A trip to Canada’s Vancouver Island would not be complete without visiting Victoria’s capital city. Accessible by ferry from several different terminals on the mainland of Vancouver, it’s a beautiful city with a small-town feel.
Victoria is a popular destination for Canadians and people around the world. The mild weather year-round makes it a desirable city to visit and there are many fun things to do in Victoria BC.
About Victoria, BC
One of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest, it was named by British settlers after Queen Victoria. It is known as the “garden city” and is the capital of the Canadian province of British Columbia.
Victoria, BC is located off the southern tip of Vancouver Island on Canada’s extraordinarily beautiful west coast.
Things to do in Victoria BC
Take a walk anywhere in the city, and you will see plants and trees blooming. Rich in culture and visually stunning, Victoria is a great place to visit. There is plenty to do and see, from the orchestra, comedy clubs, sightseeing, and shopping.
Golfing, dining, castles, and a wide variety of foods to try, you will never be bored in Victoria. Day trips out of town will let you see quaint villages, ski resorts, and plenty of natural beauty.
1) Inner Harbour
Take a trip to Inner Harbour, located in Victoria Harbour. If you are lucky enough to have booked your hotel in the harbor, then you can take in the beauty and activities every day. It is especially beautiful in the evenings.
Music fests, cruise ships, seaplanes, and maybe you’ll see some seals or whales while you are enjoying a cold drink at any of the cafes and pubs along the way. There are always buskers and performers playing music or juggling.
Grab some lunch and watch the ships come in, the seaplanes landing and taking off, or watch the cruise ships unload and load up again with supplies for the next leg of their adventure.
There are a few floating restaurants where you can have seafood that is fresh off the boat. Enjoy a spectacular view while enjoying the local fare and talk to your neighbors to see where they are from.
You can visit the Royal British Columbia Museum, The Parliament Buildings, and The Fairmont Empress hotel. You can have high tea at the Empress in grand style and be sure to come back at night to see the lights on the Parliament Buildings in all their glory.
2) Butchart Gardens
No trip to Victoria is complete without a tour around Butchart Gardens. The gardens are designated a National Historic Site of Canada. They were started when Jennie Butchart commissioned visiting garden designer Isaburo Kishida to build a Japanese garden.
These breath-taking gardens receive over a million visitors every year, and once you visit, you will understand why. As the garden became more popular, the Butcharts expanded their grounds to add more plants and flowers.
Mr. Butchart also started to collect unusual and exotic birds to add to their growing garden, along with statues, entertainers, and it also includes a large fountain and a children’s pavilion with carvings of animals.
3) Whale Watching
Even if you were lucky enough to see a whale or two from your ferry ride over to the island, you would want to go out and get a closer look. So if whale watching is on your to-do list, book your trip from June to August or later in the fall, September to November.
Several companies are available where you can go out on a chartered tour to see the whales. You can go out for a day, half a day, at sunset, and even a wine and whale tour.
Go with a group of whale-lovers or take a private charter with an expert guide. No matter how you do it, don’t forget to bring your camera. It doesn’t matter how many times you have watched the videos online. Nothing compares to a breaching whale close enough to get you wet.
4) Visit Chinatown
The first Chinatown in Canada was in Victoria and was established by miners and railway workers. Enjoy art, the old buildings, retail shops, all amid the tantalizing smells of food cooking.
Buy some artwork, get a haircut, have a bite of lunch, get some potions for your swollen ankles, and take a stroll down fan tan alley, the narrowest street in all of Canada. Chinatown is definitely one of the best things to do in Victoria for a reason, and one of the most eclectic sights to see.
Despite the modernization, you can still get a deep appreciation for the rich history in Victoria’s Chinatown. You can find authentic dishes, clothing, jewelry and enjoy the food made with love and tradition.
5) Hike Mount Douglas
For the more adventurous types, you can go for a hike on Mount Douglas. It is located in the municipality of Saanich, which is on the ancestral lands of the Saanich and Songhees people.
Mount Douglas has a deep history with Native People in the area used for ceremonies and meetings. The original name means White Head. You can walk around the park on the grounds and explore the area. You can take your dog with you, too. And don’t forget your camera.
It’s not a challenging hill to climb and should be suitable for the whole family. Take a picnic along. There are a lot of trails that take you around to two different peaks. Stop and enjoy lunch on the beach, enjoy beautiful views, wildlife, forests, and Mother Nature at her finest.
Can drive in and park and hike from the parking lots. There are places available to host a big birthday bash or a family reunion. There are open fields you can use and public washrooms around.
6) The Craigdarroch Castle
Originally the home of Robert and Joan Dunsmuir and their children (two sons and eight daughters), the Craigdarroch Castle bears a rich history weaving a fascinating tale of this intriguing family. The story begins with the early lives of the Dunsmuirs; the beginning of the construction of the
Craigdarroch Castle in 1887; the demise of Robert Dunsmuir; the disagreement about Robert’s estate; the completion of the Castle; the lawsuit surrounding Alex’s will; to the eventual death of the family matriarch Joan Dunsmuir in 1908.
After the demise of Mrs. Dunsmuir, the Craigdarroch Castle underwent expansive renovation by the federal Department of Soldiers Civil Re-establishment (DSCR) before being reopened as a military hospital in September 1919. It also served as a music conservatory and a college.
Visiting the will definitively give you a whole Victorian experience, a true example of a “bonanza castle” which was a favorite of wealthy tycoons during the industrial age.
You will be blown away by the extravagance captured within the four floors of fabulous stained glass windows, intricate woodwork, and magnificent furnishings from the Victorian era.
The Craigdarroch Castle is located at 1050 Joan Crescent, Victoria, BC V8S 3L5. Unfortunately, visiting hours have been reduced (it is closed Monday and Tuesday and December 25th, 26th, and January 1st), and you can only purchase the tickets online in advance.
They are open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:30 am till 4 pm and break for lunch between 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm.
7) A Taste of Victoria Food Tour
The Taste of Victoria Food Tour is considered one of Canada’s Top 10 Experiences on TripAdvisor and the top-rated tour in Victoria.
Regardless of the weather, the tour is always on the move around Victoria, starting from 11:00 am and 2:00 pm, exploring some of Victoria city’s best-hidden gem restaurants.
The tour is open to people of all ages and free for children under two years old. Remember to make advance reservations online first.
The tour comprises a 2-hour walk beginning at the Victoria Public Market with stops at several places, including
The Gates of Harmonious Interest, the Market Square, the Bastion Square, the Fan Tan Alley, the Trounce Alley, the Government St., and the Inner Harbour Causeway.
You can expect to come by 6-8 local tastings, including pierogis, meatballs, chocolate, olive oil, bread, southern-styled biscuits, craft beer, and even French patisserie, all while getting lessons on the history and quirks of Victoria, B.C.
For more adventurous types, there is also a guided bike and food tour where you can sample the delightful foods in the city while visiting some of the best landmarks in Victoria.
8) Royal British Columbia Museum
The Royal BC Museum remains one of British Columbia’s greatest cultural icons, attracting millions of visitors physically and virtually every year.
Visiting the Museum will open a window for you to explore Victoria’s social and environmental history along with the events and people that have played any role in what Victoria is today.
The Museum also has an IMAX movie theatre. Its galleries are home to an immersive experience of 550 million years of natural history coupled with 9,000 years of human history in BC, showcasing natural wonders like dinosaurs.
9) Fisherman’s Wharf
The Fisherman’s Wharf is part of the deep water, marina, and upland holdings owned and operated by the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA), a not-for-profit organization.
The Fisherman’s Wharf is a collection of working fishing vessels, pleasure boats with live-aboard residents, float homes, and commercial businesses that are all moored at the docks.
As a COVID-19 control measure, the Float Home areas on docks A, B, and C docks will remain closed, but you can access the remaining areas dotted with food kiosks, unique shops, and eco-tour adventures amongst fishing vessels, pleasure boats, and commercial businesses.
Whether you are looking for a complete dining experience for seafood or prefer a quick coffee or even fast food, you will have it all at Fisherman’s Wharf. There is a variety of restaurants, including Moka
House Coffee & Bistro, Smoke and Anchor, Pirate Pizza, Barb’s Fish and Chips, Sweets Mini Donuts, Jackson’s Ice Cream, The Fish Store, Hi Gear Crab Sales, and Puerto Vallarta Amigo.
Wondering what else you can do at the Fisherman’s Wharf besides dining? You can also try kayaking offered by Kelp Reef Kayaking, fishing courtesy Beasley’s Fishing Charters, or shop around at the various shops and boutiques, including the 4 Winds Nest Boutique.
You can also try different water activities at Marine Adventures or explore whale watching at the Eagle Wing Whale Watching.
If you want to get to Fisherman’s Wharf, you can walk, cycle, take a bus or drive there. It is located just around the corner from Victoria’s Inner Harbour or a 10-minute walk from The Breakwater District at Ogden Point cruise ship terminal. You can access it off St. Lawrence Street or Dallas Road.
If you are coming from the Inner Harbour, you will walk for 15 minutes. If you’d instead use a bus, it is best to check BC Transit for more accurate information about available routes. Bike racks and paid parking spaces are available if you choose to ride or drive over.
10) Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site
Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites are a lovely gem tucked away on the traditional territories of the Lekwungen-speaking peoples, better known as the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations. They still hold close historical relationships with the land. Fort Rodd Hill is
originally a west coast artillery fortress that was active from 1895 to 1956, whereas the Fisgard Lighthouse is the oldest of its kind on the Canadian west coast.
The best attractions at Fort Rodd Hill are touring through military command posts, secret bunkers, and original 19th-century buildings.
You can also revel in tales of soldiers and their families while camping overnight in a group-friendly oTENTik. You can also bring out your inner marine genius and wander through a rare Garry Oak meadow.
Final Thoughts on Things to do in Victoria BC
Victoria has plenty to offer for visitors. The mild winter makes it a desirable Christmas location for a holiday. You can have high tea like royalty, visit a flea market, and buy local artwork.
There is beauty everywhere you look in Victoria and around the city. Visit museums, or go to the pub for a locally made brew and chance meeting people from all over the world.
Enjoy a meal out with locally sourced foods, from fish to fruit, and enjoy the local entertainment. Just a stroll around the city will be excellent with all the blooming plants and trees.
Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, FOX, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more. When she’s not traveling, she can be found at hockey arenas all over BC cheering on her two young sons.