal bikes. The bikes were a pretty good deal for half a day and the people at the shop were extremely friendly. It took a little bit to get used to the bikes motor speeding up the bike when you pressed the button. Our first stop after getting used to the bikes was Craigdarroch Castle.
Craigdarroch Castle: The castle is beautifully laid out and stuck within the Victorian era. It’s interesting to see how much the Dunsmuir family has contributed to the country. We enjoyed it, and it’s a pretty place to visit on the trip. It’s fairly easy to get your tickets for the castle, but there is a decent amount of people on tours during the day. It might be a good idea to get here early so you get a tour with less people.
*Beacon Hill Park: We moved on down and traveled through Beacon Hill Park. The park is beautiful and there are a lot of places to stop throughout. It was very busy and you can easily see that this can be a focal point for the residents of Victoria. Lots of ponds, fountains, fields, etc. A lot of wildlife is also spread out including various ducks, chipmunks and deer. We also stopped and saw the worlds tallest totem pole…and we can definitely say that it is tall! It’s very neat to see the stories being told on these poles.
*Legislative Building: We made our way down and caught the legislative building with one hour remaining before it closed. The last time to take a tour is at 4:30pm. We actually loved this tour and it was interesting to hear about the government, their close ties to the queen and their coat of arms and what each thing represents. The building outside is an amazing site to see! The beautiful green domes and flowers everywhere on the outside are such an epic view. Highly recommend the tour and it gives you a feeling that you are almost in England with the architecture.
As we made our way back and dropped our electric bikes off, we decided to take a little nap before heading out for the evening.
Sult Pierogi Bar: Our last stop of the night was at Sult Pierogi bar. If you love pierogies or have never had them, please stop at this place. Lots choose from and you won’t regret it. It felt like a very local place to go to, but had a wonderful Eastern Europe feel within the restaurant. Also a good selection of beers to go with these fantastic perrogies.
- Legislative Building
- Fisherman’s Wharf
- Eagle Wing Whale Watching
- BC Museum
- Fan Tan Alley
- Phillips Brewery
- Vancouver Island Brewery
- Ene Raw food and Sake Bar
*Legislative Building: I woke up this morning around 4am. I went around the city in the dark of early morning and came across the legislative building. It was wonderful to see the building when it’s not surrounded with people. Unfortunately this morning, the building wasn’t lit up, but I still got some candid shots. The city is at a very slow pace early in the morning. The only people joining you are the street sweepers.
Fisherman’s wharf: We got to our whale watching tour with Eagle Wing whale watching a bit early so we stopped at a local coffee shop. We grabbed our coffee as we watched the line up of bikers all getting a drink before starting their next day. The wharf has some beautiful brightly colored houses. It brought me back to Burano in Italy. There were also lots of shops and restaurants surrounding the wharf.
Eagle Wing Whale Watching: We started our whale watching excursion and had a bit of a chill as we made our way to open water. No matter what the weather, you always want to bring a hat and nice warm coat when you get on the ocean. As we moved from Canada to the US, we sailed next to San Juan island. Here we saw several transient orcas feeding and breaching. These are such beautiful creatures and so intelligent and calculated with all that they do. We watched them for close to half an hour and listened to our guide talk about their hunting patterns. It was on my bucket list of things to do and these animals do not disappoint. It’s sad that they can live 17 years in captivity, but out in the wild, they have been known to live over 100 years. You see various forms of sea life on the trip and they do a great job to move the boat around. We made our way back after seeing the whales, some eagles and seals.
BC museum: After eating a mediocre snack in town, we stopped off at the museum to learn a bit about BC history. This museum is very well laid out with the first floor being a local photo editorial and gift shop. The 2nd floor has natural history and a new Mayan exhibit and the 3rd floor has early BC history. A lot of interactive exhibits throughout the museum and lots of history. The natural history area has some beautiful environmental displays that you shouldn’t miss. Also the BC history takes you through the years and has some very neat information. It will take you 1-2 hours to get through the museum.
Fan Tan Alley: This is one of the smallest alleys that you can visit. Some local shops to look through and ice cream at your disposal. Make sure to visit during the day as they do close off this street early morning. The Alley shouldn’t take you long to go through, maybe only 15 minutes unless you take some time going into the shops.
Phillips brewery: This was our first brewery visited in Victoria and we definitely lead with the best! The atmosphere was fantastic with lots of people coming in and out. We had heard that this place was known for their soda, but they really don’t slouch with their beer. A wide array of beer along with homemade gin, cheese plates and more. Some fantastic IPA’s, very solid lagers and sours. All of their beers have a comic theme, which is also kind of a neat thing to see.
Victoria island brewery: The next brewery on the tour was much more tame. With a small tasting room and decent beers, it was good but paled in comparison to Phillips. What I did like was that they had some neat apparel with orcas on it so I had to get at least a taster with the logo on it.
ENe Raw food and Sake Bar: Our stop for the evening for dinner was supposed to be at a highly rated Japanese restaurant, there was an hour wait. Luckily the hostess told us that the place next door was owned by the same person and also had great food. We sat down and ordered some uni and miso ramen, both were great. Then we ordered something that almost looked like a bento box that had all of the recommendations for a first time person. They really had some delicious food within the box. We met several people sitting next to us that were from Colorado. Very nice people that also seemed to really enjoy their meals. Overall was a great meal and luckily the hostess was telling everyone to go here!
- The Butchart Gardens
- Niagara Waterfall
- Hatley Castle
- 10 Acre Commons
- White Party
- Ska Festival
- Little Jumbo
The Butchart gardens: When we got to the gardens, they had been open for a hour already and were extremely busy being that it was a Saturday. The gardens were absolutely beautiful. The flowers were fully in bloom. The top highlight of the day was the sunken garden area which felt a bit like the secret garden. The rose gardens were amazing but sadly, everyone thought this! There were people all over trying to get candid shots of themselves in the garden and it became just too overwhelming. Finally the Japanese garden was also nice, not the level of some other Japanese gardens we have visited but still a pretty area. I’m used to seeing at least one larger waterfall in a Japanese garden but sadly there wasn’t one here. Overall we had a great 2-3 hour stop.
Niagara waterfall: After an interesting back road to the waterfall, we made it out to the park. The park itself has a large picnic area next to the highway and then it’s a short walk to the waterfall. The waterfall was simplistic, but beautiful. It obviously is not the Niagara on the East side of the country, but with the huge ivy valley leading to the dynamic fall from the top, it was nice to just sit and listen to the water fall from above. There was constant foot traffic because of the ease of travel. On our way back we stopped and saw someone cooking oysters and he offered us a couple. Extremely nice guy and he was only there to give free food to others as his ancestors had done in the past. The oysters were amazing!! They were grilled with garlic on top and perfectly seared. It’s always amazing meeting people like this. Just a kind person set up in the picnic area wanting to just make some lucky travelers smile.
Hatley castle: As we drove up to the castle, we didn’t realize that it’s actually on a college campus. This castle has been used in many movies throughout the years including the X-Men movies. You can imagine my dismay when Dr. X didn’t come through the doorway in his wheelchair to greet us! It was a nice stop for pictures though, less people than Craigdarroch and it was actually the same Dunsmuir family that lived here. There was a wedding going on at the time that looked fantastic of course…isn’t it every little girls dream to get married in a castle?? We walked the grounds but we weren’t able to go into the castle at this time.
10 Acre Commons: Getting back into town after a brief view of the city of Sooke and not really having the time to spend going through the city, we came back and dropped the car off and made our way to 10 Acre Commons. I got the ceviche and Janine got the nachos. The nachos were extremely massive, which it just feels like every restaurant tries to outdo each other by making bigger and bigger mounds of chips! The ceviche was very good with some massive chunks of crab and shrimp in it. Service was very good with someone constantly coming over to make sure you were ok.
White party: Diner En Blanc is a festival that is extremely secretive throughout the world that we knew very little about until now. The thought behind this is to get people together in a super secretive way by invite only and the location is shared at the very last minute so that it remains a secret. People dress in white, bring their white chairs, picnic items and all join together at an exclusive spot. There’s dancing, acrobatics, etc. and it was so interesting to watch! We were fortunate enough to watch the gathering take place in a parking lot at the docks in Victoria. Supposedly you have to have someone invite you that has been before or go on to their website and apply. If you decline an invitation, you are blacklisted. It sounds pretty neat actually…and after watching the people leaving a little tipsy with smiles on their faces, I would say it was a hit!
*Ska festival: After viewing the white party we moved along to the next event going on in Victoria, the ska/reggae festival. Less Than Jake was a headliner for the show on Saturday and they were one of my favorite bands in high school. We decided 90 dollars between us was a bit much for tickets, so we actually went to a restaurant right outside the concert, got drinks and then listened to the music. There were lots of people and it was amazing people watching whether going to the concert or just being on the docks at a bar this evening. This town comes alive on a Saturday! We also were fortunate to be here during a ska festival and a white party.
Little Jumbo: Our last stop for the evening was at a speak easy establishment downtown. It’s been rated a top new upcoming place and there was a bit of a wait to get in. Great cocktails were served and the food also looked good. Very neat atmosphere but also very limited seating.
- Travel back to Vancouver
Travel back to Vancouver: The more you do things, the easier they get! We made our way to our bus stop bright and early while the city of Victoria was asleep. Boarded the 70 bus and headed out to the ferry terminal. Very easy trip with a much better bus driver than our previous jaunt. The last couple of days took a toll on us and we both knocked out on the ferry after eating breakfast. I will mention as we were in line getting our breakfast, Janine grabbed a chocolate cake for her meal. Several people make comments to her about eating chocolate cake for breakfast. Not in a mean way but simply to add a conversation piece. I’m not sure on if it’s where we are in the US, but Canadians just always seem friendlier. The worker that rang us up also had a jovial attitude towards life, you could tell that he just had a passion for people. It was fantastic to see.
There is plenty to offer on Vancouver island and Victoria is just a small piece to the amazing things you can do on this large island. You could easily take two weeks just visiting Vancouver island. I would love to come back and do a little bit of camping along the island. There are plenty of other places to see as you make your way up the island to the north. If you are pressed for time, Victoria is a fantastic visit coming from Vancouver.
*People watching experience