It’s been a busy few weeks, but I’ve finally had a chance to go through photos and do a road trip download from my notes.
The Island is a perfect place for a road trip, and the Brit and I celebrated his birthday with four-and-a-half days of exploring. (As my calling him “The Brit” would suggest, he isn’t from here, so I love visiting places with him that I haven’t been to in a long time. It gives me a fresh lens.)
We started in Victoria and, from there, focused our attention on the eastern side of the Island. (The west side and the crazy all-season surfing people will have to be for another time!) Though we were only in Victoria for about 36 hours, we got a lot in. Here is my Victoria Top 8:
Top 8 Things to Do in Victoria
There is a wonderful place called Roost Farm Centre; about 10 minutes drive from Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal. It is in North Saanich, not in Victoria proper, but it was my favourite place that we ate at while we were on the Island. Farm, winery, bakery, bistro. Everything is made on-site from food grown and raised on their acreage. So good. Check out my post on Roost Farm Centre, here. For other restaurant suggestions in Victoria, click here.
2. B&B It
I’m a huge fan of bed and breakfasts. Particularly if they are run by nice people in lovely, heritage homes that have been well maintained (and serve a tasty breakfast). a) You get breakfast (win!); b) You’re not staying in a cut and dry hotel; and c) Good price point and warm customer service. We stayed at Fisher House Bed and Breakfast in the James Bay neighbourhood, and would absolutely stay again. Check out some of the best Victoria B&Bs here.
The Deluxe Florence Suite at Fisher House Bed and Breakfast.
3. Get Political
Victoria is British Columbia’s capital city and home to our BEAUTIFUL Legislative Assembly building. They offer free (yes!) public tours on non-sitting days, but we didn’t have time to catch one. I remember walking through during a school field trip, and recognising, even when I was 12, that the architecture is amazing. The building still had white Christmas lights up (which I believe is a year-round thing?), which made for a nice evening walk and some pretty pictures.
4. Get Your Step On
Everywhere. Victoria is a great place to give your Fitbit a workout. They have a good transit system, but you don’t need it downtown. Particularly on a nice day. Our B&B was a ten-minute walk away from the Legislature and the walk along Inner Harbour is a treat. Google Maps is your friend. Figure out what you want to do and map it out with sustenance pit stops.
5. Hop Along
Victoria has a thriving craft beer scene and is the home of Driftwood and Spinnaker’s, to name a couple. The city also recently had their annual beer week. We were a couple weeks early for that, so we did our own little tour, but you can also do a set tour. The spots we visited were:
- Canoe Brewpub – Located on the edge of Chinatown, Canoe has a spectacular waterfront view from a fabulous patio that I can only imagine is always full up in the summer. Enjoy the canoes and chandeliers hung from the high wood beam ceiling over a flight of beer – the best way to try a mix of their core and seasonal brews. Our waiter also gave us a behind the scenes tour when he found out The Brit has been homebrewing his own IPA.
- Phillips Brewing and Malting Co. – Get your growler on at this place. They do brisk refill business and have a very large selection of beers. They are well known for their Blue Buck Ale and name all their beers in a rather quirky fashion. (Electric Unicorn, anyone?) Their Ginger Beer and Longboat Chocolate Porter were my favourites to taste.
- Moon Brewery and Pub – This was a recommendation from our waiter at Canoe. It’s a bit of a walk, but definitely worth it. The Dark Side of the Moon Oatmeal Stout is tasty, and Fridays apparently involve Music Bingo, so two solid reasons to go back.
- The Churchill – Not a brewery, but this Government Street gem was a Google Map search find and I recommend it as a place to visit if you don’t have time to hit any breweries. The chalkboard beer menu has about 35, mostly local, selections and the beer tap setup is pretty neat. Sit at the bar if you can.
Get Thrifty: A flight is the best, most cost-effective way to taste several beers (and makes for less of a fuzzy walk home!)
6. Museum It Up
Victoria is home to the Maritime and Aviation museums, as well as Emily Carr House and others that you can find listed here, but if you’re staying in the downtown core, or are pressed for time, my picks are:
- Royal BC Museum – Learn about BC’s history, our First Nations culture in the First Peoples Gallery, and whatever special exhibit is up for the season. The woolly mammoth is pretty spectacular, and the IMAX theatre has a variety of short documentaries throughout the day. They also show Hollywood features in the evening. The yearly pass is a wicked deal!
- The Miniatures Museum – I was just as delighted as when I was a kid when I walked back into this place. The craftsmanship of the miniatures is amazing and very clever; particularly the little puffs of smoke coming from the tiny guns. The wording of the voiceovers for the different exhibits is a bit dated, but this is a great museum to visit. Be sure to check out the King Arthur and the Canada railway exhibits.
Get Thrifty: Museums will sometimes do Groupon type offer. If you have a student card, use it. Every penny counts! Also, see my wildcard #9, below.
7. Lift Your Pinky Finger
THE most touristy (and let’s face it, the most fun) thing to do in Victoria is to have afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel. Having already had this experience a couple times, I didn’t subject the Brit to a tradition of his own land – to his great relief. But it’s a wonderful way to spend the afternoon and a nice splurge. Most definitely make a reservation.
8. Stop and Smell the Roses
Victoria is known as “The Garden City”. There is no shortage of foliage and colour, no matter the season. And then there’s the big mama of them all, Butchart Gardens. While we didn’t have the opportunity this go-round for a stroll through their beautiful grounds, it’s on the list for next time. You can also have afternoon or high tea in their fabulous dining room, and when you randomly stumble upon it, like I did a few years ago, pose on the pretty carousel horse statue. Because, why not?
And a wild card #9:
9. Be a Victoria VIP
Though Victoria doesn’t have a year-round city pass like some bigger cities do, Attractions Victoria puts on an annual Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown weekend in February. You can buy a very reasonably priced VIP pass and get free(!) or discounted access to most of the major attractions in the Victoria area for the weekend. We were, of course, a weekend too early for this, but I love the concept of encouraging locals to rediscover their city alongside the tourists. It’s the perfect way to get thrifty.
Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.
~ Hans Christian Andersen