Victoria is not only Vancouver Island’s largest city, it is also the capital of the Province of British Columbia itself, making it a natural hotspot to visit. Plus, it has milder weather than most other places on the Island, and numerous other claims to fame. For visitors to Vancouver Island, Victoria is the most heard of city, and the most popular, seeing almost two million airport arrivals 2016! Wondering what makes Victoria such a fantastic destination? Check out some of the things to see and do in the big city below:
The City of Gardens
Considering Victoria’s nickname, the City of Gardens, you can expect some excellent greenery in the city. From proper gardens, like the world famous Butchart Gardens, to the thousands of stunning flower baskets that line the downtown streets in the summer, Victoria is bursting with blossoms. While the best time to see the city alive with fantastic flowers is in the spring and summer, there are plenty of colourful dashes all year round thanks to the city’s mild temperatures. A number of gardens like the Butchart Gardens are still in full-swing in the off-season and the city becomes dazzling over the holidays with wonderful winter décor instead of flower baskets.
As it turns out, Victoria is quite the hotspot for foodies, and for those that like to eat in general. Aside from San Francisco, it has the highest number of restaurants per capita in North America! The restaurants encompass any type of ethnic cuisine, budget and atmospheric desire from plenty of cheap eats, to five-star dining, or cozy spots with live music. Whether you want to indulge in some west coast fare, or seek some ethnic goodies, you’re bound to find something to satisfy your palate in Victoria. Check out more of Victoria’s claims to fame in this article!
Victoria has a quaint downtown riddled with boutiques, pop-up markets, a mall and plenty of other places to pick up souvenirs and satisfy any heart that desires to shop. From favourite big brand outfitters to west coast boutiques and specialty food shops that feature goods from the rich, surrounding lands, any shopping outing can even be considered experiencing Victoria. Besides downtown, there are excellent areas to shop like Oak Bay for antiques and art, Fernwood for kitschy goods and Uptown for an outdoor concept mall experience.
Nearly year-round there are whales to be seen in the waters of Victoria. In fact, the orcas of the Juan de Fuca Strait are some of the best studied in the world and Victoria is considered to have some of the best whale watching around. Thanks to the number of resident whales, chances of seeing them during your trip are so good, that a number of whale watching companies even offer a sighting guarantee. Besides whales of different kinds, there are plenty of other west coast creatures to spot like Dahl’s porpoises, dolphins, seals, sea lions and numerous more!
While fishing on the west coast is usually considered better than in Victoria, it’s still great to do there, or out of Sidney, if you are pressed for time and want to give it a go! Runs of Chinook go by nearly once a month, even in the winter, and the four other types of salmon pass by as well. There are also a healthy number of bottom fish to angle for too.
A few hikes with great viewpoints reside within Victoria and there are numerous hikes just outside the city too. Whether you’re into casual strolls around the harbour like the Dallas Road Walkway, or want to challenge yourself to a summit like Mount Finlayson, the “Grouse Grind of Victoria,” you’ll find something to suit your needs. If you’re willing to drive a bit to get there, plenty of fantastic forest walks, lagoon treks and beach trails are well within reach, too. For more of the top hikes on Vancouver Island, visit the hiking page!
Breweries, Wineries and Distilleries
Wineries, distilleries and breweries are also a surprising specialty of Victoria and the surrounding area. While Victoria has a few wineries to its name, the nearby Cowichan Valley has close to thirty registered wineries and about half of them have tasting rooms. That makes booking a wine tour an easy and popular feat. Over in Sidney is Victoria’s own distillery, Victoria Distillers, which has a classy tasting room and offers intriguing tours. Finally, Victoria is the Craft Beer Capital of B.C., with a steady offering of large and small breweries. One even doubles as a distillery and brewery, crafting fine samples of both. When it comes to fine sips, nowhere does it as good as Victoria.
For more fun facts about Vancouver Island and its largest city, check out this blog post.
Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk